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[casi] The Iraq quagmire

The Iraq quagmire
By the Editorial Board
21 August 2003

The truck bomb that blew up the United Nations headquarters
in Baghdad on Tuesday shattered the Bush administration¡¦s
claims that it is well on the way to pacifying Iraq. The
bombing, coming on the heels of explosions that severed Iraq
¡¦s northern oil pipeline and cut off water to much of the
country¡¦s capital, as well as the daily casualties
inflicted on US troops, makes it clear that the resistance
to the US occupation is serious and growing.

The Bush White House and the media issued ritualistic
condemnations of ¡§terrorism¡¨ in the wake of the attack.
¡§The terrorists who struck today have again shown their
contempt for the innocent,¡¨ declared Bush. ¡§They showed
their fear of progress and their hatred of peace.¡¨ He
declared them ¡§enemies of the Iraqi people¡¨ and ¡§enemies
of the civilized world.¡¨

These denunciations are the height of hypocrisy. Iraq is a
country occupied by a foreign power. The attack on the UN
building was carried out in the context of a campaign of
resistance to this occupation that enjoys the support of
broad layers of the Iraqi population.

For Bush to accuse those who planned and executed the UN
bombing of ¡§contempt for the innocent¡¨ is brazen, to the
say the least. He waged a war against Iraq in flagrant
violation of international law. It is conservatively
estimated that at least 5,000 Iraqi civilians lost their
lives in the US invasion, many of them killed as a result of
US bombings of targets located in or near residential areas.
At least 20,000 more suffered serious injury and are still
suffering from the effects. Washington dismissed the carnage
carried out against these innocent victims as ¡§collateral

The claim that an attack on the United Nations is a
particularly heinous crime because the international agency
¡¦s only aim is to ¡§help the Iraqis¡¨ is false. No doubt,
among those killed in the bombing were people who believed
they were serving the interests of ordinary Iraqis. But more
than a decade of bitter experience has proven that the UN is
by no means an innocent bystander in the tragedy that has
been inflicted upon the people of that tortured country.

The UN approved and enforced punishing economic sanctions
demanded by Washington in the wake of the Persian Gulf War
of 1991, creating conditions of mass hunger and disease that
claimed the lives of an estimated half a million Iraqi
children. It oversaw a weapons inspections regime that
served as a pretext for maintaining these sanctions by
demanding that Iraq accomplish the impossible task of
proving a negative, namely that no banned weapons or weapons
programs existed on its soil.

Finally, just a week before the bombing, the UN Security
Council voted to endorse the recently formed Iraqi Governing
Council, an essentially powerless body of Quislings that was
hand-picked by Washington¡¦s proconsul in Baghdad, Paul
Bremer, to lend an ¡§Iraqi face¡¨ to the US military
occupation. It likewise approved the establishment of a
United Nations Assistance Mission, whose mandate included
the training of a new Iraqi police force.

Thus, the UN acted to legitimize an illegal military
occupation and train forces to repress the resistance. That
those opposed to the occupation targeted the UN should
hardly come as a surprise.

The Iraqi resistance is waging the type of campaign that has
been waged historically by every people battling against
foreign occupation. Unable to match the overwhelming
superiority of US firepower, the resistance fighters rely on
one critical strategic advantage: it is their country. Their
aim is to make it ungovernable for the occupiers.

Those who plotted the illegal war on Iraq bear full
political and moral responsibility for the violence and
bloodshed in that country today. That they denounce as
¡§terrorists¡¨ those who fail to greet the US invaders as
¡§liberators¡¨ is hardly an innovation. Such was the case in
Vietnam, Algeria, southern Africa and every other part of
the globe where oppressed peoples fought to throw off the
yoke of colonialism and foreign occupation.

It should be recalled that the Nazis, who pioneered the
policy of ¡§preventive war¡¨ adopted by Bush, routinely
condemned anyone who resisted German occupation in the
Second World War as ¡§terrorists.¡¨ Those who opposed Nazi
aggression, however, lauded the attacks of the resistance,
whose exploits were glorified in not a few Hollywood films.

Tuesday¡¦s bombing in Baghdad provoked a flood of media
commentary that, in one form or another, proposed that
Washington answer the attack with even greater repression.
¡§The Bush administration has to commit sufficient
additional resources, and, if necessary, additional
troops...¡¨ declared the New York Times in its lead
editorial Wednesday. ¡§The Iraqis need to see that
Washington has the will and the means to get their country
back on its feet.¡¨

In the same newspaper, columnist Maureen Dowd penned a
particularly cynical piece. She acknowledged that in advance
of the war the Bush administration had ¡§inflated the
threats to America¡¨ and ¡§ginned up links between Saddam
and Al Qaeda.¡¨ She further pointed out that while no threat
from armed Islamist groups existed in Iraq before the war,
the invasion and occupation had produced conditions in which
these organizations could flourish. ¡§The Bush team has now
created the very monster that it conjured up to alarm
Americans into backing a war on Iraq,¡¨ she wrote.

In the end, however, she concluded: ¡§We can¡¦t leave, and
we can¡¦t stay forever. We just have to slug it out.¡¨

¡§Slugging it out¡¨ means that many more American youth in
uniform must be killed or wounded, and even greater numbers
of Iraqis and youths from other Arab countries must be
sacrificed. It amounts to a justification for continuing a
brutal neocolonial war.

No one knows how many Iraqis have been killed, imprisoned or
tortured thus far, as the Pentagon does not provide such
information. Thousands are being held at huge detention
camps set up by US forces around Baghdad. Iraqi
detainees¡Xincluding children¡Xhave testified to being
subjected to inhuman treatment. Many have been kept
handcuffed under the hot sun or held in sweltering pens for
days at a time.

As for the US occupation forces, by the end of this month
the number killed since Bush declared major combat
operations over on May 1 will almost certainly surpass the
number who lost their lives during the invasion itself.

The bombing of the UN headquarters will unquestionably
become the pretext for an intensification of the campaign of
violence against the Iraqi people. Resistance is to be met
by reprisals. Such has been the pattern in similar wars of
occupation, from the Nazi massacre in Lidice, Czechoslovakia
to the Battle of Algiers and ¡§Operation Phoenix¡¨ in
Vietnam. When Bush declared that ¡§the civilized world will
not be intimidated,¡¨ he was alluding to the mass roundups
and killings to come.

Underlying many of the arguments for a continued and even
intensified occupation of Iraq is the conception that
something good can yet come out of an illegal war of
aggression carried out under false pretenses and for what
can only be described as criminal motives¡Xthe seizure of
Iraq¡¦s oil resources. This is a gross delusion of the kind
that led to the deaths of nearly 60,000 Americans and
millions of Vietnamese 30 years ago.

No amount of US troops or professions of Washington¡¦s good
intentions will halt the resistance to foreign occupation.
The people of Iraq and the rest of the Arab world have a
long history of opposing colonial rule that will not be
erased by empty rhetoric about ¡§democracy¡¨ and

How many people will have to die¡XIraqi and American
alike¡Xbefore this criminal enterprise is finally brought to
an end?

The American people must call a halt to this filthy
colonial-style war. It must not accept that American youth
be placed needlessly and recklessly in harm¡¦s way for a
single additional day, and it must repudiate the murderous
repression that is being carried out by the Bush
administration in its name. It must demand the immediate and
unconditional withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq.

The demand must be advanced as well for a full and public
investigation into the manner in which the war was foisted
on the American people. Congress and the Democrats abdicated
their responsibilities, failing to challenge or even
question the false claims made by the Bush administration in
the months leading up to the invasion. But those responsible
must be held legally accountable. The officials who are
implicated in the most serious crime under international
law¡Xconspiring to carry out a war of aggression¡Xmust be
punished. This is a prerequisite for preventing new wars of
aggression in the future.

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