2003-05 After the Fall of Saddam Hussein: Whither Iraq? [Azadi]
We are appalled by the degree of death and destruction that the U.S. invasion of Iraq has brought on the Iraqi people. It is true that the downfall of Saddam Hussein’s brutal tyranny has been welcomed by the Iraqi people. But after thirty five years of suffering under Baathist rule Iraqis now face even more deaths and injuries, a damaged infrastructure, looting of hospitals, universities, their world historic and irreplaceable National Museum and their precious National Library.
According to many Iraqi physicians, the intensity of injuries suffered by Iraqis have been greater than the 6 week Gulf War. Armless and legless children and adults laid in bloody and filthy hospitals for many days, hospitals that already lacked basic equipment and medicines due to economic sanctions. With the post combat riots hospitals lost even the bare necessities after being pillaged. Some people are still being maimed on a daily basis by the remaining U.S. cluster bombs which can be found throughout the neighborhoods of Baghdad.
Not all who resisted the U.S. invasion were supporters of Saddam Hussein. As a Syrian man opposed to the war expressed it: "We volunteered to defend Baghdad. Instead of giving us weapons to fight, they used us as human shields. . . we were hit by Iraqis from the back and by the American troops from the front."
The U.S. government, and Ahmed Chalabi, the Pentagon backed Iraqi exile leader have dismissed the acts of looting as the frustration of a repressed people. But a distinction needs to be made between taking food, clothing, basic household necessities, and the horrendous pillaging of hospitals, universities, the National Museum and the National Library. These are acts of thuggery. While it is still not clear who organized the ransacking of the National Museum, the role of Baathists and the lack of protection of the U.S. army can not be denied. In fact, far from breaking the hold of the Baathists on Iraq, the U.S. troops are now working with the Baath Party’s brutal and repressive police force to "restore order."
As one Iraqi participant in a Baghdad demonstration against the U.S. occupation expressed it: "We dreamed of liberation from Saddam. But now the American have destroyed that dream." Another participant added the following about the Iraqi exile leaders brought back to Iraq by the U.S. troops: "Old leaders have gone and new leaders have come to sit in their chairs." The attacks by U.S. troops on demonstrations of Iraqis opposed to the U.S. occupation, are aimed at stifling these voices.
The miserable state of the Shiite population in southern Iraq is also being taken advantage of by the Shiite clergy who are engaged in a power struggle of their own. Whether the murder of Ayatollah Khoi, a Shiite clergy who supported the U.S. invasion is the result of the rage of an angry group of protesters or a pre-meditated attack by the Iranian backed Ayatollah Bagher al Hakim, neither Khoi nor Hakim had the well being of the Shiite population in mind. The U.S. and British forces which left Basra without water and food for days, would be happy to make a deal with the clergy to promote the repressive Sharia law in exchange for tolerance of U.S. military presence. At the same time, the fundamentalist clergy use the banner of "anti-imperialism" to promote their own reactionary agenda. While the majority Shiite population of Iraq are by no means all supporters of a fundamentalist brand of Islam, the danger of Islamic fundamentalism presented as an "alternative" in Iraq is very stark.
What also remains uncertain is the future of the Kurds in Northern Iraq. While the majority of Iraq’s 4 million Kurdish population would prefer an independent state, they have clearly agreed to autonomy in a federalist Iraq. Whether they will be able to achieve that limited autonomy however is still a question. The U.S. government may decide that Turkey’s interests in containing any expression of Kurdish self-determination are more important than the plight of the Kurdish people who comprise a population of 27 million in the region.
The Iraqi people need assistance from the world community to rebuild their country. But they do not want to be shackled by another exploitative regime, be it a U.S. military regime which pays lip service to democracy while seriously undermining democratic practices in the U.S., or a fundamentalist regime like Iran’s which uses "anti-imperialist" slogans.
The governments of France, Germany and Russia which opposed the war and now propose U.N. intervention to rebuild Iraq, have had their own history of exploiting Iraq during Saddam’s rule. Their opposition to the U.S. occupation is based on their own capitalist interests.
Imperialist invasion and the United States’ maniacal plans for further pre-emptive strikes against Syria and Iran have justifiably increased the level of anger within Muslim countries. This anger is also being usurped by fundamentalists and narrow nationalists to promote their own agendas. By presenting U.S. imperialism as a "grand conspiracy led by Jews," they turn attention away from the real issue: What motivates the Bush administration’s policies is capitalism’s drive for greater concentration and centralization of capital in fewer and fewer hands. This is the "logic" of capitalism which Karl Marx diserned 140 years ago in Das Kapital, and it is what motivates the U.S. administration’s drive for single world domination.
The alliance between the U.S. government and the racist war criminal Ariel Sharon is determined by what is advantageous to U.S. capitalist imperialism now. This identity of interests was not always the case. In fact the United States’ uncritical support for Israeli policies started after the 1956 Suez War. It was then that Egypt moved into the Russian orbit as Gamal Abdul Nasser shifted toward the Stalinist "Soviet Union" sphere of influence, and Israel entered the U.S. sphere of influence. Since then, Israeli governments have taken full advantage of U.S. support to militarize their society and to attempt to crush the Palestinian people’s struggle for self-determination and independence. Anti-imperialist slogans that present the relationship between the U.S. and Israel as a "Jewish conspiracy" further aid the racist policies of Sharon and Hamas and all reactionary forces that aim to destroy the idea of peaceful co-existence between Palestinians and Jews.
In Iran, there is a great deal of apprehension following the U.S. invasion. The majority of Iranians hate the Islamic Republic, but do not want Iraq’s disaster to befall them. Colin Powell has made it clear that Syria and Iran are the next targets of the U.S. campaign. The U.S. might impose economic sanctions on Iran or it might bomb Iran’s Russian built nuclear power plant in Bushehr.
Up to now, the student led opposition movement and some reformists within the parliament have been advocating a referendum to change Iran’s status from an Islamic Republic to a government based on the separation of mosque and state. Faced with the imminent threat of U.S. attacks, former president Rafsanjani who has been in alliance with conservative clerics, has now called for a referendum to re-establish ties between Iran and the U.S. After this proposal was made, U.S. troops which had earlier attacked the Iraqi based Iranian opposition group, Mujahedin Khalq, made an agreement with the M.K. to protect their bases on the border with Iran. These bases had been protected by Saddam’s troops prior to the U.S. invasion. Later, on May 10, the U.S. and the M.K. agreed on the "consolidation of the Mujehedin Khalq froces and subsequent control [by the V Corps] over these forces."
As of early May, secret negotiations between the Islamic Republic and U.S. representatives have been taking place in Geneva. Iranian president Khatami has also been visiting Lebanon and Syria, and has held meetings with the Hezbollah leadership in Lebanon. Whether the U.S. and Iran will tacitly come to a temporary agreement to protect their own interests in Iraq, Iran and the entire region, or whether the U.S. administration will continue to pursue a hawkish stance toward Iran, remains to be seen.
What motivates the U.S. moves is not the student opposition movement’s demand for freedom of thought or women’s struggles against the veil and daily misogynist violence, much less the conditions of Iranian workers, ethnic and religious minorities, or persecuted gays and lesbians. The growth of anti-fundamentalist movements in Iran however, can affect the battle of ideas in the Middle East in a progressive way. It compels those who are opposed to U.S. imperialism to also face the internal contradictions of Middle Eastern societies which are crying out for a thoroughgoing transformation in human relations.
In 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini and those nationalist and Leftist opponents of the Shah who supported Khomeini, reduced the ground of the revolution to a narrow anti-imperialism that allowed an Islamist regime to take over power. Now, some within the Iranian opposition movement want to limit the ground of the opposition to just being against the exisiting regime. But if we have learned anything from the experience of 1979, it is that we need the philosophic vision of the kind of human relations we are for, as the concrete ground and vision of the struggle.
Iran during the past few years has become world famous for its films. What is less known is that Iran has also seen a flowering of publications in the form of books, and journals. Many liberating ideas are being presented, translated and read. Far from remaining within the suffocating "alternatives" of U.S. imperialism versus fundamentalism, or monarchism, this situation demands tackling the issue of a non-capitalist, feminist and humanist alternative. The images of a pillaged Iraq robbed of its very history and culture after the U.S. invasion, only emphasize the urgency of this discussion.
Anjoman Azadi/Freedom Council (Marxist-Humanist)
May 15, 2003