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Worldwide Resistance Continues:

U.S. Moves Toward Iraq Occupation

by Jess Sundin |
April 15, 2003
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FB Illustration by Conor McGrady (Conor McGrady)

The assault on Iraq began with a failed sneak attack. Minutes before bombers cruised over, sirens blasted a warning to the sleeping people of Baghdad. It was 5:30 a.m. on March 20. The full strength of the world’s largest military began a war of terror, which they called ‘shock and awe.’

The world was shocked and awed by the brutality of the attacks. Two Baghdad markets were bombed, killing 100 civilians. U.S. troops killed seven civilians in the shooting of a family at a U.S. army checkpoint. Journalists staying at the Palestine Hotel came under attack in Baghdad, as did those working at the Al Jazeera offices. These criminal acts cannot be supported, any more than the troops who commit them.

The imperialist invasion has killed 35,000 Iraqi civilians and wounded thousands more. Instead of liberation, the war on Iraq has brought death and destruction. The Iraqi people have no say over the fate of their own country, which is now patrolled by tens of thousands of U.S. troops and carved up by military checkpoints. Iraqi oil is under the direct control of the U.S.

Human Disaster

With 340,000 troops in the region, and 125,000 in Iraq, the U.S.-led forces launched almost a thousand Tomahawk cruise missiles, dropped 50 cluster bombs and discharged over 12,000 so-called smart bombs. Even before the siege of Baghdad began, 1300 civilians were dead and over 5000 were injured. Most were victims of bombs dropped from the sky by cowardly pilots who never faced the men, women and children whose lives they destroyed.

U.S. bombing knocked out power for a water station that supplied the southern city of Basra, risking the lives of 1.5 million civilians. The war stopped the delivery of food aid to 17 million Iraqis who depend on it. As U.S. troops launched their first ground attacks on the capital city, the International Red Cross reported that Baghdad hospitals were overloaded, with 100 patients coming in every hour. Millions are still without power, drinking water or adequate food.

Iraq Put up a Fight

The government and people of Iraq did everything in their power to resist this brutal attack. Civilians and volunteer militias immobilized or destroyed tanks and attacked helicopters and planes all over Iraq. These acts of bravery and patriotism inspired Arab people throughout the Middle East. They inspired the world.

In the south, where support for the Iraqi government was supposed to be weak, the people heroically defended their country against the U.S. and British forces. Marine Colonel Ben Saylor said, “We’ve been contested every inch, every mile on the way up [to Baghdad].”

A week after U.S. forces reached Baghdad, Bush declared that Saddam Hussein’s regime had fallen.

Even then, U.S. troops weren’t safe to walk the streets unarmed, and camera crews couldn’t find the promised celebrations by common Iraqis. In the images we have seen, no more than a couple hundred people have gathered anywhere in Iraq to cheer on the U.S. invasion. In contrast, over 8000 Iraqi prisoners of war were captured fighting to defend their land.

Building a U.S. Military Outpost on Stolen Iraqi Land

The Bush administration now plans to set up a full-scale military occupation and a U.S.-run government in Iraq. Sanctions kept Iraq out of the oil market and political scene for 12 years, but the new Iraq will be a base from which to expand U.S. economic, military and political control in the Middle East.

From day one, U.S. Marines guarded over 600 Iraqi oil wells. U.S. oil companies will get the contracts to run these wells. They will use money from oil sales to ‘rebuild’ the devastated country, and take a share of the profits for themselves. Before the war began, Bush urged Iraqis not to burn the oil wells, saying they belong to the Iraqi people. The new oil policy suggests that Bush never intended to allow Iraqis to retain control of their own national resources.

There are no plans for the U.S. military to leave Iraq. U.S. troops still actively fight to control the country. In most cities, popular resistance continues, with daily attacks on U.S. troops, planes and bases. Military checkpoints are being set up along every major road and in every city in Iraq. These are the first outposts of a military occupation, and these sites continue to be targeted by suicide bombers. In order to enforce U.S. plans, tens of thousands of troops will need to remain in Iraq for years to come. Iraq will likely be the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East.

Iraq’s political future is unclear. Today, the U.S. military governs Iraq. It directs the media, police and other civilian endeavors. Not one Iraqi helps make decisions for the country. In the coming months, a U.S.-run interim government will take the place of the military. This is occupation, not liberation

The People of the World Say No

Before the war on Iraq began, millions of people took to the streets of cities and towns across the globe. Those protests made it impossible to win the approval of most of the governments of the world. They made it impossible for the Bush administration to launch a war in February or early March. They made it impossible to say that this war was waged with the consent of the people of the United States.

The Bush administration had to respond. First, they shifted goals - once the war began, and troops found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction, the number one goal became ‘liberating the Iraqi people.’ Then, the media urged protesters to give up, or to at least support our troops. Some protesters began carrying flags, or signs that said, ‘Support our troops, bring them home.’ The Pentagon worked very hard to hide the civilian costs of the war – there were almost no images of dead or injured Iraqis, or bombings in civilian areas. All of this was aimed to demoralize and divide the movement and keep anti-war protesters off the streets.

In spite of this, protests in the U.S. continued. The numbers were a little smaller, but the militancy grew. Many cities organized massive campaigns of direct action and civil disobedience. Thousands of arrests were made in actions that blocked roads and bridges, shut down federal offices, and put the pressure on war profiteers. Anti-war activists across the globe insisted that business would not go on as usual, so long as bombs were falling on Basra and Baghdad.

Keep Up the Fight

As occupation settles in, anti-war activists aren’t asking whether the protests need to continue, but are seeking direction and working to secure the gains made in recent months. Millions of people joined the struggle against the war on Iraq. These people need to keep up that fight, to get involved in other anti-imperialist struggles and to fight the war at home.

While military and oil industry barons are making out like bandits, the cost of war to working people in the U.S. is growing. In April, Congress approved $80 billion to fund the war effort, while preparing to cut funds to healthcare, welfare and education. Almost every state is facing a budget crisis, which they plan to solve with more cuts and by eliminating state workers’ jobs. All the forecasts aside, war did not save the economy.
The racist war on Iraq led to more racist attacks at home, including the investigation and detainment of Arabs and other immigrants, racial profiling at airports and hate crimes. And when it comes to budget cuts, oppressed communities will be the hardest hit.

Rather than falling silent, ordinary people must make the Bush administration pay a high price for all of this – for the Iraqi oil wells, and for the assaults on poor and working people here at home. Anti-war activists must fight even harder - for an end to the military occupation in Iraq, against U.S. aggression in Korea, Colombia or elsewhere, and for equality and human needs here at home.