In the article below, which I republish from the Morning Star,* Liz Davies warns that the withdrawal of US/UK troops from Iraq, whilst vitally important, by itself is not enough, as the purpose of the military occupation of Iraq was to lay the foundations for the long term political and economic control of that Nation by the USA. The Neo-conservatives who originated this wicked war and occupation have demonstrated by building a new US Embassy in Baghdad, [see photo] which will house over 4000 employees, that the USA has long term strategic and economic reasons for remaining in Iraq; and Liz deals with this matter in some detail in this piece, It is well worth a read.
What now for Iraq?
By Liz Davies.
Half the population of Iraq is aged 16 or under. These children have lived their lives experiencing aggressive assaults on their country by the US and Britain. First, economic sanctions and then military invasion and occupation. Their parents grew up during the Iran-Iraq war when the West funded Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons, which he used on the battlefield against Iran and against the Kurds, and lived through the aborted invasion of Iraq following Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. Saddam’s dictatorship was the product of the US-backed Ba’athist coup in 1968. If ever a country were entitled to reparations, Iraq is it.
The US-British occupation is starting to look politically untenable in the US and Britain. Gordon Brown is pulling the troops out of Basra. The Democratic presidential candidates broadly support phased withdrawals. Opinion polls show that a majority of US citizens want a full withdrawal of troops in the next year.
From the occupiers’ point of view, much of their work has been done.
The purpose of the military occupation was to lay the foundations for continued political and economic control of Iraq. The presence of the new US embassy in Baghdad – the world’s largest embassy, costing $600 million (£305m) and housing 4,000 staff, half of whom will be working in the areas of security and intelligence – is a message to the Iraqi people that the US intends long-term political domination of their country.
Multinational corporations are queuing up to rob Iraq of its oil resources through production-sharing agreements. The growth of sectarian conflict, systematically encouraged by the occupiers, has divided the political process along sectarian lines. And the brutality of the occupation, following years of brutal dictatorship, has resulted in a level of eve-ryday violence and criminality that is horrifying and unparalleled.
So it seems that the neocons had a plan for the future of Iraq and are carrying it through. They wouldn’t admit that sectarian conflict and the appalling reality of everyday life for Iraqis was part of the plan, but it sure helps.
It allows the US and Britain to obtain some fat contracts providing weapons and training to the Iraqi government post-withdrawal. It prevents the organisation of grass-roots civil society, stops Iraqis from leading normal lives and thus reduces engagement in the political process, particularly for women. It allows the US and Britain to cherrypick so-called representative political parties, organised along sectarian lines. It reduces the possibility of Iraqis organising against the exploitation of their economic resources, rebuilding their shattered infrastructure or defining their own political priori-ties.
The millions of us who were opposed to the invasion have found thinking about a post-occupation Iraq difficult.
The peace movement has concentrated on the basic point that continued military occupation of Iraq is the problem, not the solution. The first and absolutely necessary solution is to withdraw all occupying troops and privatised military contractors and for Iraqis to rebuild their own country. Rightly, we’ve said this again and again in response to the argument that troops should stay to sort out the mess that the invasion and occupation created. We’ve also been motivated by the principle that the West and, in particular, the US and Britain, should not be telling Iraqis how to rebuild their country.
But the US and Britain are responsible, both in international law and morally.
Sanctions are estimated to have killed around one million Iraqis who would otherwise be alive today. By 2003, child malnutrition rates were 19 per cent and only 50 per cent of Iraqis had access to adequate water supplies. By 2007, the rate for child malnutrition had risen to 28 per cent and 70 per cent of Iraqis had no access to adequate water. Half the population are estimated to be out of work. Some 40 per cent of public servants are thought to have left the country. Two million Iraqis have fled to Syria or Jordan. Another two million are internally displaced.
After the first Gulf war, Iraq was made to pay reparations of $350 billion (£178bn) for Saddam’s invasion of Ku-wait. The money was deducted from the oil-for-food programme, reducing it by one-third. If ordinary Iraqis had to pay for a short-lived military adventure by their unelected leader, shouldn’t the US and British governments start to pay something for the devastation of Iraq carried out by our elected leaders?
In that context, a very useful 10-point plan has been put forward by the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research (TFF), whose board member Hans von Sponeck was UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Iraq before he resigned in protest at the effects of the sanctions.
Its Towards Peace In and With Iraq strategy refers to a similar 12-point plan from Dennis Kucinich, who is a left candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for president. TFF insists first on the withdrawal of foreign troops, mercenaries and bases.
Without withdrawal, nothing can happen. But civil society in Iraq has collapsed so much that concrete actions are needed to help the Iraqi people rebuild their country – a clean-up of military waste, including depleted uranium and cluster bombs which are littering Iraq; political withdrawal, including the closure of the US embassy; cancellation of Saddam Hussein’s debt; compensation and reparations; retention of all oil resources and revenues; a truth and reconciliation process, including a public apology from the US and British governments to the Iraqi people; and assisting civil society exchanges giving opportunities for Iraqi students or allowing Western professionals to work in Iraq under the direction of Iraqi organisations etc.
TFF is very clear that the rebuilding of Iraq has international implications. It calls for the whole Middle East to be-come free of weapons of mass destruction – specifically, that Israel should disarm its nuclear arsenal – and for a long-term regional conference working toward a comprehensive settlement for the entire region, including the two core con-flicts of Iraq/the US-Britain and Palestine/Israel.
The most controversial proposal as far as the left is concerned is for an international peace-building mission for Iraq under UN leadership.
TFF is not calling for continued military occupation under another name. It specifies that no military personnel should be drawn from countries that have been occupiers, that there should be a low percentage of staff from Western-Christian parts of the world, that the UN should be working in partnership with the Arab League and the militarised element should be no more than 15 per cent.
Nevertheless, the UN oversaw sanctions, so even such a carefully designed UN mission would have a lot of bridge-building to do before Iraqis can feel that it is on their side.
Ultimately, whether or not any of these proposals are the right way forward will depend on the views of the Iraqi people. They have voted with their feet – and their lives – against the military occupation. If the Iraqi people oppose a UN-led semi-military mission, it will fail. On the other hand, sectarian conflict once created and encouraged by occupiers acquires a momentum of its own. Many on the left felt that the UN let down the Rwandan people when it refused to intervene in 1994. If the Iraqi people accept such a mission, it might help.
In Britain, Iraq Occupation Focus has been working on similar proposals to help support justice for Iraq. The TFF proposals form a useful discussion point. We need some of the radical NGOs, the peace movement, international soli-darity campaigns, women’s groups etc, to come together to work through what we should be demanding from our gov-ernment.
Hands Off Iraqi Oil is already leading the way in its campaign against the privatisation of Iraq’s resources.
Obviously, the two preconditions for any campaign for justice for Iraq must be that justice will never be achieved under occupation and that it is for the Iraqi people to tell the British people what they require by way of reparation.
But focusing just on withdrawal is not enough. The US and Britain remain responsible for the devastation inflicted on Iraq and cannot be allowed to withdraw and forget.
Liz Davies is a barrister and political activist. She is chairwoman of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers and active in Iraq Occupation Focus. She writes this column in a personal capacity.
Hands Off Iraqi Oil is mounting a day of action to End the Military and Economic Occupation on February 23. Meet at 12.30pm at Bond Street Tube, London.