U.S. occupation of Iraq assailed from all sides: As protest and opposition grow, war-makers step up air attacks

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In December, accepting the 2005 Nobel literature prize, English dramatist Harold Pinter railed against the war on Iraq and the criminal record of the U.S. internationally, saying:

“The United States supported and in many cases engendered every rightwing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. … The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good.”

The masquerade, however, is disintegrating, because people are talking — and acting.

PR vs. reality. Bush persists in saying that life is better in Iraq than before the invasion, and improving. This is true only in government press releases.

For one thing, nobody is safe. From laser-guided bombs dropped by U.S. Air Force F-16 jets. And foreign troops or mercenaries who act like any occupying army — thugs with killing power. From imprisonment and torture. And marauding rapists and bandits and kidnappers. From armed religious fanatics. And suicide bombers and death squads. “Every month,” reports the British newspaper Independent, “up to a thousand fresh corpses arrive at the mortuary in Baghdad.”

Three elections stage-managed by the U.S. have not brought democracy to Iraq. Instead they’ve imposed a fundamentalist constitution that decimates women’s rights and produced laws, officials and police agencies that favor U.S. interests. Complex ethnic and religious and tribal relations have been fanned into hostilities among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds that invite the horrors of ethnic cleansing — the same war tactic used in the former Yugoslavia.

Two groups, labor and women, are significant parts of the many-faceted Iraqi resistance. Unions have made remarkable progress since the invasion, despite repression by the U.S. and its puppet Iraqi governments. Representatives of the three major union federations toured the U.S. in June under the auspices of U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW). Following that tour they issued a joint statement that roundly condemned the U.S. occupation and privatization of the Iraqi economy.

Most Iraqi women, who make up 60 percent of the population, have also refused to collaborate with the occupation. Not deluded by U.S. promises of liberation, they have been deprived of jobs, healthcare, schooling and their very lives, since civilians bear the brunt of military assaults. Despite religious and political repression, they continue to organize and, like Iraqi unionists, to seek international solidarity with their cause.

The hellish air war. The U.S. ground war is going badly, due to intransigent Iraqi opposition, and Bush is beset at home by criticism, distrust, and dismay over surging U.S. casualties. Thus, the White House is making troop withdrawal sounds.

This does not signal the end of the war, however, but rather an increase in the air war, with an even more grievous toll of Iraqi lives and resources. Although rarely reported, the air war is already happening and has been for some time.

Independent journalist Dahr Jamail reports that “carrier-based Navy and Marine aircraft flew over 21,000 hours of missions and dropped over 26 tons of ordinance in Fallujah alone during the November 2004 siege of that city.” It is commonplace to use massive 500 and 1,000 pound bombs in urban areas to target small pockets of resistance fighters.

In 2005, the number of air attacks rose from about 25 in January to 120 in November. Air Force and Marine F-18s and AV-8 Harriers are being used for stepped-up bombing of supposed rebel positions in western Iraq. In just one U.S. bombing strike in the first week of November, more than 80 civilians were killed in the western town of Husaybah.

Busted and unloved. These days, barring military academies and such, wherever Bush & Co. travel, they’re accosted by mass demonstrations, pecking foreign diplomats or outraged Americans. The hostility reflects a pervasive, energetic opposition to American imperialism abroad and a swelling of shock and shame among workers at home.

The causes of the anger are manifold. U.S. businesses set new records for war profiteering, while working people lose pensions, jobs and healthcare and the rich get more tax cuts. The CIA runs secret prisons around the world. Death squads connected to the Iraqi Interior Ministry and trained by the very same U.S. officers who once supervised similar squads in El Salvador and Cambodia are terrorizing civilians to deflate support for the resistance. The Pentagon is spying on U.S. citizens.

The war is massively expensive. The New York Times reported on December 11 that “total allocations for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the war on terror have topped $300 billion.” In contrast, the Times pointed out, protecting New Orleans with stronger and higher levees, new drainage canals and environmental restoration would take about $32 billion, “barely one-third the cost of the $95 billion in tax cuts passed just last week by the House of Representatives.” Clearly, the U.S. government is not about doing what’s best for people, whether they live in New Orleans or Baghdad.

Military enlistment numbers and support for the war are both shrinking.

Dozens of cities have passed resolutions calling for withdrawal of troops. On September 24, tens of thousands of activists, along with veterans of Iraq and their families, took to the streets. On November 2, students from about 200 campuses walked out of classes and marched for education, not war.

Counter-recruiting is bursting out as the economic draft makes cannon fodder of urban people of color and poor white youth from rural areas and small towns. Greater numbers of teenagers are realizing that the military sales pitches are “crap,” in the admission of one Chicano recruiter to professor, filmmaker, and political commentator Saul Landau.

And, meanwhile, the Pentagon estimates that over 5,500 soldiers are already AWOL.

No wonder the administration is expanding push-button warfare.

Slay the dragon! It is up to U.S. working people to demand that our country’s troops, and all the foreign occupiers, withdraw now. And that goes for military planes and bases, mercenaries, and corporate exploiters too!

We can count on solidarity from all those with fists raised against U.S. imperialism in Venezuela, Bolivia, Hong Kong — indeed in most every country on the planet. Together, we can insist on Iraq for the Iraqis.

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