[R-G] British Commentary: End the Occupation
pieinsky at igc.org
Tue Jul 1 05:57:42 MDT 2003
Hostages of the empire
Tuesday July 1, 2003
The words of Paul Bremer, Washington's overlord in Iraq, need no "sexing
up". "We are going to fight them and impose our will on them and we will
capture or... kill them until we have imposed law and order on this
country," he declared at the weekend. "We dominate the scene and we will
continue to impose our will on this country."
Neither General Dyer at Amritsar nor General Westmoreland in Vietnam could
have put it any clearer. Welcome to the new colonialism. Bremer's words are
not just bluster. US forces are now engaged in massive search-and-destroy
sweeps in central and northern Iraq against forces opposing their rule.
While the Westminster village remains riveted by the Campbell- BBC pillow
fight, it is the real war on the ground in Iraq that should be commanding
our attention. The six British soldiers killed last week, like the US
servicemen under daily attack, are victims of an overbearing and inept
occupation policy that is alienating ordinary Iraqis of all persuasions.
Civilian deaths, particularly of demonstrators, are mounting. Basic services
and basic rights are in scant supply, with neither democracy nor a reliable
water supply on offer to Iraqis. The only advanced programme is for the
privatisation of state industry. This occupation, which has no modern
precedent, should be at the centre of political attention. Ending it needs
to be at the heart of public activity.
Tony Blair has placed Britain at the service of the first major post-1991
attempt to fasten foreign domination by force on a sovereign country, an
endeavour as unlawful as it is unwise. And there is no easy way out for the
government. British troops in Iraq are now hostages to the Middle East
policy of the Bush administration and its boundless appetite for domination.
As the occupation of Iraq increasingly appears to be a springboard for a
fresh regime-change offensive against Iran, the British troops controlling
the Shia-dominated south of Iraq will be seen not merely as uninvited
occupiers but as aggressors against their co-religionists as well.
If the recent warnings of Washington uberhawks Condoleezza Rice and John
Bolton - that military action against Iran is a live option - become fact,
British forces will be caught up in the campaign, like it or not. And how
often have the musings of maniacs become official Bush administration policy
faster than you can say "pre-emptive war"?
It is certainly hard to see Bush willingly withdrawing the forces of his
"coalition" from Iraq without first having a crack at toppling the Iranian
government. Indeed, the US has no strategy for pacifying Iraq that does not
involve challenging Iran. Thus is the traditional logic of 19th-century
empire being replayed in the 21st: protecting one conquest requires an
indefinite extension of conflict.
Tony Blair seems to be up for this - committed as he is to his own version
of the "white man's burden", imposing New Labour values of market efficiency
and moral hectoring on the world for its own good. He shows no signs
whatever of wanting to unhook Britain from George Bush's endless war against
the "axis of evil" and beyond.
Geoff Hoon, for example, when not pledging thousands more troops to the
Iraqi quagmire, has signalled a British willingness to sign up for the
entirely lawless and manifestly dangerous US plan to board and search by
force North Korean ships on the high seas.
But are the millions who marched against the Iraq war ready to acquiesce in
the continuing, connected crises of the Iraqi occupation and plans for
renewed war? Parliament may be dozing; but the public is increasingly
alarmed. The anti-war movement is once again gaining momentum, its aim both
to prevent the next war and indict the government for the now transparent
lies it told to justify the last one. But it is also to work for Iraq to be
returned to the Iraqis, lifting the burden of Bremer's bullying from the
backs of a suffering country. It is time for British politics - the labour
movement above all - to wake up to what is being done in our name.
Last week's killings in Majar al-Kabir will be only the beginning unless the
government is held to account for its subordination to the "new American
Dead British soldiers - but no weapons of mass destruction discovered. The
balance sheet of Blair's Iraq adventure is deteriorating fast. Yet the prime
minister is to accept a Congressional gold medal for his part in imposing
George Bush's will on Iraq. He will not be doing so on behalf of the British
people. Perhaps Alastair Campbell should recommend a private ceremony.
· Andrew Murray is chair of the Stop the War Coalition.
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