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    “God, how I hate these people,” said U.S. Sergeant Ronald Black as a young Iraqi waved at him from the back of a passing motor scooter, so Iraq-based reporter Scott Wallace recounts. The Sergeant is even more scathing about his own commanders who once told the invading army that the fastest way home was through Baghdad but now say that his division will be staying on until the Autumn.

    Members of the Third Infantry Division recently interviewed by the BBC echoed the Sergeant’s complaints, one of them daring to ask for the resignation of US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Other U.S. soldiers, according to the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh are paying smugglers US$500 to guide them over the Turkish, Syrian and Jordanian borders.

    Al-Riyadh quotes the testimony of two farmers who say they saw helicopters dumping plastic bags in their vicinity in, which were the burned and dismembered bodies of American service personnel.

    It’s rare that a day goes by without news of American deaths in Iraq. Soldiers are being picked off in small groups, victims of guerrilla-type warfare, rendering premature George W. Bush’s May 1st announcement that the combat was over.

    If Sergeant Black and his military colleagues hate the Iraqis, then the feeling is largely mutual. As much as the Iraqis feared and mistrusted Saddam Hussein and his sons, they had little appetite for war. Fatigued after two major conflicts with Iran, their economy devastated after the Gulf War and more than a decade of crippling sanctions, the Iraqis were fatalistic living on the faint hope of a better future. Instead, they are facing the humiliation of foreign occupation.

    The Iraqi people were not only let down by Saddam Hussein but also by their own generals who, according to a May 19 article in Defense News, were given bribes by U.S. special forces not to fight. Other, less substantiated, reports have suggested that leaders of the Republican Guards were flown out of Baghdad Airport with their families after telling their subordinates to go home and await further orders.


    More bribes led to the deaths of Hussein’s two sons, Uday and Qusay, who each had million dollar bounties on their heads in true Wild West fashion. Their demise was hailed by both Bush and Tony Blair, keen to give the impression that the Iraqi resistance is made up of Baath Party loyalists. But is it?


    In the Sunni stronghold of Fallujah local leaders maintain that while they are glad to see the back of the former Iraqi regime, they resent the taking over of their municipal buildings and schools by American soldiers, as well as the checkpoints, houses searches and the tanks which rumble through their streets, often firing on citizens during what residents term as peaceful protests.


    On July 20, U.S. Marines turned their bayonets towards an angry crowd of some 10,000 Shi’ites in the holy city of Najaf after the harassment of one of their clerics by American troops.


    “If they (the Americans) don’t leave, they will face a popular uprising,” said Sayed Razal Al-Moussawi, an aide to the anti-U.S. Mullah Moqtada Al-Sadr.


    “Moqtada, have no fear, your army of volunteers are here,” chanted the crowds as they beat they chests. “We would sacrifice our lives for you.”


    Mainly Sunnis have been responsible for the attacks on Americans thus far, but if Shi’ite leaders were to call for a “Jihad” or holy war, things could get a lot worse for the Anglo-American invaders.


    With expressions such as “quagmire” and “shades of Vietnam” being bandied about in the media, the Bush administration has asked friendly nations for help with reinforcements without much success, and at the time of writing is considering putting its case before the UN Security Council, once described by Bush as “an empty debating society”.


    Many of America’s allies, including India and Saudi Arabia are reluctant to get involved in what many consider as an illegal invasion based on spurious and now discredited intelligence concerning Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.


    “Dodgy dossiers”, forged documentation concerning uranium yellowcake; erroneous claims that Hussein’s military could have attacked Iraq’s neighbours with WMD after 45 minutes of giving the order; Al Queda poison factories which turned out to be derelict buildings filled with old men and rotting tomatoes have all chipped away at Bush and Blair’s credibility… and their respective approval ratings at home.


    Further, Colin Powell’s claim that aluminium rods and magnets had been purchased by Iraq for use in nuclear centrifuges was proven false by UN Weapons Inspectors; alleged mobile bio-labs turned out to be associated with weather balloons and most damning of all: Where are the weapons?


    Bush’s pre-emptive war has turned out not to be pre-emptive after all. It seems  there was nothing to pre-empt. Saddam Hussein had not threatened neighbouring countries, and neither did he have the military capability to do so. There was no smoking gun despite U.S. pressure put upon Hans Blix to come up with one and, therefore, we have to conclude that America’s war was waged under a false pretext.


    Once the invaders came to realize that their case looked shaky, they then began to drag up Baath Party crimes against its own people as a reason for the war. We will bring democracy to the Iraqi people, they promised. But where is this legendary democracy?


    Sure, America’s “Viceroy” L. Paul Bremer has set up an all-Iraqi advisory council on which sits Pentagon darling Iraqi émigré Ahmad Chalabi, a wanted man in Jordan, who wants to see the privatisation of the Iraqi oil industry.  Chalabi is a convicted embezzler and so the sight of Bremer warmly greeting such a person at the committee’s inaugural meeting was hardly confidence-inspiring.


    This Council has the name but not the game. In the final analysis it answers to Bremer who can take or leave any proposals it puts forward. Already one member has quit fearing that he will be labelled a collaborator in the future.


    In a truly democratic Iraq, the Shia majority would rule when Iraq might follow the Iranian model. This, Donald Rumsfeld has vowed will never happen.


    As things stand, Iraq is in chaos. Electricity is spasmodic, potable water at a premium. Deaths from dysentery and diarrhoea have doubled since last year says Unicef, while cholera and typhoid rear their ugly heads. Security is non-existent all over this country where almost everyone carries a weapon.


    Children pick up unexploded cluster bombs, often losing their limbs in the process while depleted uranium tank shells lie around in populated areas causing cancers. There is 60 per cent unemployment and few civil servants, doctors and nurses have been paid over the past months.


    So what has the invasion achieved? From the American standpoint, it has flexed its military muscle in front of the world, strengthening its hegemony. The U.S. has gained new bases in the region as well as long-term bases within Iraq set to intimidate Iran and Syria. American companies, many associated with members of the Bush administration, will earn billions from re-construction contracts, while the U.S. is in charge of Iraqi oil, economy and banking.


    On the negative side, smaller countries have been shocked into protecting themselves by developing their own weapons of mass destruction. Europe and the U.S. are suffering a political rift and both NATO and the United Nations have been weakened. International law has suffered a battering too when American soldiers are held immune from being charged with war crimes.


    Under questioning from members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Rumsfeld admitted that the cost of operations in Iraq is running at US$3.9 billion a month, almost twice the amount previously estimated. No wonder the U.S. is urging its allies to dig deep into their pockets, an appeal largely falling on deaf ears.


    Seemingly un-phased by his burgeoning critics, the American President rattles his sabre against Iran and Syria. Tony Blair parries such questions from the media as “Do you consider that you have blood on your hands?” and hopes that history will be forgiving.  This determined duo would like nothing better than the scandals over Iraq to disappear, a return to those heady days when the statues of Saddam came down looked on by cheering “rent-a-crowds”.


    Instead, the Iraq misadventure is looking ever murkier. The Pentagon’s fictitious “Saving Private Jessica” has been exposed for the Hollywood-style production it was. The mysterious alleged suicide of civil servant weapons expert Dr. David Kelly has focused an unwelcome spotlight on Tony Blair’s spin-doctoring style and a former U.S. ambassador has admitted that he informed his government that Iraq had not attempted to purchase uranium from Africa three months before such a claim formed part of Bush’s 2003 State of the Nation address.


    It is surely time for the U.S. and Britain to admit that they have committed a grave error of judgment before returning Iraq to the Iraqi people, as Kofi Annan has urged. If the Iraqis need help restoring security and prosperity to their country, then surely the bodies to assist with these requirements should be the Arab League, aided by the UN, the IMF and the World Bank.

    In the meantime, we can only hope that inflated egos will make way for common sense solutions. Iraq for the Iraqis is the only decent way forward for all concerned. Sergeant Black should go home where he belongs and take his disgruntled compatriots with him. Only then will Iraq be able to open a new page on a new and brighter day.




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