Sunday 4 April will go down in history as a day when the Iraqi resistance to Anglo-American imperialist occupation became a truly national revolt of the Iraqi people – Shia and Sunni, religious and secular – united in their hatred of the predatory occupying forces and a burning desire to expel them from Iraq. On that day, eight US soldiers were killed and 24 injured, while on the Iraqi side, 20 were killed and 140 injured, in the occupation forces’ deadliest confrontation with the followers of the radical national cleric Muktada Sadr. US soldiers were killed during a fight in the Sadr City, a suburb of Baghdad, when they attempted to expel Sadr’s militia in order to prevent the latter from taking over police stations and government buildings.
Early liberation for some towns
Fallujah has been out of bounds for the US army since last October, with no US troops based inside the town from then on. In the south, in the towns of Najaf, Kufa and Kut, the occupation ended surprisingly early. Ukrainian troops pulled out of Kut after a night of relentless fire, leaving it in the hands of Sadr’s militia (now apparently the town is back in the hands of the occupation), while Kazakhstan kept its small contingent of troops confined to its base and has declared its intention to withdraw them altogether.
The followers of Sadr are fully in control of Najaf, one of the holiest shrines in the Islamic world. Sadr’s militia control and patrol the city. This is how James Hider, reporting for The Times, captured the scene of a liberated Najaf:
“The first sign of the rebels comes at the entrance to Najaf, where men in black clothes carrying Kalashnikov rifles stand guard at a police checkpoint by a bridge across the Euphrates.
“Inside the city, the extent of the Shia militia control becomes even more evident: there are men on rooftops with machine guns, fighters stroll through the streets. Many of them carry rocket-propelled grenade-launchers slung across their backs. The atmosphere is calm, the followers of Hojatoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr, the rebel cleric, smiling at the revolt that they have just carried out in the holiest of Shia cities. … the militiamen are everywhere, beamingly confident that they can take on the Americans or die trying.”
Sadr’s militia have been joined by the battle-hardened guerrillas who have been waging war against the US-led occupation for a year now in the western desert. With the police and US aggressor troops nowhere to be seen, Sadr’s fighters go about freely driving in police vans commandeered from occupation forces who succumbed to the uprising. The loss of Najaf to the forces of Sadr, who has overnight become a national hero, is a deadly blow and source of deep embarrassment to the occupation. On Monday 5 April, within hours of the occupation authorities outlawing Sadr and his armed wing, the Mahdi army, and pledging to bring him to heel, the latter stormed police stations in Najaf, seizing money, vehicles and weapons, and thereafter assumed control of police checkpoints – thus completing the seizure of Najaf. The immediate occasion for the outbreak of this revolt was the closure by the occupation regime of one of Sadr’s newspapers and the arrest of one of his aides on a murder charge.
As regards Fallujah, the latest intensification of fighting started on Friday 26 March, when a big show of force by the US Marines in Fallujah, the heroic Iraqi city which has become a symbol of the Iraqi national resistance, triggered a day of clashes in which several civilians were killed. Since then, Marine convoys have been daily hit by roadside bombs.
On Wednesday 31 March, 4 US contractors were killed, their bodies mutilated and suspended from a bridge after their vehicles were ambushed in Fallujah. Neither US troops nor the Iraqi police dared intervene while all this was going on. “‘Fallujah is the graveyard of Americans'” chanted the crowd. One man, expressing the hatred the average Iraqi has for the occupation forces, shouted: “We are ready to kill them to return to take these bodies and cars and we will then cut them all to pieces. Let them come back, if they are real men.”
In Fallujah, support for the resistance, and hatred for the US occupation, plus a loathing of all its symbols, is universal – something which was vividly demonstrated when a crowd of Iraqis cheered loudly as some others dragged the bodies of the US contractors through the streets. Joyous crowds beat the charred bodies with shoes before suspending them from a bridge. Ordinary residents, including children, were seen carrying placards proclaiming their town to be the “graveyard of the Americans”.
In an effort to recapture Fallujah, the US on Wednesday 7 April launched a big attack on the town under the code name Iron Sword. Unable to make much headway, and filled with impotent rage, the US launched an attack from the air, hitting residential areas and a mosque. The attack on the mosque, during the aftermath of prayers, claimed upwards of 40 lives with many more injured. Marines, supported by Abrams tanks, C130 warthog warplanes (which fire huge bursts of high-calibre machine gun rounds) and Apache helicopter gunships, attempted to move slowly into Fallujah, only to be faced by the Iraqi guerrillas. The US forces fired rockets from a Cobra helicopter and dropped laser-guided bombs from an F-16 warplane after a 6-hour fight around the mosque. The Iraqi fighters, armed with RPG’s, grenades, machine guns and mortars, confronted the marines, at one point hitting a US field command centre to the north of the town.
A week’s fierce fighting, in which the American troops could make no progress, left 700 Iraqi dead and 2,000 injured. During the same period, 33 US soldiers were killed and several dozen wounded. The US forces said that they had taken “great care to avoid civilian casualties”. Considering that nearly all of the 700 Iraqis killed were civilians – mostly the old and the very young – one must wonder what the American definition of ‘civilians’, and their idea of taking ‘great care’, really are. The Marines, who recently took over from the 82nd Airborne division, had declared their intention to use sensitive tactics to win the hearts and minds of Iraqi people. With the carnage at Fallujah, that idea, along with the several hundred Iraqis killed, lies buried deep in the ground.
On Friday 9 April, after their utter failure to take over Fallujah, the US forces which had vowed to capture the town and destroy all resistance tried to declare a unilateral ceasefire and took the unprecedented step of negotiating with the armed Iraqis, who continue to hold most of the town after several days of bloody fighting. The Iraqi resistance has surprised the American forces and undermined the morale of US soldiers and the people of the US at large. Just as the 1968 Tet offensive by the Vietnamese liberation forces exposed the relentlessly positive message of the US government as a lie, so, four decades later, have the Iraqi resistance dealt a devastating blow to US credibility. Ominously, Iraqi police and security units refused to fight the resistance and in many cases sided with it. In fact, on 11 April US military leaders in Baghdad acknowledged that Iraqi soldiers had refused to fight in the week-long battle for Fallujah – the centre of rebellion against the US occupation.
Attempts by the US forces at negotiating a ceasefire with the resistance in Fallujah have proved fruitless, for the conditions of surrender demanded by the US are quite correctly unacceptable to the resistance, which for its part demands that the US forces quit Fallujah and quit Iraq. On Wednesday 7 April, the US commander, Brigadier-General Mark Kimmit called on al-Sadr to surrender, saying “We will attack to destroy the Mahdi army. Those attacks will be deliberate, precise and successful.” A week later, the US was negotiating with Sadr with the help of Iran, designated by George Bush as a member of the ‘axis of evil’.
The attempts by the occupation regime at dividing the Iraqi people along confessional lines have been a total failure in the face of a united national resistance movement, embracing all Iraqis, united in their determination to expel the imperialist forces from Iraq. The so-called Sunni triangle has been joined by the Shia uprising in the South, promising to become a nationwide mighty torrent against Anglo-American imperialism and its puppets.
“We will fight together from now on, Shia and Sunni. Unity is our strength”, declared an Iraqi as he strode through the traditionally pro-Saddam mosque in Baghdad.
As the US forces declared all-out war against Sadr on 7 April, the two fronts of resistance – in the north and the south – joined forces and called for a war against the occupation. The resistance has spread all across the country, scaring Anglo-American imperialism out of its wits. Italian and Spanish troops fought fierce gun battles on 6 April in al-Nasiriyah and Diwaniyah. During two nights of battles with Sadr supporters, British troops in al-Amarah killed 15 Iraqis, with the result that this mainly Shia town has been transformed from a supposed model of British softly-softly occupation into a dangerous centre of resistance to the occupation. Earlier, on 29 March, 3 British soldiers were hurt as they faced a crowd of Iraqis in Basra. The attack came days after 14 British troops were injured in a grenade and petrol bomb attack in Basra. An off-duty British soldier was killed in a drive-by shooting in Mosul.
Appeals on the part of the collaborating sections of the clerical establishment for moderation, patience, wisdom, peaceful methods and the need to avoid provocation, are increasingly falling on deaf ears. The unfolding events, with the US declaring all-out war on the Iraqi people, and the latter responding with an all-out war against the occupation, have pushed the ‘moderates’ to the side and brought to the fore the militant representatives of Iraqi resistance.
“We are giving our blood and money here now, but this is just the start. We will give our souls. This will be worse than Vietnam. The Shia and Sunni will fight together”, say angry young men and women in Iraq.
Men, women and children are donating food, money and blood for the fighters of Fallujah.
The so-called Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) commands no support among the Iraqi people, who justly treat with contempt as a collection of puppets Iraqis who have been brought into Iraq by the invading imperialist armies to do the bidding of US imperialism.
Anger against US imperialism
The war in Iraq has given a tremendous boost to sentiment against American imperialism – bringing it to levels not witnessed for a long time. In all countries, including Britain and the US, the opposition to this war is overwhelming and the support among the electorate of the two principal protagonists of this war – the US and British governments – is fast melting away, with the distinct possibility that Messrs Bush and Blair may join José María Aznar as former leaders. This is perfectly understandable, for all their claims, all the pretexts, on which the war was waged have been proven to be complete lies – no weapons of mass destruction and, instead of a grateful nation thanking its liberators, the Anglo-American forces are everywhere greeted with gunfire, RPG’s, grenade launchers, improved explosive devices, detonated bombs and ambushes.
While putting on a brave face in public, the US and British governments are in deep despair. Respectable members of the ruling class in each country have begun to voice their opposition to the war. Senator Edward Kennedy in the US has described Iraq as George Bush’s Vietnam – an assertion which is, as one bourgeois journalist aptly put it, “like a dagger in the heart of every American soldier” and has the effect of “wearing away at American resolve”. In Britain, even Robin Cook, the former British foreign secretary and a notorious war criminal in relation to Yugoslavia, has become a persistent critic of the war against Iraq.
11 March Spanish bombings and change of government
On 11 March, bombers of Middle Eastern origin detonated several bombs at three railway stations in Madrid during the early morning rush hour, killing 190 and wounding 1,000 people. The Spanish people were shocked and angry. Their anger was directly not merely to the bombers but also to their own government, whose criminal policy in regard to war had made the Spanish people pay with such loss of life and injury. The following day (12 March), 11 million Spaniards marched through Spain’s main cities to protest against the bombing, with significant numbers among them holding placards reading “Aznar, asesino” (Aznar, murderer). Aznar’s government tried to manipulate the news for electoral advantage by pinning the blame for the bombing on the Basque ETA group. This angered the Spanish people further still, and on Sunday 14 April they voted heavily against Aznar’s Popular Party. Two days later, making way for the installation of the socialist government headed by José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero.
Immediately after his election, Mr Zapatero declared that the “war in Iraq was a disaster, and the occupation continues to be a disaster”, adding that “you cannot organise a war on lies. Bush and Blair should do some self-criticism to avoid repeating what has happened”. He also threatened to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq by 30 June “if there isn’t a change and the United Nations doesn’t take charge of the situation, and the occupying forces don’t cede political control”. Further, he emphasised his determination to effect a major realignment of Spanish foreign policy by jettisoning the Washington-London axis, saying that Spain had paid an unacceptably high price for its support for the US war against Iraq. As Spanish troops had been due to take command of southern Iraq on 1 July from Poland, Zapatero’s pronouncements were greeted with extreme dismay and consternation in London, Washington and at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
The bombings in Spain and the election results were nothing short of a catastrophe for the US and British governments, for at one stroke they have undermined the attempt by Anglo-American imperialism to build the semblance of a military coalition for waging war against the Iraqi people and are most likely to effect a realignment of forces within the European Union at the expense of the US and Britain and their respective governments.
Following the events in Spain, Aleksander Kwasniewski, the Polish president, who has been another staunch supporter of the US, shocked the White House by saying that his country had been deceived and “taken for a ride” over US assertions about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. The Spanish elections have sent a clear message that governments will pay a high price for supporting the murderous predatory war waged by US imperialism against Iraq. The Bush administration is terrified at the prospect of its previously dependable supporters beginning to wobble – not only in central Europe but also it Italy and, who knows, in Britain. Thus, the future for transatlantic relations is more bleak than ever before – and this is saying something.
Putting on a brave face
Bush and Blair are putting on a brave face, saying that they will “stay on course” in Iraq. At a press conference on 13 April Bush said “America’s word once given can be relied upon, even in the toughest time”. While insisting for public consumption that “Al-Sadr must answer the charges against him and disband his illegal militia”, Bush was negotiating secretly with Sadr through intermediaries. Ignoring the reality on the ground, and as if to emphasise that he had taken complete leave of his senses, Bush asserted that “most of Iraq is relatively stable” and there was no danger of a popular rising. The only truthful sentence he uttered was that “the consequences [for the US] of failure in Iraq would be unthinkable”, for “every enemy of America would celebrate, proclaiming our weakness and decadence, and using that victory to recruit a new generation of killers [i.e., fighters for liberation].
Heading for defeat
The truth is just the opposite of that presented by Bush and Blair. During the first two weeks of April, the US lost 90 soldiers, with many more injured. At least two helicopters have been destroyed during the same period, several convoys, some carrying fuel, have been ambushed; roads have become death traps for the imperialist soldiery, with the road to the Baghdad airport under daily attack from improvised explosive devices. Even the most heavily guarded central areas of Baghdad are routinely bombed by the resistance. The Palestine and Sheraton hotels, which until recently were occupied by foreign journalists, have come to be called the twin towers. 40 foreigners have been kidnapped by the resistance and two US soldiers captured, whom the resistance want to swap for thousands of Iraqi prisoners rotting in the concentration camps set up in Iraq by the imperialist invaders. Besides, the resistance is taking foreign hostages as a means of putting pressure on their countries of origin to withdraw their personnel and dissociate themselves from Anglo-American efforts at pacifying Iraq.
The situation in Iraq has assumed such fearful proportions for the US that Bush is about to increase the number of US soldiers in Iraq by another 20,000. In addition, the Bush administration will have to request another massive supplemental budget later this year, totalling about $70 billion (Euro 59 billion, £39 billion). Serious, and thinking, bourgeois analysts in the US are calling this war an “expensive disaster”, which is creating more insurgents than it is eliminating.
On 30 June, the occupation authority will hand nominal power to its Iraqi puppets, who lack all legitimacy. This would be democracy American style – a puppet government set up by the US for serving the interests of US imperialism. This is precisely what he must have had in mind when Scott McLellan, White House spokesman, declared at the height of the fighting in Fallujah: “Democracy is taking root [in Iraq] and there is no turning back. The Iraqi people want us to stay and finish the job.” Clearly, the spokesmen of US imperialism live on a different planet from that inhabited by ordinary mortals with normal human reasoning.
The truth is that the Iraqi people hate the occupation, to get rid of which they are paying a terrible price. Their resistance to occupation has grown into a nationwide revolt against the hated occupying forces, no matter how hard they try, and whatever punishment they visit on the Iraqi resistance and civilian population. The occupation forces will never be able to defeat the national liberation movement of the Iraqi people.
VICTORY TO THE NATIONAL LIBERATION MOVEMENT IN IRAQ !
DEATH TO ANGLO-AMERICAN IMPERIALISM !