Resistance to U.S. occupation takes shape across Iraq
By Lee Sustar | April 25, 2003 | Page 2
DAYS AFTER U.S. officials staged a "council" of stooges, crooks and puppets claiming to be the new leaders of Iraq, an estimated 30,000 people took to the streets of Baghdad April 18 to oppose the U.S. occupation.
At an unprecedented gathering of Sunni and Shiite Muslims following morning prayers, a prayer leader at the Abu Hanafi mosque told the U.S. occupiers: "You are the masters today. But I warn you against thinking of staying. Get out before we kick you out." One banner on the demonstration read, "Leave our country--we want peace."
While opposition to U.S. occupation was displayed on the streets, U.S. puppet Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) installed himself in the exclusive Iraqi Hunt Club once frequented by Saddam Hussein. The difference was that Saddam's portraits were replaced by Chalabi's--and the guards were U.S. Special Forces with Bradley fighting vehicles.
With Chalabi as their front man, U.S. officials are recruiting police and bureaucrats from Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, while relying on political pressure and lethal force to impose their will on the country's most oppressed groups--Shiite Muslims and Kurds.
On April 16 and 17, U.S. Special Forces shot and killed 17 people and wounded at least 39 in the northern city of Mosul, bordering Iraqi Kurdistan. Ironically, the U.S. was trying to shore up Arab rule in the city, which had fallen into the hands of Kurdish militias after the collapse of the Iraqi army.
But the man that the U.S. chose as the new Arab boss of Mosul was Mashaan Al-Juburi, former commander of Saddam Hussein's bodyguards and an Iraqi military chief who led the repression of the 1991 Shia rebellion following the Gulf War. When anger erupted at Al-Juburi--now a member of the INC--U.S. troops opened fire on the crowd. Afterward, U.S. soldiers had to retreat into the equivalent of City Hall, nicknamed "Fort Apache" by the soldiers.
In Kirkuk--which is considered as important to the Kurds as Jerusalem is to Palestinians--U.S. troops have withdrawn to the oilfields, which account for some 40 percent of Iraqi production. Militias from the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) officially bowed to U.S. demands that they withdraw from the city. But armed Kurdish groups effectively control Kirkuk.
Kurds are systematically expelling many of the estimated 100,000 Arabs who were paid by the Saddam government to settle in the region to thwart the Kurdish movement for self-determination and independence. Turkey's government--which rules with an iron fist over a population of at least 5 million Kurds--threatened to intervene in northern Iraq if the Kurds captured Mosul.
The original plan for the U.S. invasion of Iraq included a force moving in from Turkey in order to preempt Turkish intervention--and to keep Iraqi Kurds from declaring independence. For now, U.S. officials are playing for time as they move more military forces into northern Iraq. But the situation remains explosive.
In the Shiite south of the country, the U.S. and Britain have been working to maneuver their bought-off Shia clerics into positions of power. Their first choice, Abdul Majid Khoei, was stabbed to death by protesters just before a scheduled photo op with another cleric formerly allied to Saddam Hussein. An anti-American Shiite leader, Muqtada Sadr, is also demanding that Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, leave the country--because he is too close to Washington.
The problem for Washington is that most Shiite clerics are either compromised by their ties to Saddam Hussein, or seen as sympathetic to the Shiite clergy that runs Iran--which, in the U.S. view, is even worse.
Yet efforts to install pro-occupation clerics have run into trouble. For example, U.S. forces have been unable to unseat Sayed Abbas as de facto mayor of Kut, a city of 300,000. According to the New York Times, U.S. Special Forces "considered killing Mr. Abbas, but have since thought the better of it."
In the political vacuum left by Saddam's fall, Islamism has begun to fill the space, especially for the majority Shiite population, with an estimated 1 million participating in the long-banned pilgrimage to the holy city of Karbala.
The opposition to U.S. rule is still taking shape, but its existence can't be denied. As British journalist Robert Fisk put it, "America's war of 'liberation' is over. Iraq's war of liberation from the Americans is about to begin."