BRING THE TROOPS HOME NOW
By Paola Rizzuto
The war in Iraq, and the occupation of that country do not serve the interests of either Iraqi or American working people. United States corporations, like any others, need to expand their markets so that they can ultimately make more profit. Seizing control of Iraq and its resources and then granting lucrative contracts to corporations such Halliburton is proof that “helping Iraqi people” are code words for corporate gain. This becomes even more apparent when, as a result of U.N. sanctions and U.S. bombing, diseases such as typhoid are emerging and there is a Burger King in Baghdad before there are oxygen tanks or other basic supplies in hospitals. This is not liberation.
This war and occupation must end. The only solution is immediate withdrawal of all troops from Iraq.
Hawkish conventional wisdom suggests that Iraqi resistance to U.S. occupation will eventually cease because Saddam Hussein has been captured and the Iraqi fighters cannot possibly match the might of U.S artillery. This could not be further from the truth. History shows that occupation tends to fuel resistance, not decrease it (Palestine, Algeria, South Africa, India, etc). The multitude of religious, ethnic and political groups in Iraq will rally around one point of unity: U.S. occupation must end.
The Iraqi people are not retaliating because they are loyal to Saddam, but because they are deprived of sovereignty while their country is being sold to the highest bidder. The ongoing war has killed thousands of civilians. The occupation disrupted the existing food distribution system, and this has bumped up malnutrition rates from 4% to 8%. Unemployment is 60%. Infant mortality has soared. Female attendance in schools has been halved because families are afraid to send their daughters amid a huge increase in rapes and kidnappings. No amount of U.S. bullying will alter this situation. If you want an end to all of the above, end the occupation immediately and bring every soldier back home.
The war in Iraq hurts American workers as well. Of course that includes the thousands of soldiers who have been killed or wounded in Iraq. But it robs us here at home as well. The increase in oil and gas prices since the invasion is taking $1,000 a year from every US working family and giving it to oil companies. Another $1,000 per working family is being poured into the costs of the war itself, much of it flowing directly to war profiteers like Halliburton. Finally, the destruction of living standards in Iraq, if unchecked, paves the way for a new round of wage cuts in the US and worldwide, as US companies move jobs to ever-lower wage areas.
Only the oil and gas interests and war suppliers have benefited—to the tune of over $400 billion in increased revenue since the war began.
Is the UN the solution?
Although rhetoric of “bring the troops home now” is common within the anti war movement, there are those who believe that occupation in Iraq is necessary. There are two main positions that are put forth by those who believe that some occupation in Iraq is needed, at least for the time being, in order to rebuild the country. A common argument is: “the U.S. cannot withdraw its troops immediately because chaos and fundamentalism will emerge as a result.” Another argument is: “the U.S. should cease its unilateralist practices and the U.N. should be in control of the occupation.”
Both these positions are problematic. Firstly, both scenarios deprive the Iraqi people of their fundamental right to self-determination to choose their own leaders and systems. The suggestion that they cannot do so independently gives credibility to those in the Administration who adhere to the same type of “white man’s burden” and Orientalist thinking that has been the impetus behind past invasions and occupations in the Middle East. Discussions of “timetables for withdrawal” only serve to grant legitimacy to the occupation of Iraq.
Moreover, they ignore the fact that the longer the US and other foreign troops stay, the stronger the Islamic fundamentalists forces are growing. The US forces allow and encourage the growth of armed militias controlled by fundamentalist factions, militias that terrorize workers’ and women’s rights organizations. The puppet Iraqi governing Council, appointed by the US, has passed a law decreeing that family disputes are to be decided by Sharia religious law, depriving Iraqi women of rights they have had for decades. This is the sort of “protection” occupation offers Iraqis. At the same time, the occupation authorities have banned all strikes. The longer occupation last, the more the attacks on working class organizations grow.
Why would we expect UN occupation to be any better? We should keep in mind that the U.N sanctions and the “oil for food” program are partially to blame for the condition of Iraq today and directly caused the death of at least one million Iraqi children. Iraqi people are told that if they want food and other basic supplies they must embrace a prolonged and unwanted foreign presence in their country. Democracy cannot flourish under either a U.S. or a U.N stranglehold.
The other occupation
In addition, it is also important to realize that U.S. support of occupation in the Middle East is not limited to Iraq. The State of Israel, which receives the largest amount of economic and military aid from the U.S. of any country has occupied Palestine for decades while expanding settlements, building an apartheid wall and denying the internationally recognized right of return to Palestinian refugees. It is essential that we realize that the occupations of Iraq and Palestine are connected because they are facilitated by U.S. policies in the region.
There are those within the anti-war movement who either do not see that the occupations in Palestine and in Iraq both need to be tackled because they represent the result of the same foreign policy strategies; or shy away from addressing the issue of Palestine because they fear that they will alienate others who are against the war in Iraq.
To this, I would like to say the following: if we are going to build the strongest possible anti-war, anti-imperialist movement, addressing the issue of Palestine is essential if we are to combat the larger issue at hand, which is the destructive influence of U.S. foreign policy. This will ultimately foster unity in the anti-war movement because it will connect a variety of different problems to the same root cause. United For Peace and Justice recently decided to create a campaign to focus on ending U.S. aid to Israel. The fact that a large mainstream political organization decided to do this is perhaps a signal that the movement as a whole is going in the direction of including the question of Palestine.
On January 12th, “An open Letter from the Arab-American and Muslim Community to the U.S. Anti-War movement” was drafted by 41 organizations who articulated their case for Palestine. In a relatively short period of time, the number of endorsing organizations jumped from 41 to 142. The final figure includes organizations such as ANSWER, NLG Al-Awda and the Muslim Students Association. While it is true that some might leave the movement if Palestinian struggles are addressed, I think that ultimately, more people will join because their voices will be heard and their concerns will no longer be marginalized.
Despite differences in ideology, it is possible to put forth a unified agenda that is conducive to ending perpetual war and occupation. If we can say no to occupation, no to imperialism and yes to freedom everywhere, then perhaps there will be a time when we can all rally around the phrase “from Iraq to Palestine, occupation is a crime!”. Then we will see that opposing one occupation or the other isn’t enough: we need to tackle the system as a whole because to do anything less is to merely treat the symptoms instead of proposing a cure.