EMPIRE'S NIGHTMARE

Print edition : June 18, 2004

The Iraqi people have risen in glorious defiance, forcing the United States itself into a crisis, pinning down the world's most awesome military machine, creating a full-scale cleavage in the European state system, and setting an example for the Third World that even a full-scale military occupation can be resisted and fought back by a people who have suffered some 15 years of the most brutal aggression.

WHEN the British occupied Iraq at the end of the First World War, some 80 years ago, they too had claimed to be liberating the country from tyranny - "Turkish tyranny," it was then called - and restoring sovereignty and civilisation to Iraq. They devised a Hashemite monarchy to embody that "sovereignty", hired a bunch of notables to provide an Arab facade for British occupation, confected an army under officers of their choice, handed over the country's oil resources to their own companies, and carried on with a ruthless colonial rule over and above the facade. The modern Iraqi nation was born in the course of the anti-colonial, anti-monarchical resistance, which lasted until 1958, when the monarchy was overthrown and a secular, multi-ethnic, independent state was proclaimed and the remaining vestiges of colonial rule dismantled. In this second round of colonisation, undertaken by the United States with the British bringing up the rear, the process is unlikely to take that long. The imperial dream is already turning into a full-fledged nightmare.

At a demonstration by Shia supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr after a joint Friday mid-day prayers by Shias and Sunnis at the Baghdad neighbourhood of Adhamiya on May 7.-MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP

The coalition itself is tottering. Barely a year after Bush had announced "victory" in Iraq, Jose Maria Aznar, the Spanish Prime Minister who was Bush's closest ally in continental Europe, lost the national elections by a wide margin on the single issue of having sent Spanish troops to Iraq as part of the U.S.-led coalition, and Jose Luis Rodrigus Zapatero, the Socialist Prime Minister who succeeded him, promptly announced that he will withdraw the troops. Indeed, the very last Spanish troops are leaving Iraqi soil as I begin to draft this article. The Spanish announcement of withdrawal was followed by similar decisions by weak little countries that had been pressed by the U.S. into service: Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Kazakhstan. Bulgarian and South Korean troops were pulled back to their bases, and New Zealand said it was withdrawing its engineers. Similar noises are emanating from El Salvador, Norway, the Netherlands and Thailand.

In India, some of the luminaries of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had wanted to send a contingent of Indian troops on the side of the U.S. but the widespread dismay in the country prevented them from doing so, and they kept hoping that the United Nations (U.N.) would provide the U.S. with some kind of a fig leaf and Indian troops could then be despatched as part of an international `peacekeeping' force. Now, with the overthrow of the BJP-led government, the new External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh spoke at length in his very first press conference of his intent to revive the close links that India historically had with the Muslim country (during what Jaswant Singh during his fraternal visit to Israel had described as "the lost decades", that is, the years of India's independent foreign policy). Now, with the defeat of the communal forces, one hears again of Panch Sheel and non-alignment.

In Britain, the most loyal of the U.S. allies, Tony Blair faces the possibility of going the way of Aznar. His current popularity ratings are the lowest since he first became Prime Minister some eight years ago. The Labour Party faces the choice of either getting rid of him before the elections and electing a new leader not directly tainted with the crimes of Iraq, or probably losing the next elections. In an extraordinary letter addressed to Blair in the last week of April, more than 50 former British Ambassadors declared that "time has come to make our anxieties public", and focussed their anxieties on the two issues of Palestine and Iraq. The letter says, in part:

"... the international community is now been confronted with the announcement by Ariel Sharon and President Bush of new policies which are one-sided and illegal... you yourself seem to have endorsed it, abandoning the principles which for nearly four decades have guided international efforts to promote peace in the Holy Land ... . This abandonment of principle comes at a time when rightly or wrongly we are portrayed throughout the Arab and Muslim world as partners in an illegal and brutal occupation in Iraq. The conduct of the war in Iraq has made it clear that there was no effective plan for the post-Saddam settlement. All those with experience of the area predicted that the occupation of Iraq by the coalition forces would meet serious and stubborn resistance, as has proved to be the case. To describe the resistance as led by terrorists, fanatics and foreigners is neither convincing nor helpful."

Similar dissidence has been brewing in the U.S. as well, where Bush too, like Blair in Britain, is facing the lowest popularity ratings since he became President - and this, when the presidential election is less than six months away. Before the invasion of Iraq began, Britain had already witnessed something of a mutiny by about a third of the Labour Members of Parliament. And Liberal Democrats have always been opposed to the invasion, even though not as strongly as they should have been, but there was no visible dissent in the armed forces. In the U.S., by contrast, virtually the whole of Congress had stood firmly behind Bush, with some honourable exceptions such as Senators Robert Bird and Edward Kennedy. However, scepticism ran deep among many professions of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the State Department and even the armed forces, to the extent that the then Chief of the Army Staff had made it known that he disapproved of Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld's plan and thought and, that the U.S. would eventually have to commit "several hundred thousand troops" for the kind of war of occupation it was contemplating. Many high officials of the CIA were telling journalists that Rumsfeld and his gang had simply overruled information and advice offered by the professions and had created within the Pentagon an intelligence agency of its own which was designed to produce evidence that would justify invasion. That dissension seems now to be coming to a head, after hundreds of photographs have been shown to members of Congress which prove that torture of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers is not an exception but quite the norm. Excellent reports on the question of torture which have appeared in such influential publications as New Yorker and Newsweek seem to rely heavily on extensive background briefings by highly placed officials who are explaining how Rumsfeld and his closest aides in fact put in place the whole apparatus of systematic torture over a period of two years.

Muqtada al-Sadr at the Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf on May 12.-HADI MIZBAN/AP

Some sense of this deepening disquiet even among the U.S. soldiery comes through, for example, in an editorial that appeared in an in-house journal, ArmyTimes, on May 17, 2004. It says, in part:

"A failure of leadership at the highest levels while responsibility begins with the six soldiers facing criminal charges, it extends all the way up the chain of command to the highest reaches of the military hierarchy and its civilian leadership. The entire affair is a failure of leadership from start to finish. From the moment they are captured, prisoners are hooded, shackled and isolated. The message to the troops: Anything goes... . In addition to the scores of prisoners who were humiliated and demeaned, at least 14 have died in custody in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army has ruled at least two of those homicides. This is not the way a free people keeps its captives or wins the hearts and minds of a suspicious world... . Army commanders in Iraq bear responsibility for running a prison where there was no legal adviser to the commander, and no ultimate responsibility taken for the care and treatment of the prisoners."

The Washington Post

"Deep divisions are emerging at the top of the U.S. military over the course of the occupation of Iraq, with some senior officers beginning to say that the United States faces the prospect of casualties for years without achieving its goal of establishing a free and democratic Iraq... . Army Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, who spent much of the year in western Iraq, said he believes that at the tactical level at which fighting occurs, the U.S. military is still winning. But when asked whether he believes the United States is losing, he said, `I think strategically, we are.' ... Army Col. Paul Hughes, who last year was the first director of strategic planning for the U.S. occupation authority in Baghdad, said he agrees with that view and noted that a pattern of winning battles while losing a war characterised the U.S. failure in Vietnam."

The Los Angeles Times

Falluja on April 29. Four members of the Governing Council resigned their posts in disagreement over the brutal nature of the U.S. operation.-AKRAM SALEH/REUTERS

On the civilian side, Admiral David Nash, who oversees the distribution of reconstruction contracts, reported that there are days when as many as 75 per cent of the Iraqis employed by the occupation authorities just do not report to work. With unemployment rate running at 50 per cent of the labour force, many Iraqis are forced by hunger and destitution to take up work for the Americans but then stay away from work thanks a whole range of motivations, from patriotic hatred of the occupier to the sense of insecurity that comes from working for an authority itself under attack. For, no place in Iraq is safe for the Americans and their collaborators.

The resistance has now spread to virtually all parts of the country and the freedom fighters seem able to attack any and all targets: pipelines, moving military vehicles and convoys, encampments, even the headquarters of the so-called Coalition Provisional Authority which is in fact the current colonial government in Iraq. Some 1,500 foreign contractors are said to have fled the country and even major transnationals like General Electric have stopped work on most of their projects.

Many of those who had come to supervise what they thought was going to be Iraq's smooth transition to a free market economy and a safe haven for foreign capital have relocated their offices to Amman. Disaffection within the U.S. armed forces seems to be escalating. Soldiers who had come under the impression that they were going to be greeted with garlands by those whom they were going to "liberate" find themselves constantly under attack, and the tour of duty that was supposed to last merely few weeks now seems endless, after full 15 months of occupation. Among those who have returned to the U.S., more and more are beginning to speak up about what they saw and did, as indicated by the editorial in ArmyTimes.

What, then, about the collaborators? Izzadine Saleem, the chairman of the Iraqi Governing Council, the puppet group the Americans have confected, was killed in an ambush while his car was waiting to get into the so-called "Green Zone" which serves as the headquarter of the occupation forces. A couple of days later, the so-called "defence minister", an appointee of the Americans, barely escaped an ambush. Nor is this lack of deep hatred of, and lack of security for, some of the key collaborators the only sign of disarray and disquiet at the top. Four members of that same Governing Council resigned their posts in disagreement over the brutal nature of the U.S. operation in Falluja which, according to medical sources, killed upward of 600 civilians. The most bizarre case, however, is that of Ahmed Chalabi, the convicted criminal who had been hand-picked by the Pentagon hawks as the man fit to run Iraq for them.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, U.S. President George W. Bush and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in Portugal's Azores islands on March 16, 2003.-HARRY PAGE/AFP

Chalabi is a scion of a family perhaps the richest in Iraq in the days of the monarchy but which then lost some of its wealth after the anti-monarchical revolution, departing then to settle in Britain. After a chequered career, Chalabi had eventually shown up in Jordan where he set up the once highly successful Petra Bank but then had to flee the country when criminal charges were brought against him. He was tried and sentenced in absentia to a prison term of 27 years on 31 charges of embezzlement, theft, currency speculation and so on. Later, he showed up in the U.S., sensed that the U.S. was willing to spend a lot of money on Iraqi, particularly Shia, opponents of Saddam Hussein, created an outfit called the Iraqi National Congress, went on the CIA payroll which is said to have steadily given him a purse to the tune of $340,000 a month - a total of $27 million over the years, it is said. In time, he wormed himself into the affections of the group of the far-right hawks who currently run the Pentagon and supplied them with the "defectors" - imposters, all of them - who supplied them with all the - false - information about Saddam's nuclear weapons programmes, weapons of mass destruction and so on, which was touted as the reason for the invasion. After the occupation, he was flown in and he was the one who assembled the several hundred paid agents who pranced around in front of the cameras of the BBC, CNN and so on, while Saddam's statue was brought down and a scene of jubilant Iraqis had to be staged. He was then appointed to the Governing Council where he took over the finance committee and saw to it that he was the one who got the bulk of Saddam Hussein's secret files.

That seems to have been the first thing that made the occupiers uneasy, since those files contain a lot of incriminating evidence of the U.S. and British collaboration with Saddam Hussein, even to the extent of supplying him with the technical means to produce chemical and biological weapons. That the so-called `information' he and his friends had supplied turned out to be so completely false, and no weapons of mass destruction were to be found, was the second irritant.

As an illustrious member of the Governing Council, he placed several of his relatives and lieutenants in key positions in the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Commerce, the Central Bank and other key posts. But then he also did two other things that seem to have offended the authorities. First, it was chiefly on his advice that Paul Bremer, the U.S. pro-consul in Iraq, disbanded the Iraqi army and police while also dismissing tens of thousands of state employees on the pretext of "de-Baathification" of Iraq. This one move cost jobs to hundreds of thousands, inflicted economic hardships on their families, and fuelled mass anger, while leaving the occupying authorities no personnel with which to tackle law and order issues.

Bremer eventually came to believe that this advice was as misguided as the "information" Chalabi generated for Rumsfeld was false. (Whether or not the U.S. could have elicited loyalty from that army, police and civil service is another question altogether.) Bremer seems to have come to believe that Chalabi - having been sentenced for high crimes in Jordan, having fed false information to the Pentagon, having been paid $27 million of the U.S. money, having offered wrong-headed advice to Bremer himself - was perhaps not quite the star he was supposed to have been, and was perhaps even a liability. There is reason to believe that Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. envoy who is helping the U.S. in putting together a new group of clients to whom "sovereignty" is to be transferred on June 30, was thinking of sidelining Chalabi in the new dispensation.

However, what seems to have led to the parting of the ways is that once he had established himself in Baghdad, and witnessing the drift of events, Chalabi well understood that new power centres were developing among the Shias, supposedly friendly toward the Americans, which would be key elements in the power structures that would eventually arise after the Americans have done all their damage. And he started opening his own independent channels with those dissident elements, possibly including Muqtada al-Sadr against whom the U.S. is currently fighting in the holiest of Shia cities, notably Najaf. Meanwhile, Chalabi was also getting closer to the more hardline faction in Iran and was attempting to emerge as one of their clients; he had certainly received a very warm welcome in Tehran. It is possible that he too had sensed that his days with the Americans were now numbered and he should think of a different power base and look for new sponsors. Joining up with the Shia resistance and becoming a full-time client of Tehran was certainly an option. Thus it came to pass that, on the morning of May 20, American troops surrounded Ahmed Chalabi's headquarters and home in Baghdad, put a gun to his head, arrested two of his aides, and confiscated huge piles of documents. In the process, they also invaded the headquarters of the very Governing Council they had devised and confiscated more documents there.

Chalabi's own future does not interest us here. The point is that the elaborate game the U.S. has been playing with its Coalition Provisional Authority and its Iraqi Governing Council for a year or so is already in complete shambles. Little of it now exists, and they have to find a completely new, different set of clients. That is the secret behind the American insistence on the charade that is to happen on June 30 when Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. envoy who staged the Loya Jirga in Afghanistan and imposed the Karzai dispensation there - in the name of the Security Council, the international community, and the rest - is to produce a whole new set of faces to continue the job in a "transfer of sovereignty" that will leave the whole of the occupation force in place, beyond even the whiff of any control by the new "sovereign", and will also leave in place all the laws enacted by the U.S. which the new Iraqi "sovereign" shall have no authority to change in any manner; indeed, this "sovereign" shall have no authority to either make or alter any laws, or to change the tenure of the vast array of officials and advisors who will have been appointed by the US for the coming many years.

Baghdad now has the largest CIA station the world has seen since the fall of Saigon in 1975. The Embassy will have 1,300 U.S. officials and at least 1,500 Iraqi employees. It will be so sprawling that it will have three officials of ambassadorial rank, with John Negroponte, who supervised the "contra" invasion of Nicaragua from El Salvador, as the presiding deity.

NO Iraqi - or any other court outside the U.S. - shall have the jurisdiction to try any American for anything he or she might have done in Iraq, no matter how criminal their act. The Americans shall be not just above the law; they shall be the law. It is in this setting that the Security Council is currently in session, considering for adoption a resolution drafted by the U.S. which makes the U.N. a party to all this, with perhaps some minor modifications here and there. Even by the wording of this resolution, which seeks the U.N. to take up a direct role in policing Iraq and seeks a "peacekeeping force" under the U.N. flag, the U.S. shall retain all authority and the "peacekeeping force" shall be under its command.

A Spanish soldier with his baby at Madrid's Torrejon airbase on May 24 on his arrival from Iraq. The Spanish decision to withdraw troops was followed by similar decisions by other countries of the coalition.-DENIS DOYLE/AP

France seems to be the only major power deeply opposed to this arrangement. Whether or not it will use its veto power to scuttle the plan is unclear. Kofi Annan appears to be in a dilemma. He desperately wants to have a piece of the show but also knows that, thanks to the U.N.-imposed sanctions which ravaged the Iraqi population for over a decade, the U.N. remains a deeply hated entity in Iraq and will be attacked with great relish. So, he takes the absurd position that the U.N. personnel will go in only if the occupying power, in essence the U.S., shall guarantee security for the personnel, unmindful of the fact that getting seen in the company of the U.S. troops is certainly the most dangerous thing one could do in today's Iraq.

As for the photographs and other evidence of the most harrowing kinds of torture that U.S. troops in particular, but also the British to a lesser degree, have been conducting in the prisons in Iraq, so much has already been splashed, so sensationally, in the press around the world that one may skip the details and simply make a few points of substance. First, too great a concentration on the issue of the most extreme forms of torture involves the risk of neglecting the vast system of routine abuse, which takes extreme form in those particular photographs. Second, only the victims are new, the system is not; colonising armies have always done it, and what the Americans are doing today in Iraq does not yet match the scale on which all of this was done in Iraq.

The extremity of such torture is an index of the powerlessness of the powerful; the desperation of the victor in the midst of a defeat. We know from extensive investigative reporting in the U.S. media itself that authorisation for this kind of "interrogation" - not every single action but the general practice - came from the highest authorities in the U.S., including President Bush, and that the legal consul to the white house wrote in a memo addressed to Bush that he himself had said that the global war against terror was a new kind of war, and, logically therefore, laws such as the Geneva Conventions which were designed for older kinds of warfare no longer applied. The jubilant little American torturer inside the Abu Ghraib prison is simply the other side of the face of President George W. Bush, not to speak of his minions. Extremities of this kind only proves that the guerrilla has won, and the imperial masters know it.

FROM the very beginning, resistance has taken two distinct forms which have for the most part remained distinct but have also overlapped at important points. There is the overflowing of political resistance in the form of demonstrations, newspapers, leaflets, public speeches, sermons in holy places, and so on. And, alongside this non-combatant, peaceful resistance which mobilises public opinion against foreign occupation, armed actions by small groups also began emerging within the first three months of the occupation. In the beginning, the armed resistance was confined to a relatively small area comprised of districts mainly to the north of Baghdad itself whereas the political resistance comprised of mass mobilisations was from the beginning spread over vast areas of the country, as much in the north as in the south and the east, involving both of the major Islamic denominations in Iraq, namely the Shia as well as the Sunni.

A smashed glass-framed portrait of Ahmed Chalabi, a Governing Council member, after Iraqi police and U.S. troops raided his head office in Baghdad on May 21.-RAMZI HAIDAR/AFP

In both cases, the outstanding feature of the political resistance as well as of the armed combat has been its extreme decentralisation. As months passed, two shifts became discernible. One was that even as the occupiers kept talking about "remnants" and "small groups" of "Saddam loyalists" making a last-ditch stand even as most Iraqi were said to be enthusiastic supporters of the American masters, the territorial expanse where direct combat was taking place as well as the frequency of attacks by the Iraqi resistance kept widening and increasing, while the capture of Saddam Hussein, which was supposed to have ended all resistance by these so-called "loyalists", in fact, made no difference to the expansion of the resistance and the increasing ferocity of the armed confrontations.

The second major shift over the months was that while attacks in the early months were essentially hit-and-run operations by very small groups, battles became increasingly more intense, involving larger groups, very frequently in densely populated urban areas with attackers enjoying visible widespread support among the immediate populace. Geographically, the resistance was now spread over most of the national territory, across the respective regions with the Arab-Sunni, or the Shia, or the Kurdish concentrations. Hit-and-run operations were now increasingly combined with more recognisable forms of urban warfare, much larger sections of the urban population were now more actively and visibly sympathetic toward the arms resistance, combat was correspondingly more concentrated in cities and towns than in the outlying areas of the countryside and the desert, and there was much greater propensity now on the part of the resistance forces to take over and hold for varying durations of time specific towns and/or parts of larger cities. The nation was occupied but fast becoming altogether ungovernable.

Bush made his arrogant, premature announcement of "victory" in May 2003. Eleven months later, in the first week of April 2004, Iraqi resistance first took on the proportions of a something resembling a national uprising, as battles broke out simultaneously in a large number of cities, including Baghdad, Basra, Falluja, Ramadi, Najaf, Nasiriyah, Amarah, Kirkuk and so on. In the interim, the U.S. acted on the assumption that appointing a government of clients and direct takeover of Iraq's vast economic assets would be as easy as the military occupation of the country had been, and it only needed to "mop up" the few disgruntled elements ("remnants" of the "Saddam regime," as it called them) who dared to put up a fight. This "mopping up" was to be carried out with enormous brutality, so as to also terrorise the rest of the populace into submission. As the resistance spread, the level of brutality also increased, which in turn united more and more people in solidarity with the forces of resistance.

Lakhdar Brahimi, U.N. Special Envoy for Iraq, at the funeral ceremony of Governing Council chief Izzadine Saleem (in the picture) on May 18.-ANTONIO SCORZA/AFP

By April 2004, the U.S. took three steps, which may eventually go down in the history of this war as the ones that decisively shifted the balance of moral force in favour of the occupied. First, it laid siege to the city of the predominantly Sunni city of Falluja when forces of resistance there killed some mercenaries working for U.S. contractors, on the pretext that it was a stronghold of "Saddam loyalists" who needed to be taught a tough and perhaps final lesson. Now, Falluja has certainly been a centre of anti-imperialist resistance since the U.S. occupation but the idea that all Iraq Sunnis are "Saddam loyalists" is a pathetic figment of the American imagination. Falluja is in fact a centre of the Wahabbi variant of Islamic fundamentalism and its religious elite have a rich history of persecution by the stridently secular Saddam regime; it is a centre of anti-American resistance not out of any love for Saddam but out of hatred for foreign, colonial occupation. The extraordinarily brutal American siege - killing at least 600 people - not only united the city against them but also brought forth an extraordinary wave of solidarity with the city elsewhere in Iraq; convoys of people came with food and medicine for their besieged compatriots, and countless shopkeepers in Baghdad itself were reported to be collecting money for their compatriots in Falluja. Belatedly, the Americans requested a ceasefire. Outgunned militarily, the city won in the moral realm.

Falluja was said to be anti-American because it was Sunni. Shias, by contrast, were supposedly friends of the U.S. That was the American fantasy. Just as they were laying siege to Falluja, the Shia sections of Baghdad erupted in a rebellion so intense that the U.S. was forced to use the Apache helicopter-gunships to put it down, on the pretext that they were "containing" the "terrorists" loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, whom Paul Bremer had declared an "outlaw". Indeed, the U.S. has issued arrest warrants for al-Sadr and tends to portray him as a "firebrand" and a minor cleric whose militia is something of a minor irritant. Nothing could be farther than the truth.

Muqtada al-Sadr is the nephew of the greatly revered religious figure, Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, who had been assassinated by Saddam Hussein and whose mantle the nephew has inherited. Muqtada is said to command a militia of some 10,000 devotees, the direct allegiance of several hundred thousand and may be respected by as many as perhaps a third of the Iraqi Shia - which comes to the total of about a fifth of the Iraqi population. Transnationally, his uncle was the mentor of Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, generally considered the founder of the Lebanese Shia organisation Hezbollah, which fought against the Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon for 18 years and finally succeeded in driving away the occupiers - the only time in history that Israel has been forced by military means to relinquish the territory it has occupied. Any prolonged confrontation between the U.S. and the young Muqtada is likely to unite the more militant sections of the Shia across West Asia, in their hundreds of thousands, behind Muqtada and would consequently put enormous pressure on the more sedate and senior Shia clerics, such as Ayatollah al-Sistani, to adopt a harder posture against the U.S. if they are not to lose substantial sections of their own following. According to polls carried out by the Americans themselves, only 2 per cent of the Iraqis were staunch supporters of Muqtada three months ago, but more than 50 per cent now support him, half of them strongly.

An Iraqi policeman at the site of a demonstration against the occupying forces in Basra on April 22.-KHALID MOHAMMED/AP

U.S. propaganda speaks constantly of an impending "civil war" between Shias and Sunnis in Iraq. In reality, no Iraqi is yet on record preaching communal strife between Shias and Sunnis. The earliest demonstrations in Baghadad after the U.S. occupation were deliberately organised as united Sunni-Shia demonstrations, the first spectacular one taking off from in front of a Sunni mosque and including large numbers of Shias from the poorer neighbourhoods of Baghdad. The simultaneous uprisings of the Sunnis in the north and the of the Shias in the south in April 2004 is in keeping with these early trends which have just become stronger; during this very uprising, the U.S.-appointed officials were evicted out of Sadr city, the vast Shia section of Baghdad named after Muqtada's uncle, by a combined force of Shias and Sunnis that is said to have included very few members of Muqtada's militia, the Jaish-e-Mahdi. The U.S has sought to create a communal divide between Shias and Sunnis in Iraq even as it oppresses the nation as a whole; in reality, no such communal divide has existed in Iraq historically, and oppression of the nation as a whole has only served to bring members of the two sects together in something of a national alliance against the foreign occupiers.

THE world, the Third World in particular, owes the Iraqi Resistance an immense debt of gratitude. The existence of the Soviet Union and the support it offered to national liberation struggles was a great contributing factor in the very large numbers of such struggles that erupted throughout the world after the Bolshevik Revolution. The wars of national liberation in countries of Indochina, in the Portuguese colonies in Africa, as well as revolutions in such countries as Cuba and Southern Yemen would have been inconceivable without that pole of resistance against imperialism, the U.S. imperialism in particular. Even policies of non-alignment and relatively independent development that were followed in diverse countries in the Third World, including such countries as India or Egypt or Iraq itself, presumed that alternative pole of support. The dissolution of the Soviet Union led to enormous despondency throughout the world, with a widespread sense that imperialism was now invincible. The Sandinistas in Nicaragua had to beat a retreat, and the anti-apartheid forces in South Africa, sustained so much by the Soviet Union, were forced to make a compromise with imperialism as they won the war locally but lost the great ally that the Soviet Union had been.

The U.S. launched its war on Iraq with the confidence that a poor Third World country now had no choice but to submit to its dictates, and the occupation of Iraq was to serve as an example to every Third World country as a demonstration of what could be done to it if it dared to defy. The Iraqi people have risen in glorious defiance, forcing the U.S. itself into a crisis, pinning down the world's most awesome military machine, creating a full-scale cleavage in the European state system, and setting an example for the Third World that even a full-scale military occupation can be resisted and fought back by a people who have suffered some 15 years of the most brutal aggression.

The U.S.-U.K. alliance had thought that the demise of the Soviet Union had ushered in an era where colonial occupation would yet again be the order of the day. The people of Iraq have shown that even in this era, when revolutions of the working class have suffered a historic setback, war of national liberation remains on the agenda. Indeed, people's wars against imperialism shall be the motor force of the history of the 21st century until such time as the anti-imperialist revolution gets transformed into revolutions against capitalism itself and the transition to socialism is resumed on the global scale.

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