Monday, February 26, 2007
Hamish Chitts, Brisbane
Occupation fomenting violence
US politicians and military leaders actually thought the Iraqi people would welcome them with open arms in something akin to the scenes of liberation in France near the end of WWII. Their nice quick war has turned into a disaster when their occupation met solid resistance.
Around 60 000 civilians have been killed since the invasion and the rate of civilians dying as a result of military actions has steadily increased with the increase US and coalition casualty rates.
U.S. Military Deaths in Iraq reported at 3,155, British military 132 deaths; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 19; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, six; El Salvador, five; Slovakia, four; Latvia, three; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Romania, one death each.
The idea that the occupation is necessary to prevent Iraq from descending into violent anarchy and sectarian civil war is a sick joke. The occupation is deliberately creating such an outcome.
US meddling in Iraq politics actively supports some factions with military muscle causing those not supported to retain their weapons. They will even play factions off against each other for their own ends.
Last October, the head of the British Army, General Richard Dannatt, told the Daily Mail that Britain should withdraw its troops from Iraq “soon”, as their continued presence helped foment violence.
Those generals who wouldn’t sign on to a military escalation have been ditched. General John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East and a vocal opponent of the surge option, is being eased into retirement. So is General George Casey, Jr., the top commander in Baghdad. He slapped down administration plans the week before Christmas by noting, “Additional troops have to be for a purpose,” then reversed course and backed the escalation, “eliminating one of the last remaining hurdles to proposals being considered by President Bush for a troop increase” (LA Times, December 23, 2006). But it was too little to save his post.
Policies, which reflect U.S. free-market priorities, dismantled state-run enterprises that employed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and ended subsidies once received by individuals and families. They presented Iraqis with wrenching change, leading to high unemployment and frustration.
The report found Iraq’s damaged infrastructure to be the single largest factor in creating poor living conditions. It found that 85 percent of households lacked a stable source of electricity, with weekly and even daily outages, cutting into other basic needs. Nearly 70 percent of households struggled with disposing of garbage, and more than 40 percent were deprived of healthy sanitation facilities.
Among health concerns, deprivation levels were seen as a factor in undernourishment. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates there are 1.6 million Iraqis displaced inside the country, including 425,000 who fled their homes after the bombing of the Samarra shrine in February 2006 unleashed a wave of sectarian violence.
In the face of larger and increasing more organised resistance occupying forces are no longer focusing on Victory but the consequences of defeat.
Howard on the weekend: "My argument is that if there is a coalition defeat in Iraq the terrorists will be emboldened, American authority will be weakened, and that will have consequences for all of us and most particularly for us."
The issue of credibility was so central to America's Vietnam policy that tens of thousands of Americans died in the pursuit not of victory, but of saving face. They died because American leaders believed then -- as the Bush administration apparently believes now -- that defeat would have uncontrollable consequences. But the wiser voices inside the Johnson administration were arguing as early as the mid-1960s that the costs of defeat were manageable.
The last couple of weeks have shown cracks forming in the original coalition of the willing.
Mounting opposition to the war in countries participating in the occupation has put pressure on the governments involved. The recent electoral victories of the democrats in the US senate should be seen as a vote against the war and George W Bush rather than any surge in popularity of the Democrats.
Under extreme public pressure on February 21 British PM Tony Blair announced that his government would withdraw 1600 troops from Iraq in coming months.
At the same time as Blair made his troop reduction announcement, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced that his country’s 460 ground troops would be withdrawn from Iraq by August. Like the Australian “battle group” in Iraq, these Danish troops rely on the British occupation force for air, medical, artillery and other tactical support.
Colonel Tony Cotton, director of mental health and psychology at the ADF, concedes that 10 per cent of the 1200 servicemen and women who underwent compulsory psychological screenings after their recent return from Iraq, required "immediate follow-up support". The "returned to Australia psychological screenings" (R-TAPS) examine such things as trauma exposure and mental distress. "Certainly we have no indication of PTSD or acute stress disorders that we're seeing from them," says Cotton. "Certainly not in the short term." The symptoms of post-traumatic stress - emotional hypertension, acute anxiety, sadness and guilt - can sometimes take months, perhaps years, to manifest.
Total number of Coalition forces in Afghanistan: About 18,000
Britain is increasing its troop numbers and Australia is talking about doing the same. There is great pressure on NATO countries from the over stretched US to increase their troop commitments and to place more of their forces in southern Afghanistan where fighting has been the fiercest. Both Taliban and the western backed warlord government are talking about a big Spring offensive in the south which with our Autumn starting in the next couple of days is far off.
UNOCAL has been trying to build the north-south pipeline through Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean for several decades. In 1998, the California-based UNOCAL, which held 46.5 percent stakes in Central Asia Gas (CentGas), a consortium that planned an ambitious gas pipeline across Afghanistan, withdrew in frustration after several fruitless years. The pipeline was to stretch 1,271 km from Turkmenistan's Dauletabad fields to Multan in Pakistan at an estimated cost of $1.9 billion. An additional $600 million would have brought the pipeline to energy-hungry India.
UNOCAL cut off its earlier agreement with the Taliban in 1998 when it became clear that the Taliban could not control all of Afghanistan and provide a stable political environment for a north-south pipeline construction project. It was likely at this juncture that a new "war against terrorism" ploy was conceived by the Standard Oil-influenced U.S. government. The "war against terrorism" in Afghanistan has come to a hiatus, with war-lords once again ruling the country, and the Bush administration has put their own man, Karzai, in power to control Afghanistan. Karzai was a top adviser to UNOCAL during the negotiations with the Taliban to construct a Central Asia Gas (CentGas) pipeline from Turkmenistan through western Afghanistan to Pakistan.
The war on terror – the home front
As demonstrated by David Hicks and Jack Thomas the price of this so called war on terror is not just being paid by people in savage far off lands. The fear of mythical threats are allowing capitalist governments to curtail the rights and freedoms of its people. Control orders and military tribunals are the most visible of a raft of legislation giving free democratic western governments greater control over their citizens.