In the lead-up to the November 7 US Congressional elections, President George Bush's Republican Party tried to terrorise the US public into voting for the party responsible for leading the country into the disastrous Iraq war.
One Republican TV advertisement was nothing but footage of Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders making threats: the phrases "kill the Americans", "inside America", "suitcase bombs" and "nothing compared to what you will see next" lingered on screen, in that order, followed by "These are the stakes. Vote November 7."
But the US political climate has changed since the period following the 9/11 attacks, and voters punished Bush's party for the Iraq war. Despite their backing for the war, the Democrats won control of both houses of Congress, the first time this has happened since 1994, on the back of mass anti-war sentiment. In the election's aftermath, defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld was forced to resign.
Polls taken just before the elections showed that only 29% of voters supported Bush's handling of the war. Thirty-four per cent wanted an immediate withdrawal, while 60% wanted to set a timetable for the withdrawal of troops. There is an even greater level of opposition to the occupation in Britain and Australia, Bush's two key partners in Iraq, where around 60% of the people want an end to the war: in Britain, 45% of people want their troops to be brought home immediately.
More than 2850 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq — a greater number than any other conflict since the Vietnam War. Some 21,500 US soldiers have been injured.
But while most Democrats made a point of assailing Rumsfeld and the White House for their "handling" of the war, few support bringing the troops home — calling only for an "exit strategy" sometime in the future.
It's not just people in the "coalition of the willing" countries who oppose the ongoing occupation. There is overwhelming Iraqi opposition to it as well. Attacks on foreign troops by the armed anti-occupation resistance is supported by 60% of Iraqis, according to a University of Maryland survey; a survey conducted in Baghdad by the US State Department found that almost three-quarters of residents would feel safer if foreign troops left, with 65% of those asked favouring an immediate pullout.
Since March 2003, 655,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the invasion, according to a study by Johns Hopkins University published in the British medical journal The Lancet in September.
Daily kidnappings now average a total of 40 per day, compared to three per day in 2004. The average household in Iraq now gets two hours of electricity a day. There is massive unemployment. Around 68% of Iraqis have no access to safe drinking water. Provision of basic goods and services is shocking. Malnutrition among Iraqi children has doubled since the war. On every level the occupation has been an unmitigated disaster.
These figures, however, don't just illustrate how disastrous the war has been — they provide insights into what is shaping the political situation in Iraq.
To the corporate media, it is like a virtual football league, with three teams — the Sunni, Shia and the Kurds — who all have a deep dislike for each other. The idea is promoted that the violence in Iraq is a manifestation of an historic religious and/or ethnic conflict, rather than a product of the occupation.
Presenting Iraq as a sectarian civil war is convenient for those who conducted the war, because it puts the blame of all the violence onto the victims of the war and provides a justification to maintain and even extend the occupation.
Sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni is one way in which the Iraqi resistance can be divided and defeated by US forces. The US-backed Iraqi government has directly supported death squads that explicitly target Sunni Arabs. These death squads often have "advisers" provided by the US. The September 27 Washington Post reported that residents of Baghdad "believe the US government has deliberately thrown the country into chaos. The most common theory heard on the streets of Baghdad is that the American military is creating a civil war to create an excuse to keep its forces here."
In an interview in the British journal International Socialism (#109), Sami Ramadani, an Iraqi refugee who is now a senior lecturer at London Metropolitan University, explained: "because of the level of opposition to [the occupation forces'] presence in the country, and the swift rise of armed resistance across Iraq (except in Kurdistan), their policy of dividing people along sectarian and ethnic lines was developed into a full-scale scheme of inciting communal strife and violence.
"This is the only way that a colonial power — or any power — dominating another society would deal with this situation, even in a spontaneous way. If you have an enemy you try to divide them, and overwhelmingly the Iraqi people have proven to be anti-occupation to varying degrees. And the occupation's response was to try and entrench or play on differences, and to start to encourage or turn a blind eye to organisations which preach sectarianism and practice sectarian and ethnic violence."
The majority of attacks by Iraqi resistance groups target the occupation forces and the puppet Iraqi army and police force created by the occupation regime. The resistance is mostly motivated by nationalism — seeking the expulsion of foreign troops so Iraqis can control their own destiny. Pentagon figures from August showed that of the close to 800 armed attacks per week that occurred that month, 90% were directed against US-led forces.
The hypocrisy of Washington declaring to the world that it is "bringing democracy" to Iraq is sickening. In its drive to secure Iraq's oil supply and to have another outpost of control in the strategically important Middle East, the US rulers have demonstrated a total disregard for human life. The will of the Iraqi people is apparently not worthy of consideration, and "democracy" is being forced down their throats at gunpoint.
The ruling elite in the US aim to build a "new American century" of unimpeded control of the world, its markets and its people. "Free-market" globalisation, which puts corporate profit before human life, has created the catastrophic situation where 13 million children are dying around the world each year from preventable diseases.
The US military, and the proxies Washington cultivates in Third World countries and allied imperialist nations like Australia, repress any resistance to this horrific oppression.
But people continue to fight back. The Iraqi resistance has only grown stronger, despite the brutality unleashed upon the country. In August, the Lebanese national liberation movement Hezbollah fought the US-backed Israeli invasion of its country to a standstill. Across Latin America, people are mobilising in mass movements that defy imperialist domination and exploitation, and aim to transform the social and economic system to one based on social justice.
This is a global struggle. We need to build the anti-war movement here, and turn the anger and opposition to the war of the majority of people into action. The fourth anniversary of the 2003 invasion of Iraq on March 20 will be the next major focus for the anti-war movement. Then Bush is coming to Sydney in September 2007 for the APEC summit — let's give this killer the "welcome" he deserves. Check out the Resistance website to find out how to get involved in these protests.