The scale of the death, misery and horror unleashed on Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion is almost beyond comprehension. In October, British medical journal The Lancet published a study conducted by Iraqi physicians in conjunction with Johns Hopkins University that put the death toll among Iraqis as a result of the war at 655,000. Hundreds of people are being killed, wounded or abducted each day. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Iraq is the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world, with 1.6 million Iraqis internally displaced and almost 2 million refugees having fled the country altogether.
Rebuilding the health system and basic infrastructure destroyed during the war has obviously not been a priority for the US, despite the fact that under international law an occupying power is obliged to provide the basic essentials for survival to the population. The British Independent reported on January 19 that up to 260,000 Iraqi children may have died since March 2003. On November 28 the Independent reported that 33% of Iraqi children now suffer from malnutrition.
As well as the general deterioration of living standards for Iraqis that has been caused by the war, the direct violence is soaring. Up to a hundred bodies a day are found in Baghdad, and more than 1000 Iraqis are being violently killed each week.
The corporate media tries to portray the violence as being mainly between Iraqis; however, the occupation forces are brutalising and killing Iraqi civilians and resistance fighters every day, and the US is responsible for the violence that is now tearing Iraq apart.
The gang-rape of a 14-year-old woman in Mahmoudiyah last year by US soldiers, who then killed her family, shot the young woman in the head and burned her body; the massacre of 24 unarmed civilians at Haditha by US Marines in November 2005; the March 2006 raid on a Shiite mosque in Baghdad in which US troops and Iraqi commandos tied up and executed 37 unarmed people at evening prayers — these are some of the atrocities committed by the occupation forces that have been brought to light. Yet US arch-neoconservative Richard Perle, the former chair of the Pentagon's Defense Board Advisory Committee, told the November 3 Vanity Fair that he had "underestimated" the "depravity" of Iraqis!
US President George Bush's war "surge", which he announced on January 10 and includes sending 21,500 more combat troops to Iraq, including 17,500 to Baghdad, looms as the next stage of brutality against the Iraqi people. The main target is anti-occupation Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army, which comprises thousands of young Shiites from the slums of Sadr City in Baghdad. Sadr, by far the most popular political figure among Iraqis, particularly poor Shiites, has long been viewed by Washington as an obstacle to installing a stable pro-US regime.
US plans more atrocities
The plan is for squads of troops to "seal" blocks of Baghdad, then go house-to-house and slaughter anyone who looks like they may be part of Sadr's militia, anyone who opposes the occupation presence, and anyone who gets in the way. It's likely that air strikes will be used, and the troops will remain in and attempt to hold the areas they enter. Sadr City is home to 2 million Iraqis, 40% of them under 14 years old, and it is set to become the site of the next Fallujah-style massacre.
Bush is trying to sell the surge to a sceptical US public as a necessary step to "halt sectarian violence" in Baghdad and consolidate the power of the US-backed Iraqi government. Preventing all-out civil war has long been the justification for the presence of occupation troops in Iraq. But in reality, the occupation forces have deliberately sparked and fuelled sectarian hostility and violence.
Bush has tried to blame the violence between Sunnis and Shiites on Sadr's Mahdi Army. However, Sadr has been called for Shia-Sunni unity. His supporters led solidarity protests with the besieged Sunnis in Fallujah in April 2004.
Following the escalation of sectarian violence after the bombing of the Golden Dome mosque in Samarra in February last year (a holy site for Shiite Muslims), which there is evidence of US and Iraqi government involvement in, Sadr denounced the bombing as a US attempt to divide Iraqis.
However, attempts to build Iraqi unity against the occupation have so far largely been drowned in the blood and bitterness of spiralling violence, and some of Sadr's followers have been blamed for attacks on Sunnis.
The US has deliberately promoted sectarian violence in an effort to weaken opposition to the occupation. A December 6 article by Michael Schwartz for Tomdispatch.com explained: "American patrols in Shia neighborhoods immobilize the local defenses and make the community vulnerable to jihadist attack; while American invasions of Sunni communities are even more damaging. They not only immobilize the local defense forces, but almost always involve the introduction of Iraqi Army units, made up mainly of Shia soldiers (since the army being stood up by the Americans is largely a Shia one).
"What results is violence in the form of battles between a Shia military (as well as militia-infiltrated Shia police forces) and Sunni resistance fighters defending their communities. These attacks generate immense bitterness among Sunni, who see them as part of a Shia attempt to use the American military to conquer and pacify Sunni cities. The result is a wealth of new jihadists anxious to retaliate by sacrificing their lives in terrorist or death-squad-style attacks on Shia communities — which, in their turn, energize the Shia death squads in an escalating cycle of brutalizing violence."
The US has deliberately fostered death squads led by members of the major pro-occupation Shiite-based political parties. For example, members of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq's armed Badr Organisation have led death squads trained by the US and organised out of the Iraqi government's interior ministry. These death squads have led the way in terms of atrocities against Iraqis, particularly Sunni Iraqis, promoting a cycle of retaliation.
Oil and empire
Despite Bush's assurances that he wants to get out of Iraq as much as everyone else wants him to, the US has no intention of withdrawing from Iraq. US officials claim that they will withdraw their occupation troops as soon as the US-backed Iraqi forces are "ready" to take the reins, but the Pentagon is busily constructing four massive "enduring" US military bases in Iraq, each the size of a small city.
The real aim of the "surge", and US military strategy more broadly, is to transform its involvement from being based on direct combat with the Iraqi resistance to "supervising" (i.e., controlling) Iraqi armed forces capable of maintaining a stable pro-US regime, which can ensure that the US emerges with its prize: control of Iraq's oil supply and a way of helping maintain the US military presence in the Middle East — a strategically vital region for US imperialism — as well as threaten non-pliant regimes in the region, such as those in Iran and Syria, with "regime change".
To do this, Washington must eliminate all opponents to US rule in Iraq. The surge is also timed to apply maximum pressure to the 30 supporters of Sadr in the Iraqi parliament as the US tries to "encourage" the passage of a new hydrocarbons bill that would give major US and British oil corporations such as BP, Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron the right to work in Iraq for 30 years and the right to remit three-quarters of their revenues to their respective countries.
So for the profits of these corporations, more than 655,000 Iraqis had to pay with their lives. For oil and empire Iraq has been turned into hell on Earth.
Is it any wonder that the overwhelming majority of Iraqis are implacably opposed to the continued US-led occupation? Each day there is an average of 180 attacks by Iraqis on occupation forces.
Resistance fully supports the right of the Iraqi people to resist, by whatever means necessary, the brutal occupation and looting of their country. The recent ratcheting up of the US-Israeli threats against Iran, the ravaging of Afghanistan, the US air strikes and proxy war against Somalia, and the ongoing collusion of the Bush administration in the brutal siege on the Palestinian people — these are just some of the reasons why we view Bush as the world's number one war criminal.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard is one of Bush's key allies, and Resistance will be campaigning for an end to Australian support to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and building solidarity with the struggles of other oppressed people. Around the world, the opposition to the war is deepening. In the US, tens of thousands joined anti-war demonstrations in January. Anti-war protesters have said it's time for a "surge" of our own — a surge of the movement to stop the war and demand "Troops out now!"