Two Years of War, Occupation and Opposition
by Alan Dale
The weekend of March 19-20 will mark the second anniversary since the U.S. military invasion of Iraq. According to a study by public health researchers, up to 100,000 Iraqis have died and over 1,500 U.S. troops have died. Every Bush Administration pretext for waging war against Iraq, from weapons of mass destruction to ties with terrorism, have been exposed as lies. The war and occupation of Iraq have cost the citizens of the U.S. over $200 billion. The cost in 2006 is estimated to be at least $70 billion more.
In a commentary article distributed by Knight Ridder newspapers, Joseph L. Galloway, that chain’s senior military correspondent, wrote, “Do you remember those who predicted that the operation would be financed in large part by sales of Iraqi oil? It would be cheap, easy and—oh yes—so swift that civilian leaders in the Pentagon ordered the military to plan to begin withdrawing from Iraq no later than the summer of 2003.”
Instead, Iraqi oil pipelines continue to be subject to daily sabotage, the insurgency
thrives, the future of the Iraqi government is in dispute and officials refuse
to even discuss bringing the troops home.
So what have these two years taught us? We now know that every promise—every
“slam-dunk”—predicted by the Bush Administration has been
proven to be either wrong or an outright fabrication. It’s time to stop
listening to those who refuse to see the truth and turn our attention to those
whose predictions have come true.
In the months before the start of the war, the antiwar movement mushroomed around
the world, mobilizing millions of people to join in hundreds of street protests.
Following a round of protests in cities around the world on February 15, 2003,
the New York Times said that in relation to the U.S. war plans there existed
two superpowers in the world: the U.S. government and world public opinion.
While the antiwar movement was unable to stop the march to war two years ago,
the movement is coming to the fore again this month. Demonstrations are planned
in cities around the world for the weekend of March 19 and 20 to show opposition
to the war. Hundreds of protests are set for cities in the U.S., including one
in Minneapolis initiated by the Iraq Peace Action Coalition.
major protests are planned in New York’s Central Park, and outside of
Ft. Bragg, in Fayetteville, N.C., home of one of the largest military bases
in the country.
In San Francisco, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local
10 has called “stop work meetings” to shut down Bay Area and other
West Coast ports in solidarity with the antiwar protests.
Antiwar activism took an unprecedented turn in Vermont. At 52 town meetings,
the traditional local governing body in that state, antiwar resolutions passed
in favor of bringing the troops home now.
Even those groups who had previously expressed reservations about calling for
an immediate withdrawal of U.S. occupation forces are having a change of heart.
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) issued a statement in December
that says in part, “We believe it is now clear that the continuing U.S.
military presence in Iraq is counter-productive and wrong. The occupation has
lost the trust of the Iraqi people. We abhor the violence—each day Iraq
becomes less safe for the occupied, the occupiers, and those who seek to relieve
the suffering. We have struggled since the beginning of the occupation with
the role of U.S. forces in Iraq. Our Quaker faith tells us that military solutions
are always wrong. But we also realized that a sudden withdrawal of troops after
the toppling of the Hussein regime might have further destabilized Iraq and
increased the danger to its citizens.”
The AFSC statement continues, “We are convinced that the presence of U.S.
troops is a destabilizing force in the region and contributes to the increasing
loss of life. We are anguished by the damage and lasting scars we are causing
to another generation of American soldiers who have been asked to serve in another
war in a distant place for questionable ends. Therefore, we urge the immediate
withdrawal of U.S. troops.”
Varone, president of Veterans for Peace Chapter 27, based in the Twin Cities,
said, “During the Vietnam war there was all kinds of talk about ‘peace
with honor,’ and all that did was delay an end to the war and costs thousands
“The only thing the U.S. is trying to figure out now is where to get the
next group of troops to send into Iraq,” Varone said. “The Bush
administration wants to stay in Iraq, and the only way that they will leave
is if people start demanding ‘out now!’”
The U.S. faces daunting obstacles in its effort to maintain the occupation.
The Associated Press reported recently that U.S. Army and Marines are having
a very difficult time meeting their recruitment goals. The AP reported that
“young blacks have grown markedly less willing to join the Army, citing
fear of being sent to fight a war in Iraq they don’t believe in, according
to unpublicized studies for the military that suggest the Army is entering a
prolonged recruiting slump.”
“‘More African Americans identify having to fight for a cause they
don’t support as a barrier to military service,’ concluded an August
2004 study for the Army. It also said attitudes toward the Army among all groups
of American youth have grown more negative in recent years,” the AP reported.
Varone, a Vietnam veteran, said, “From what I can tell, the only plan
that the U.S. has for withdrawal from Iraq is to go into Iran.”
In recent weeks, the Bush administration has stepped up its rhetoric against
Iraq’s neighbors, Iran and Syria. The political turmoil inside Lebanon
has led the U.S. government to demand an end to at least some foreign interference
in Middle Eastern countries.
Ridder news service reported from Iraq last week, “Many Iraqis found bitter
irony in President Bush’s insistence last week that Syria must withdraw
from Lebanon before it holds elections, for Iraqis have lived with foreign tanks
in their streets for two years and voted barely a month ago under the watchful
eye of the U.S. Army.
“He must have forgotten that his army is occupying Iraq,” said Sa’ad
Abdul Aziz, 21, an engineering student at Baghdad University. “What about
the Republican Palace that they are using as a U.S. embassy?”
The irony of U.S. demands for withdrawal of troops from foreign soil is not
lost on the people of the Middle East. The Knight Ridder report continues:
“As Bush harped all week on the theme that democracy could not be free
in Lebanon under the occupation of Syria’s troops, jokes made the rounds
at Iraqi universities, and some who have demanded the immediate withdrawal of
U.S. troops found themselves quoting Bush, a man they never thought they’d
“America should get out of Iraq immediately and without conditions, just
like it is asking neighboring Syria to withdraw from the Lebanese Republic,”
said Sheikh Nasir Al-Saidi, imam of a mosque in the restive Shiite neighborhood
of Sadr City, in a front-page article Saturday in the newspaper Azzaman.”
The demand for U.S. troop withdrawal increases in the United States, around
the world and in Iraq itself. In February, Hassan Juma’a Awad, general
secretary of Iraq’s Southern Oil Company Union and president of the Basra
Oil Workers’ Union wrote an article for the London Guardian newspaper
entitled “Leave our country now.”
Awad wrote, “We lived through dark days under Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.
When the regime fell, people wanted a new life: a life without shackles and
terror; a life where we could rebuild our country and enjoy its natural wealth.
Instead, our communities have been attacked with chemicals and cluster bombs,
and our people tortured, raped and killed in our homes.”
“Saddam’s secret police used to creep over the roofs into our homes
at night; occupation troops now break down our doors in broad daylight. The
media do not show even a fraction of the devastation that has engulfed Iraq.”
Awad described how workers in Iraq’s southern oilfields began organizing
soon after British occupying forces entered Basra.
founded our union, the Southern Oil Company Union, just 11 days after the fall
of Baghdad in April 2003,” he said. “When the occupation troops
stood back and allowed Basra’s hospitals, universities and public services
to be burned and looted, while they defended only the oil ministry and oil fields,
we knew we were dealing with a brutal force prepared to impose its will without
regard for human suffering. From the beginning, we were left in no doubt that
the US and its allies had come to take control of our oil resources.”
Awad described how his union fought against attempts by western forces to take
over parts of Iraq’s oil industry. “Our union has already shown
it is able to stand its ground against one of the most powerful U.S. companies,
Dick Cheney’s KBR, which tried to take over our workplaces with the protection
of occupation forces.”
“We forced them out and compelled their Kuwaiti subcontractor, Al Khourafi,
to replace 1,000 of the 1,200 employees it brought with it with Iraqi workers,
70 percent of whom are unemployed today. We also fought U.S. viceroy Paul Bremer’s
wage schedule, which dictated that Iraqi public sector workers must earn ID
69,000 ($35) per month, while paying up to $1,000 a day to thousands of foreign
mercenaries. In August 2003 we took strike action and shut down all oil production
for three days. As a result, the occupation authorities had to raise wages to
a minimum of ID 150,000.”
“We see it as our duty to defend the country’s resources,”
Awad said, adding that his union rejects any attempt to privatize Iraq’s
oil industry and national resources. Awad called privatization “a form
of neo-colonialism, an attempt to impose a permanent economic occupation to
follow the military occupation.”
“The occupation has deliberately fomented a sectarian division of Sunni
and Shia,” Awad continued. “We never knew this sort of division
before. Our families intermarried and we lived and worked together. And today
we are resisting this brutal occupation together, from Falluja to Najaf to Sadr
City,” Awad wrote.
as a union call for the withdrawal of foreign occupation forces and their military
bases. We don’t want a timetable—this is a stalling tactic. We will
solve our own problems. We are Iraqis, we know our country and we can take care
of ourselves. We have the means, the skills and resources to rebuild and create
our own democratic society,” Awad concluded.
Minneapolis City Councilmember Dean Zimmermann, who will speak at the March
19 protest in Minneapolis, said “the war in Iraq, or the U.S. imperial
war in general, is not an isolated event. It is part and parcel of a much bigger
effort to enrich the already filthy rich. The ruling clique in this country
seeks to control the petroleum resources of the world through fraudulent elections,
control of the media and a policy of war on all who would resist their unholy
quest. All the while manipulating our economy and infrastructure to be dependent
upon petroleum, coal and natural gas—products whose continued use will
guarantee a radical transformation of the earth’s climate that will guarantee
the extinction of all mammals, including human beings.”
“The war was never about terrorism or weapons of mass destruction,”
said Meredith Aby of the Anti-War Committee. “The Bush Administration
manipulated the political environment after the events of September 11 to try
and win public opinion for a war that was really fought for the control of oil.”
the weekend of March 19 and 20, antiwar protests will be held around the world
to mark the second anniversary of the start of the U.S. war in Iraq.
MINNEAPOLIS - SATURDAY MARCH 19, 2005
1 p.m. LORING PARK: Gather on Hennepin and Lyndale Avenues at Oak Grove
Street. Be part of a massive antiwar presence!
1:30 p.m. March
2:30 Program: Wesley United Methodist Church, 101 East Grant Street,
Minneapolis. Speakers and participants to include: Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, Assist.
Prof., Peace and Justice Studies, University of St. Thomas; Rose Brewer, scholar
and activist, Assoc. Prof. Afro-American and African Studies, U of M; Keith
Ellison, MN. State Rep.; Dean Zimmermann, Mpls. City Council; Tara Widner, organizer;
Steelworkers Union, Tsione Twolde-Michael, member, AWOL, U of M.
Initiated by: Iraq Peace Action Coalition. For more information:
Cities Peace Campaign-Focus on Iraq 612-522-1861, Veterans
for Peace 612 821-9141 or Women
Against Military Madness 612 827-5364.