THE PEOPLE of Basra will "look back and remember what you did and recognise that as the start of their future and a life of hope and the possibility of prosperity," said Tony Blair to British troops on a visit to the city on 29 May.
This rosy outlook lasted barely one month. Instead, the recent killings of British military police in Amara, preceded by the shooting dead of local Iraqis by British paratroopers, could become a watershed in the pacification of Iraq by coalition forces.
Amara is in the predominantly Shia Muslim Mysan region of Iraq and home to the Marsh Arabs. They had suffered under Saddam Hussein but also had resisted his rule. The liberation of Amara was achieved by local fighters before coalition troops arrived – the only Iraqi town to have done so. The attempt by British forces to disarm these fighters was seen by them as a prelude to occupation.
Moreover, the house-to-house searches for weapons appears to have been conducted in a ham-fisted and heavy-handed manner, inevitably sparking off a deadly conflict.
It confirms what the socialist has warned: the ’war of liberation’ would very quickly become a war of occupation. Elsewhere in Iraq, US troops are now being killed at a rate of nearly one a day.
Iraq’s crude oil production is barely one-quarter of the pre-war level. In the last fortnight there have been three oil pipeline explosions and electricity supplies to Baghdad were temporarily cut. These attacks are blamed on rogue Baathist elements loyal to Saddam.
If the supposedly "friendly Iraqis" of southern Iraq turn against the US/British troops then given the availability of weapons, combined with warring elements of the former Baathist regime, pro-Iranian agitators and the explosive ethnic mix in the north, the war of occupation could become long, complicated and intractable. This would scupper the US and British governments’ aim to create a stable, market-oriented, pro-Western liberal democracy in Iraq as a platform for imperialist expansion in the Middle East.
FACED WITH the enormity of the task of reconstruction by only using US corporations, the US administration, led in Iraq by Paul Bremer, has shifted its reconstruction policy to now include a role for the United Nations (UN).
The failure of the US post war reconstruction effort was recently highlighted by senior US official, Timothy Carney. He told the BBC that there was lack of security, lack of resources and poor communication with the Iraqi people. "The coalition has been announcing trivial amounts of money in the tens and twenties of millions of US dollars-worth of projects," he said. "It’s time to get serious about resources, to announce a package of several billion US dollars to address some of the urgent needs of infrastructure…"
This week, Bremer hopes to embroil the UN and its agencies in the near impossible task (under capitalism) of repairing the war-torn country and establishing an Iraqi civilian government.
In a laughably optimist statement, the UN special representative to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, said: "Once the economy picks up and the private sector picks up, the question of unemployment will be effectively addressed."
However, with the privatisation of the state sector (including the lucrative oil industry) and with the dissolution of Iraq’s large standing army, the country’s current mass unemployment is likely to reach astronomical proportions.
With millions of Iraqis before the war dependent upon UN food aid for survival, with industry on its knees and government warehouses containing farmers’ seed stocks looted, poverty will consume the country.
A pro-US, hand-picked Iraqi civilian administration sitting on top of this social volcano, will create a political vacuum. Into this will be drawn various political and religious factions who will vie for power. Tony Blair’s predicted rosy future for Iraq is quickly turning into a nightmare.