A War with No End in Sight

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We interview three Iraqi activists about the current situation there.

'There have been demonstrations against the US and British on an almost daily basis'

Security is the main concern in Iraq. For some it is even more important than the lack of water, food or medical help. Many people fear for their lives, and they don't know what to do about it. There is a curfew from 10pm in Baghdad, but at six o'clock it is almost like a ghost city. The people of this city are suffering more than any other because it is the centre of the previous government and where the US forces are based. My brother, for example, lives close to a very poor area in Baghdad and there is a lot of looting going on. Many people are scared to leave their houses. Some of the schools are open but half of the pupils don't go because of the security situation. Also, you hardly see women in the streets. There are rumours of women being abducted, being raped and attacked. So the security situation is very serious.

Many Iraqi people have a clear idea about the role of the occupying forces. Now many lawyers and academics are raising the demand that if they are occupiers then they have obligations under international law to establish law and order. But it is not clear exactly what is going to happen - some people say that if the US and Britain really are liberators then this has now been achieved, thank you very much - you should now leave. Other people believe they should stay and repair the damage that they did - the destruction, devastation, looting and so on. Others just want the problem of security sorted out so they can live ordinary lives. But it's true that the vast majority of people see them as occupying forces.

There have been demonstrations against the US and British on an almost daily basis. Yesterday for example was one of the biggest demonstrations. Arab satellite television was saying it was one of the biggest demonstrations, up to 1 million people, the BBC said it was over 10,000 and another news channel said over 100,000 - whoever is correct, it is very significant. This demonstration started from the Sunni area of Baghdad and then moved to the Shia area, and so they combined forces. The leaders of the demonstration were working hand in hand with each other. The main banner that led the march and the main slogan was 'No to occupation'.

People are making demands, but the US forces are not listening. It reminds me of the demonstrations and protests we had in this country when we demanded no to war, yet Tony Blair went to war. So we have a situation where democracy is not working in Iraq either. People want to practice their rights - after all, this is what the US and British say they came for. Yet little has changed. For example, a few days ago there was the first election since the war at the official university in Baghdad to elect some academic authority. This was done under the supervision of the Americans. At the election the US troops were inside the hall where the voting took place - some 1,700 academics were eligible to vote. Yet many of them were not able to get there because there is no transport in Baghdad. For those who did get inside the hall to vote, they were subject to inspection by the American troops, so many refused to enter because they saw this as humiliation - we have already been humiliated so much. For the professors and lecturers who decided to take part in the election they were further humiliated, because the US supervisors forced those standing to take an oath on the Koran swearing that they were not a member of the previous Saddam regime. Many left the hall because they saw this as yet another humiliation. So the election was a compete farce.

Another example - last week some 50 engineers went to see the US commander and volunteered their services. They pointed out that parts of Baghdad are still without electricity and they could sort this out. They pointed out that they were able to repair the electricity supplies during the sanctions years, so they have loads of experience. Yet the US commanders turned them away. They said, 'We do not need your help because we are waiting for a consultant company arriving from the US to take over repairing the electricity.'

The result is that many Iraqis are working like a grassroots unit. Electricians, engineers and doctors are all saying we shall work as volunteers - but the important thing is we need equipment and we need petrol. The US is rationing the delivery of only one tanker a day to the whole city of Baghdad. One of the main refineries in Baghdad is working, but there is one problem - we do not have the crude oil from Basra, because the Americans are not letting the tankers in.

If the US installs a government in Iraq, the Iraqi people will not accept it - they will be very angry. They see the people who are being proposed by the US and British at the moment as being a puppet government. The general attitude is that people are buying time - they don't want to start fighting again at the moment. They don't want to start another struggle as they have just come out of a horrendous war, but they are certainly not happy about what is going on at the moment.

Haifa Zangana, Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation

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'The US plans to control the world as the sole superpower'

After the fall of the Ba'athist regime, and the control of Iraqi cities by US and British forces, the Iraqi people find themselves in a dark scenario. They have lost public services, there is a lack of basic services such as electricity and water supply, there is increasing unemployment, starvation, lack of security and fear of killings, and the collapse of the civil and economic infrastructure. Yet out of this comes the word 'liberation'.

There is a lack of government and the rule of law, so the future for people could be in the hands of different groups and parties who are nationalist, tribal and very religious in their beliefs. These dark realities are holding people in fear, so people are not happy - they are very disappointed at such a disastrous situation that the US and its allies have caused for ordinary Iraqi people.

Iraqi people are opposing the presence of these forces. They are not happy about their presence because of what these forces and their governments have caused for the people in Iraq throughout the last 12 years of sanctions and Gulf wars, which have caused destruction and the loss of thousands of innocent civilian lives. At this moment the presence of US and British forces has created a political vacuum and a lack of security. This strengthens the reactionary Islamic groups who want to exploit the situation and create problems for people.

People, in particular the working class and the toilers in Iraq, are protesting against the coalition forces in cities such as Baghdad, Mosul, Basra and Nasiriyah because of the lack of security, food, and other basic needs. Through this they express their demand that the US and British forces should go.

The US and its new world order plan to control the world as a sole superpower, starting from Iraq and the Middle East. The success of the US in this policy will affect the world and will be an attack on all radical, working class, and freedom loving movements, and all civilised humanity.

Noori Bashir Worker's Communist Party of Iraq

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'Many people are still looking for thousands of relatives and loved ones'

The situation for ordinary Iraqis is one of misery and fear. There is also a lack of any policing. There are many examples - US soldiers were standing near a bakery when a man pulled up in his car to buy some bread. Three armed men burst in and demanded the keys from the owner. When he resisted they shot him. People alerted the troops, but the reply was, 'We are not police - we are here to defend ourselves.'

People do not go out after sunset. For food they used to depend on the rations the previous regime distributed to them - now the occupation forces distribute none. Because rations do not operate, the price of food has gone up three to four fold.

Petrol (as fuel for transport) in the land of oil is almost non-existent. Electricity cut-offs are common. And then there is the menace of cluster bombs. Children and adults alike are being brought into hospital daily because many cluster bombs still lie in the tall grass. Depleted uranium is another hazard causing sickness in many parts of the country (over 2,000 tons were dropped by the invading forces). Cooking fuel for most families is a daily struggle. In summary, many Iraqis are hungry, thirsty, sick and are in extreme danger, and there is a lack of medicines and security.

The oil refineries were not damaged during the war, and when the workers and engineers wanted to start them US forces prevented them. Then things started to disappear - like computers and other equipment. Then the invaders start to complain about the lack of equipment and so offered the running of the oil to a US company (a subsidiary of Halliburton). The burning of ministries and other buildings was also seen as a way to offer Bechtel the contract to rebuild.

The US is trying to impose an authority with some Iraqis acting as advisers, but no credible organisation has dared to collaborate except the INC (the Chalabi group) and the two Kurdish parties (Barzani-led KDP and Talabani-led PUK, nicknamed Tarazani). Islamist forces are the biggest in the streets, but they are not well organised. The progressive forces are small, but they are finding their feet and are beginning to organise. Many people, however, are still looking for thousands of missing relatives and loved ones. Many comrades have disappeared in Iraq. Their number runs into over 100,000 in unmarked graves, and many have also been killed in the recent war or are unaccounted for. Just to give you an example of what it is like at the moment, my brother had his grandchild injured, and so he took him to hospital, which had neither electricity nor running water. He said that there were many dead bodies in the corridors that were starting to decompose. The response was for ordinary people like him to take a shovel and bury them in the hospital garden without names or any identification.

Public transport workers decided to appoint their own manager and so did the biggest bakery in Baghdad, and the medical doctors. This was against the wishes of the occupiers, who had their own nominees. So people are beginning to organise. On top of this, demonstrations against occupation are a daily occurrence in Baghdad and other cities.

It is important for all progressive, revolutionary and peace movements to keep the pressure on the occupying forces, to stop their greed and get them out. We want to avoid more tragedies and suffering, and end their illegal occupation. The support for the Iraqi people is needed now more urgently than ever before. The protests at the moment are peaceful, but they could turn violent if the present course is not changed. The US administration is still in two minds between the Pentagon and the State Department about what to do - the British are simply second fiddle and have no say in the matter.

The US plans for the region look shaky - the intifada is not waning and the Iraqi resistance is continuing. Afghanistan is not stable after one and a half years of occupation. The international situation is certainly not rosy for them.

Hani Lazim, Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation

www.idao.org

All those interviewed are currently living in Britain. Interviews conducted by Peter Morgan.