Under A Rock?


Ex-British Army commander backs anti-colonial struggle in Iraq?

General Sir Michael Rose, who led UN forces in Bosnia in the mid ’90s, has come out in support of the Iraqi Resistance in his new book, Washington’s War, comparing their tactics to those used in against the British in the American War of Independence, and saying he understands why militants are trying to oust the occupation forces from their country.

The Coalition of the Willing, now mostly the US joined by the UK, must admit defeat in Iraq and withdraw their forces, says Rose, who claims to only be interested in the wellbeing of British service personnel stationed in Iraq. Rose is in a position to make a more open assessment of the situation because he has retired; no serving military commander could appraise the situation as honestly.

Rose is no idle commentator: he has extensive experience of military occupations and the tactics of anti-colonial forces, having led Special Forces missions in Northern Ireland and the Middle East. He knows that guerrilla warfare is successful because it relies upon “hearts and minds” out of purpose as well as necessity, rather than being a crude afterthought, as is the case with the conventional warfare of imperial armies.

Though he implies that the aims of the resistance are legitimate, he nonetheless uses the language of Bush and Blair and refers to the militants as “Islamic extremist terrorists”. In this, he follows state and corporate media commentators in not differentiating between those in the national liberation movement who attack the occupying army, militia groups composed of the indigenous population, and those who carry out atrocities against civilians, who are for the most part foreign fighters motivated by a fundamentalist ideology. It is this latter group which is in a minority, and the terrorists and torturers are only able to operate because of the chaos of the occupation – and the involvement of the secretive military units of US/UK armed forces and death squads backed by the puppet regime.

Waiting builders to arrive

This unexpected support for the position that Iraq is not liberated country, and that the national resistance movement is justified in waging an armed struggle against the occupiers, comes as a two-day international conference in Egypt attempts to formulate a package of reconstruction aid.

The Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has begged for the cancellation of the £25 billion debt of the government overthrown by US and UK forces in 2003, but it looks as if this looks wish will not be granted. It would be a dangerous precedent to set: what if the Hezbollah-led anti-government coalition came to power in Lebanon and demanded a similar debt cancellation? For this reason, and to keep Iraq within the control of imperialism, the slate will not be wiped clean…

That there should need to be a conference of this kind four years after the invasion of Iraq shows that the promises made by the occupiers have not been kept. If there was rebuilding going on, we would hear about it continuously. Roads, schools, hospitals, nurseries, sanitation systems, electricity generation – all are desperately needed. If the occupiers were interested in security, they would be at work on all of these things; if they were to obey international law, they would be providing all of these things.

The UK has pledged around £744 million in aid for reconstruction so far. This figure includes humanitarian aid, which must surely be better than the “humanitarian intervention”. It is worth noting that a larger amount is spent on the UK’s participation in the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan each year!

The only way Iraq can be rebuilt is if the invaders leave the country and allow the nation’s oil wealth to be brought under public ownership; the anti-union laws, kept on the books by the occupiers, must be abolished and a genuine federal arrangement must be reached to end the sectarian violence.

Long division and multiplication

Last month the man tasked with leading the military occupation of Iraq claimed that the Iraqi government was making progress, citing the passing of legislation on hydrocarbons as one example. This law allows the big oil companies into Iraq, and along with the new constitution, privatises the country’s vast untapped oil reserves. The claim that the 2003 invasion was not motivated by oil is weakened by these facts; and that is why he did not use the “o” word at this point in his press conference.

There are deep divisions over what should be done in Iraq within the US ruling class. Americans’ support for the war is shrinking as the resistance is to the occupation is growing. The mid-term elections in December 2006 resulted in the Democratic Party winning a majority of seats in both Houses largely of their support for ending the war. Iraqi support for ending the occupation has been shown in huge street protests: there have been no marches in support of the Bush administration’s “surge” policy. None of the parties in the Iraqi parliament are in favour of the occupation, and most are now calling for a timetable for withdrawal.

As for Rose, he called for Blair to be impeached last year, but his views on the Iraqi Resistance are in a completely different league. Even serving military leaders are capable of telling the truth: last year, General Sir Richard Dannatt acknowledged that the presence of British forces in southern Iraq was counterproductive. There may be a feeling amongst the top brass that Britain is the junior partner the US has taken for granted; it is claimed that the Americans did not heed British advice on how to carry out a military occupation.

If the British did not convince the Americans that internment, torture, and death squads would strengthen the resistance it is because they have used the same techniques in Iraq. Though it has been done repeatedly, they cannot honestly be portrayed as angels colluding with devils. Britain is more than complicit in war crimes in Iraq; the bad apple metaphor does not wash, there has never been a human military occupation.

The war has been a disaster for Anglo-American imperialism, impeding the conquest of the Middle East, and giving the social movements in Latin America breathing space, allowing countries to break away from the imperial orbit. Desperation at their inability to create a legitimate puppet regime has led to the finger of blame being pointed at Iran, but no credible evidence has been presented to prove the Iraqi resistance is sustained by the support of the Iranian government.

Nation-building for fun and profit

The intention has never been imperialist in the historical sense; direct colonial rule is unsustainable because of its nakedness. Neo-colonialism entails economic domination by foreign powers; it is independence in name alone. The desired end result was the creation a of a capitalist state which would make Iraq safe for the multinationals and a comprador bourgeoisie, replacing the capitalist state of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party which, in the end, represented the national bourgeoisie.

The shift was to be from national capitalist development to integration into the world market, that is to say that the commanding heights of the economy would be under the control of foreign capitalists rather than national capitalists or the state. The state would be hollowed out through privatisation and increasing private provision of public services, the typical neo-liberal model. The problem has been one of legitimacy; the Iraqi government cannot pretend to be independent of the US because they have no control over the actions of the US armed forces and the laws are drafted by advisers from the occupying nations and from US oil corporations.

The struggle against colonialism and imperialism is at the same time a struggle against neo-colonialism and neo-liberalism because the state is no longer seen as a guarantor of welfare or security, but a servant of foreign powers and corporate interests. It is significant that the Sadrist militia derive their support from the Shia slums and have followed the model of Hamas and Hezbollah in combining the armed struggle with the provision of much needed public services.

While the US has been increasing troop numbers, in southern Iraq the British have been handing over control of security to local authorities and are set to reduce the size of their deployment. This will allow the British armed forces to fill in for allies pulling out of that other occupied territory, Afghanistan, which is not as contentious back in the UK. There has been much speculation about whether Prince Harry will serve with his regiment in Iraq, which has blotted out the question of the legitimacy of the mission and the fact that it will soon be ending. By the time this heir to the British throne gets to Basra, they will be handing over control to the Iraqi army; there is no need to drag the pampered prince from his life of drunken luxury just yet.

Can’t do the splits

In recent months the US has sought to divide the national resistance, and the people of the Iraq, with the building of a wall in Baghdad. Prime Minister Maliki claimed to be unaware of the wall’s construction; whatever the truth of this, that he had to publicly request that the US take it down shows that a sovereign Iraqi government does not know what the Americans do under cover of darkness in the streets of Baghdad.

This attempt at enforcing sectarian divisions by physically separating people hints at what the American plan for Iraq’s future might entail, namely partitioning the country along religious and ethnic lines. It is believed by many Iraqis that the occupiers have been deliberately fuelling the sectarian violence which, along with the deteriorating civilian infrastructure, has forced millions to flee the country.

In 2005 the Iraqi authorities apprehended two British SAS soldiers who wore native dress and were driving a car packed with guns and explosive devices; it was the British army that prevented these agents provocateurs from facing trial, first by arresting the police who detained them and then by demolishing the prison in which they were held. If it is true that the militias have infiltrated the Iraqi armed forces and police, it is equally true that British and American special forces are at work in the terrorist fringe groups.

The occupation cannot be truly defeated unless there is unity, for the division of Iraq will not result in self-determination. The imperialists divided the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, and will shatter Iraq into smaller and more manageable pieces if the resistance of its people cannot be pacified. There can be no security whilst the occupation continues: the terrorists who blow up market places cannot be weeded out until the occupiers have been driven out.

So far, resistance within the occupying armed forces has been limited to going AWOL and refusing to serve in Iraq. But if British and American service personnel do not want to die in Iraq or leave for home wounded, they have the power to get back safely within days…

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