Iraqis agree, "U.S. Out"
Jenny Brown
April 2005

Huge demonstrations filled the streets of Baghdad on April 9, demanding an end to the occupation of Iraq. According to Reuters news service, tens of thousands of Iraqis demonstrated, chanting "No, no to the occupiers." One demonstrator was quoted as saying, "I came from Sadr City to demand a timetable for the withdrawal of the occupation... Every Iraqi has a right to demand his freedom. The Americans wanted time and we gave them time, now we want to rule ourselves." (Reuters, April 9, 2005

The report also quoted cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who sent a statement to the rally, "We want a stable Iraq and this will only happen through independence. There will be no security and stability unless the occupiers leave... The occupiers must leave my country." The U.S. has approximately 135,000 troops in Iraq and there are another 25,000 troops there from other countries, chiefly Britain, which is Iraq's former colonial occupier.

The rally was held on the second anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. Last year, U.S. forces sealed off Firdos Square so that demonstrators could not gather there for the first anniversary, according to Reuters. This year, demonstrators had to go through several searches and checkpoints to reach the square, according to news reports.

The demonstrators also called for a speedy trial for Saddam Hussein and they hung effigies of Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Saddam, and burned American flags. One effigy was labeled, "Bush and Saddam, two faces to one coin." The demonstration was peaceful.

Although not reported much here, "U.S. out" was also the message of the January 30th elections, in which the U.S.-backed candidate, Iyad Allawi, came in a distant 3rd, with 12 percent of the vote, even though enormous funds were expended on his behalf during the campaign.

Azza Showket, who grew up in Baghdad and now lives in Gainesville, said the Jan. 30 election "Brought tears to my eyes for the very brave and bloody Iraqis who, against horrendous, life threatening and logistical odds went out and voted. I could not have admired them more." (See my interview with Showket on page 5 of this issue.)

The winners in the election, a Shi'ite list, had called for the U.S. to set an immediate timetable for withdrawal, as did nearly all the other parties.

In a March 11 interview, U.S. dissident and MIT professor Noam Chomsky described the elections as a defeat for the U.S.: "What's being suppressed is the fact that the United States had to be brought kicking and screaming into accepting elections. The U.S. was strongly opposed to them. ... The U.S. wanted to write a constitution, it wanted to impose some kind of caucus system that the U.S. could control, and it tried to impose extremely harsh neo-liberal rules... which even Iraqi businessmen were strongly opposed to.

"But there has been a very powerful nonviolent resistance in Iraq - far more significant than suicide bombers and so on. And it simply compelled the United States step by step to back down. That's the popular movement of nonviolent resistance that was symbolized by Ayatollah Sistani, but it's far broader than that. The population simply would not accept the rules that the occupation authorities were imposing, and finally Washington was compelled, very reluctantly, to accept elections." (Chomsky was interviewed by Danilo Mandic for the Princeton Progressive Review and Dollars and Sins,

Chomsky also noted that the U.S. tried to undermine the elections when they were finally held. "The independent press was kicked out of the country. Al Jazeera, which is by far the most popular media in the country and most of the region, was simply kicked out on spurious grounds. The U.S. candidate (Allawi) was given every possible advantage: full state resources, access to any television, and so on and so forth. He got creamed."

"Every party, including even the U.S. government's party, was compelled to put in a plank, just by pressure of popular opinion, calling for U.S. withdrawal, withdrawal of the occupying forces," Chomsky stated. "Even U.S.-run polls show that that's a very strong majority opinion, among Shi'ites as well."

U.S. journalist Mark Danner, in a recent report on the Iraqi elections for the New York Review of Books, reported the miffed and irritated answers given to him by Iraqis standing in line waiting to vote.

"Several, when I asked why they had come out to vote, looked at me with varying degrees of surprise or condescension and said, "So we will have a government. Look around, we need a government." Some, when I asked whom they'd voted for, refused, smiling: this is democracy--secret ballot. ...

"A young woman... asked by a colleague about Saddam, grew annoyed. 'No, this is not about Saddam. Forget Saddam. I am an engineer and I have no job. Neither does my husband.' Then, a bit exasperated, 'We want a normal country.'" ("Iraq: the Real Election," NYRB, April 28, 2005).

Journalist Christian Parenti, who has just written a book of his reporting in Iraq, summed up his view of the occupation in a recent interview, "The U.S. can win every single battle in this war, and still lose the war. And it will win every single battle. But the war is greater than the sum total of all these battles, it's a social-political equation that has to do with the economy, the civilian management of Iraq. And all of that was so incredibly bungled and so incredibly corrupt that, in my opinion, the war is over. It's done. The U.S. has lost Iraq. And it will hang on, as it did in Vietnam, for five or six more years, killing people, escalating, trying to escalate its way out of it. But I think it's over, the moment for a successful imperialist takeover and co-optation was in the early summer of 2003 and Iraqis were treated like crap at every turn, and they've been treated incredibly poorly at every single turn since then..."

Asked about the attack on Fallujah, Parenti said, "It's awful. To bomb a city?! Everything the U.S. military does engenders more and more hatred and hostility. There has been no reconstruction. People still have 70% unemployment, they're enraged and desperate. And on top of it, after almost 20 months, everybody knows somebody who's been killed." (Parenti was interviewed Nov. 11, 2004 by Doug Henwood on WBAI-FM in New York. His book is The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq.)

In Gainesville, Showket reflects, "I still see the Americans have learned nothing. No plan to get out, make Iraq safe, restore electricity or other services as the sewage runs in the street and the garbage piles up. I feel no sense of hope and the killing continues everywhere. Apparently this is democracy."

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