Stop the torture! Support Iraq's labour movement!

Submitted by Anon on 22 May, 2004 - 10:16

Very soon after they took over Iraq a year ago, the British and US "liberators" of the country turned into torturers.
The British put their experience in Northern Ireland to use, and tied, beat, and hooded prisoners.

The Americans beat prisoners, set Alsatian dogs on them, put electrodes on them, made them do degrading sexual acts in public. Some male prisoners were, it seems, raped.

There is evidence that such things were done systematically - certainly by the Americans. The Red Cross estimates that 70-90% of the Iraqis to whom such things were done had not even been involved in acts of resistance to the occupiers.

With that going on away from the TV cameras, the Iraqi hostility that quickly grew up all around the occupation forces is no mystery.

In turn, that general attitude of the population provided the milieu in which armed guerrilla groups of varying politics could operate.

Parts of Iraq began to catch fire under the feet of the "liberators".

General explanations - ingrained US and British arrogance, racist contempt for Arabs, the brutalisation inseparable from the military trade, the unsuitability of soldiers for "police" work, etc, - do not fully explain the behaviour "on the ground" of the armies that told the Iraqis they were bringing them liberty and democratic respect for human beings.

The behaviour was all of a piece with the politics of the Bush's and Blair's "war on terror", and the way alleged terrorists are treated in the legal limbo of the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay.

If it is proclaimed, explicitly or implicitly, that all Arabs and Muslims are likely to be terrorists, and that "anything goes" in the war on terrorism, then the political atmosphere is created in which atrocities will surely be committed by scared and ignorant soldiers on the streets and in the prisons of Iraq.

But more, the facts suggest that what the US soldiers - and private contractors running the prisons for the US government - did was done on the instructions and sometimes under the direct supervision of US intelligence officers. They wanted the prisoners "softened up" for interrogation.

The horrible symbolism involved in the "liberators" becoming torturers in the very jails in which Saddam Hussein's torturers worked, must resonate like maniacal, mocking laughter among Iraqis who last year put naïve trust in the "liberators".

The US has now set up a force, including former anti-US guerrillas, under the command of a former Ba'thist general, Jassim Saleh, to pacify Falluja. According to the Financial Times of 12 May, it may try a similar approach in Najaf, incorporating members of the Islamist Sadr militia which US troops have been fighting for the last month into local battalions of the Iraqi army.

US commander Martin Dempsey said: "I think probably you are going to see some similar approach across the country". The militia of the Iranian-backed Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) could also be incorporated, he said.

According to Iraqi socialists recently returned from Basra, the British forces there already have largely ceded control of the streets to SCIRI.

The lesson the US administration and most of their bourgeois critics have drawn from the last year is that their greatest mistake was to smash and dismantle the old Ba'thist state, with nothing but US and allied troops to put in its place. Their new approach may signal the start of a large-scale attempt to undo what they did, and rebuild elements of the old state, supplemented by new Islamist militias.

How far will that go? To judge by past experiences of similar situations, it could go all the way to the recreation of the elements of de facto military rule, with more or less civilian political "frontage".

The development of the Iraqi labour movement, which continues despite all difficulties, remains the most encouraging thing in Iraq. Our prime task in Britain is to aid and support that labour movement against both the occupation forces and the Islamist and neo-Ba'thist "resistance" - or against a coalition power of Ba'thists and Islamists, backed by the USA, if the USA manages to organise it.

The revelations about the torture and ill-treatment of Iraqis by their "liberators" show once again that those socialists who supported the US-led coalition because they wanted (as we did) Iraq to be free of the butcher Saddam were politically naïve and wrong.

In their own way, and with all proportions guarded, they were no less wrong than the idiotic pseudo-lefts who let "anti-imperialism" lead them to positive support for Saddam's state against the coalition.

We say it again: even when they do, or may do, something we want - here, smashing Saddam's state - independent socialists do not extend to the big powers either political credit or credence in advance.

We keep our political distance.

We know that whatever they do they do for their own reasons, and in their own way.

Their "way" in Iraq is an affront to humanity and to the democracy which the US and UK claimed to represent in Iraq.