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front l ines Photo: DVIDS

The US increasingly recruits Iraqi troops to prop up the occupation

Iraq’s occupation goes on, but with new cloaks Some in the media apologised for the uncritical way they peddled official policy and lies on Iraq, designed to justify the invasion and occupation of the country. In marginalising the news about the true state of affairs in Iraq today their role is no less damaging. Amnesty International’s latest report on Iraq is aptly entitled “New Order, Same Abuses: Unlawful Detentions and Torture in Iraq”. Though Amnesty’s report is by no means a comprehensive catalogue of violations, it does shed some light on the horrific treatment of tens of thousands of people unlawfully detained by the occupation and the Iraqi regime’s forces. There is little doubt that this report would have attracted much wider and more prominent coverage had it been about North Korea, Iran or China. Today the word “progress” is favoured by US and British politicians and the media

when it comes to describing developments in Iraq. President Obama has even felt comfortable to pontificate, “Like any sovereign, independent nation, Iraq is free to chart its own course.” His predecessor was often portrayed as the bumbling idiot who was dictated to by his vice-president, Dick Cheney. Well, the very articulate, suave and highly intelligent Obama has reverted to telling the same lies. Iraq today is sinking deeper into the mire of repression, corruption and instability. The means of repression are Saddamist and more, the levels of state corruption have overtaken the most corrupt in the world, and the instability is fast approaching Somali proportions. The Amnesty report and the recent Human Rights Watch statement on secret regime directives to ban and crush popular protest do not

deal with the most lethal and intimidating means of repression: the increased use of US air power, including bombing missions by drones, and the military raids launched by the US and UStrained and led Iraqi forces. Days after Obama announced the withdrawal of more US forces from Iraq last month, US and Iraqi forces killed many people in raids in Diala, Falluja and Diwaniya in the south. For the Iraqi people the occupation, repression, state corruption, unemployment, lack of basic services and extremely harsh daily existence are painfully relentless. Not only are 50,000 US troops and over 400 military bases and posts still in Iraq, but there are also tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries contracted to the Pentagon, State Department and Iraqi regime. This is in line with the recent trend to privatise the armed forces, both as a means of channelling funds into the coffers of the war merchants and to stem the tide of popular opposition to war by reducing casualties among US soldiers and camouflaging the occupation. But the main prop for this policy is the ongoing attempt to make Iraqis kill Iraqis by expanding the Iraqi security forces under US control. Faced with determined resistance, mounting US casualties and overwhelming Iraqi and worldwide popular opposition to the occupation, the US suffered a serious military and political setback in Iraq. Coupled with adverse developments in

In echoes of Vietnam, U.S. strategists have been trying to turn military defeat into political victory.

Afghanistan, Iran and Lebanon the US is shifting its strategy and redeploying its forces in the entire region, treating it as a unified theatre of war of many fronts. In echoes of Vietnam, US strategists have been feverishly trying to turn military defeat into political victory. Alas, they have so far been successful with the new strategy of “Iraqisation” and privatisation of the war. This setback for the Iraqi people has been brought about by the transformation of most of the Iraqi political groups opposed to Saddam’s dictatorship into willing accomplices of US imperialism in Iraq. Thirty five years of Saddamist repression, often backed by the US and Britain, has had a devastating impact on Iraq’s organised political forces, with often exiled leaderships, including the ever degenerating Iraqi Communist Party. Seven months after the sham elections, they are still fighting over who will become prime minister and who will control the greater portion of Iraq’s wealth. In this, they all turn to the largest US embassy in the world for guidance and support. This transformation has been effectively used by the US and Britain to sow sectarian conflict and ethnic tensions in Iraqi society. Thus the Iraqi people have had no unified political leadership that could lead the struggle to cleanse Iraq of the imperialist occupation. In these most difficult of circumstances, the largely spontaneous struggle of the Iraqi people has been incredibly determined and heroic. This magnificent chapter of struggle has come at the cost of over a million people killed, and many millions maimed, orphaned and widowed. But the Iraqi people’s history is testimony to the fact that they never bow their heads to oppressors, whether of the colonialist, imperialist or domestic varieties. Protracted it might be, but their struggle against imperialist occupation and domestic oppressors goes on, and is worthy of greater attention and support in Britain. Sami Ramadani

6 | Socialist Review | OCTOBER 2010

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9/10/10 18:43:59

Union-made Yusuf Timms

Tony Blair is known for stretching the truth, and last month managed to stretch it so thinly that it ran to 718 pages in his autobiography, A Journey. Relating his first encounter as prime minister with the queen in 1997, Blair writes that she said, “You are my 10th prime minister... The first was Winston.” Now, here is the same meeting, but taken from Peter Morgan’s 2006 film, The Queen: “You are my 10th prime minister, Mr. Blair,” says Helen Mirren. “My first was Winston Churchill.” Morgan says that the dialogue came from his imagination, suggesting that Blair may have “confused the scene in the film with what actually happened”. PW

Fire in our bellies

Pulp non-fiction When former US intelligence officer Anthony Shaffer wrote his account of fighting the Taliban he could expect a level of opposition from his old employer. His new book, Operation Dark Heart, recounts his experiences in “black ops” attacking Taliban figures within Pakistan, and claims that tactical blunders prevented US victory in the conflict several years ago. The Pentagon was less than happy about his revelations, which “could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to national security”, but it was unable to stop publication. So instead it bought up the entire first print run of the book—some 10,000 copies—in order to pulp them. As Shaffer is still a reserve officer, the Pentagon has been able to block him from speaking to journalists. But the book has shot up the best sellers list in the US, despite it being impossible to find in any shops, handing him an avalanche of publicity. Still, at least no one can read about military incompetence. PW

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On September 16, 2,500 firefighters (well over half of those not on duty) marched through London to the headquarters of the London Fire Brigade (LFB) to demand an end to the policy of mass sackings being perused by management and the Tory-led fire authority. When this was not forthcoming, it was announced from the steps of Brigade headquarters that we were serving them seven days notice of our intent to ballot for strike action. This was followed the following day by the result of a ballot for industrial action short of strike; a 95 percent yes vote on a 76 percent turnout. It is clear a serious confrontation is developing in the LFB, but what are the issues at stake and how does this dispute fit in to the wider context of working class resistance to the Con-Dem government’s agenda? From the outside the issues at the heart of the dispute can seem complicated and obscure. In fact they are very straightforward. The fire authority has initiated a process that will lead to all of London’s firefighters being sacked by the end of November. They will then be asked if they want to return to work on new contracts with a changed shift pattern. Brigade bosses want to change the start and finish times of the shift from a nine hour day and 15 hour night, to two 12 hour shifts. This is significant because it opens the way for a reduction in night-time cover and the movement of people from the night shift to the day shift on a flexible basis. The introduction of flexible working is the precondition to large-scale cuts, the break-up of the watch system (the teams in which firefighters work) and attacks on terms and conditions. It goes without saying that the corollary of this would be a weakened Fire Brigades Union and a

Photo: Tom Walker

Compulsive Bliar

demoralised workforce. While firefighters are furious at the way they are being treated by the Brigade and seem ready to take strike action if necessary, a number of factors contribute to a feeling of deep unease at the prospect of walking out. Firstly, the simple truth is that the results of not having an operational fire service for any length or time can, quite literally, be fatal, and this is something that we are more aware of than anyone else. Secondly, our defeat in the 2002-3 pay dispute hangs like a nightmare over the current dispute. I have not given a meeting in recent weeks where this issue has not been raised. Combating this argument involves an analysis of why we were defeated in 2002-3, the role played by the union bureaucracy and the need for active rank and file participation in the coming battle. Added to this is the widespread perception, shared by most workers, that “the public” already have a low opinion of us and will not thank us for taking strike action during a recession. With close ties to the military, this argument is extended in

For far too long when workers have fought we have fought with the gloves on.

the fire brigade to encompass the toll being paid by British soldiers in Afghanistan. Clearly to present a coherent alternative to this view it is necessary to challenge the ideological assumption that “the public” exist at all—after all, are we not talking about cleaners, teachers, tube drivers etc—as well as the waste of blood and money in Afghanistan. Beyond this we have to be able to explain that the economics of the “Big Society” amounts to big cuts for us and for big bonuses for them. If working people are to impose a different set of economic priorities on society it will take a concerted fight. The impetus for such a fight arises out of the concrete struggles of ordinary people, who, like London’s firefighters, find themselves confronted by the rule of capital in simply unacceptable forms. As socialists we must work to support all opposition to the prevailing economic orthodoxy, to develop solidarity between workers, to argue that are chances of winning will be greater if we campaign together, and, when necessary, strike together. For far too long when workers have fought we have fought with the gloves on, yet when they come for us the gloves are always off from the start. We cannot go on in the old ways. Yusuf Timms is FBU Borough Secretary Kensington and Chelsea (pc). Socialist Review | OCTOBER 2010 | 

9/10/10 18:44:02


In echoes of VIetnam, U.s. strategIsts haVe been tryIng to tUrn mIlItary defeat Into polItIcal VIctory. the Us increasingly recruits Iraqi t...

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