Marc Ash / Truthout – 2004-08-24 08:34:49
(August 21. 2004) — There is a human catastrophe looming at The Shrine of Ali in Najaf, Iraq.
First the facts: There is no Iraqi government. However — entirely for US public relations purposes — a semblance of an Iraqi government has been cobbled together, and is strategically positioned in front of news cameras at all times. They do not make decisions. All substantive decisions are made directly by the US White House, or when needed by the current US overseer “Ambassador” John Negroponte.
The armed force surrounding The Shrine of Ali in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf is largely a US military force. An Iraqi force — again for public relations purposes — has been assembled, and is being displayed for the benefit of the press in attendance.
If an assault is mounted against The Shrine of Ali, that assault will be conducted not by any “Iraqi army,” but by US forces. The main reason for this is that no one born in Iraq would even dream of attacking The Shrine of Ali — only Westerners could conceive of such a thing.
Such an assault, should it take place, would be bloody — far bloodier than what we have seen so far — and it would have the very real potential to incite a region-wide uprising that would dwarf all that has occurred to date.
America’s Military Mullahs
The US decision makers are driven, at least in part, by religious ideology. This was never more clearly on display than when Lt. Gen. William Boykin, a top-ranking US intelligence officer, referred to the war on terror as “a battle with Satan.” That should not have come as any surprise — George W. Bush last year actually referred to the US campaign as a “crusade.” While the significance of that remark was lost on most Americans, it struck like a clarion call to every Muslim in the world.
There are two main arguments that are most often used to support a rationale for continued US military action in Iraq. The first is that if we pull out, there will be civil war. Normally that would be a valid concern. Unfortunately the Bush administration is doing more at this point to foment civil war in Iraq than prevent it.
Bush Policies Push Civil War
The creation of Iraqi “security forces” in fact pits Iraqis against Iraqis. The result is a bloody rendition of “divide and rule.” Yes, if the Bush administration had an interest in preventing violence they might have a leg to stand on. But their interest is oil, and Iraqi unity does not serve that end.
The second argument most often used in support of the continued US military action in Iraq is, for lack of a better term, the installation of democracy. Again that won’t work for Mr. Bush and the US oil industry. Democracy would lead to self rule, and that would be less profitable for us. Democracy, however does work quite well as a sales slogan, so look for it in use there.
Right now a full-out assault on The Shrine of Ali is imminent. Should that come to pass, international security will damaged beyond repair for decades to come.
Alternatives to Mindless Slaughter
Moqtada al-Sadr would be easy enough to deal with, he is open to a negotiation and has been from day one.
The Bush administration will not deal with him, because that again would lead eventually to Iraqi self rule. Not profitable, not acceptable.
The Bush administration chooses to paint Moqtada al-Sadr as a “radical,” or a “firebrand,” and always as a terrorist. This is intended to build a US public mandate for the current assault on The Shrine of Ali. Moqtada al-Sadr is doing nothing more than defending his homeland.
The Profit Motive vs. Iraqi Sovereignty
There has been much debate in recent months over whether Iraq would even adapt to democracy, if that were an option. The answer is, it’s doubtful. But for the time being, some democratic action would be just the ticket to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.
It is equally important for Americans to brace themselves to confront the Bush administration. There is a profit motive at play in Iraq. High-ranking Bush Administration officials are profiting personally from the military actions they are inciting. That is not acceptable.
In making your decision, do this: close your eyes and have a conversation with the parents of an 18 year old US soldier on patrol in Iraq. Explain to him the purpose of this war against Iraq. Then wait long enough hear his reply.
Marc Ash is the Executive Director of TruthOut: firstname.lastname@example.org