Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Surge of Death as the Empire Marches On

Interesting points of view from Frontline and


At some point, inexplicably, his U.S.-paid executioners raised slogans in praise of Moqtada al-Sadr, the young Shia cleric whom the Americans hate the most and have often fought, in Kufa and elsewhere. Saddam is said to have been surprised and shook his head. Soon after that he was led to the gallows, tied up, and hanged. That was on December 30. The next day, the very last day of 2006, The New York Times began its story on the execution with the sentence: "Saddam Hussein never bowed his head, until his neck snapped."

It wasn't long before Washington began waking up to the huge global impact of Saddam's dignified behaviour, as contrasted with the crassness of his execution - the choice of day, the menacing rowdiness of his executioners in the solemn moments before his death, the snapping of the neck as he prayed silently. Such things are hard to verify, but it does seem to me that it is only after the facts had had an impact exactly the opposite of what the Washingtonian spinmasters anticipated that they decided to pretend that the successive videos had been produced clandestinely and that they had actually tried to dissuade the "sovereign" Nouri al-Maliki government from executing Saddam on such a holy day.

It was now said that it was the "sovereign" Iraqi establishment - much too "sovereign" to listen to the United States - which had chosen that day, against strenuous U.S. efforts. It was also claimed that the slogans raised by the executioners in favour of Moqtada al-Sadr were entirely spontaneous; that they were praising someone the U.S. detests only goes to show, it was claimed, how "independent" those executioners really were. Supposedly liberal but in fact corrupt and pompous senior journalists like John F. Burns of The New York Times were to play a major role in this subsequent campaign of disinformation which sought to relieve the U.S. of its culpability in the whole sorry mess.

All that, I believe, is plain hogwash. Only a month earlier, that same "Prime Minister" had complained publicly that he is not allowed to move even a platoon of policemen without prior U.S. permission. Death by hanging of a famous dictator is serious business; it is very doubtful that sundry hangmen can just take out their cellphones and video cameras to make unauthorised tapes and then just put them on the Internet. Secrecy is the essence of all such events; it is very unlikely that microscopic details of such proceedings can appear in newspapers the very next day if the real masters of the ceremony, the big U.S. officials, do not want them divulged. Nor is it very likely that hired hangmen, always fearful of dire consequences for unruly behaviour at such times, would raise slogans in favour of America's designated enemy, Moqtada, unless they are sure of not suffering any reprisals. It seems very likely that they were instructed to raise those slogans, in praise of Moqtada, to be caught on videotape that would be widely disseminated throughout the Arab world, to indicate that it was Moqtada's men who actually executed Saddam Hussein, so as to concentrate Sunni ire on Moqtada, the one major Shia figure in Iraq who is deeply opposed to American occupation, and not on the core clients of the U.S. who actually did it.

The hanging as well as the spectacle staged and taped at the time were meant to exacerbate the Shia-Sunni divide and to have the Sunnis turn against Moqtada even as the U.S. concentrates its fire upon his forces. (As many as 14,000 U.S. troops were diverted to Moqtada's stronghold in the Sadr City zone of Baghdad in October 2006 and the majority of the 30,000 troops that Bush and his new commanders in Iraq are looking for are expected to be deployed there.)

It seems very likely, in short, that the Americans had carefully choreographed the whole staging of the execution and dissemination of the pictures, but they had not imagined that Saddam's dignified conduct would have such an electrifying impact across the world, especially the Arab-Muslim world. Nor had they understood that most people in the world, especially outside the U.S., do not condone the hanging of a man on a day deemed holy in his religion and while he has his last prayer on his lips, even though the man to be hanged was once a dictator.
That has an eerie ring of truth to it. It also makes me wonder if I'm just not paranoid enough. Leaving the deconstruction of signifiers on the intellectual and spiritual planes for a moment for an analysis of the material relations underlying the Iraq situation, we take you to the Socialist Worker:
THE U.S. war on Iraq was never about freedom, and it has been anything but moderate.

Take a look, for example, at the assortment of crooks and thugs the U.S. proposed to lead the “new” Iraq--after, that is, it gave up on direct colonial rule through the Coalition Provisional Authority.

The U.S. is no more committed to democracy elsewhere in the Middle East, where its favored ally Israel presides over an apartheid system designed to crush all aspirations of the Palestinian people, and where its clients among Arab regimes use dictatorial repression to maintain their grip on power.

So what has the U.S. war been about? Oil, for one thing--U.S. control over the world’s second-largest proven reserves.

The Bush surge comes at a critical time for his oil company pals, who are counting on the Iraqi government to deliver on a new oil law, expected to be voted on in the coming weeks and put in effect by March.

The law--“carefully scrutinized,” wrote Pepe Escobar in Asia Times, “by Washington, Big Oil and the International Monetary Fund, but not by Iraqi politicians”--would establish 30-year production-sharing agreements with Western oil companies and bar any future government from nationalizing the oil industry. “In essence, it’s a game of ‘if you nationalize, we invade you--again.’” Escobar concludes. “So the law fulfills the early-2003 neo-con boast of ‘we are the new OPEC.’”

Beyond oil, Iraq is the centerpiece of U.S. plans to project its military power in the Middle East through the establishment of permanent bases--and “to maintain the legitimacy of U.S. imperialism, which needs the pretext of a global war on terror to justify further military intervention, expanded military budgets, concentration of executive power and restrictions on civil liberties,” wrote Anthony Arnove, author of Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal, in the International Socialist Review.

Those who really are on the side of freedom need to speak out for immediate U.S. withdrawal--and for the right of Iraqis to determine their own future.
Both of these long articles are recommended reading. Just some snippets are presented here. They may help you fall asleep, but I can't say what kind of dreams they may inspire.

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