Resistance in Iraq is reported to be growing in size and spreading in its capacity to operate in an increasing number of provinces, blooming in further parts of the Iraqi territory. According to the US , it is by the intervention of foreign fighters. In reality, it is the revival of Iraqi nationalism and dignity. While the occupation and its lackey government continues to indiscriminately and massively incarcerate Iraqi citizens “suspected” of ties with the resistance, it seems unable to break its different expressions armed, political and popular or to break the sympathy it enjoys from the population. Daily, ever larger movements of opinion express their rejection of the occupation and its puppet government. Despite spending billions in war funding and propaganda, how did the American imperial plan fail in Iraq ?
First of all, its failure is due to the inability of the US administration to recognise the impossibility of breaking Iraq up into smaller conflicting states. The neocon adventure and miscalculation is based on several factors, including taking their wishes as realities, their blind and sole reliance on military force to achieve their agenda, the gathering of information from some marginal and alienated Iraqi exiles, and their avoidance of studying the historical, cultural and social characteristics of the country they were about to invade and aimed to control. Prior to the invasion, and throughout these four disastrous years of occupation, the US underestimated the strength and deep-rooted character of Iraq ‘s nationalism and culture, which was bound to face US imperialist plans with steadfast resistance, emanating from all sections of Iraqi society, including the supposed bases of their allies.
The US naively thought that it could use the richness of Iraqi society, characterised by its historic cosmopolitanism and multi-confessionalism, in the attempt to divide it along sectarian lines and in order to control the entire society. It is running after a mirage. Iraq has been for thousands of years composed of numerous ethnicities and religious confessions living in solidarity with each other regardless of their differences: the Christians, the Sabbits, the Yeziidies are equally as attached to Iraq as Muslims, and they are as Iraqi as their Muslim brothers. All Iraqis, whatever their ethnicity, religion, sect or social appurtenance, are inheritors of all successive Iraqi civilisations and their history. The values of a common life in a geographical area called Iraq or Mesopotamia unifies them. Those who know Iraq, its unifying Arab Muslim identity and its history, are aware that those who wish to divide Iraq and subjugate it to the will of foreign powers will be confronted by the force of thousands of years of a united society, in addition to the geopolitical united interests of its regions and of its social constituents. Never in history could two states cohabitate the basin that is now called Iraq . It has always been in the interest of the people settling in this basin, throughout successive civilisations, to unite in a common geopolitical future. If, in the past, the two rivers were the unifying factors of all aspects of life in this entity called Iraq , now are added the role of culture, geopolitical interests and the common ownership of the land and its riches.
It is true that in Iraq there were several political groups who opposed the leadership of the Iraqi government prior to the invasion and destruction of Iraq . They have, as all oppositions, the right to oppose their national government. But some proposed themselves as collaborators with the imperial US and allies and their criminal plan of dividing their land, either by ignorance, greed, or for personal or sectarian reasons. They will be thrown with their paymaster’s plan into the rubbish of history. They ignored Iraq ‘s ancient and complex relation to its identity and its common relations to its neighbours, as well as its contemporary experience regarding imperialist policies towards its progress and development, especially those of the United States after being subject to 13 years of US-led crippling sanctions. Unlike these sectarian groups, the population itself, regardless of its confessional, ethnical or political affiliations, as has been proven by its heroic resistance to attempts to break up and divide Iraq , was not opposed to the unity and integrity of the Iraqi state.
Iraq is the area that used to be called Mesopotamia . All Iraqis are the daughters or sons of this history and are inheritors of all the successive civilisations that emerged in this land. Where the Sumerians invented writing, the Babylonians invented law; the Assyrians unified the region, followed by the Abbasid who introduced the advance of the “state of all its citizens” and of social solidarity in society, opening the path for the unifying Arab Muslim civilisation that survives proudly to this day. Since then, being Iraqi is based not on ethnicity or religion or sect but on being Iraqi. The Iraqi people are the expression of this heritage, regardless of their religion or ethnicity. Whenever Iraq could live in peace and have a stable state it proved it could participate in the enhancement of human culture and development and created great civilisations and regional orders. Baghdad is the cradle of the Arab Muslim civilisation. Iraq ‘s destiny continues to be one of the markers that will decide Arab destiny. For Iraqis and Arabs in general, to destroy Baghdad is in fact an attempt to destroy their memory, identity and interests.
The geopolitical characteristics of Iraq have been, and will always be, a great influence on Iraq ‘s history. It is of no surprise that the US chose to occupy Iraq in order to try to ensure its regional and world domination. By occupying Iraq , the US thought it could control the entire region and by extension maintain its unipolar hegemony. First, Iraq is a country rich in natural resources, whether in oil, gas or water. Second, it enjoys a median geographical position in the region. This position has always made it the centre of outside ambitions. No regional power could be considered as such without attempting either to control or weaken Iraq . Indeed, Iraq is a crossroads. Its land provides the necessary route and influence for Iran to access Syria , Jordan and the Mediterranean, and for Syria and Jordan as they look towards Iran and the Arabian Gulf basin. It is also the natural path from Turkey to the Gulf, and vice versa. Consequently, while being the centre of foreign designs, the security, stability and unity of Iraq are also a necessity for all these countries. Indeed, the slightest deterioration in relations between Iraq and any of its neighbours is automatically a setback for cooperation throughout the whole region while, on the other hand, any hegemony of one neighbour over Iraq is a setback for Iraq and all its neighbours.
The only equation that serves Iraq ‘s interests is to insist on its Arab Muslim appurtenance and maintain good and fraternal relations with both Turkey and Iran . If Iraq were to break off relations with any neighbouring state, this would reduce its own ability to benefit from its median position, and thus from regional cooperation and the development of infrastructure. It would penalise its industry and its agriculture, and cut it off from the regional trade necessary to its growth and progress. The more its neighbours flourish and progress, the more Iraq can acquire opportunities to develop by cooperating with all of them. The myth that the economic, social and political development of Turkey and Iran might constitute a danger for Iraq rests on a superficial and ignorant analysis of the relations between these states, and of the laws governing development between neighbouring countries. In fact, the more Iran and Turkey develop and the richer they become, the more they will need a stable, prosperous and unified Iraq . For such an Iraq would represent both purchasing power for their goods, and a source of production factors.
No one can extract Iraq from its geopolitical and cultural circumstance. Iraq cannot have relations with the US , Russia , Europe or Israel and ignore its concrete Arab Muslim appurtenance and interests. It is against the interest of Iraq and of Iraqis to be a mere protectorate of Iran or any other country. It is a failed dream that Iraq could be subjugated to US-Iran co-occupation. The free will of Iraq and the Iraqi people refuses and will refuse, by culture and interest, to be subjugated to any foreign state, be it regional, superpower or combined. History proved this. In fact, the US ‘s plans to destroy Iraq as a nation and as a state are not only against the interests of all Iraqis but also those of neighbouring states. It is a delusion, a non-workable plan. It is being resisted by all sections of Iraqi society. It creates so much instability that it makes it impossible to control, invest or even exploit Iraq ‘s resources. By opening the door to all sorts of foreign interference, the occupation could only result in an unspeakable crime against humanity and a military, economic, political and moral disaster for the occupation itself.
What the US occupation and its allies did to Iraq does not only constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity; it will always be remembered as the first genocide of the 21st century. That the world, due to the bias of international media, is currently unaware of this does not change the reality that all Iraqis and Arabs know it. In perpetrating civilisational genocide, the US has committed moral suicide. Without attempting this genocide, American plans could not succeed. While perpetrating genocide, the US announced its moral ruin, and its plans will not succeed.
In order to divide Iraq, an ancient society existing for thousands of years, into three or more weak and conflicting protectorates, the US has to destroy all that unites the Iraqis; in other words, to conduct a policy that amounts to tabula rasa. This intended destruction necessarily encompasses: the state, culture, history, material heritage, society, economic sustainability, institutions, army, education system, health system, judicial system, infrastructure, communication facilities, national identity, indeed the very essence of Iraq . It must disrupt and destroy the existence of the living people and its moral values. It must ruin them for generations, if not all of history. It even needs to destroy the physical forms of cities. The occupation has offered nothing to the Iraqi people but an organised project of extermination based on the insanity of “creative chaos”.
No statistic can embody the destruction the United States brought to Iraq . It decimated the Iraqi state and an entire popular classthe progressive middle class of Iraq that had proven its capacity to manage Iraqi resources independently and to the benefit of all, thereby saving Iraqis from poverty, disease, backwardness and ignorance; it pushed civil liberties, of men and women alike, back 50 years, destroying social guarantees; it killed more than a million while sending millions more into exile; it orchestrated death squads and looting and invented new horrors in torture and rape; in the name of bringing democracy, it brought material destruction on a mass scale to a people, aiming also to efface their psyche, culture, memory, social fabric, institutions and forms of administration, commerce, and everyday life; it even attacked Iraq’s unborn generations with the 4.7 billion-year death of depleted uranium. The occupation resulted in the complete breakdown of public services, leaving unavailable even those as basic as water and electricity. In a land with a natural patrimony of 210 billion barrels of oil, under occupation Iraqis suffer shortages in fuel. It created a state of terror in which families are confined to their homes, waiting to be kidnapped or killed at any moment. People are summarily executed because their father named them Omar, Hussein or Jean.
Before the invasion and destruction of Iraq , the majority of Iraqis sustained lives working in public institutions. Iraq was a welfare state based on the cultural understanding common to all in the Orient that the land and its riches is the property of the nation. Supported by the resources natural to the land, a large part of the population was employed in the education and health systems, nationalised industries, and the national army. Since the agricultural reform of 1959, followed by the nationalisations of 1964, the middle class guided state and society. Seventy per cent of the Iraqi population was living in towns. The nationalisation of the oil sector in 1971 led to the enlargement of the middle class and elevated the living standards of the poorer section of the population. The US plan of extermination was aimed at destroying this middle class that naturally is the inheritor of Iraqi culture, science, unity and dignity, striving for freedom, progress and development. It tried to subjugate it to a cabal and feudal class of new and old thieves, rapists, marginal politicians, backward religious extremists, criminal gangs, and warlords that appeared or reappeared in the situation created by the occupation.
It was evident that the US and its allies, even before the invasion were running after an illusion. Why would the Iraqi people accept and welcome a plan that would deprive them and only benefit a few? The marginalised and impoverished, the educated middle classes, the working classes, which lost the benefit of nationwide services, women and the youth, which suffers from unemployment and the absence of civil liberties, all reject US policy in Iraq . This is the source of what now and into the future will be a never-ending social struggle against the occupation and eventually its defeat, and the defeat of its policies. Without the middle class, the US cannot build a functioning state; the Iraqi middle class, all parts included, clearer and bolder, and with it the labouring classes, rejects the US occupation and its plans.
The Iraqi people are resisting and will continue to do so. If, due to its superiority in military power, the US can continue to control bases like the “Green Zone”, the Iraqis are compelled to continue to live in resistance. However, in parallel, the longer the US continues to occupy Iraq, the more it will pay in the blood of its young soldiers, the more money it will waste serving the needs of its bloodied war machine, the more its image and reputation will be rubbished worldwide by its genocidal policies, and the more it will jeopardise its future and the future of its children.
Why all this waste? American strategists, while building their model for Iraq , missed or disregarded the fact that social movements are based on solid realities and lived experience, and cannot just be created on the whim of a political decision, through insidious forms of pressure or by an all-out military assault on a poor population. By thinking that they could win in Iraq , US administrators, think tanks, strategists and tacticians have only proven their simple arrogance and ignorance. They should read history, and analyze the objective realities. No foreign power was ever able to control Iraq . Iraq is a small country with great dignity, a sophisticated ancient civilisational legacy, and a very experienced national patriotic movement. The US cannot break this people’s will to live free and sovereign on its land, and over its resources, as all other peoples in the world. They should have asked the British.
Abdul Ilah Albayaty is a political analyst living in France ; Hana Al Bayaty is a member of the Executive Committee of the B Russell s Tribunal.