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Socialist Democracy March 2004




On Saturday, December 13, 2003, United States forces captured former Iraq dictator, Saddam Hussein, thus ending almost nine months of manhunt for him. The former leader of Iraq, who was ousted by American soldiers in April 2003, was found hiding in a "spider hole" in a town, about 30 kilometres south of his ancestral hometown, Tikrit.

He was arrested with two unidentified people while weapon and more than $750,000 cash was said to have been found on him. Expectedly, while some people of Iraq celebrated his capture, Saddam Hussein's supporters took to the streets of Iraq's major cities in protest against his arrest.

Now that Saddam Hussein's has been captured, does it mean that the violence and suicide attack on American soldiers and their Iraqi loyalists will stop? Rather than subsided, it has been escalating. His arrest coincided with the death of 17 people and 30 others wounded in a car bomb near Baghdad, while barely 48 hours after his arrest, twin car bombs ripped through police stations, killing 8 people and wounding 17. Simultaneously, a suicide car bomb exploded at a post north of Baghdad, killing 8 people and wounding many while at the same time, another car bomb wounded four policemen at a special operation centre on the western edge of the capital.

While the Iraqi people did not want the continuation of government of Saddam Hussein, they strongly opposed the occupation of their country by imperialists led by the United States and Britain. Officially, about 622 coalition forces, mostly Americans, have died as of February 3, 2004 and about 2, 916 Americans wounded. More than half of the deaths as a result of various violent attacks and suicide bombings occurred after President George Bush of American declared major war victory on May 1, 2003.

The development of British and US spin analysts since Saddam's capture is a textbook illustration of the barefaced hypocrisy of the war leaders. Both Blair and Bush have attempted to use Saddam's seizure to sidestep the issue of the yet to be found "Weapons of Mass Destruction" (WMD) which they presented as the major justification for the war. They try to taunt opponents of the war by asking whether they would rather have Saddam's dictatorship still in power. Clearly, Blair hopes that his opponents have short memories. Just before the assault on Iraq began on 20 March, Blair told the House of Commons: "If he would cooperate with Hans Blix on the whereabouts of his WMDs, Saddam can stay in power".

Notwithstanding all the talk of a �turning point� or a �new start� in Iraq, Saddam's arrest has not resolved the crisis facing Iraqi society. The circumstances, in which Saddam was found, living in primitive conditions, showed that he was not directing the continuous daily attacks on both the occupying forces and the Iraqi police. To a certain extent, Saddam already represented the past even before his capture

The severe problems gripping the country will not disappear overnight, and Saddam's incarceration has further boosted Iraqi demands that the occupying powers should quit Iraq. Now, it is not so easy to accuse those opposing Iraq's occupation of wishing to bring Saddam back to power. Violence still continues. While recently there seems to have been fewer attacks on the occupying forces due to the scaled down US operations, there are reports of increasing assaults on the newly reconstituted Iraqi police, on those working with the occupiers' Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), and between different ethnic, religious and political forces.

The US is on the horns of a dilemma. It was much easier to invade Iraq than to withdraw. Bush is facing pressures at home and within Iraq. With the next US presidential elections in less than ten months, Bush would want to be formally out of Iraq as soon as possible, while in practice, the US troops will remain in Iraq under a different guise. However, he cannot risk chaos developing and potentially destabilising the entire region, which is a major source of the world's oil resources. But at the very least, Bush has to be able to present some semblance of progress and withdrawal before the November elections. At the same time, in Iraq there are the growing demands for self-determination and elections.

Just recently, tens of thousands of Shias, under the political leadership of cleric Ayatollah Sistani, demonstrated in Iraqi second city, Basra, against the US authorities' transition plans for Iraqi self-governance. They were demanding a general election to directly elect a parliament and accused the US plans of being tied to George Bush's presidential election this year.

Under the US' plan for 'Iraqisation' (self-governance), a provisional Iraqi regime will be established on July 1, 2004, to be superseded by an elected parliament in December 2005. The provisional and elected parliaments will both be subservient to the real power on the ground, the US with its 150,000 troops. The mechanism for the provisional parliament is highly convoluted. It involves a committee of 15 Iraqis appointed by the US occupation authorities that selects a local caucus, which in turn elects representatives to a new parliament in May. This is designed to ensure the emergence of a pro-coalition regime. Most Iraqis, however, will simply view it as a stooge parliament. Moreover, it will block the Shia clerics who, resting on the overwhelming Shi'ite population in Iraq, would otherwise expect to win a majority in a directly elected parliament.

Meanwhile, the US coalition authorities in Iraq are unable to deal with the growing anger of the unemployed who account for over 70% of the total Iraqi workforce. Recently, in the southern cities of Amara and Kut police and troops have opened fire on demonstrators demanding jobs. Many of the unemployed were members of Iraqi army dissolved by coalition forces.


The only way forward for the working people and other oppressed layers in Iraq is to unite and call for an immediate end to the US rule in Iraq. They should demand for immediate, direct elections to all tiers of government in Iraq. However, the mere taking over of the governance by the Iraqis will not improve the standard of living of vast majority of Iraqis as long as capitalism is the order of the day. For Iraqis to have a better standard of living, the Iraq working people, peasants, students and other poor Iraqis should begin the process of transforming Iraq along socialism where the commanding heights of economy will be democratically controlled and managed by the working people.



Socialist Democracy March 2004