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Huge Iraq march says: U.S. out now!

Published Apr 12, 2007 12:52 AM

Four years ago, U.S. troops drove their armored personnel carriers and tanks into Baghdad, pulled down a statue of Saddam Hussein in a well-choreographed photo op, and announced they had “liberated” the city—which could barely function after U.S. planes and missiles had destroyed much of its infrastructure in “shock and awe.”

Just four years later, this April 9, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis marched the six miles from Kufa to Najaf, south of Baghdad, demanding an end to the U.S. occupation of their country. The marchers then held a rally in Revolution Square, named after a 1920 uprising against British colonial rule.

A Reuters report described the scene:

“Hundreds of banners saying ‘Down with Bush, Down with America’ were carried by protesters as Iraqi police and soldiers guarded checkpoints in and around Najaf and Kufa.

“Many people, draped in Iraqi flags, set U.S. flags ablaze and some trampled on and struck U.S. and Israeli flags painted on the ground with their shoes, an act considered one of the worst insults in Arab culture.

“’In four years of occupation, our sons have been killed and women made widows,’ cried Ahmed al-Mayahie, 39, a Shia from the southern city of Basra.

“’The occupier raised slogans saying Iraq is free, Iraq is liberated. What freedom? What liberation? There is nothing but destruction. We do not want their liberation and their presence. We tell them to get out of our land.’

“Falah Hassan Shanshil, an MP from al-Sadr’s parliamentary bloc, said: ‘This crowd has come to reject the American occupation and demand its withdrawal.’”

The Bush White House has made no comment.

This remarkable demonstration was held in the midst of a brutal war that has already cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Not only that, but it was held at the precise moment that the Pentagon was escalating the war in a “surge” that is supposed to prove it can be won and Iraq can be pacified.

In recent weeks, U.S. troops have been going house to house with Iraqi puppet forces in Baghdad, especially in the area known as Sadr City, terrorizing the population. They are supposedly searching for “insurgents,” but the massive demonstration showed that opponents of the U.S. war and occupation are everywhere in Iraq.

The corporate sponsors of the war, especially the oil companies and the military-industrial complex, need to be reassured that “normal” life—that is, a functioning economy that turns out profits for the big corporations—can be restored and their profits, which they call “American interests,” will be protected. They already have doubts on that score, and the ruling elite in the U.S., knowing they are more hated every day around the world, are split over what to do.

This demonstration of determination to get the occupiers out will only deepen the split and confusion in the U.S. ruling class.

When the invasion took place four years ago, the world was told that the Iraqi people, especially those from the Shia branch of Islam, would welcome the U.S. as “liberators.” Only some of the Sunnis, a minority in the country, had benefited under the old regime, it was said, and even they would not put up a fight.

This turned out to be the most colossal miscalculation of any U.S. imperialist administration in decades.

The resistance to the U.S. occupation is firmly rooted in all the Sunni areas, despite the Pentagon’s ruthless pounding of civilian concentrations like the cities of Falluja, Ramadi and Mosul, beginning in 2004. Now, it is indisputable that a huge part of the Shia population is also taking a stand and ready to fight to end the U.S. occupation.

The march from Kufa to Najaf was called by Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who went underground several months ago after his support base in Baghdad was targeted by the U.S. “surge.” Prominent also in the demonstration were Sunni clerics, in a show of unity against the occupation.

Rather than admit that the Iraqi people as a whole are overwhelmingly against the occupation and that U.S. troops should be brought home, the Bush administration has taken to Iran-baiting al-Sadr and other Shia leaders. The rationale for the war has shifted again; it’s no longer weapons of mass destruction or al-Qaeda, it’s now Iran that is supposedly responsible for the resistance.

What is never admitted by the leaders of either capitalist party in the U.S., Democrat or Republican, is that it is the neocolonial project of U.S. big business in the Middle East and the brutality it has employed in an effort to break the Iraqi resistance that has turned virtually the whole population against the so-called “liberators.”

Four years into the war and occupation, the Iraqi people are suffering under the most atrocious conditions of life—no reliable water supply or electricity, massive unemployment, the shortage of everything needed for daily living, and all this on top of the constant threat of death and destruction as the whole country has become a war zone.

Nor can they have any confidence that the election of the Democrats to leadership of Congress will bring them any respite—especially when leading Democrats like Hillary Clinton were arguing for years that the U.S. should send more troops to Iraq, a program that George W. Bush has now claimed as his own. He has decided to send 13,000 National Guard troops for their second tour and to extend the time troops spend in Iraq from 12 to 15 months, putting unbearable pressure on the rank-and-file.

The jousting now going on in Washington over the war spending bill, which everyone knows will end in the Democrats funding the war even as Bush rejects any timetable for withdrawal, must only deepen the frustration of the Iraqi people.

The demonstration of hundreds of thousands in Najaf showed that they’re not going to wait until 2008 and a promise that some troops will be withdrawn at some time. They are putting the U.S. and British occupiers on notice that their resistance will only grow.

Those who want to end the bloodshed and suffering on all sides and the criminal diversion of resources to this war must also find ways to unite and stop the war makers.