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U.S. occupation ‘ends,’ amid turmoil and misery

Published Dec 23, 2011 8:18 PM

As Washington was announcing the end of its occupation, Iraqis burned U.S. flags, brandished banners and thronged the streets of Falluja to celebrate the U.S. troops’ withdrawal from the former resistance stronghold and site of some of the Iraq War’s fiercest battles.

Some 3,000 people flooded the city carrying Iraqi flags and banners that said, “Falluja: the City of Resistance.” Many carried photographs of city residents who had been killed by U.S. forces after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

“Celebrations mark a historical day for the city of Falluja, and we should remember in pride the martyrs who sacrificed their blood for the sake of this city,” said Dhabi al-Arsan, deputy governor of Anbar province, to the crowd. (Reuters, Dec. 15)

Falluja, a main city in the western desert province of Anbar, served as a base for Iraqi fighters after the invasion. It was the site of two major conflicts in 2004. U.S. troops used overwhelming force — tanks, fighter jets and helicopter gunships — to crush insurgents there. Hundreds of Iraqis were killed in the fighting and thousands were forced to flee their homes.

Despite this and other so-called “victories,” nearly nine years after the invasion that drove the Ba’ath party and former President Saddam Hussein from power, Washington says it is ending its military presence and pulling out the remaining 5,500 U.S. troops before Dec. 31.

No reason to be proud

President Barack Obama all but declared victory as he announced that most U.S. troops would be home “before the holidays.” He praised the soldiers for their efforts in Iraq. But there is nothing to be proud of.

The war cost the United States 4,483 military deaths and tens of thousands wounded, many disabled for life. But the costs to the Iraqis were much higher. The Opinion Research Business Survey counted more than 1 million civilian Iraqi deaths as a result of the conflict. This does not count the thousands who died because of the systematic destruction of most of Iraq’s infrastructure, including the water and electricity supply, and what was once the best medical organization in the region.

The war has wreaked enormous havoc on Iraq’s social structure. There are now nearly 5 million Iraqi refugees. Two million of them were forced to flee the country.

Nor did all U.S. troops behave “magnificently.” Today, Pfc. Bradley Manning is in solitary confinement, facing a life sentence on charges of allegedly leaking internal Pentagon documents, including evidence of U.S. war crimes.

Someone released to WikiLeaks a Pentagon video showing a U.S. helicopter gunship massacre of nearly a dozen unarmed Iraqi civilians and the wounding of two children. Whatever soldier released that truth should be considered a hero, say Manning’s defenders.

Once the initial invasion and occupation failed to establish a stable puppet Iraqi regime, Washington purposely seized on and exacerbated divisions among ethnic and religious groups in Iraq. The U.S. separated the Kurdish region and set quotas for Sunni and Shiite groups in the government, using a “divide and conquer” strategy. Despite Pentagon assurances to the contrary, there is still much violence. In one day, six people were killed and 44 wounded in apparent political and ethnic violence across the country.

In addition, that day, as U.S. troops crossed the border into Kuwait, more than half the Iraqi Parliament withdrew to protest the policies of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has initiated a crackdown on his political and ethnic enemies.

Iraq’s parliamentary committee on education says that their country, which once had one of the highest literacy rates in the Middle East, now has one of the worst. ”While Iraq boasted a record low illiteracy rate for the Middle East in the 1980s, illiteracy jumped to at least 20 percent in 2010. Moreover, illiteracy among women in Iraq, at 24 percent, is more than double that of men (11 percent). “ (Iraq Solidaridad, July 21)

No real end to occupation

The U.S. still maintains a sizable military presence in Iraq and will for some time to come. The largest U.S. embassy in the world is remaining, and the State Department has openly stated that it will take over most of the functions formerly carried out by regular troops. They will rely primarily on nearly 20,000 private “contractors,” i.e., mercenaries, who earned a fearsome reputation during the war for their rapacious and murderous policies toward civilians.

The U.S. claims that it is there to provide “stability” and train Iraqis to protect themselves from “foreign enemies” are patently false and absurd. Today, nearly all of the 700,000-strong Iraqi puppet army is positioned throughout the country to repress the population. U.S. forces will be across the border in Kuwait, kept there just in case Iraq’s puppet government deviates from the pursuit of U.S. interests.