Iraqis tell US 'Don't stay, go away'
NEW YORK-- The television images coming out of Baghdad these days
are reminiscent of the battle scenes in the Israeli occupied territories
of the West Bank and Gaza.
The children pelt stones at monstrous battle tanks, religious leaders
exhort the congregation into a frenzy at Friday prayers, the threats
from suicide bombers keep trigger-happy soldiers on edge, and heavily
armed troops open fire killing civilian demonstrators, including
women and children. The scenes keep shifting from Ramallah to Baghdad
and from Gaza City to Basra.
At the village
of Al-Tallulah last week, the Iraqis went even further. They hurled
the worst insult at an enemy: they threw their worn-out leather
shoes and sandals at US military forces. And the shootings followed.
Reporting from the village, Chris Hughes of the London Daily Mirror
wrote: "I watched in horror as American troops opened fire
on a crowd of 1,000 unarmed people here yesterday." It all
started, he said, when a young boy hurled a sandal at a US jeep
- it ended with two Iraqis dead and 16 seriously injured.
When the news
reached New York of an earlier gunfire outside the Al-Kaahd school
last Monday, most news outlets first ran with the military's sanitized
version of the shooting: "several Iraqis were hit." The
subsequent news stories spoke of US military gunfire "killing"
13 unarmed protesters outside the school which was occupied by American
who were no fans of Saddam Hussein either, displayed signs which
provided a political sense of what's going on in Iraq now: "Down
With USA", "Don't Stay, Go Away" and "Bush is
the same as Saddam".
The US rationale
for going to war with Iraq has yet to be justified. The weapons
of mass destruction that Iraq is said to have possessed -- including
mobile laboratories, 30,000 munitions, 500 tons of chemical weapons,
25,000 litres of botulinum toxin, as the US claimed -- have yet
to be found.
The US was
also proved wrong when it claimed-- according to its own not-so-reliable
intelligence sources -- that the Iraqis would be using chemical
and biological weapons against American troops. Saddam Hussein still
remains a mystery. A de-stabilised Iraq is threatened by civil war.
American forces are under attack. And the US has still not discovered
any tangible links between Iraq and Al-Qaeda terrorists.
So, the US
has fallen back on its other great political mission in the Middle
East: replace a ruthless dictatorship in Iraq with multi-party democracy.
The motives seem altruistic, the goals commendable. But what happens
if the Iraqis using their new-found electoral power decide to elect
a rigidly Islamic government, Iranian-style?
This is one
of the biggest political nightmares for US policy makers and right
wing hawks in the Bush administration. US Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld has already warned that the US will not permit the establishment
of a theocracy in Iraq. The signs are ominous. Judging by the demands
for an Islamic government by the majority Shias in Iraq, the US
motivation to turn the entire Middle East into a huge haven for
democracy may backfire in the long run.
And as South
African President Thabo Mbeki said last month the American attempt
to introduce democracy is equivalent to force-feeding a person on
a hunger strike. Expressing his own fears for Africa-- a continent
which swings back and forth between democracy and military dictatorships--
Mbeki said that Western nations may one day turn to his part of
the world in their crusade to spread democracy worldwide.
facing the people of Iraq should serve as sufficient warning that
in future we, too, might have others descend on us, guns in hand
to force-feed us," he said. Real democracy, he argued, was
the product of evolution, not something to be imposed by an occupying
power on an unwilling people. Mbeki also vilified Western double
standards where two different political yardsticks are used to measure
democracy. The Africans have been criticised for tolerating lifetime
presidencies with no term limits: a fair criticism by any standards.
Britain does not limit the period during which a person may hold
the position of prime minister, to say nothing about the hereditary
position of head state" -- a post held by the Queen of England
for life, he added.
And worse still,
said Mbeki, Britain does not have an independent electoral commission
that conducts elections. Nor does it have an independent human rights
"And I have never heard of international observers verifying
whether any British election was free and fair," he added.