Last week, barely a month after George W. Bush had won reelection, the United States announced that it will increase the number of troops it has in Iraq from the present 138,000 to 150,000. An additional 12,000 troops will be deployed by mid-January, or two weeks before the January 30 Iraqi elections. Earlier plans had called for the reduction in the number of US troops. In 2003 the plan was to have no more than a force of 50,000 by the end of that year.
The deployment shows that the security situation in Iraq is still as bad as, or even worse than, before US forces attacked and took Falluja, the base of the Iraqi resistance, last month. With 138 US dead, November was the deadliest month for US troops since March 2003 and April this year. But Iraqi police and security troops are being killed in larger numbers, with over a hundred killed in the first week of December alone.
The elections are critical to both short- and long- term US aims. If credible enough, they will be seen as an indication that the “democracy” the US used, among other reasons, to justify its attack on Iraq is being realized. They should help dispel the widespread view that the Allawi interim government is a US puppet. If that happens, the resistance could lose support, security could improve, and US troops released to attack elsewhere (Iran is their next likely target).
But analysts see the elections as either not likely to take place, or, if they do, to be wracked by violence. It is not yet known how many political parties will participate, how secure the polling places will be, whom the US will allow to vote, and what’s more important, who will risk their lives by going to the polls on election day.
The Iraqi resistance has promised reprisals for those participating in the elections, and one estimate says that 50 people–voters, Iraqi policemen and US troops– could get killed on election day. While that number won’t seem exceptional to Filipinos used to the violence of their own elections, under existing conditions in Iraq it could strain not only the credibility of the exercise, but also the US and interim government’s capacity to protect voters.
Meanwhile, Iraqi guerillas have intensified their attacks, particularly on Iraqi policemen and soldiers collaborating with the US occupation forces. Those attacks show that despite their withdrawal from Falluja, where the United States command claimed it had decisively defeated the “insurgency,” the guerillas are far from a spent force, and can still strike anytime and anywhere, including against the heavily fortified “Green Zone” in Baghdad, where the interim government has its offices.
Meanwhile, the minority Sunnis and the Kurds, representing over a dozen political parties, are asking that the elections be postponed for six months, while the majority Shiites, who expect to win most of the posts, want them held as scheduled. In addition to the possibility that Shiite fundamentalists could win (which the United States does not want to happen, given the Shiite clerics’ links to the Ayatollahs of Iran) the Sunnis’ non-participation could also trigger a civil war.
Reports about the killing of civilians in Falluja are not helping the US any either. Although the US media tried mightily to describe the videotaped shooting by a US marine of an unarmed civilian as due to the chaos that attends any military engagement, reports on the killing of hundreds of civilians during the first Falluja siege last April as well as last November’s persist.
Journalist Naomi Klein of Britain’s The Guardian has also alleged that in addition to killing civilians, US forces are “eliminating anyone–doctors, clerics, journalists–who dares to count the bodies.”
In a letter to the US ambassador to the United Kingdom, Klein recalled that during the first siege of Falluja last April, the US was forced to withdraw and to hand the city back to the Iraqi resistance because reports of civilian deaths at the hands of US forces had triggered uprisings all over Iraq.
There were three main sources for the information regarding civilian deaths: doctors, Arab journalists, and clerics. When US troops attacked Falluja again last November, said Klein, this time they also targeted doctors, journalists and clerics in an attempt to prevent reports on civilian casualties from spreading.
Klein pointed out that “the first major operation by US marines and Iraqi soldiers was to storm Falluja General Hospital, arresting doctors and placing the facility under military control.” Two days earlier, the US command had bombed an emergency health clinic as well as a medical dispensary, killing 19 medical workers and 35 patients. By November 14, not a single Iraqi surgeon was left in Falluja.
No Arab journalists were allowed to cover the November siege. The lone Arab reporter who tried was arrested by US troops on November 11. His arrest and detention has been condemned by Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation of Journalists, which declared that the reporter’s arrest was meant to intimidate him and other independent journalists.
Klein pointed out that US forces had intimidated and attacked journalists before. On April 8, 2003, US aircraft bombed Al Jazeera offices in Baghdad, killing one of its reporters. On the same day, a US tank fired on the Palestine Hotel, also in Baghdad, killing two journalists.
Several Islamic clerics have also been arrested, said Klein. One was taken November 11 for speaking out against the killing of civilians. On November 19, US forces stormed a Sunni mosque, killing three people and arresting 40 people, including the chief cleric who was equally opposed to the Falluja siege. On the same day, another mosque was raided, and two clerics arrested.
Klein concludes that the US “government and its Iraqi surrogates are waging two wars in Iraq. One war is agains the Iraqi people, and it has claimed an estimated 100,000 lives. The other is a war on witnesses.”
Some of the journalists, doctors and clerics have “only” been arrested and detained. But anyone arrested by US troops, the Abu Ghraib and other US prison abuses reveal, can be tortured, whether in Iraq or elsewhere. A recent declaration by the US Attorney General’s Office now says that evidence extracted through torture can be used by the US military to justify the indefinite imprisonment of foreign nationals in its concentration camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Associate Attorney General Brain Doyle made the statement at a US district court last December 2. Doyle also argued that those detainees being held on vague “terrorism” charges at Guantanamo who had complained that their rights had been violated had “no constitutional rights enforceable in this court,” and that “nothing in the due process clause (of the US Constitution)” prevented military judges from relying on evidence extracted through torture.
George W. Bush won reelection last November 2 on the strength of the so-called “morality vote” driven by an alliance of Christian fundamentalists and a handful of Catholic bishops.
That alliance, and its clueless constituency, defined “morality” purely in terms of opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion, and stem-cell research. Its definition did not include opposition to torture, to the killing of civilians, the arrest of people who don’t agree with you, or even to putting more young men and women in danger in a place that since 2003 has become the most dangerous in the world to be, thanks to Bush and company.
Apparently, to the 51 percent of the US electorate who voted for Bush, everything else the US government is “moral.” Expect further indications of how moral the US government will be in Iraq and anywhere else on the planet as the Bush II administration puts its plans of world conquest in higher gear by 2005.