Mutiny in Iraq

By Klein, Naomi | The Nation, May 17, 2004 | Go to article overview

Mutiny in Iraq


Klein, Naomi, The Nation


Can we please stop calling it a quagmire? The United States isn't mired in a bog or a marsh in Iraq (quagmire's literal meaning); it is free-falling off a cliff. The only question now is: Who will follow the Bush clan off this precipice, and who will refuse to jump?

More and more are, thankfully, choosing the second option. The last month of inflammatory US aggression in Iraq has inspired what can only be described as a mutiny: Waves of soldiers, workers and politicians under the command of the US occupation authority are suddenly refusing to follow orders and abandoning their posts. First Spain announced it would withdraw its troops, then Honduras, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Kazakhstan. South Korean and Bulgarian troops were pulled back to their bases, while New Zealand is withdrawing its engineers. El Salvador, Norway, the Netherlands and Thailand will likely be next.

And then there are the mutinous members of the US-controlled Iraqi army. Since the latest wave of fighting began, they've been donating their weapons to resistance fighters in the South and refusing to fight in Falluja, saying that they didn't join the army to kill other Iraqis. By late April, Maj. Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division, was reporting that "about 40 percent [of Iraqi security officers] walked off the job because of intimidation. And about 10 percent actually worked against us."

And it's not just Iraq's soldiers who have been deserting the occupation. Four ministers of the Iraqi Governing Council have resigned their posts in protest. Half the Iraqis with jobs in the secured "green zone"--as translators, drivers, cleaners--are not showing up for work. And that's better than a couple of weeks ago, when 75 percent of Iraqis employed by the US occupation authority stayed home (that staggering figure comes from Adm. David Nash, who oversees the awarding of reconstruction contracts).

Minor mutinous signs are emerging even within the ranks of the US military: Privates Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey have applied for refugee status in Canada as conscientious objectors and Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia is facing court martial after he refused to return to Iraq on the grounds that he no longer knew what the war was about [see Christian Parenti, "A Deserter Speaks," at www.thenation.com].

Rebelling against the US authority in Iraq is not treachery, nor is it giving "false comfort to terrorists," as George W. Bush recently cautioned Spain's new prime minister. It is an entirely rational and principled response to policies that have put everyone living and working under US command in grave and unacceptable danger. This is a view shared by fifty-two former British diplomats, who recently sent a letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair stating that although they endorsed his attempts to influence US Middle East policy, "there is no case for supporting policies which are doomed to failure."

And one year in, the US occupation of Iraq does appear doomed on all fronts: political, economic and military. On the political front, the idea that the United States could bring genuine democracy to Iraq is now irredeemably discredited: Too many relatives of Iraqi Governing Council members have landed plum jobs and rigged contracts, too many groups demanding direct elections have been suppressed, too many newspapers have been closed down and too many Arab journalists have been murdered while trying to do their job. The most recent casualties were two employees of Al Iraqiya television, shot dead by US soldiers while filming a checkpoint in Samarra. Ironically, Al Iraqiya is the US-controlled propaganda network that was supposed to weaken the power of Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, both of which have also lost reporters to US guns and rockets over the past year.

White House plans to turn Iraq into a model free-market economy are in equally rough shape, plagued by corruption scandals and the rage of Iraqis who have seen few benefits--either in services or jobs--from the reconstruction. …

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