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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Irak, six années de destruction massive

Iraq : six years of mass destruction

Translated Thursday 2 July 2009, by Kristina Wischenkamper

The American army has withdrawn from all of the cities pending a final withdrawal of combat troops at the end of 2011. They leave behind them a fragile country that has been bled dry.

It was on Monday that the American army completed its withdrawal from all the Iraqi cities before withdrawing completely from Iraq at the end of 2011. The country’s security is now in the hands of some 750,000 Iraqi soldiers and police who will take control of the 157 evacuated American bases. Under the agreement signed last year by both countries, Washington will maintain a force of 100,000 men in Iraq along with substantial air power. The agreement also stipulates that the American troops will be allowed to intervene only under the coordination of the Iraqi authorities. They will be leaving behind them a country that is fragile and bled dry both politically and in terms of security.

The withdrawal comes six years after the speech given on 1 May 2003 by George Bush aboard the aircraft-carrier Abraham Lincoln announcing the end of combat operations. "In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country", he declared at the time. "We’re pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes. We’ve begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated." He concluded: "We’ve removed an ally of al Qaeda, and cut off a source of terrorist funding." It is true that Saddam Hussein and some of the leaders of the governing Baath party have been apprehended, judged, condemned to death [1]. But the claims about biological and chemical weapons have proved to be a huge lie [2]. As for securing and reconstructing the country, the current situation is a long way from being stable. And in terms of the economy – aside from oil production which Halliburton has got their hands firmly on – everything remains to be done. In short, what in the eyes of the Washington hawks should have been a military walk in the park, has turned into a terrifying war of destruction, torture, inter-faith conflicts, with the end effect of factionalising the country.

The process of dislocation started in May 2003 when Paul Bremer, the Administrator of Iraq, dissolved the army and the police and began a massive purge amongst the ministries and public enterprises under the pretext of debaathification. The country subsequently found itself with no administration to assure even minimal functions. In military terms these past six years of occupation have translated into large losses for the American army: more than 4,300 marines and GIs have been killed, close to 50,000 – that’s more than a third of the combat troops (146,000) have been injured, most of whom will be handicapped for life. According to the Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, the cost of the war has been more than two trillion dollars [3]. As for civilian losses on the Iraqi side –103,000 killed according to the official source – according to the human rights NGO the figure is more like 500,000 or above.

In order to bring the insurrection to a close, the American army has had to fight some terrible battles. There was the siege of Falluja in 2004, the bloody re-taking of Ramadi, Al Hamra, Routba, and Tell Affar between 2005 and 2008. The army resorted to torture as the scandal surrounding Abu Ghraib prison has shown. As for the ‘disappeared’, they too are many. These six years of occupation have seen, with the adoption of a new Constitution, the introduction of shariah law; and for women, the repeal of a law adopted in 1958 under the regime of General Abdel Karim Kassem, giving women equal rights with men. Islamism, in its Sunni and Shiite variants, has been introduced and put into place. Laicity has been pushed back. And, as in Lebanon, it’s the ethnic and religious vote that has predominated in the legislative and regional elections. Six years in which intercommunity cleavages have been reinforced, more and more often taking a violent turn as in the destruction of the Shiite mausoleum in Samara in February carried out by Al Qaeda’s Mossaab Zarkaoui.

In 2008, as a state and as a nation, Iraq had given way to a country splintered into three ethnic-religious entities: a Shiite south, a central region dominated by the Sunnis, and the north, practically an autonomous region of Kurdistan. And in the background, the capital Baghdad, where different communities are separated by concrete walls. Beside these geo-religious entities with vague geographic boundaries are also other pockets that might any day explode. Such is the case of Kirkut, the rich oil region claimed both by the large Turkish-speaking minority and the Kurds who want to annex it to the autonomous region of Kurdistan. Turkey has already made it known that it will not allow the annexing of this region to Kurdistan, while neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia has the intention of remaining passive.

Hassane Zerrouky

[1] See L’Humanité of 2 January 2007
[2] After several months of searching the thousands of inspectors sent by Washington to Iraq had found nothing and returned to the USA empty-handed.
[3] Stiglitz revised this estimate to three trillion in a 2008 Times article http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article3419840.ece

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