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Iraq "war" to last "3-5 years"

by Captain Doughfish Monday, Apr. 21, 2003 at 4:35 PM

It ain't over yet, and even when it ends, it still won't be over ( see )

Comments and article:

Friday night on C-Span, during a Future of Iraq

conference, A military official (marines?) said that

the current phase of war in Iraq is a guerilla war

that is expected to last 3-5 years and require 60,000

troops. He said that it would be different from

Vietnam because it's taking place in the cities

instead of the countryside. The so called "liberal

press" has already declared victory, except for

"pockets of resistence". It will soon be forgotten.

That just shows that the political spectrum is a joke.

No doubt the war will be reported once in a while as

a war against scattered pockets of religious fanatics.

In dictatorships, those who consent are "good". Those

who oppose are "evil" and expendable. Shiites and

Sunis are not only protesting our troops and urging

alliances, but in many cases threatening to kick them

out of the country. Here's an article about that from

sf-frontline, compiled from many sources:

By Frontlines correspondents, with additional

information from AFP, Reuters, AP, Al-Jazeera,

Al-Arayiba and Abu Dhabi

Tens of thousands of Iraqis demonstrated following

Friday prayers. There were Shias from the Eastern

parts of the City and Sunnis from the West and Central

Baghdad: clerics, Muslim organizations, but also

members of professional associations, small merchants,

lower strata of the Baath Party and students, some of

them from the left wing Iraqi National Liberation


The largest of the demonstrations occurred when 50,000

people jammed the streets of Al-Sadr City, formerly

known as Saddam City, patrolled by

Kalashnikov-wielding guards.

But other hundreds of thousands poured out of mosques

around the city and in a number of other cities around

the country, like Najuf, Karbala, Mosul and Basra, and

demonstrated against Washington's presence.

While some mainstream media reports in the US focused

on one of the demonstrations, with 12,000 people who

marched through Downtown Baghdad, the scope and

breadth of the mass mobilizations at many other sites

went mainly unreported.

Baghdad: Downtown Demonstration

The marchers came from several mosques and converged

in a central district, Aadhamiya, for the peaceful


One of the biggest columns came from Abi Hanifah

Nouman mosque. Its dome was bombed during the recent


Earlier, each Mosque had its own rally and marches

through different neighborhoods.

``Leave our country, we want peace,'' read one banner

aimed at the Americans who seized control nine days

ago but failed to check looting, power blackouts and

chaos in the aftermath.

``No Bush, No Saddam, Yes Yes to Islam,'' read


Some of the organizers of the "unity march" in

Downtown Baghdad called themselves the Iraqi National

United Movement and said they represented both Iraq's

majority Shi'ite Muslims and powerful Sunnis.

Shi'ites, close to Iran's leaders, were marginalized

under Saddam's Sunni-dominated government and some

Iraqis have feared sectarian clashes could erupt.

``No Shi'ites, No Sunnis, Yes Yes for United Islam,''

another banner read.

Strong opposition to US occupation

The sermons around the capital offered a taste of the

first clear reaction among Muslim clergy to the

three-week war and US occupation.

At the Al-Hikma mosque Sheikh Mohammad Fartusi said

the Shia would not accept a brand of democracy “that

allows Iraqis to say what they want but gives them no

say in their destiny.”

“This form of government would be worse than Saddam

Hussein,” he said. He also urged the faithful to

follow the Hawza in Najaf.

According to Al-Jazeera "If they initially offered a

cautious hand, Iraqis are becoming increasingly

critical of the US failure to restore order and basic

services such as water and electricity."

But others at the demonstrations offered a different

explanation: that Iraqis are not only against the US

presence because of its failure to restore order and

stop looting, but also because the US attacked the

country with no reason but to take over the oil and

impose a government that would obey orders from


The head of the Tehran-based Supreme Assembly of

Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI), which has a major

following in Iraq, has called for a “political regime

guaranteeing liberty, independence and justice for all

Iraqis under the reign of Islam.”

Lebanon's top Shia cleric Sheikh Mohammad Hussein

Fadlallah urged Iraqis on Friday to open their eyes to

the US occupation and to rebuild Iraq without

Washington or London supervision.

“We call on the oppressed good people of Iraq…to

prevent the birth of a new dictator from inside and

abroad and to open their eyes to the methods of the

occupier,” said Fadlallah in his sermon.

“We trust you…to come together without American or

British oversight to build a new Iraq that respects

the people and gives them their rights,” he said.

The Mosques and neighborhoods are now patrolled by

Kalashnikov-wielding volunteers who are trying to

control looting. These volunteers, most of them young

Iraqis, were also in force to protect demonstrations.

Waving banners in English and Arabic reading “Leave

our country, we want peace,” protestors outside of the

Abu Hanifa Al-Numan Mosque chanted “No to America, no

to Saddam” and “This homeland is for the Shia and

Sunni,” in a sign of unity among the two groups. One

of the groups, about 500-strong, carried a banner

saying "Iraq for the Iraqis."

"US out now! The Iraqi people never let you in!" said

another sign. Many demonstrators were holding signs

reading "US=UK=Star of David=Killers; That is what we


Both at the entrance of Mosques and outside, there

were impromptu speeches by clerics, but also by

secular student and community activists.

A Shia neighborhood activist who was heading a

delegation from the Al-Sarl City, formerly Saddam

City, in the Eastern District told the crowd "the time

for revolution has come, now is not the time of

confrontation amongst us, but a time to kick out

Americans from our soil."

The majority of Iraq's 25-million strong population is

60 percent Shia, which has been ruled ruthlessly under

Saddam Hussein's mostly Sunni elitist regime. In

recent days however, there has been mounting

discontent from among the Shia to Washington's

presence in Iraq.

There were also increasing signs of rejection of the

obvious maneuvers by the Anglo-American forces to

split the Shia community between "collaborators" and

"resistance advocates."

Protestors called for unity among Iraqis and urged all

to put aside past conflicts and differences. There

were leaflets and some periodicals being distributed

among the crowd, the first signs of organized

political and religious groups coming to the fore.

"Whe should not be divided by the invaders" - said a

young Iraqi who climbed on the shoulders of another

student - "we must fight together against them."

Al-Jazeera TV correspondent Youseff Al-Shouly reported

it was the first non-state organized protest in the

Iraqi capital in decades, describing it as a

significant development.

In the first Friday prayers since US tanks rolled into

the heart of Baghdad last week, Imam Ahmad Al-Kubaisi

said in his sermon that the United States invaded Iraq

to defend Israel and denied that Iraq possessed

weapons of mass destruction.

One of the leaflets being circulated stated, "we have

been betrayed by Arab leaders who are now buckling

under the yoke of US imperialism."

Many in the demonstration talked about the

self-appointed "Iraqi leaders, who are stooges for the


Meanwhile, Iraqi Christians marked Good Friday with

prayers for resurrection of peace and normality at

several churches. But many Christians expressed

concern that the collapse of Hussein's government and

the advent of democracy in a Muslim majority nation

could spell an end to the relative religious freedom

they enjoyed under the secular Baath Party.

Hundreds of Christians also marched to mosques around

town to join Muslims in anti-US demonstrations and to

link with Muslims. "We are a minority and our fate is

linked to the kind of political system we are able to

create out of the ashes of our country" - said a

Christian activist at the demonstration - "we need to

fight for unity as Iraqis, first and above all."

Simultaneously with the demonstration, the Arab TV

station Abu Dhabi released a video tape depicting

Saddam Hussein speaking to a crowd of Iraqis and

claimed the video was recorded on April 9, the same

day that two hundred Iraqis cheered the destruction of

Saddam's statue by US Marines.

In the tape, Saddam said "We will win at the end." US

High Command cast doubts about the date of the tape

and recognized that many at the demonstration in

Baghdad were demanding that Iraqis will self-rule.

May US journalists and the US High Command raised

doubts about the authenticity of Saddam’s tape, but

Abu Dhabi executives offered to disclosed proof of the

authenticity of the film and signed affidavits of many

people who witnessed Saddam’s appearance.

Many observers and journalists in Baghdad said that

they were surprised by the size and organization of

the 12,000-strong demonstration. While at the same

time ignoring the 50,000-strong march in the Eastern

side of the city and many others taking place


"This is not spontaneous activity" - a French reporter

noted - "you can see many banners, slogans, organized

groups coming from different parts of the city, this

is without doubt something that was prepared during

the week, with meetings and groups being assigned

different tasks."

US troops maintained their distance from Al-Sadr city,

except for rapid raids at specific targets, mostly at

abandoned sites. During Friday's demonstrations around

Baghdad, US troops were ordered to maintain their

distance and avoid confrontation.

Among the US soldiers were a variety of reactions to

the demonstrations. Some showed nervousness and shock:

“Why are they protesting against us?” – said a Marine

at the entrance of the Palestine Hotel – “We came to

liberate them and now WE are the enemy?”

Shia clergy call for US withdrawal from Iraq

According to Al-Jazeera, a cleric at one of Shia

Islam's holiest shrines in the Iraqi city Karbala

denounced the presence of US troops in the country

during Friday prayers, saying it amounted to

imperialism by “unbelievers.”

“We reject this foreign occupation, which is a new

imperialism. We don't want it anymore,” Sheikh Kaazem

Al-Abahadi Al-Nasari told thousands of Muslim faithful

at the mausoleum of Imam Hussein, revered by the Shias

as the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad.

An Iraqi Shia woman takes her child to the Imam

Hussein mosque in Karbala, some 100 km south of

Baghdad for preparations ahead of the anniversary of

Imam Hussein's death next week.

“We don't need the Americans. They're here to control

our oil. They're unbelievers, but as for us, we have

the power of faith,” she said.

Friday prayers resumed at this sacred site last week

for the first time since May 2002 after being banned

by deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, fearful of

Shia opposition to his rule.

Iraq's 25-million strong community is 60 percent Shia

who were violently repressed and not represented

politically under Hussein.

The Shias are flexing their new political muscle

Sheikh Nasri denounced “those politicians who are

coming back to Iraq supported by the Americans and

British, who given the opportunity would only obey

American orders.”

His speech may have been a veiled jab at Ahmad

Chalabi, who bills himself as a secular Shia, and who

is reportedly a Pentagon favorite for leading Iraq.

Chalabi, who left Iraq in 1958 and returned in recent

months, said Friday he had no plans for running the


Sheikh Nasri also called on Shias to back the Hawza,

the Shia religious school in another holy city Najaf,

which has witnessed violence in recent days over who

will lead the religious community.

Many Iraqi leaders, both from the Shia and Sunni

communities, stated their belief that the US

encouraged the looting and civil disorder following

the US takeover of Baghdad is order to justify its

presence in the years to come. "They [US and Britain]

would do everything in their power to show we are

incapable of governing ourselves" - said one of the

speakers at the main demonstration on Friday - "they

will try to make us believe that we are children who

need the protection of the big parents of the world.

But we should fight against the division in our ranks

and start ruling ourselves."

At the moment of this writing, reports about

demonstrations in Mosul, Basra and Najuf are starting

to appear in some Arab media.

Towards a new resistance movement?

It is too early to tell whether this growing

opposition movement against the US/British presence in

Iraq will develop into a powerful movement of

resistance or will be channeled by Shia and Sunni

leaders into pressure movements to obtain better

positions for emerging leaders of both communities in

the face of the collapse of Saddam's regime and the

deep crisis of the Baath Party.

An Italian journalist in Baghdad told Frontlines that

“I see the evolving political situation as a very

complex one. The removal of Saddam Hussein's regime

from power has removed a heavy lid that maintained all

the issues of Iraqi society unresolved, but also

created new issues as important as those.”

He explained that old political and social issues,

long repressed under Saddam Hussein, like the

oppression of Shias, are now coming to the fore. “But

they are now mixing with new issues, like the future

of the largest, and formerly dominant, minority in

Iraq, the Sunnis.”

“They have points of differences” – he said – “but

they are also united in the common goal to get rid of

the US occupation.” There are also small but powerful

layers of society that would like to see a separation

between religion and the state or even secular rule by


“At any rate – the Italian said – there is also the

question of the exiles, particularly Chabali and

others – coming from without and trying to buy

positions of power.”

There were 2 million Baath Party members, out of which

probably 60,000 were very active and many still remain

active. They are not a homogenous force any more. Many

felt betrayed by the leadership in their struggle

against the invasion, and their structures, mostly

around the state apparatus, have been destroyed. “But

it was clear at today's demonstrations that many of

them were active and they are the ones pushing the

line of 'forget past differences, now we have a common


With the passage of time, and the uncertainty about

jobs, health services, water and power, the lack of

money, food, and continuous looting and thousands of

other day to day problems, a large layer of society

will turn their eyes to the past “there are already

many people in Baghdad that say that 'under Saddam we

did not have these problems'”

On the other hand, there are many Iraqis that seem to

believe that the US is not about to liquidate the

former Baath Party structures, but is working towards

integrating parts of those structures to its own

“colonial administration.”

Self-Appointed Leaders

They point to the fact that Ahmad Chalabi, the

self-appointed leader of the Iraqi National Congress

(INC), the most pro-US grouping of exiles, is in favor

of only going after the high echelon of the former

regime, and is for preserving the Baath Party's ranks

to “reconstruct Iraq.”

On Wednesday, two close associates of an Iraqi

opposition leader said that they had been elected

governor and mayor of Baghdad by tribal and religious

chiefs acting with the consent of occupying US troops.

Shia and Sunni leaders in Baghdad, however, stated

that most people working with Chalabi were former

beneficiaries of Saddam Hussein's regime and “very few

at that.”

“Chalabi is a crook, a US puppet and he is playing a

very dangerous game” – they said – “one in which he

plans to transform the militias he armed with the help

of the US Special forces into an 'Iraqi' army and buy

as many former Saddamists as possible to construct his

own power base. Won't work as most Iraqis are against

both a new dictatorship based on force and against the

US presence.”

According to Al-Jazeera, Captain Joe Plenzler, a

spokesman for the US Marines here, shot down the

claim. "Anyone declaring themselves as mayor or

anything else is just not true. The US government has

not appointed anyone."

"Anyone can call themselves anything they want to,"

Plenzler said, adding "But future appointments like

this will be handled through USAID (the US Agency for

International Development)."

Mohammed Mohsen Zubeidi, a veteran anti-Saddam Hussein

politician, earlier looked official enough with a huge

media entourage to boot as he proclaimed himself head

of a new interim administration for Baghdad. His

“appointment” was one of the two denied by the US.

Zubeidi is closely associated with Chalabi.

Zubeidi said Iraq's political life was reawakening,

and that he had beeen coordinating with the US forces

here and meeting with them every day. But he said he

has had no contact so far with Jay Garner, the retired

US general named by Washington as civil administrator

to overlook the post-war reconstruction of Iraq.

In spite of Captain Joe Plenzler's assertion, both

Chalabi and Zubeidi are accompanied by US Marines and

US Special Forces at all times and US High Command's

spokesperson Gral Brooke stated that they “are

emerging leaders with whom we are working … they had

not been appointed or elected as far as we know, but

that does not mean we would not collaborate with


Contradictorily, the pro-US Iraqi politician Ahmad

Chalabi returned to Baghdad on Wednesday on his first

visit to the city since the overthrow of the monarchy

in 1958. "Our plans are to establish ourselves here,

to set up an office and begin the work towards

reconstructing democracy and civil society in Iraq,"

said a Chalabi aide Zaab Sethna.

"His first plan is to go see his old home and then

start building democracy in Iraq," added Sethna. A

statement by the Iraqi National Congress of which

Chalabi is head said he and the leaders of four other

political groups would meet in Baghdad shortly to

constitute the Iraqi Leadership Council.

The council of five, which could be expanded, will not

have anyone from the US in it. Besides Chalabi, the

others are Shia Supreme Council for the Islamic

Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) representative Abdelaziz

Hakim, Ayad Allawi of the Iraqi National Accord and

the heads of two Kurdish groups -- Massoud Barzani and

Jalal Talabani.

But the common objectives of Chalabi and SCIRI on one

hand and those of the Kurdish leaders and Chalabi and

SCIRI are tenuous at best.

According to a report from AP news services,

representatives of other groups jockeying for power in

postwar Iraq were unimpressed. Mahmoud Osman, a

Kurdish leader living in London, said Chalabi looked

like "an American propagandist."

Hamid al-Bayati, a British representative for the

Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq,

said Chalabi might be "gambling on running for office"

despite his claims to the contrary.

The Baghdad meeting announced by Chalabi is said to be

complementary to the consultation process which began

in Nassiriya on Tuesday under US chairmanship. US

sources, however, showed concern about Chalabi's moves

that they view not as complementary but in

contradiction to the US-sponsored Nasariyah meeting

which Chalabi refused to attend.

Pro-Imperialist Puppet

According to the London-based Guardian, who attended

the first press conference of Chalabi, he was clear on

his support for US imperial grabbing of Iraq:

"The US has a record of supporting the liberation of

Iraq. President Bush very courageously took up the

cause on September 12 2002," he said.

"The security council has been less than helpful in

liberating Iraq. It dealt with Saddam Hussein as

though he ran a normal state. The UN is not capable

and does not have the credibility in Iraq to play a

major role. The moral imperative is on the United


He accused France and Germany, which opposed the

attack on Iraq, of being "de facto allies of Saddam

Hussein". Insisting he merely wanted to help to

rebuild civil society, Mr Chalabi said he was not a

candidate for any government office. But he slipped up

when he said that in spite of the French and German

positions, "we will maintain... I expect the future

government of Iraq will maintain democratic relations

with all countries."

Asked whether the war had been worth it, Mr Chalabi

said: "It certainly is. The number of Iraqis getting

killed now is far less than the number who would have

been killed on a daily basis under Saddam."

“Chalabi is both the agent of the US, and a practical

politician – observed an Iraqi journalist working for

an European TV station – he knows that he can't do

anything without the support of the US and the

remnants of Saddam's regime, since most other people

in Iraq look at him with scorn. The widespread view

inside Iraq is that those who stayed and suffered in

Iraq are the ones who should shape its future.”

Chalabi will probably become, together with his bosses

in Washington and other collaborators with the

occupation, the common enemy of all those in other

layers of Iraqi society. This will be the closest to

an emerging mass movement against the colonial rule of

the country. That is probably why Chalabi is trying to

show some independence from both the US and the more

radical oppositionists of the US occupation.

International events to help shape Iraq's future

One of the effects of the global anti-war movement on

the Iraqi people is that ordinary Iraqis are well

aware of the world's opposition to the invasion of the

US. This, in fact, is a topic of discussion and

conversation in cafes and gatherings of Iraqis in

Baghdad and elsewhere.

Even religious Shia activists are impressed with the

role of the anti-war movement in Europe, the Arab

countries and even in the US. This is clearly shown by

the fact that while many activists revile the role of

the US/British governments in Iraq, most of the time

they qualify their comments by saying that they are

not against the people in the US and Britain.

On the Arab mass movement against the US invasion,

Iraqis feel lots of closeness with the protesters,

with as much intensity as they despise the Arab

leaders. Many Iraqis hold the view that the people of

the Middle East should rid themselves of “the Saddams

of their own countries” for the Middle East to be able

to rid itself of both “the US and the Zionists.”

Iraq then, and its occupation, may very well be

transformed into a critical point for political change

in the Middle East and also on the international

level. “Our Arab brothers are demoralized, betrayed –

said one of the speakers at Friday's demonstration –

because they expected us to do more to defend

ourselves against occupation and get rid of Saddam

Hussein ourselves. Maybe this show of force would

encourage them to fight again, not only in solidarity

with our cause, but against their own rulers …”

Contacts from other countries in the Middle East and

the growing opposition inside Iraq are not limited to

the agents of governments but also to organizations,

both Muslim and left wing groups, active in Syria,

Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon and Iran.

Over time as communications are reestablished,

contacts between groups and organizations in the

anti-war movement on other continents and those

resisting inside Iraq will increase. More and more, a

global anti-imperialist movement needs to take shape,

based on the right for self-determination of nations

combined with mutual help and aid to stop the US

Empire from further attacks.

One obstacle, however, is the fact that the anti-war

movement around the world is now in a downward spiral

because of the sense that US/British imperial forces

achieved a decisive and total victory. Yesterday's

demonstrations seems to indicate that this is not the


“One of the dangers – antiwar activists in the US told

Frontlines – is that many people bought the US

propaganda that US forces were received as

'liberators' by the Iraqi people. The Anglo-American

occupation of Iraq is not the end, but the beginning

of a new phase of the movement.”

Update: Numbers at demonstrations.


50,000 at Al-Sarl City (formerly Saddam City)

15,000 at Downtown Baghdad

Aproximately 30,000 at other Mosques in Mosaud

District, Aadhamiya, Abi Hanifah Nouman mosque and


Mosul: Over 10,000

Nasariyah: 30,000

Basra: 8-10,000

Najuf: 8-9,000

Tikrit: 10,000

Kut: 5,000 converged at this town's City Hall that

remains occuppied by Shia activists.

Submit articles and reports to the Frontlines



by the way, in the signature below, replace "100" with



--"Is there any man here... who does not know that the seed of war in

the modern world is industrial and commercial rivalry?... This war, in

its inception, was a commercial and industrial war. It was not a

political war." - President Woodrow Wilson, St. Louis, September 11, 1919

--"America is not good and Saddam is not good. My people refused Saddam

Hussein, and they will refuse the Americans." "If this continues in

Baghdad, we'll kill any American or British soldier." -2 of 100 Jubilant

Iraqis tearing down a Saddam statue among empty streets lined with tanks

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