Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1210, (21 - 27 August 2014)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1210, (21 - 27 August 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Scenes from a war zone called Iraq

Given the current events in Iraq, US officials have either forgotten their disastrous role in that country’s recent history or have nothing but contempt for the Iraqi people, writes Haifa Zangana

Al-Ahram Weekly

If one were to view the unfolding events in Iraq like a tragic movie script, some sequences might progress in the following manner, shedding light on the events that have led to the unravelling and demise of a once great nation.

Scene One is reminiscent of the silent cinema era: Five gloomy men in dark suits are standing. Two of the men take turns to mumble phrases that are inaudible to the audience. These men are not attending a funeral but confirmation of the appointment of Haider Al-Abadi as the new Iraqi prime minister. The other four figures, beside Al-Abadi, are Fuad Masum, the newly chosen Iraqi president, handing over the decree to confirm Al-Abadi’s appointment; Hussein Al-Shahristani, the current minister of foreign affairs and overall coordinator of energy, among other tasks, as deputy prime minister; Ibrahim Al-Jaffari, head of the Shia groups; and Salim Al-Juburi, the newly chosen parliamentary speaker.

This first scene seems to have been choreographed to show the representatives of the sectarian and ethnic parties that the US empowered after its occupation in a formal accord: Masum for the Kurdish parties, Al-Juburi for the Sunni groups, Al-Jaffari for the Shia groups, Al-Shahrastani for the religious authorities in Najaf, and Al-Abadi of the Shia Dawa Party. A wider angle shows the four key figures of the Shia coalition, indicating their representation in the largest parliamentary group.

 Broadcast on Iraqi state television last week, the scene took place in the corner of a sparsely furnished room somewhere in Baghdad’s Green Zone but not where the historic events of post-2003 Iraq normally take place, in huge halls with applauding audiences. It was a sombre scene showing defiance of the former prime minister, Nuri Al-Maliki.

Such defiance is needed. Al-Maliki was the supreme commander of the Iraqi armed forces for the past eight years. He has also been in charge of the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of the Interior, National Security Ministry, and has co-opted the Supreme Court to assign to him nine supposedly independent bodies, including the Central Bank, in charge of $700 billion of oil royalties over the past eight years; Integrity Commission, in charge of dealing with fraud and corruption; National Media Commission, in charge of television, radio and the press; and Justice Commission, in charge of deciding who can or cannot be employed or elected.

Al-Maliki is also the holder of the purse for funding a number of militias that carry out atrocities that soldiers and policemen cannot easily commit, and the tribal chiefs who support him against the population.

Scene Two is of Al-Maliki standing with 30 of his MPs in sombre rows in a large hall with a chandelier. Absent are all the leading figures of his party and the Shia coalition. Al-Maliki is on a tirade about duplicity, repeatedly referring to the constitution. He even decries US endorsement of unconstitutional moves. It is worth remembering that this is the same Al-Maliki who showed no regard for the constitution during his eight years in office. Now he is the supreme guardian of the constitution, accusing Iraqi President Fuad Masum of violating it and vowing to protect it.

Scene Three is of military units at key points in Baghdad, blocking whole areas and guarding the Green Zone. Al-Maliki initially showed no sign of relinquishing power, so Iraq effectively had two prime ministers, both belonging to the same sectarian Dawa Party. Iraqis in general seem wary of the new developments. There are a couple of demonstrations in support of Al-Maliki, and militias are all over the place in Baghdad.

Scene Four is of US officials and commentators shouting “Eureka!” and washing their hands of over a million Iraqi lives. They have finally discovered that Al-Maliki is the problem and Al-Abadi is the solution. But Al-Abadi will have to form “an inclusive government,” we are told. “An inclusive government,” like in Disney films, is the magic wand to get rid of all the demons. US President Barack Obama even interrupted his holiday to welcome the nomination of Al-Abadi, urging the Iraqis to “form a new inclusive government.”

US Vice-President Joseph Biden also congratulated Al-Abadi on the phone, promising US support. US Secretary of State John Kerry went further, promising that “the United States will consider additional military, economic and political assistance to Iraq, once a new inclusive government is formed.”

Listening to this mantra, one is compelled to wonder if US officials are either suffering from a state of dementia, forgetting their disastrous role in Iraq, or if they hold the Iraqi people in contempt. A look at Iraq today, or what is left of Iraq, is enough to see the extent of the destruction in social and human terms, as well as in infrastructure.

The fragmentation of society and the ever-increasing animosity and calls for revenge in the aftermath of the 2003 US-led occupation, dubbed “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” are striking. Moreover, calling upon Iraqi politicians to form a new and inclusive government is a meaningless act since most, if not all, of today’s officials are the same as those who have been collaborating with the US since 2003. The labels may have changed but the corruption, sectarianism and squabbling over power remain the same.

The brutal militias attached to these same parties designated by the US occupation continue their activities. As people say in Iraq, “Same donkey, different saddle.” The peaceful protests, long since silenced by massacres, have ended up in an armed rising under a plethora of labels: tribal councils, military councils, and political councils. These forces are adamant about continuing the fight for a sovereign and unified Iraq.

These scenes are of fast, unfolding events and changes in the relative weight of powers and actors. While Islamic State (IS) fighters terrorise vulnerable communities of Christians, Turkmen, and Yezidis in the north of Iraq, forcing them to leave their homes, hundreds of thousands of Sunnis are fleeing their homes in cities that have been subjected to bombardment and air strikes by the Iraqi regime.

US and UK forces are dropping food parcels, using the disguise of humanitarian aid to supply the Kurdish region with weapons, a stand seen by many as the final nail in the coffin of a nation once called Iraq.

In order to understand what is happening it is important to weigh these events in the light of the recent history of individuals and forces. One must also examine the truthfulness of media claims, considering the lies on which so many atrocities have been committed in the past and pinpointing the responsibility of the US-led occupation in the unfolding events of today.

To destroy a country in the morning and then hand over its population to charity in the evening summarises US policy. In order to preserve what is left of our ravaged country it is our responsibility as Iraqis to stand up for justice, unmask human rights abuses, and uphold the principle of preserving human lives. In we are to make progress on this road we will also need the support of the international solidarity movement.

The writer is co-founder of the Tadhamun Iraqi Women’s Solidarity Organisation and founding member of the International Association of Contemporary Iraqi Studies.

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