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Nonviolent Opposition in Iraq to US Occupation

The April 10, 2005 demonstration in Baghdad of 300,000 people inaugurated a nonviolent opposition movement among Iraqis to the US occupation.

While most US newspapers reported "tens of thousands" at the Baghdad demonstration, virtually none mentioned that in fact there were "hundreds of thousands" at the demonstration.

One exception was the Los Angeles Times which reported several paragraphs from the top that:

"Some estimates put the number of protesters at 300,000"

Two British reports, one by Jonathan Steele of the Guardian and the other by Patrick Cockburn of the Independent emphasized the size of the demonstration and pointed out the serious implications for US occupation.

Here's an excerpt of Steele's article:

Saddam Hussein's effigy was pulled down again in Baghdad's Firdos Square at the weekend. But unlike the made-for-TV event when US troops first entered the Iraqi capital, the toppling of Saddam on the occupation's second anniversary was different.

Instead of being done by US marines with a few dozen Iraqi bystanders, 300,000 Iraqis were on hand. They threw down effigies of Bush and Blair as well as the old dictator, at a rally that did not celebrate liberation but called for the immediate departure of foreign troops...

The weekend's vast protest shows that opposition is still growing, in spite of US and British government claims to have Iraqis' best interests at heart. It was the biggest demonstration since foreign troops invaded.

Equally significantly, the marchers were mainly Shias, who poured in from the impoverished eastern suburb known as Sadr City.

The Bush-Blair spin likes to suggest that protest is confined to Sunnis, with the nod and wink that these people are disgruntled former Saddam supporters or fundamentalists linked to al-Qaida, who therefore need not be treated as legitimate. The fact that the march was largely Shia and against Saddam as much as Bush and Blair gives the lie to that.

Some Sunnis attended the march, urged to go there by the Association of Muslim Scholars, which has contacts with the armed resistance. This too was an important sign. Occupation officials consistently talk up the danger of civil war, usually as an argument for keeping troops in Iraq. It is a risk that radicals in both communities take seriously.

Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shia cleric who organised the latest march, recently joined forces with the National Foundation Congress, a group of Sunni and Shia nationalists, to affirm "the legitimate right of the Iraqi resistance to defend their country and its destiny" while "rejecting terrorism aimed at innocent Iraqis, institutions, public buildings and places of worship".

The key issue, now as it has been since 2003, is for the occupation to end quickly. Only this will reduce the resistance and give Iraqis a chance to live normally. In a new line of spin - which some commentators have taken to mean that the US is preparing for a pullout - US commanders claim the rate of insurgent attacks is down.

The figures are not independently monitored. Even if true, they may be temporary. Thirdly, they fly in the face of evidence that suggests the US is failing. Most of western Iraq is out of US control. The city of Mosul could explode at any moment. Ramadi is practically a no-go area.
 
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