10,000 march against occupation in Baghdad

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Tue May 20 07:26:51 MDT 2003


The protest is a result of the fact that the Iraqi people --abandoned by
their wretched rulers -- were not crushed and defeated in the war.  Instead,
it increasingly appears, a deal was cut with
Saddam's machine allowing the figures at the very top figures to flee in
exchange for ending all resistance by the armed forces.  Thus, the U.S.
rulers occupied the country and established their own government without the
kind of crushing moral and military blow to the country that administration
advisers like Michael Ledeen said was necessary in order to break the
popular culture of opposition to imperialist domination and impose a new
culture of submission.

The masses never experienced the kind of direct, crushing defeat that could
crush their capacity and will to resist.

Washington is attempting to lay the groundwork for massive repression
against the unrest by making an amalgam between the opposition to
occupation -- overwhelmingly coming from forces opposed to Saddam --
supposed remnants of the old regime who are supposedly trying to bring about
the return of the disgraced (by his capitulation)  as well as hated former
dictator.

Although I cannot be sure, I wonder if the supposed letter from Saddam
calling for resistance that would return him  to power (and written in a
style that, to me,  suggested someone familiar with East European feudal-era
"hidden emperor" or "saved tsarevich" mythology) is part of this campaign to
place the Saddam label on the foes of US domination.
Fred Feldman


New York Times, May 20
Marching in Baghdad, Thousands of Shiites Protest Against the U.S.
By NEELA BANERJEE


BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 19 - Thousands of Shiite Muslims protested here in the
capital today, demanding that the United States turn over power to an Iraqi
government and withdraw its troops from the country.

Discontent may also be spreading on a smaller scale through government
ministries whose work is essential to restoring basic services, like
supplying fuel and electricity to the country. About 20 employees from the
Oil Ministry protested in front of its headquarters today demanding the
ouster of former officials who were once members of President Saddam
Hussein's Baath Party, the latest in a series of protests by oil workers
over the issue.


The employees of the State Oil Marketing Organization, which exported oil
under the United Nations oil-for-food program, plan to hold elections at
their offices on Wednesday for top management posts - and to rid their
agency of former Baathists. Directors of several departments at the
electricity commission, responsible for fixing the damage to the electricity
grid that has left much of Baghdad without power, said Sunday that they
wanted to hold a similar vote.
The protest by Shiites was among the strongest expressions yet of the
growing dissatisfaction among Iraqis about the pace of change here. An
estimated 10,000 demonstrators marched from a Sunni Muslim mosque in the
north of the capital to a spot near a Shiite shrine in the Kadhimiya
quarter, carrying placards that read, "No, no, no U.S.A.," Reuters reported.
They chanted, "We will not sell this country."
Four Marine crewmen were killed today when their CH-46 helicopter crashed
into a waterway near Karbala in Iraq, Defense Department officials said.
They said the four marines were the only people aboard the twin-engine troop
transport when it went down.
Lt. Col. Dave Lapan, a marine and a Defense Department spokesman, said there
was no indication that ground fire was involved.
In Vienna today, worries about the continuing lawlessness in Iraq were
sounded by Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy
Agency.
"I am deeply concerned by the almost daily reports of looting and
destruction at nuclear sites," Dr. ElBaradei said in a statement. He said he
was particularly concerned "about the potential radiological safety and
security implications of nuclear and radiological materials that may no
longer be under control."
The majority of Muslims in this country of 24 million people are Shiites,
and they were harshly repressed under Mr. Hussein.
Their protests appeared to be linked to worries among Iraqi political groups
that the new United States civil administrator, L. Paul Bremer III, may be
pulling back from the previous American pledge to turn over control of the
country quickly to an interim Iraqi government.
A group of former Iraqi generals who defected to the West and are now
working with American forces here told Reuters that they believed that Mr.
Hussein was still alive and in hiding in Iraq, waiting to rally his
supporters should the American effort to govern the country run into more
serious trouble.
"Time has always been the backbone of Saddam's strategy," said Saad Obeidi,
a former major general and psychological warfare specialist assisting the
American military. "He is a man who knows the psychology and sociology of
Iraq. The looting and disorder we see now fall in his favor.
"Americans have to act fast," he said. "People will forget all about the
Baath Party if order and prosperity return."
The former Iraqi generals were quoted as saying that they thought Mr.
Hussein was relying on hard-core loyalists to spread disorder under American
rule. Last week, Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan, commander of American land
forces in Iraq, said at a news conference that he thought that die-hard
supporters of the ousted Iraqi leader were adding to the chaos on Iraq's
streets, but did not go so far as to speculate on Mr. Hussein's condition or
activities.
A former Iraqi intelligence agent and brother-in-law of President Hussein on
the American most-wanted list of Iraqi officials is now in United States
custody, according to a statement issued today by the United States Central
Command. The agent, Luay Khayrallah, who was also a companion of Mr.
Hussein's son Uday, has been held by the Americans since Friday, the
statement said, although the circumstances of his arrest were not detailed.
This morning, demonstrators at the Oil Ministry, under the watchful eye of
American troops, unfurled banners demanding pay increases and the ouster of
Baath Party members, some of whom they branded as criminals. Across Baghdad,
many Iraqis have pushed for removing former Baathists from their old posts,
and on Sunday a group of demonstrators pulled down a statue of the founder
of the Baath Party, Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr.
The chief of the ministry's oil industry maintenance department, a former
Baath Party member, was dismissed recently, protesters said, after workers
went to the ministry's interim chief executive, Thamir Ghadhban.
Some ministry employees said that not all Baath party members should be
purged. It was unclear whether Mr. Ghadhban had been a Baath Party member
and he could not be reached for comment. Many protesters said they were not
seeking his removal. But others grumbled about his appointment by the
Americans. "For the time being, the Americans chose him," said Haider
Faisal, a ministry electrician, "but we didn't choose him."
At the State Oil Marketing Organization, employees are disgruntled by the
decision by the acting director general, Ali Rajat Hassan, to hold on to
some old Baath Party members. Workers there plan to hold in-house elections
on Wednesday.
"He made arrangements that were absolutely disastrous," said one Oil
Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity. "He kept old people
from the party as heads of departments and they appointed some
not-so-desirable people on top of that."




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