[Marxism] Unemployment caused Shi'ite uprising

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Apr 9 07:09:14 MDT 2004


LA Times, April 9, 2004
UPRISING IN IRAQ
In Kut, Postwar Optimism Gave Way to Disillusionment With U.S.

Joblessness in the Shiite city is what drove young men to side with 
radical cleric Muqtader Sadr, a tribal leader says. Many residents are 
terrified.

By Nicholas Riccardi, Times Staff Writer


KUT, Iraq — Many here aren't sure who controls this southern city.

Ukrainian troops with the U.S.-led coalition have abandoned their base 
and fled to a more fortified one. The commander of the Iraqi police says 
he reports to the occupation authority. Traffic police say they work for 
the radical anti-American cleric Muqtader Sadr.

Government buildings are locked. Schools are closed. The streets are 
empty. And from its offices on the Tigris River, Sadr's volunteer 
militia proclaims that it runs the town.

"We want liberty for our people, we want peace for our people, we don't 
want to hurt anyone," said Sheik Mohammed Alag, the commander of Sadr's 
forces in Kut, as dozens of black-clad men with Kalashnikov rifles and 
daggers milled around his office.

(clip)

Before the fall of Hussein, most young men in Kut brought home money by 
performing their mandatory service in the Iraqi army. But the Americans 
abolished the army in May and have only now begun to reconstruct it. Kut 
has legions of idle young men with frustrated ambitions.

Though the south had seen few attacks on coalition forces before the 
Sadr-backed uprising this week, Kut and cities such as Amarah, Basra and 
Nasiriya have experienced sometimes violent protests over unemployment. 
People in Kut say the occupation has failed to rectify the problem.

"If we are going to stay like this without any jobs, then all of us will 
attack the Americans," warned Hamid Hasan, 22, a former Iraqi soldier 
who is now unemployed. "If there are jobs, everyone will stay busy and 
no one will go out and cause trouble."

Most days, Hassan, the food store owner, gets a few customers, many of 
whom have to buy on credit just to get enough flour or beans to feed 
their families. This past week, he has had virtually no business.

Hassan said he disapproved of the conflict with Sadr's militia but 
supported some of the cleric's demands. Sadr has called on Americans to 
reopen a newspaper sympathetic to him that they shut down two weeks ago.

"After the toppling of Saddam we breathed the breath of freedom," Hassan 
said. "So why are they closing the newspaper? In the United States there 
are several newspapers that attack George Bush. Why do they not let us 
do so?"

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