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The ever mounting cost of war
A DATE for elections in Iraq has now been set for 30 January 2005. This is a desperate attempt to show that progress is being made. But a whole range of problems could make these elections worthless or impossible to organise.
With many areas wracked by fighting, no basic amenities and growing numbers of refugees, even the registration process is encountering difficulties.
Eighteen months after the war was officially declared over, fighting continues in numerous cities, towns and villages in Iraq - and there is no end in sight. As long as the occupation continues there will be more bloodshed and destruction.
Once Fallujah was taken we were told that the resistance would subside and elections could take place. Yet, the socialist explained that this would not end the resistance but encourage it to spread. Street battles are being fought now in Ramadi, bomb blasts are reported daily in Baghdad, there is unrest in Mosul and pockets of resistance continue in Fallujah itself.
If Britain faced an occupation by a foreign army, then resistance would naturally be justified by the media. Yet those fighting in Iraq are referred to as foreign fighters and terrorists. While we do not support the brutal killing of hostages and indiscriminate killing of civilians by Iraqi fighters, there is no doubt that the majority of them are ordinary Iraqis fighting to expel the occupation forces.
In reality, the US military can achieve a tactical victory in one city yet still be further than ever from an overall strategic victory in Iraq. "Mission creep" is the phrase of the moment, as more US and British troops are being sent to Iraq and the occupation is lasting longer than planned.
British troops will now be sent anywhere in Iraq to help the US in conflict zones and could expect to be in Iraq for years. Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon admits that the conflict is costing £125 million a month and could reach £5 billion if British troops stay until January 2006. £5 billion would pay for 500 new schools or 277,000 nurses.
Our money is being spent to destroy a country and its people. More British troops, most of them young working class soldiers, will be expected to give their lives for this unjust war.
However, these elections, if they take place, could even compound ethnic conflict. The Shia Arabs under Sistani want to put forward a common list of "Shia Islamist Parties". Because the Shia constitute the majority of the population in Iraq this could result in a conservative religious Shia-dominated parliament.
Sunni-Arab leaders want to postpone the elections as many Sunni areas are under attack from US troops and some Sunni groups have threatened to disrupt elections or boycott them. There has also been talk of 'partial elections' if they cannot be organised in some provinces. But this would exclude most Iraqis in the Sunni triangle.
In essence, these elections are being organised by a US-appointed government under conditions of mass insurgency and will not therefore be democratic.
A force is needed which can unite ordinary Iraqis to resist the occupation and rebuild Iraq in the interests of ordinary Iraqis. This would need to involve the working class and farmers building their own organisations including democratically controlled militias uniting all ethnic groups.
A struggle for a socialist society will be needed if the resources of Iraq are to be owned and democratically run by ordinary Iraqis and to ensure that Iraq is rebuilt for the benefit of the Iraqi masses.
In The Socialist 27 November 2004:
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