K.P.M. Basheer

KOCHI: “American multi-national companies are looting billions and billions of dollars worth of oil under the guise of U.S. occupation of Iraq,” Abdulla Muhsin, a senior functionary and international representative of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers, has said.

“We have nothing except oil,” he told The Hindu in an interview on Tuesday. “There is no national economy; there is no power supply in large parts of the country; gas supply is limited; the education and health sectors are in a shambles.” Oil reserves were the only thing Iraq now possessed.

“But oil is under threat.” Oil reserves, though publicly-owned, are “exploited and looted” to the hilt by the American companies using the cover of occupation. As a result, hundreds of people in the oil-rich nation were dying without proper treatment and medicines every day, in addition to the dozens killed in factional fights and U.S. firing.

“We are paying with blood,” Mr. Muhsin, in Kochi to attend the international trade union congress organised by the Southern Initiative on Globalization and Trade Union Rights, said. “A whole generation of Iraqi people has known nothing but wars, violence, massacres, devastation, bombing and firing.”

Since 1980, when Saddam Hussein launched the eight-year war with Iran, this generation had not seen a day of peace. After the Iran-Iraq war, came the war with Kuwait and the first U.S. Gulf War, then the crippling international sanctions that led to the death of half-a-million children, and then the American occupation. Four to five million people died in this series of calamities over a quarter of a century. An equal number of people left the country for good.

Intellectuals eliminated

He said nearly 250 key scientists, intellectuals and top academics were systematically finished by the “secret agents of a foreign country.” (There have been accusations that Israeli agents have been involved in this.)

“How can the Iraqi youth have faith in hope, democracy and peace? How can a civilisation hope to survive against such massive odds?” It was the disastrous policies of the occupying forces that had led to the Sunni-Shia internecine fighting in Iraq. The greed and one-upmanship of the Iraqi politicians and the fundamentalist outfits added to the people’s woes. The neighbouring countries were fomenting trouble by pitting one section of the people against the other. “Didn’t the Shias and Sunnis live in peace in Iraq all these centuries?” Mr. Muhsin asked. “The current conflicts are the result of American policies and the regional powers’ interference.”

Mr. Muhsin said Saddam Hussein’s regime had killed off thousands of Communists, socialists and trade union activists. Mr. Hussein had, under the infamous Decree No. 150 of 1987, banned trade union activities. Ever since, trade unions had functioned underground.

Private militias, fundamentalist and hard-line forces were adding to the people’s woes. Women were the worst victims of the fundamentalist outfits, which discouraged women from working, appearing in public places and rising to civil society leadership. After millions of men died in wars, there were tens of thousands of female-headed households. “How can these women provide for their families without working?” Mr. Muhsin asked.

In the past few months, fundamentalist militias had killed 140 women in the Basra province alone for ‘crimes’ such as working, not following the dress code and questioning the militias. “It’s against this background that we keep our hope alive,” Mr. Muhsin said.