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We and the Iraqi people

THE OCCUPATION of Iraq by the Anglo-American forces has now entered its seventh month. The average Iraqi citizen's life, already ravaged by over a decade of economic sanctions, has now become unbearable. Driven by the American strategy of seizing control of vital resources, the occupation forces have only been concentrating on Iraqi oil infrastructure. Consequently, public services like water, electricity, health and education have been completely neglected and crippled. There is a complete breakdown of law and order. The economy is at a standstill. The occupation forces kill, imprison and torture Iraqis with impunity. The extensive use of depleted uranium ammunition poses a long-term health threat to the civilian population. Reports from Iraq and from international aid agencies make it clear that ordinary Iraqi men, women and children are the greatest casualties of the attack and the current occupation, as death, disease, starvation and trauma take their inevitable toll.

The American-led coalition is prepared to continue the occupation indefinitely. Indeed, the Bush Administration's motives are not confined to capture of Iraqi oil resources alone. The Administration has used the September 11 incident in the United States to justify a global military onslaught to capture key resources, markets and strategic regions. The war on Afghanistan and the occupation of Iraq are part of the Bush Administration's plan for a series of military interventions worldwide. Iran, Syria, Cuba and North Korea and a long list of other countries have also been threatened. Through repeated displays of its military might, the Administration seeks to cow down all opposition to its agenda of world domination. This latest round of aggression is a direct threat to the sovereignty of nations and especially to all progressive movements of people who resist imperialist and neo-colonial exploitation, oppression and war. The occupation of Iraq is therefore a focal point for progressive social and political movements worldwide.

It is therefore heartening that despite the ravages of sanctions, war and occupation, the people of Iraq are waging a courageous struggle of liberation. Far from winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people as they proclaimed, American forces are facing tenacious resistance to their occupation. More American soldiers have died in guerilla attacks after the fall of Baghdad than in the war itself. The Bush Administration is intent upon obscuring the legitimate liberation struggle and diverting world attention to terrorism in Iraq, thereby justifying the occupation as an anti-terrorist measure. This is one among a pack of three justifications that the Bush Administration has been repeatedly shuffling and presenting to the world in vain. The other two, Iraq's phantom weapons of mass destruction and the export of democracy to Iraq, have been equally discredited.

At this point, the Iraqi struggle against occupation needs our complete support. In the long months preceding the Anglo-American attack on Iraq, there were worldwide anti-war protests, including in India. But in this hour of need, there appears to be a lull in the world movement. As a people with an anti-imperialist tradition, it is our duty to break this lull and proclaim our support for the Iraqi people's struggle. Indeed, in the face of the utterly reactionary nature of the present threat, the future of all progressive movements in India against all forms of exploitation and oppression depends on our support for the struggle against American domination in Iraq.

But much to our shame and disgust, our own Government is still bargaining with the Bush Administration over the despatch of Indian soldiers to Iraq to help the American occupation. A large section of our business and political classes has become junior partner of the American project in order to realise its own ambitions of converting India into a regional superpower. The average Indian citizen has no use for such delusions of grandeur. They only bring in their wake unwanted military expenditure, national chauvinism and an increased repression of legitimate democratic movements. Despite overwhelming public sentiment against it, the government may yet arrive at a deal with the Bush Administration and find a suitable pretext to send Indian troops to Iraq. We, the people of India, who have inherited a legacy of anti-imperialist struggle must remain vigilant and oppose such collaborative moves at all costs. We must extend our support to the Iraqi people's struggle against the occupying powers. Their future, as well as ours, depends on this. The history of 1917, when colonial Britain mobilised Indian soldiers to capture Baghdad and seize control of Iraqi oil, must not be allowed to be repeated by the rulers of independent India.

R. RAJESH

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