Remember Iraq?

Some of you out there in the blogosphere may possibly remember a certain country just to the west of Iran, called Iraq. It was in the news quite a lot, until about a year or so back, because the Americans and British were busy bringing democracy to the place.

Job done, the lads came home and left the Iraqis to enjoy their newly bestowed democratic freedom. All, that is, bar fifty thousand American troops, left behind to assist in teaching the manner of democracy.

Unfortunately, the Iraqi people are an ungrateful lot. They’ve not been quick to thank the Americans (or the British) for all the hard work that was done on their behalf. In fact, only this week – the anniversary of the old dictator’s capture – tens of thousands of Iraqis poured onto the streets, calling April 9th – the day US troops occupied Baghdad – the ‘Black Day’.

Here’s an excerpt from one of the region’s main blogs, Gorilla’s Guides:

There were demonstrations in several cities in Iraq marking the 2003-U.S. invasion and occupation of the country.

But the event, which toppled a dictatorial regime, had no words of praise as tens of thousands of Iraqis went to the streets lashing out at their U.S. occupiers and the factional leaders they brought with them.

These factional leaders currently administer the country, but their rule is reported to be as bad as that of the [dictator] Saddam Hussein, and for many Iraqis even worse.

The slogans, placards and pictures raised during the demonstrations carried grievances from which millions of Iraqis suffered under Saddam Hussein.

There were bereaved women, clad in black, asking for information about their husbands or sons, who disappeared and they still have no word about their whereabouts.

Thousands of women carried photos of their beloved ones who they said were languishing in Iraqi jails without trial and in detention centers they cannot reach and visit.

There were placards with anti-government slogans, demanding the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, to issue credible information about the secret jails where his security forces torture his opponents.

Most heart-breaking was the sight of hundreds of women in down town Baghdad who carried pictures of husbands, sons and beloved ones they said had disappeared in the years since the 2003-U.S. invasion.[1]

Now, that doesn’t sound to me like democracy.

America has an agreement with the Iraqi ‘government’ to remove all US troops by the end of this year. You’d think this would satisfy those Iraqis who fail to appreciate their liberation by the US/British.

Unfortunately, word is out that that a secret deal is being cut between ‘prime minister’ Maliki and the US government, allowing the US to keep troops in the country longer – probably till 2016, or maybe even 2020. Or, longer?[2]

After all, they have spent lots of dollars building those big American bases[3], and it seems a shame to let them rot away, unused.

One Iraqi not amused by this news is the cleric, Muqtada al Sadr. He’s the guy who commands the Mahdi Army, who definitely weren’t keen on democracy American-style, and caused lots of problems during the liberation.

Image courtesy: Christian Science Monitor

Here, we see them tramping all over a mock-up US flag, last week, during the demonstrations.

Here’s another excerpt from Gorilla’s Guides:

A new slogan has appeared in the past week on walls in eastern Baghdad and some southern Iraqi towns. Scrawled in paint, it is a simple and, to many Iraqis, chilling promise: “The Mahdi Army is returning.”

On the buildings that line the streets and alleyways of neighbourhoods in the Shiite strongholds of north-eastern Baghdad, similarly foreboding messages admonish men against shaving their beards and women against forsaking the abaya for western clothing. Iraq’s security forces quickly whitewash over the warnings, only for them to reappear elsewhere.

They appear to be a calling card of the Mahdi Army which, at the height of its influence in Baghdad after the US-led invasion of 2003, prohibited Iraqis from watching football on television on the grounds that sport was against the teachings of Islam. It also operated death squads and fought US troops and Sunni militants with equal ferocity.

The feared Shiite militia was disbanded in 2008, but the prospect of its return has never been far from the minds of Iraqis. That possibility inched closer to reality when the Sadrist movement, which encompasses the Mahdi Army, won a prominent role in the government in last year’s elections.

It is not only graffiti that has heralded a revival of the Madhi Army. Muqtada al Sadr, the cleric who leads the Sadrist movement, has openly threatened to deploy it.

In an address read out to thousands of his loyalists in Baghdad on Saturday, Mr al Sadr said he would revoke the orders freezing Mahdi Army activity and instruct the militia to resume military resistance against US troops if they remain in Iraq after the end of this year.

Under an agreement between Baghdad and Washington, all US military personnel are due to leave by the start of 2012, but US defence chiefs have hinted that they would like a sizeable force to remain beyond that point to prevent a security vacuum.[4]

There are those ‘conspiracy-theorists’ who have said the US had no intention of ever leaving Iraq. The vast sums spent on constructing massive military bases and ’embassies’ throughout the country were an assurance of US permanency.

They also suggested that Maliki and his gang were an American puppet government, empowered to do US bidding; one demand being to pave the way for a continued US presence.

Of course, conspiracy-theorists spring up everywhere these days with the most absurd ideas. I’m just glad, where Iraq was concerned, that I wasn’t one of them.

No, I wasn’t……I wasn’t! Well, okay, perhaps I was.

But, maybe, it won’t be long before Iraq is once again center-stage on our TV screens. I hope not, because it will mean more of its people are needlessly dying in the furtherance of ‘Western democracy’.

And, likely, more Americans, as well.

[1] “Iraqi protesters describe April 9, the day U.S. troops occupied Baghdad, as ‘the black day’” Gorilla’s Guides, April 11th 2011

[2] “Senior US military official in Iraq advocates keeping some troops longer” CSM, April 13th 2011

[3] “Iraq bases” FCNL, December 2008.

[4] “Certainly there will be new battles next year” Gorilla’s Guides, April 13th 2011

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