by Rana Kabbani | The Guardian | 23 November 2004
The graves of Falluja show the reality of Iraq's occupation
In an ideal world, the US-appointed interim prime minister of Iraq, Ayad Allawi, would find himself answerable for his craven obeisance to his American overlords, instead of using this week's Sharm el-Sheikh conference as an excuse to condemn those who are fighting back against occupation.
A year and a half ago, CIA wings wafted him and his ilk back to long-suffering Baghdad, the ancient capital of a resilient Arab people, who had somehow survived two devastating wars, 13 years of history's most punitive sanctions, the all-consuming degradations of life under a totalitarian regime, the destruction and occupation of their country by a motley crew of US soldiers, British tag-alongs, "a coalition of the coerced and the bribed" - to use John Kerry's once radical phrase - and the harpies and carpetbaggers in the form of American private contractors, corporate swine, exiled Iraqi fraudsters, and professional torturers. Iraqis watched helplessly as their country's infrastructure was destroyed - electricity, sewerage, houses, hospitals, schools, libraries, bridges, roads - and as their national treasures were allowed to be looted, and their natural resources robbed.
Now they are bankrupt, riven with preventable disease, chafing under emergency laws and watching as respectable political figures are roughed up and arrested for their party's stance on the methods of the occupation. There has been a regression to Saddamite tactics - one Islamist politician's daughter and grandchildren were reported to have been arrested when he could not be found. Press freedom is muzzled, and directives are issued to the media to follow the interim-government line on Falluja, or else. But the graves of Falluja speak for themselves: "Ya Allawi, ya jaban. Ya 'ameel al-Amercaan. Sheel idak, sheel idak. Hatha shaabak mai reedak!"
This rousing chant, in Iraqi vernacular, which calls on Allawi to make himself scarce for being a coward and an American agent, is being chanted throughout the cities of Iraq in furious demonstrations. Al-Jazeera showed one of these last week, which may explain why Allawi scurried over to the more supine al-Arabiyya satellite station (which most Arabs sneer at, although not quite as hard as they do at al-Hurra, the Pentagon-financed and controlled propaganda station). There he denounced al-Jazeera yet again, having already closed down its offices more than three months ago, and harassed and insulted their journalists.
In this, he was merely following in the footsteps of his American taskmasters, who sought to blow al-Jazeera off the face of the earth, first in Kabul, then in Baghdad, for allowing Arabs to see what the US was up to. What with embedded journalists giving us asinine reports on all other stations, using marine-corps terms as though there were no others ever taught them, and with Tony Blair forbidding anyone to parody Bush, al-Jazeera has become more necessary than ever, simply because it lets Arabs speak their minds freely, with eye-witness reports of the most uncensored and unpackaged sort.
The fighting feminism on its For Women Only programme puts institutionalised western feminism to shame. All that manufactured outrage over the burka, which rose to a climax precisely as bombs fell on Afghanistan; where are the cries of outrage now, when Iraqi women are being incarcerated and raped in US dungeons, where tens of thousands of their menfolk are also being held; when they are being starved, denied drinking-water, bombed, buried alive in the rubble of their homes, maimed and killed? It will prove to be America's dirtiest war by far, and the one that destroys forever its sense of purpose and pride.
Three million people had to die in south-east Asia before that arrogant American imperial misadventure ended. How many now?
In this newspaper, Allawi's deputy prime minister called Falluja a necessary exercise, to root out "Saddam loyalists and foreign fighters", parroting Donald Rumsfeld's pathetic line that all the "terrorists" come from across the border, or are "dead-enders" from Ba'athist days. But the only deadly dead-ender is someone who could mendaciously argue thus.
All Iraqis watch as their homes and mosques are desecrated by soldiers who shoot injured men in the stomach in pre-emptive lunacy that mirrors that of their leader. They and a billion Muslims watched as Americans forbade families from burying their dead, and allowed stray dogs to gnaw the corpses of pregnant women and toddlers on the mean streets of what was once Falluja, during Id al-Fitr, Islam's Holy Feast. No one is taken in by the lies and arrogance and greed of this racist war.
Iraq is an occupied country, with a proud and stubborn people, who will never cease fighting till they are finally rid of their unspeakable latter-day oppressors.
· Rana Kabbani is a writer and broadcaster