As violence in Iraq continues to escalate, and the United States deploys 300 special forces to gather intelligence for potential air strikes, ordinary Iraqi people are caught in the middle of a conflict set in motion by U.S. occupation. The United Nations reported on Tuesday that violence in Iraq over the past two weeks has killed at least 1,000 people and left another 1,000 injured. The U.S. hawks responsible for the 2003 invasion of Iraq are calling for aggressive military action, but voices within Iraq and across the world warn that U.S. strikes, troops, and war will only make the tragedy worse.
Common Dreams staff writer Sarah Lazare interviews Falah Alwan, President of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq. Communicating by E-mail from Sadr City, Baghdad where he is based, Alwan discusses discrimination, oppression, and 'modern-day colonialism' in Iraq; the U.S. role in militarizing and dividing society; and how people in the U.S. can stand in solidarity at this difficult time.
SL: What are the root causes of Iraq's escalating violence? What is the role of U.S. occupation and arms flow to the region in stoking sectarian politics?
FA: The main reason behind the current wave of violence is the policies of the sectarian government. The people's demands against discrimination are fair, but the armed political powers have conquered these provinces with their model: brutal fascist control. There is no need to add that the U.S, occupation was and still is the main motive, which is feeding and perpetuating the sectarian policies and conflicts.
SL: Some U.S. political forces are saying the violence in Iraq shows that the U.S. should never have "ended" the war and should in fact invade. What is your response?
FA: The violence—or rather, the recent tragedy of the society in Iraq—is the logical outcome of the U.S. war and invasion, so the U.S. has flamed an endless fire, and the new intervention will fuel the fire.
SL: How can people in the U.S. best stand in solidarity with the Iraqi people at this difficult time?
FA: I think the efforts to compel the U.S. administration to stop its political support to Maliki will be supportive to the front of the opposition against Maliki`s polices. On the other hand, revealing the role of the U.S. in installing Maliki personally as prime minister of Iraq during Bush's reign will be a good initiative, as well as supporting the Iraqi movements for progress.
SL: Are there any other messages you would like to send people in the U.S.?
FA: I think the situation in Iraq is not a result of merely arbitrary events or a result of the bad behavior of the leaders. It is the result of creating or forcing a new political regime and a new distribution of the wealth and power between new political parties, which have been installed by the occupation, according to the interests of the capitalists in the U.S., who are oppressing the people in both nations U.S. and Iraq, but in different ways.
This includes devastating the life and the society in Iraq, seizing the resources, converting it into a battlefield, militarizing daily life. They are oppressing the people, especially the working class, by stealing and seizing their real wages by the taxes, and militarizing the economy and causing vast unemployment.
All the parties in power are representing bourgeois wings.They have become rulers by the U.S. invasion, not by a political development and struggle, so they are backed by the U.S. administration. They all have signed the agreements with the IMF and World Bank, accepting all the orders and conditions of these imperialist organizations.
It is the same class hegemony of the imperialism exercised over the world: a modern kind of colonialism. The recent violence resulted, by the endeavor of the parties in power, to restrain and concentrate the power in the fists of a handful of politicians. This causes the continued ignoring of the people's demands, discrimination and marginalization of many people according to their sect, ethnicity, gender, race, etc. This government, and the whole state of Iraq, is corrupted, dysfunctional, and can never be reformed.
SL: How is the violence in Iraq affecting poor and working people?
We need to distinguish more than one kind of violence. All of them are affecting the poor, toiling, and working people.
Since 2003—for more than one decade—the daily bombing of cars and improvised explosive devices have targeting civilians, especially the poor and crowded provinces. The construction workers, the poor sellers, and porters were repeatedly targeted by the deadly attacks. The violence and oppression of the militias and armed groups are affecting the inhabitants in the provinces under their control, especially women. They are imposing their orders and traditions by force, under the name of Sharia.
The other manner of violence is that of the government against the people, especially against the workers. This includes: preventing the peaceful demonstrations, shooting the sit-in protests, and arresting the activists. In addition, the governmental forces are treating the people in the western governorates roughly and severely, arresting the young people arbitrary and storming into the houses without official warrants. These are examples of what are going on.
SL: What is your expectation for the future?
FA: In a word: a dark and uncertain future. It is a fluid situation and nobody can anticipate the directions of the events. It is an open end, and more than one option is expected. The internal war could continue; a compromise and local solution could be reached, such as the federalization of the west of Iraq; the country could be divided or the government partially changed.
I haven't mentioned the whole revolution in Iraq despite the readiness of the subjective conditions, but the reactionary movements and political forces have imposed their influence and perspective in this crisis and have polarized a huge number of people towards their polices.