Thursday, January 04, 2007

Christmas In Baghdad

By Edward W. Miller, MD
Coastal Post Online
January, 2007

"They made a desolation and called it peace"
Tacitus, (Roman historian)

Baghdad, Iraq's capital and largest city, lies in that Fertile Crescent, a narrow strip between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The Greeks called this region Mesopotamia, "between the rivers." Many civilizations developed in this region, first the Sumerians, replaced in turn by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. Through the centuries, following many invasions, this "Fertile Crescent" has exchanged hands a multitude of times.

This year in Baghdad, the celebration of Christ's birth is subdued. With a largely Muslim population it has been the indigenous Assyrian Christians as well as the immigrant Europeans who have supported the festivities. Though the Christ-child was actually born in the summer months of either June or July, early Christians moved his birth date into December to compete with the pagan festival of the winter solstice, which welcomed the sun's annual promise to move northward again.

Today, occupied by a foreign army which has devastated large portions of the City, Baghdad, (a city of over 7 million before the invasion), lies frozen under the brief December sun. Heating oil is expensive and difficult to obtain for a largely-unemployed population, and electricity both unreliable and available only a few hours a day. With the sewage-laden and bomb-pitted streets made more dangerous by roving gangs of angry patriots or religious militants, bent on kidnapping or murder, except for household items desperately needed, Baghdad's population will remain indoors, watching the news from Al Jazeerah, or listening for one of the hundreds of explosions which are occurring across their country in a civil war created by a predatory and uncaring west.

For over 6,000 years, the river that flows through the heart of Baghdad nurtured the people who live along its banks - providing water, food, transport and recreation, but these three years of war, ... have transformed the storied Tigris into a stagnant sewer - and increasingly, into a graveyard for the victims of civil conflict. (Nov. 13, 2006 Assoc. Press)

In striking contrast to the cold desolation of most of the city, Baghdad's so-called "Green Zone" where much of our military and foreign workers hunkers down for safety, and where we are constructing the American Embassy fortress of steel and concrete, life is a bit easier. The $592 million Embassy is being built under the supervision of a Kuwaiti contractor by 900 non-Iraqi foreign workers who are housed nearby, despite the nearly 70 percent unemployment rate for local Iraqis. Such thoughtlessness helps explain the ongoing violence against American contractors, over 2000 of whom have been killed to date.

In this Green Zone Electricity is reliable, thanks to the continuous hum of thousands of imported diesel generators, and here there is plenty of oil for heating and cooking, much of which is trucked-in from Kuwait at American taxpayer's expense, since Iraq's petroleum output has never matched that once available under Saddam. Christmas dinners for the troops as well as foreign workers arrives by air, with C-54s and other transports circling steeply downward over a strongly- guarded Baghdad airport to avoid an insurgent missile.

Fallujah, once a proud Iraqi city of over 333,000 inhabitants, from whence in 2005 US missile and bombing attacks had stampeded some 250,000 terrified citizens into the countryside, is now a wasteland. US Marines in their "search and destroy" mission with house-to house "fighting," kicking in doors, firing blindly into homes and courtyards, while calling in helicopter gunships, bombers with 500 lb. bombs and Hellfire missiles from Predator Drones, has decimated the City's basic infrastructure along with thousands of its homes, and killed over a thousand of its inhabitants, as well as 1200 of the 5000 so-called "insurgents" our CIA estimated were "hiding " in their City.

After this introduction to "Western Democracy" the US commanding officer announced the City "secured." The US military initially blocked every entrance to reporters, NGO's, and Red Cross. Former residents were forced to park outside and no cars were allowed inside Fallujah. Residents were eventually allowed to enter and leave via the five designated "checkpoints: They have been fingerprinted, photographed, iris-scanned and forced to carry both ID cards and external "name tags" "Only those cleared by the US are allowed those temporary reconstruction jobs." In December's cold over 20,000 Fallughans are surviving in tents in their City. Thus our US military " wins the hearts and minds " of Iraqis. Iraqi has suffered through other Western-occupied Christmases. A brief look at history helps put Bush Jr.'s present fiasco m perspective:

In 1914, during WWI, British Major-General Charles Townshend took his 13,000 men up the banks of the Tigris towards Baghdad. Surrounded and defeated by Turkish forces at Kut al-Amara, his surrender was a military disasters, ending in a death march to Turkey for those British troops who had not been killed in battle. ( Robert Fisk) Again in 1917, he British invaded Iraq, this time with an army of 600,000 led by Lieutenant-General Sir Stanley Maude who offered the following official "Proclamation" to Baghdad's inhabitants:

"Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators... Your citizens have been subject to the tyranny of strangers... and your fathers and yourselves have groaned in bondage. Your sons have been carried off to wars not of your seeking, your wealth has been stripped from you by unjust men and squandered in different places. It is the wish not only of my King and his peoples, but it is also the wish of the great Nations with whom he is in alliance, that you should prosper even as in the past when your lands were fertile...."

As reporter Robert Fisk pointed out " There was, of course, no "cordial" reception of British troops in Baghdad. Indeed, Iraqi troops who had been serving with the Turkish army but who "always entertained friendly ideas towards the English" were jailed-not in Abu Ghraib, but in India-and found that while in prison there they were "insulted and humiliated in every way". (sound familiar?) Fisk noted: " the correspondent for The (London)Times wrote on 23 September: "The view held by many English people ... is that ( they) will welcome us because we have saved them from the Turks..."

Meanwhile, both the French and British, in their 1916 secret Sykes-Picot Treaty, had broken their WWI promise to the Arab states to respect their individual sheikdoms , and after the War, divided the Mideast between themselves,.. When this agreement was announced at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, the Arab world erupted in anger over this betrayal.

The British army remained in Iraq after WWI setting up a colonial regime. A country-wide uprising against the Occupation begun in 1920, and British forces fought for over a decade to pacify the country, using airplanes, armored cars, firebombs and mustard gas. Air attacks were used to "shock and awe " (sound familiar? ) to " teach obedience and to collect taxes." Winston Churchill, a cabinet minister, saw Iraq as an experiment in high-technology colonial control. The Royal Air Force, again with Churchill's encouragement, bombed rebellious villages and dissident tribesmen. Churchill urged the employment of mustard gas, which had been used against Shia rebels in 1920.

Facing this Iraqi military insurrection , David Lloyd George, British prime minister, fended off calls for a military withdrawal, saying " What would happen if we withdrew? " Lloyd George "would not abandon Iraq to "anarchy and confusion". British officials in Baghdad blamed the violence on "local political agitation, originated outside Iraq", suggesting that Syria might be involved. ( sound familiar? )

After months of infighting between Shiites Sunnis, Kurds, Arabs and Assyrian Christians in March 1921 at a conference presided over by Churchill in Cairo, Prince Faisal was nominated to the Iraqi throne A plebiscite confirmed his nomination. Faisal was crowned king on Aug. 23, 1921. In 1932, though Iraq gained independence, Britain retained military bases and oil interests.

In 1933 King Faisal I died and was succeeded by his son Ghazi, who reigned until 1939 when he was killed in an auto accident. In 1939, Faisal II became king. Faisal, who was three, did not come of age until 1953 (his uncle Abdul Illah ruled as regent until 1953). Two years after the youngster's inauguration, in May 1941, British troops crushed a rebellion by former prime minister Rashid Ali and occupied both Syria and Lebanon. Faisal II reigned from 1953 until July 14, 1958, when a military coup overthrew the monarchy. The crown prince, and Nuri al-Said were executed . That coup put an end to the Hashemite monarchy and Great Britain's colonial control of Iraq. The Hashemite monarchy continues today through King Abdullah of Jordan. The Ba'ath Party seized power in both Syria and Iraq in 1963. (Ted Thornton: History of the Middle East Database)

The US pre-emptive invasion of Iraq, instigated by Israel's "Neocon" agents, and supported by Cheney's oil friends, was sold to the public and even Congress with both misinformation and outright lies. It has become an abject and costly failure. Since the victims of this violent attempt at colonialization are mostly Muslims, the number of angry young men and women of similar faith around the globe who may join Osama Ben Laden's jihad against US imperialism, or just move into Iraq from neighboring Arab countries can be expected to increase. As historian Howard Zinn has pointed out, since war is the greatest form of terrorism, waging war against terrorism is a misnomer.

Under strong US pressure, on 28 Nov., 2006, the UN Security Council unanimously renewed the mandate of the US-led multinational force in Iraq through the end of 2007. Latest statistics from our war Department (December 19th, 2006) show 2952 US troop deaths, 46,880 non-fatal casualties, with

31,493 requiring medical air transportation. Over a million Iraqis have died. Meanwhile Bush Jr. and his new Secretary of Defense, Robert M. Gates are ignoring the Bipartisan Iraqi Committee's report, and our US generals are saying we need an "expanded military." The Democrats remain undecided.

On Friday, Dec. 8th, 2006 Congress woman Cynthia McKinney introduced a bill TO IMPEACH PRESIDENT BUSH. Americans should unite to follow this up and impeach both Bush Jr. and Cheney before they crash our Ship of State further on the rocks.

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