The Baghdad gulag
Asia Times | April 13, 2007
DAMASCUS - There are three overlapping wars in Iraq: the Sunni Arab guerrilla struggle against the US; strands of Sunni Arab guerrillas against assorted Shi'ite militias/death squads; and al-Qaeda in Iraq against the puppet, US-backed Iraqi government in the Green Zone. Make it four wars: the Sunni Arab guerrilla war against the government inside the Green Zone. Better yet, make it five wars: the Sadrists, from Sadr City to Kufa and Najaf, against the Americans.
All strands of these five overlapping wars will never allow the United States - or Anglo-American Big Oil - to control Iraq's oil wealth. Even if the new oil law is ratified by Parliament before June, implementation will be a certified nightmare, and security for billions of dollars of necessary investment non-existent.
Strands of these five overlapping wars also will never accept the long-term imposition of vast US military bases under a Status of Forces Agreement negotiated with dodgy politicians who spend more time in London than in Baghdad.
Setting a precise date for a total US withdrawal - the crystal-clear demand insistently formulated by Muqtada al-Sadr - would be the only way for the Bush administration to salvage a modicum of not totally humiliating defeat. Instead, the world had better be ready for the imminent arrival of the Baghdad gulag.
Can I leave my condo, please?
US corporate media/think-tanks may think they fool strands of US public opinion (or themselves), but they don't fool Iraqis on the (dangerous) ground. No realist in his right mind could possibly ignore the 14-kilometer-long throngs compacted all along the Kufa-Najaf road this past Monday, on the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.
There were hundreds of thousands, perhaps more than a million Iraqi nationalists, waving Iraqi flags - with no room for a religious divide - responding to Muqtada's call for "Occupation out!" The Shi'ite million-man march proved once again Sadrists rule the Shi'ite street - and are the most powerful political force among Iraqi Shi'ites.
Yet for the administration of US President George W Bush, Muqtada al-Sadr - like every nationalist with immense popular appeal - is nothing but an evildoer who must be squashed by all counterinsurgency means necessary.
Imperial and neo-colonial systems are incapable of thinking laterally. The French failed to do so in Algeria. The Americans failed in Vietnam. The Israelis failed in Palestine. The Americans will fail to do so again in Iraq. Call it counterinsurgency run amok. Thirty of Baghdad's 89 districts will become gated communities from hell - cellophane-wrapped compounds where only Iraqis with a new, theoretically safe ID will be allowed in and out of this "secure environment", in Pentagon newspeak. Yes, it will be Orwellian. Better yet, it will be a post-mod, Arab condo version of Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon, where the eye of the system is ubiquitous.
In the last chapter of my book Globalistan - titled "Condofornia vs Slumistan" - I argue that the future now revolves around the tension between gated communities and unruly slums, "secure environments" and black waves of anger. Wherever both meet - from Baghdad to Sao Paulo - we may see endless replays of Black Hawk Down.
The Baghdad gulag is a Pentagon-enforced Condofornia imposed over an Arab Slumistan. Let no one be fooled: it's being conducted as a technical experiment, with live Iraqis as guinea pigs, and is bound to be replicated in other areas of the Pentagon-created "arc of instability" from the Andes to the Horn of Africa to Arabia to Central Asia.
Let no one be fooled (again): guerrillas will IED the system from their underground cells, and many a Black Hawk will go down. But as everyone watches the destined-to-failure experiment, really serious matters - such as three new, crucial US mechanized brigades deploying east of Baghdad on the way to be strategically positioned at the Iraqi-Iranian border - will be taking place under the cover of night.
Pass the explosive coffee, please
The Sunni Arab muqawama (resistance) has already celebrated the arrival of the Baghdad gulag - by attacking the heart of the system itself, the Green Zone. The bomb that exploded on Thursday in the cafeteria of the Baghdad Convention Center - which houses the Iraqi Parliament, inside the Green Zone - was yet another crystal-clear message: we can strike you as we please, and where we please.
It has been an open secret in Baghdad for months now that strands of the muqawama boast they can sweep over the Green Zone and decimate the innocuous government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki whenever they choose to.
Then what must have been al-Qaeda in Iraq complemented the new Green Zone bombing with a kamikaze suicide truck bombing of Al-Surafiya Bridge, one of the oldest of the 10 bridges over the Tigris. This bridge used to separate still predominantly Sunni Adhamiya from still mixed Bab al-Muazzam, with which it is literally at war. The logic here would be to protect Adhamiya from Shi'ite militia-conducted ethnic cleansing.
The Green Zone bomb at the Parliament cafeteria is metaphorical in more ways than one. This is already a bombed-out Parliament. Sadrists, holding 32 seats, are threatening a boycott. Unlike throngs of SCIRI (Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq), Da'wa Party and Kurdish parlamentarians who prefer to watch Chelsea soccer matches in London drinking vintage scotch, Sadrists actually go to work every day in the Green Zone. If the Sadrists and the Islamic Virtue Party representatives actually decided to boycott it, along with the hardcore Sunni members of the Iraqi Accord Front, this Parliament would be no more.
Crucially, this would mean no passing of the Holy of Holies, the new Iraqi oil law. It's also an open secret in Baghdad - as well as among Iraqi refugees in Damascus - that the Bush administration's now famous "June deadline" to the Maliki government is only about oil. If the oil law is not approved by then, "all options are on the table", and that means a white coup with the reinstallation of former Central Intelligence Agency asset, former interim prime minister, former "butcher of Fallujah" Iyad Allawi, whose main task would be ... to get the oil law approved.
A Sunni Arab refugee businessman in "Little Fallujah" in Damascus, now running a kebab joint and counting every Syrian pound, summed it all up: "The bomb could have killed them all, these politicians. We are not sorry. They are just adding more misery to the Iraqi people. Nothing will change if the Americans don't leave." He is Sunni. And he agrees with Muqtada al-Sadr.
So much for sectarian civil war. For the 1.2 million-plus Iraqi refugees in Syria, Sunnis in Little Fallujah or Shi'ites around Sayyida Zaynab, the verdict is unanimous: with a population descended to Fourth World status, infant mortality doubling, 60% unemployment, a refugee crisis and the ground zero of civil society, there's only one answer: Americans out. Muqtada knows it. Instead, soon on every screen, ready for the summer blockbuster season, we will have the latest Pentagon production: The Baghdad Gulag.
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