toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad's
Paradise Square remains one of the most arresting
images of the 21st century.
year ago this week, newspapers and television
screens were filled with pictures of a strongman
with a sledgehammer delivering mighty blows to the
column supporting the hated dictator's likeness.
Others showed Iraqis waving the Stars and Stripes,
the jubilant citizens of Baghdad embracing the
forces of liberation.
victorious images have long faded from our screens
and left behind harsh realities. Baghdad, a city
that should have been safe in the hands of the
coalition forces, is now a hotbed of anarchy: why
did this happen?
reason is that a year ago US forces had their own
priorities and those were securing the Ministries
of Oil and the Interior. The rest of the city was
left to the mercy of the mob and coalition troops
stood by and watched as centres of culture and
antiquity were looted. Government ministries were
destroyed and archives burned while murder and
kidnappings were rife. Politicians and military
leaders told us this was a subjugated population
letting off steam, celebrating the fall of Saddam
Hussein. We believed them.
of the mainstays of US reasoning behind the
invasion of Iraq was - officially at least - an
altruistic desire to free its people from
oppression and bondage, to help set up an exemplary
democracy intended as a beacon of hope across the
Islamic world. In less than three months this
democratic government is due to be set in place,
yet the country is in chaos.
joyous scenes of a year ago proved little more than
a spontaneous reaction and the mood of the country
is irrevocably changed. Iraqi resistance does not
see coalition forces as peacekeepers and
administrators but as an occupying force of
Infidels eager to exploit the country's resources
for its own political or material ends. The fact is
that many Iraqis do not want us in their country
any longer and are in open revolt.
now under the leadership of radical cleric Muqtada
Sadr, the Iraqi Shias are "a small group of
criminals and thugs," according to Ricardo Sanchez,
US military commander in Iraq. He maintains there
is "no place for a renegade militia."
method of dealing with this "small group" has seen
American Marines smash their way into Fallujah
using tanks and helicopter gunships. Many innocent
civilians, women and children lie among the 450
Iraqi casualties so far. While the bloodbath
continues Mark Kimmit, Sanchez's number two, tells
us confidently that Sadr's militia will be
American aggression in the battle for the streets
of Fallujah has brought a swelling of nationalist
support, crowds of people gathering outside the
main blood bank in Baghdad in a gesture of
solidarity. "It is barbaric what is happening in
Fallujah," said oil engineer Abdul Rahman Khalil,
after he had given blood. "The Americans don't see
the difference between resistance."
Iraquis believe the Americans are killing innocent
people as a collective punishment for the deaths of
the four US civilians killed and mutilated in
Fallujah last week. "They talk about terrorism
against the Twin Towers in the US," said one, "But
why is it not terrorism when American planes hit a
mosque and kill 40 people?"
for the United States is already shaky in many
coalition countries since the Madrid bombings and
the subsequent fall of the Spanish government.
Chilling video footage of three Japanese hostages
shown on Al-Jazeera is unlikely to ease pressure on
junior members of the coalition to withdraw their
upcoming presidential elections and leading figures
of his administration Donald Rumsfeld and
Condoleezza Rice currently hard-pressed in the
investigation into the 9/11 atrocity, President
Bush does not have his troubles to seek. He is
looking to the UN as he seeks a dignified exit
strategy from the situation in
street fighting in Fallujah has already been
described by one seasoned US Marine commander as
equal to the worst fighting of the Vietnam War.
That was a conflict that casts a long shadow over
US foreign policy even today, but Islam is the new
communism and George Bush must tread very carefully
in the run-up to November.