Tuesday, April 08, 2008

US A Threat to Free Speech in Iraq

Just a week ago, Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called on his followers to halt attacks on government forces as the security situation threatened to spiral out of control. That Iran was a crucial player in prompting al-Sadr to announce a ceasefire was, typically, a mere sideshow to the events in Iraq as witnessed through the prism of US hegemony. Al-Sadr has been seen as a vital bulwark to growing corporate control of Iraq's sovereignty for many people in Iraq. It is in this context, that we must view reporting of al-Sadr and any attacks that are made on his supporters. The final removal of al-Sadr as a serious voice of opposition in the region, will finally pave the way for a corporate takeover of Iraq and the completion of the neoconservative mission and thus enable the Iraq oil law to become binding. As one analyst from the Revenue Watch Institute, a group that advises policy-makers in the US and Iraq on the oil law, has said:

"Together with fair local elections, a resolution to Iraq's oil law conflict is the key to unlocking Iraq's development potential."

'Development potential' that would, as we know, benefit foreign oil corporations. Therefore, the neutralisation of al-Sadr's support is crucial to the establishment of a oil law that is in the interests of US corporate power.

Consequently, it comes as little surprise to learn of the latest action taken by US forces in the region. Tomorrow, al-Sadr had planned to march with 1 million Iraqis against the US presence within Iraq. The march would have given a very clear message to the forces of the empire. Let Iraqis govern themselves and allow them to put their interests above those of the global markets. This was, however, clearly intolerable for the forces of corporatism in Iraq. Consequently, US forces made their mark in Sadr city and sent a very clear warning: Iraq is under our authority. To reinforce this message, the US army launched airstrikes within Sadr city killing at least nine people (referred to as 'criminals' by the US army). Furthermore, due to intense fighting between Iraqis and US forces, at least 20 people were killed and 52 wounded, including women and children. There is little doubt why the US decided to act at this point, particularly when al-Sadr had been encouraging supporters to observe a ceasefire. A ceasefire, incidentally, that has done more to curb violence in Iraq than the so-called 'surge'

As a consequence of this action in Sadr city, al-Sadr has decided to call off the planned protest to mark five years of occupation. The reason for calling off the protest? According to al-Sadr himself:

"I call those beloved Iraqi people who wish to demonstrate against the occupation to postpone their march, out of my fear for them and my concern to spare their blood."

The US forces had achieved what they had hoped for. By indulging in shock tactics to frighten the supporters of al-Sadr, they have successfully frightened him into calling off a legitimate protest march against the ongoing occupation of Iraq. And yet, protests are a very potent symbol of a successful democracy, a democracy we were led to believe the neoconservatives were keen to spread. Instead what we are seeing is the suppression of voices that seek to threaten US hegemony in the region. Quite simply, it is US style corporatism or it is nothing. Anything that sits outsides the boundaries set by the occupying power is a threat to security and must be dealt with severely, regardless of civilian casualties. Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who sought to curtail freedoms and ban the right to protest. It would appear that this alternative is no better. Unless, of course, you continue to see the world through the prism of US corporatism.