|The Pillage of a Nation
“I believe they were people who knew what they wanted. They had passed by the gypsum copy of the Black Obelisk. This means that they must have been specialists. They did not touch those copies.” Dr. Dony George, Head of the Baghdad Museum.
By Ghali Hassan
Clearing House" The American-led invasion and occupation of Iraq is an orchestrated and premeditated armed robbery. The widespread looting of the nation of Iraq, following the collapse of the Ba'athist regime, was not merely an incidental by-product of the US military conquest of Iraq. It was deliberately encouraged and fostered by the Bush administration and the Pentagon for definite political and economic gains. Iraq is to be mainstreamed into the economy of the global pillage.
Pillage of Iraq’s Cultural Heritage
The invading forces fuelled the looting of Iraq’s cultural heritage, and the concomitant destruction of ancient towns and cities have served Western propaganda and stereotypes against the Iraqi people very well. The veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk who witnessed the pillage himself wrote in The Independent of April 14, 2003, “[a]fter days of arson and pillage, here’s a short but revealing scorecard. US troops have sat back and allowed mobs to wreck and then burn the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Irrigation, the Ministry of Trade, the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Information. They did nothing to prevent looters from destroying priceless treasures of Iraq’s history in the Baghdad Archaeological Museum and in the museum in the northern city of Mosul, or from looting three hospitals”.
Robert Fisk observed a pattern in US response to looting, “[t]he Americans have, though, put hundreds of troops inside two Iraqi ministries that remain untouched—and untouchable—because tanks and armoured personnel carriers and Humvees have been placed inside and outside both institutions. And which ministries proved to be so important for the Americans? Why, the Ministry of Interior, of course—with its vast wealth of intelligence information on Iraq—and the Ministry of Oil. The archives and files of Iraq’s most valuable asset—its oilfields and, even more important, its massive reserves—are safe and sound, sealed off from the mobs and looters, and safe to be shared, as Washington almost certainly intends, with American oil companies.” The Americans had no concerns for the looting, and US troops had an order not to take action against the looting. “The pervasive and systematic lawlessness underpinning the occupation of Iraq is no accident. The neoconservatives in Washington understand that the rule of law stands as an obstacle to unleashing the full force of the U.S. war machine”, writes Roger Norman of the Centre for Economic and Social Rights in New York America's Criminal Occupation of Iraq.
Dr. Eleanor Robson of the British School of Archaeology wrote in The Guardian of London on June, 18, 2003, “[t]wo months ago, I compared the demolition of Iraq's cultural heritage with the Mongol sacking of Baghdad in 1258 [the age of barbarism], and the 5th-century destruction of the library of Alexandria. On reflection, that wasn't a bad assessment of the present state of Iraq's cultural infrastructure. Millions of books have been burned, thousands of manuscripts and archaeological artefacts stolen or destroyed, ancient cities ransacked, universities trashed”. Dr. Robson continued, “[o]utside the Iraq Museum, the picture is equally grim. At Baghdad University, classrooms, laboratories and offices have been vandalised, and equipment and furniture stolen or destroyed. Student libraries have been emptied. Nabil al-Tikriti of the University of Chicago reported in May that the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs lost 600-700 manuscripts in a malicious fire and more than 1,000 were stolen. The House of Wisdom and the Iraqi Academy of Sciences were also looted. The National Library was burned to the ground and most of its 12 million books are assumed to have been incinerated”.
The destruction and looting of artefacts, has led to the loss of hundreds of tablets, a method developed by the Sumerians of leaving one’s signature on clay several of which have not even been translated yet. This is a huge loss for humanity, one only surpassed by the loss of the lives and well being of the Iraqi people. This plundering of Iraq’s cultural heritage is part of an illegal trade in antiquities thought to be as lucrative as drug trafficking. “Not since the Nazis systematically stripped the museums of Europe has such a crime been committed?” writes Ann Talbot in www.wsws.org.
This outright pillage of the Iraqi nation by the US is forbidden under the Geneva conventions of 1949 and The Hague conventions of 1907. It is clear that there was nothing accidental about the looting. Rather it was the result of a long planned project to plunder the artistic and historical treasures that are held in the museums of Iraq. Iraqi law regards all archaeological artefacts as state property and bans their export. By allowing the National Museum in Baghdad and other places of Iraq’s cultural heritage to be looted, the US authorities have shown great ignorance and disregard for the real importance of Iraq to human history.
Pillage of Iraq’s Economy
Immediately after the occupation of Iraq, the US worked to lift the 13-years long genocidal sanctions that killed more that two million Iraqis a third of them were children under the age of five, and destroyed the fabric of the Iraqi civil society. The reason for this sudden change of heart was the US control of the UN Oil-for-food program, which was benefiting from oil production.
In May 2003, the UN resolution 1483 allows all revenues from Iraqi oil and gas exports to be deposited into the “Development Fund for Iraq”. The fund also took over about one billion from the Oil-for-Food program and a similar amount in all frozen Iraqi assets. Those funds were given to the control of the US occupying authority “to be used in a transparent manner to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people” and they were to be audited by the International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB), which the UN set up for this purpose.
According to various estimate, the amount collected in the fund reached $20 billion as of June 26 2004. Auditing the fund has been a nightmare for the IAMB, because of lack of cooperation by the occupying authority, and the secrecy of awarding contracts to US corporations without competitive bidding.
A new report published by Christian Aid, a charity organisation in the UK, showed that the Bush administration failed to account for what it has done with some $20 billion of Iraqi oil revenues, which should have been spent on relief and reconstruction. Anthea Lawson of Christian Aid told Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow.org on 01 July 2004; “the Iraqi oil is being sold by the US without metering, which makes assessing Iraq’s oil revenues extremely difficult because its oil production is not being metered”. This means only the Bush Administration knows how much money is being earned from the sale of Iraqi oil.
Furthermore, Sir Menzies Campbell, the British Liberal Democrats foreign affairs spokesman, demanded that an investigation into the way the US-led administration in Baghdad handled Iraq’s oil revenues from which another $3.7 billion is missing. The oil of Iraq is the property of wealth of Iraqi people, and should not be stolen by the US.
Recently, the UN Security Council passed a resolution recognizing the US occupation of Iraq. Never had the UN in its history endorsed the occupation of a nation and the attack on the resistance fighting such occupation. In its new resolution on Iraq, the UN authorizes US-led troops to remain at Iraq's request, and gives them leeway to take "all necessary measures" in fighting the resistance movements that are fighting the occupation. Once again, the UN proved to be the facilitator of US imperialism throughout the world.
However, the Security Council recognition of the US and Britain occupation authority provides no legal cover. In May 2003, the UN passed a resolution requiring the occupying powers to “comply fully with their obligations under international law including in particular the Geneva conventions of 1949 and the Hague Treaty regulations of 1907”. Furthermore, The US army’s Law of Land Warfare states “ the occupant does not have the right of sale or unqualified use of [non-military] property”. Therefore, the US-imposed “economic reforms” and edicts on the Iraqi Nation contradict Iraq’s constitution and they are in breach of international law.
According to The Hague and Geneva conventions, and the International Bill of Human Rights, the occupier gains no sovereign rights and is prohibited from manipulating the nation’s future, plundering its resources, and repressing its people.
AS Naomi Klein has written, “bombing something does not give you the right to cell it”. Yet this is precisely what the Bush Administration is doing. The US military invasion of Iraq has put US companies (multinational corporations) such as Bechtel and Halliburton in positions to completely own all of Iraq’s industries and businesses. The destruction of Iraq is played as “reconstruction” in Western media and by Western elites. It's only $366 million of the $18.6 billion Congress “allocated for reconstruction” of Iraq has been spent, according to the Washington Post.
A recent report released by the General Accounting Office on 28 June 2004 reveals “Iraq is worse off than before the war began last year”. The war against the people of Iraq was rigged and unnecessary war. The war brought no “democracy” and no “freedom” to the Iraqi people. The Anglo-American crypto-fascists presence is sowing the seeds of civil war in Iraq. Thousands of innocent Iraqis have been slaughtered as a result of Bush and Blair violent “messianic” war. Why?
The US is still the occupying power in Iraq. The “transfer of sovereignty” to few dozens of Iraqi expatriates, two third of them are foreign citizens, “of course, another lie and most Iraqis know it”, says Tariq Ali. The American Embassy in Baghdad, the largest in the world and situated in Saddam’s Palace against the will of the Iraqi people, is the maker of key decisions. Ambassador John D. Negroponte is the new Proconsul in Iraq supported by more than 160,000 occupying forces. The whole charade of “transfer of sovereignty” is merely an Arab façade.
The new Iraqi “Prime minister” Mr. Iyad Allawi has full responsibility over garbage collection and assassination of Iraqi dissidents (see who is Allawi?). Recent Iraqi opinion poll conducted in Iraq reveals that 92 percent of Iraqis opposed to the US occupation of their nation, and want the occupation to end. Mr. Iyad Allawi has almost 5 percent supports, just below the president, with a 7 percent approval rating. The Iraqi sovereignty is vested in the Iraqi people. This new Iraqi “sovereignty” is a fake sovereignty. Same donkey, different saddle, as the Iraqi saying goes. The US administration appointed the Iraqi Interim Government, pliant enough to ratify these illegal laws and make the occupation of Iraq permanent to serve as the guardian of US interests.
The trial of Saddam Hussein is a farce, “illegal and unjust”. The real criminals are using this theatre to cover-up their own crimes against the Iraqi people. Those who are picked by the Americans, “in the words of a now common Iraqi saying, ‘came on the backs of American tanks’. As one Iraqi observed: ‘If they give Saddam a fair trial, they will all end up with him in the dock - Kissinger, Reagan, Thatcher, Blair, the two Bushes, [Rumsfeld] and Allawi’”, writes Sami Ramadani in The Guardian of London. An Iraqi businesswoman told Robert Fisk: “This is a childish play, written by children for children. We have real needs and they want us to go and watch a play”. The trial of Saddam is a circus, which will keep the people distracted from the real issues of occupation. It is used by the US to bully and intimidate not only the Arab people, but also the rest of the developing world. It makes the world looks like powerful mafia gangs run it.
The Attack on Iraq is an attack on the history of humanity by a new form of barbarism. The world will be safer only if this form of barbarism opposed and remained isolated. For Iraqis, the only path to full sovereignty is the immediate end of the US occupation and colonisation of Iraq, and returns the wealth of the nation to the Iraqi people.
Ghali Hassan lives in Perth, Western Australia. He can be contacted on: G.Hassan@exchange.curtin.edu.au