“On 28 April a small crowd gathered near a school in Fallujah housing US troops. Fallujah did not witness the looting and chaos that gripped many parts of the country in the wake of the invasion. Tribal sheikhs and religious leaders ensured security in the city. The crowd insisted the US troops were not needed and demanded that soldiers handed the school back to the city authorities and left town. The troops opened fire, killing 13. The killings in Fallujah would propel the Sunni city into the heart of a new national movement.”—U.S. Troops Fire on Iraqi Protesters, Leaving 15 Dead
In early November 2004 US troops destroyed the city of Fallujah. Countless civilians and an untold number of resistance fighters perished in the assault. The city of mosques lay in ruins, but the rubble also buried US and British plans for a stable occupation. On the eve of the attack on Fallujah the military told the soldiers that they were facing their biggest battle since the assault on the Vietnamese city of Hue in 1968. Iraq had become America’s new Vietnam.
In fact, even as Bush’s generals met in April 2003 to celebrate their victory, the opening shots were being fired in Iraq’s war of national liberation. On 18 April 2003 Iraqis filed out of the capital’s many impoverished neighbourhoods to join a popular demonstration. Over 10,000 celebrated the fall of Saddam Hussein. But unlike the crowd who two days earlier watched US tanks topple Saddam’s statue, the demonstrators raised a new demand: no to occupation.
Over the coming weeks thousands of Iraqis, from teachers to former soldiers, port workers and public servants, marched for jobs, the reopening of ministries and the payment of salaries. On 28 April a small crowd gathered near a school in Fallujah housing US troops. Fallujah did not witness the looting and chaos that gripped many parts of the country in the wake of the invasion. Tribal sheikhs and religious leaders ensured security in the city. The crowd insisted the US troops were not needed and demanded that soldiers handed the school back to the city authorities and left town. The troops opened fire, killing 13. The killings in Fallujah would propel the Sunni city into the heart of a new national movement.
By October 2004 the early optimism of George Bush and Tony Blair had given way to desperation, and instead of a welcome they were met with anger and loathing. Most of Iraq’s towns and cities were under the control of a popular resistance, with US and British troops left ruling a string of isolated military bases across the country. American and British troops would struggle to rule an Iraq they thought they had conquered, while Iraq’s US-backed provisional government would struggle to patch together a security force and central authority.
In this article we examine the historical background to the post-war insurgency, including the failed promise of the 1958 revolution, which Iraqis hoped would bring both liberation from colonialism and social justice. We analyse the reasons why the US won the war, but lost the peace, leading to the development of a popular insurgency. We show how the debilitation of the Ba’athist regime under sanctions created the conditions for a rapid collapse of the state after the war, yet, with too few troops to enforce law and order, reconstruction ground to a halt. We show how the imposition of a government dominated by former exiles loyal to the US further soured Iraqis’ views of the occupation, and as the insurgents grew bolder, US troops swept through towns and cities seizing thousands of young men, fuelling resentment.
We then examine the nature of the insurgency, arguing that far from being a collection of diehard Ba’athist loyalists and foreign Jihadist fighters, the resistance has deep roots in many different sections of Iraqi society. We argue that the resistance is a genuine national liberation movement. We analyse the factors behind the rise of Iraqi Sunni and Shia Islamist groups, which have made the greatest political gains in the post-war period, and assess the consolidation of popular support for the insurgency since the war. Finally we turn to the limitations of the first phase of the resistance and the likely impact of changes in US counter-insurgency strategy as the occupying forces try to manage political and military failure. The elections scheduled for 2005 are one component of a US strategy aimed at under-cutting support for the resistance by drawing civilian opponents of the occupation into a political process largely outside their control, while crushing the armed resistance with overwhelming force. [MORE HERE]