As expected, the British and the corporate press are blaming Moqtada
al-Sadr and his Mahdi army for the recent troubles in Basra, obscuring the fact
two SAS undercover troublemakers were caught red-handed readying a terrorist
attack against Iraqi Shi’ites. Adrian
Blomfield, writing for the UK Telegraph, characterizes the arrest of the
British terrorists as “two SAS soldiers [held] hostage in Basra”
and the allegations that the two were plotting murder and mayhem a “smear
campaign” that translates into “another blow to the British Army’s
hopes of restoring its affection among locals,” as if Iraqis are fond
of the idea of occupation and foreign troops stationed in their country.
Basra’s governor, Mohammed al-Wa’eli, accused Britain of
“imperial arrogance,” a shoe that fits and the Brits (and Americans)
should wear it. The average UK Telegraph reader may not know it—as
many Americans do not know their own checkered history—but “imperialism”
is precisely what the Brits imposed on Iraq for decades, beginning after the
Ottoman Empire collapsed in 1914. Britain, in standard arrogant and back-stabbing
fashion, promised the Arabs of what they would later call Iraq independence,
only to betray them. Instead of independence, Iraq became a “mandate”
territory under the League of Nations and British “supervision.”
Outraged Iraqis revolted in 1920 and the British put down the rebellion with
aerial bombardment. It was Winston
Churchill, as colonial secretary, who remarked, “I do not understand
this squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favor of using poison
gas against uncivilized tribes,” for instance the Kurds in northern Iraq.
Churchill was also responsible in part for drawing the current borders of Iraq,
carved out three Ottoman districts—the northern mostly Kurdish district
administered from Mosul, the middle predominately Sunni Arab district, including
Baghdad; and the southern largely Shiite district, whose major city is Basra.
It was indeed the “imperial arrogance” of the British that angered
the Arabs (and Kurds) of what is now Iraq and motivated them to revolt.
“The governing council has decided to stop all co-operation with
the British until they meet three demands,” declared al-Wa’eli.
“To apologize for what happened, to guarantee that it does not happen
again, and third, to provide some compensation for all the damage they did during
the operation,” demands that prompted a British embassy spokesman
in Basra to remark that the conditions put forward “shouldn’t be
a problem,” even as the “Foreign Office described the demand for
an apology as a local issue and not a reflection of the feelings of the Iraqi
prime minister, who met the UK defense secretary on Wednesday in London,”
according to the Financial
Times. In short, nobody should get too concerned about a few riled up Shi’ites.
“Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari said the incident would not harm his government’s
relations with Britain, while [John Reid, UK Defense Minister] said the subsequent
street unrest in Basra would not deter the 8,500 British troops stationed in
southern Iraq from continuing their mission.” In other words, the Brits
believe it is business as usual with the same degree of “imperial arrogance,”
and no doubt a green light for future undercover operations designed to keep
the Shi’a and Sunni at each others throats and eventually splinter Iraq
into three religious and ethnic pieces, as long envisioned and proposed by the
Israelis and, more recently, their neocon fellow travelers in America.
Iraqis, characterized as “uncivilized tribes” by revered British
politicians, understand this plot well. “Everyone knows the occupiers’
agenda,” declared Abdel Hadi al-Daraji, one of al-Sadr’s officials
in Basra. “They are in bed with Mossad and their intention is to keep
Iraq an unstable battlefield so they can exploit their interests in Iraq….
We have to take the moral high ground and resist this provocation by the British.
This is a very dangerous, very sensitive time in Iraq but we must calm our supporters
or we will fall into the British trap.” In other words, a Shi’a
uprising against the Brits (and Americans) will not occur until the time is
right. Since many Shi’ites consider the SAS plot and the subsequent “rescue”
(flattening buildings and killing Shi’ites in the process) a “second
Abu Ghraib,” a newfound resistance against occupation may not be far off.
Last year Rumsfeld said the fighting in Iraq was simply the work of “thugs,
gangs and terrorists” and General Myers added that there was “not
a Shiite uprising” in southern Iraq and “Mr. Sadr has a very small
following,” as the Sydney
Morning Herald reported at the time. However, as Ghassan al-Attiyah, executive
director of the Iraq Foundation for Development and Democracy in Baghdad, explained,
there was “a general mood of anti-Americanism among the people in the
streets” that went far beyond al-Sadr’s followers. In the wake of
the SAS blunder and the British response, no doubt this antipathy has grown,
not only against the Americans but the Brits as well. The British, as characterized
by the comments of John Reid, may believe Basra is “returning progressively
to a level of normality” (that is to say, occupation as usual), but it
appears the Shi’a have other ideas. As a primary example of how
just out of touch the corporate media in Britain is, consider the comment in
the Telegraph that the “locals” have “affection” for
British administered occupation, demonstrating that the legacy of “imperial
arrogance” has not subsided—not in Tony Blair’s government
or in the ranks his good friends at the right-wing Telegraph, a newspaper “group”
(conglomerate) once owned by the “The Right Honorable” Conrad Moffat
Black, Baron Black of Crossharbour, a scurrilous neocon who once “appropriated”
(i.e., he stole) over $62 million from a workers’ pension fund.
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