November 5, 2007: This website is an archive of the former website, traprockpeace.org, which was created 10 years ago by Charles Jenks. It became one of the most populace sites in the US, and an important resource on the antiwar movement, student activism, 'depleted' uranium and other topics. Jenks authored virtually all of its web pages and multimedia content (photographs, audio, video, and pdf files. As the author and registered owner of that site, his purpose here is to preserve an important slice of the history of the grassroots peace movement in the US over the past decade. He is maintaining this historical archive as a service to the greater peace movement, and to the many friends of Traprock Peace Center. Blogs have been consolidated and the calendar has been archived for security reasons; all other links remain the same, and virtually all blog content remains intact.THIS SITE NO LONGER REFLECTS THE CURRENT AND ONGOING WORK OF TRAPROCK PEACE CENTER, which has reorganized its board and moved to Greenfield, Mass. To contact Traprock Peace Center, call 413-773-7427 or visit its site. Charles Jenks is posting new material to PeaceJournal.org, a multimedia blog and resource center.
Glen Rangwala Index
Letter from Baghdad (15 September 2003)
Also published in Labour Left Briefing (October 2003)
Glen Rangwala - firstname.lastname@example.org - wrote from occupied Baghdad on life in Iraq under America's rule.
Letter from Baghdad (15 September 2003) Published in Labour Left Briefing (October 2003) Glen Rangwala writes from occupied Baghdad on life in Iraq under America's rule. One of the commonest forms of political expression in Iraq today seems to be graffiti. The walls beside the main roads that run through Ramadi and Fallujah - the two main towns to the west of Baghdad in what has become known as the "Sunni triangle", where violent opposition to the U.S. occupation has been most extensive - are almost totally covered with political slogans. The most common expression I saw was "US troops go home", painted in large letters across many of the walls.
In Ramadi, a more forthright slogan read: "US will pay blood for oil", though one could argue that the use of future tense had already become unnecessary. That expression had been painted next to the enclave where a US jeep was stationed, with its four soldiers inside swivelling their guns to cover all the passing traffic. The graffiti artists must surely pride themselves on their ability to strike any time, any place.
Nevertheless, on my journey through the two towns I saw a few signs that a level of stability seemed to have come with the occupation. In Fallujah, most shops were open, buses were operating, and a few Iraqi police officers in the new US-trained force were visible. My travelling companion remarked that their jobs were hardly enviable. Tragically, those words were all too prescient. The very next day, US troops shot at least eight of those police officers dead in what gets called a "friendly fire incident". That same day, two US soldiers in Ramadi were killed as their attempt to raid a house backfired.
In Baghdad, the slogans are slightly less extensive, and the popular mood as far as I can tell is less uniformly confrontational. There are genuine differences of opinion towards the conflict and the US presence: there is no single "Iraqi viewpoint" on offer. In the streets around the National Museum and a university precinct, in taxis and coffee shops, some of the people I met spoke out strongly against the invasion, and demanded that the US leave immediately. A significant number argue that the poor state of the basic services since the occupation - electricity is off for about half the time and many areas do not have a working telephone system - is the result of a deliberate strategy on the part of the US to keep the population weak and fragmented. Others, up to half, complained that there were not enough US troops to keep the city secure, and wanted more. None speak with any affection for the departed tyrant.
I have yet to meet an Iraqi in Baghdad who thinks that the occupation is going well. Everyone talks about the lack of security, and most speak of how their neighbours or relatives have been kidnapped, robbed in the street, attacked, or have refused to leave their homes for weeks on end. One elderly Iraqi man asked me what freedom is there when you can't even go outside for fear of (and here he gesticulated) having your throat slit? The eruption of crime that followed the invasion, praised by the soon-to-depart Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon as a "form of redistribution", seems to have affected the poor disproportionately: it has been people from the non-professional sector who have given me the most serious accounts of violence in their communities.
The economic situation for most Iraqis remains dire. The Coalition Provisional Authority - the US-led body that attempts to run modern Iraq - has acknowledged that 60% of the population of working age is unemployed. The UN World Food Programme is shortly to release the results of a survey that will show that three-quarters of the population would be left without adequate food supplies if not for the ration system instituted under the rule of Saddam Hussein. Despite the second largest oil reserves in the world, Iraq is now reliant upon oil imports from four neighbouring states just to meet the basic needs of its population. The talk of the "economic miracle" that would accompany the creation of a "new Iraq" has long been forgotten, with the attention of US troops, Iraqis and maybe even British politicians focused on just surviving the next day.
The prospects for a democratic, prosperous and pro-Western Iraq - the goal proclaimed by US Secretary of State Colin Powell on his lightning visit to Iraq in mid-September - do not look good. During the invasion, Tony Blair and George Bush committed themselves in a joint statement to "a democratic and secure future for the Iraqi people". The combination of widespread resentment at an occupation, a constant striving for retribution and a deep socio-economic malaise is rarely the harbinger of this.
Page created October 4, 2003 by Charlie Jenks