all those "intelligence sources" who promised that Iraqis would be
cheering as the U.S. and U.K. armies rolled into Basra or Nasiriyah
or any major town in southern Iraq? Apparently, in day 7 of the invasion
of Iraq, these intelligence sources and their data are proving to
Unfortunately, the North American public is not told who the intelligence
sources are. No, they aren't CIA, NSA, or the FBI. They aren't MI-5
or the SAS. They aren't even spies working in Iraq.
They are members of the Iraqi National Congress(INC), an Iraqi opposition
group made up of millionaires and businessmen, former Ba'athist henchmen,
and generals who aided Saddam in his formative years but felt threatened
by him and defected. Most of the INC's ruling hierarchy is comprised
of people who have not set foot in Iraq in more than 30 years. Some
have never set foot in Iraq. And yet they claim to be experts.
Many members of the INC have personal vendettas against Saddam himself;
former aides or accomplices who would believe they should be in his
place. The INC has long believed that they can never wrestle control
from Saddam (because no one in Iraq much cares for them and considers
them charlatans) and must rely on outside help - the U.S. Consequently,
the INC launched a massive public relations gambit to convince the
U.S. that it should intervene in Iraq.
(Earlier in March, the CIA admitted that an invaluable document linking
Niger with Iraqi efforts to purchase uranium had been forged - a claim
initially made by IAEA head Mohammed Al Baradei. The CIA said that
the document had been forged by a third party. Guess who? No, not
Israel. The INC.)
They met with members of the neo-conservative lobby (Paul Wolfowitz,
Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, etc) and gave them exactly the type
of information everyone was waiting to hear. "Enter Iraq with a formidable
army, and the people will greet you with open arms and cheers."
No one stopped to question whether the INC was really telling the
truth or whether 13 years of sanctions, which have crippled Iraqi
society, may have played a role in slightly altering this view.
So, with a valiant cheer letting loose the bastard dogs of war, the
U.S. administration took the INC advice, sold the U.S. public on the
idea and ignored the advice of most of the senior military brass warning
that an invasion would not be a cake-walk.
Iraq scoffed at the notion of Iraqis embracing the invading armies
and promised hell instead.
That may yet prove true.
In the first few hours of the war, Iraqis in Baghdad hinted to this
writer that some would welcome U.S. forces. However, the night of
"shock and awe" changed all that. Iraqi sources inside Iraq are now
saying the bombing campaigns shocked the Iraqis to the spectre of
annihilation as poorly equipped hospitals began to quickly fill up
with civilian casualties and fatalities.
Iraqi doctors were awed by the lack of medicine and proper facilities
to treat the wounded as U.N. sanctions have crippled the Iraqi health
U.S. media, largely CNN, dedicated nearly 0.5 percent of their airtime
to the civilian toll in Iraq. Instead, they showed us interviews with
"Iraqis" living in the U.S. who were cheering the war. I recently
asked a prominent Iraqi exile what he thought of the statements made
by these Iraqis. He advised me to look at how long they have been
outside Iraq and reminded me that bombs weren't falling on them.
Furthermore, what do you expect an Iraqi in the U.S. to say after
hearing that the FBI was inviting some 11,000 U.S. based Iraqis to
'voluntary' interviews (MSNBC reports that the FBI has already interviewed
5,000 Iraqis in the U.S.) and that some Iraqis have been held for
visa violations? As an Iraqi living in the U.S., a country about to
invade your former country and sustain casualties, would you dare
to say you oppose the war? Would you dare to say what you really felt
in the post-9/11 frame of mind towards Muslims and Arabs?
No. You will tell them exactly what you know they want to hear, just
like the INC, because you would fear for your future status in the
Another bit of misinformation that circulated is that once coalition
forces 'liberate' southern Iraq, they would find the local populace
taking up arms and fighting Saddam's loyalist forces. This couldn't
be further from the truth. After their defeat in Kuwait in 1991, Saddam's
forces launched a bloody campaign against what they termed "Iraqi
traitors and insurgents" in the south of Iraq. Any Iraqi rebel forces
that survived that onslaught either fled to Saudi Arabia and ultimately
for other destinations, or to Iran. In Iran, most were given sanctuary
and some joined armed Iraqi forces there. One such force is the Badr
Brigade, which is currently in the north of Iraq and vowing to fight
Saddam loyalists in their own private war.
Other survivors of the 1991 backlash flooded the U.K. and the U.S.
where they have been ever since. So who remains to 'rise up'?
The people of Basra, say the INC.
Let me get this straight: the same people of Basra that were denied
clean water facilities because the U.S. barred Iraq from importing
vital water filtration systems for the past 13 years? The same Basra
where the effects of depleted uranium used by coalition forces in
the last Gulf war have been documented by dozens of investigative
medical organizations as causing cancer, disease, and other deformities?
The same Basra where typhoid and cholera have become rampant because
of the U.S.-supported U.N. sanctions? The same Basra where U.S. and
U.K. fighter jets have struck in the past 12 years of the no-fly zone
and inflicted heavy civilian casualties?
Or is it the Basra where civilian casualties number in the hundreds
in this current war? The same Basra where an Iraqi father carried
the limp body of his daughter, her right foot, barely identifiable,
shattered and barely attached by a piece of dangling flesh (picture
published in Globe and Mail - March 24, 2003)? That Basra?
Or is it the Basra where the local Iraqis have been without water
and electricity for the past three days and are facing a humanitarian
Iraqis want a regime change? Yes, possibly, but the better question
is, do they want it imposed from the outside with set rules and regulations
dictated terms? Then the picture gets a bit hazy.
Tell the Iraqis that it is the U.S., the country they have been led
to believe is the cause of all their travesty and suffering, that
is coming to liberate them, and the picture becomes even more blurry.
The millionaires of the INC didn't care to provide the coalition with
the real picture of events and conditions in Iraq. They wanted a war
at all costs.
Today, the U.K. military forces near Basra have reported that the
city is witnessing a civil uprising. Within hours, an Al Jazeera reporter
reporting from the heart of Basra refuted these claims. So did Iraqi
At press time, Iraqi TV and all telecommunications facilities in Baghdad
were targeted and claimed to have been knocked off the air. Ninety
minutes later, Iraqi TV was back on the air and showed footage of
a downed Predator drone in Basra.
Al-Atraqchi, B.Sc (Physics), M.A. (Journalism and
Communications), is a Canadian journalist with eleven years of
experience covering Middle East issues, oil and gas markets, and the