Genghis Khan Probably Got Flowers, Too

by Bill Onasch 

This was written and posted on April 12, 2003, on Labor Advocate Online. It has been edited for Labor Standard.

I have no doubt that when Genghis Khan rode into what is now Iraq with his invading army eight hundred years ago there were some who tried to curry favor with flowers and chants of his name. Unfortunately, the Mongol conqueror had no embedded media to record such displays.

Today’s invaders came from the opposite direction and were able to stage-manage eager youth chanting “Bush” rather than “Khan.” They were undoubtedly just as sincere as they had been demonstrating for Saddam Hussein just a couple of weeks prior.

American troops immediately tried to set a good example for their cheerleaders. An armored vehicle smashed through the ornate doors of a presidential palace and left it open and unsecured. In several areas U.S. soldiers used their motorized equipment to pull down statues of Saddam Hussein.

The lumpen elements quickly got the message and went on a rampage of murder, looting, and vandalism that would have pleased the Mongols. Having no more shame than their new masters, they even stripped hospitals bare, leaving wounded Iraqis to suffer slow death. To top things off, they stole or smashed priceless artifacts dating back to the very beginning of civilization.

The occupiers initially secured only two buildings in Baghdad—the main hospital and…the oil ministry.

As this is written, urgently needed food, water, and medicine cannot be brought in by relief agencies because of the violent chaos. Thousands, mostly children, face imminent death due to malnutrition, dehydration, and easily treatable childhood diseases.

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld tried to downplay the mobs as just an expression of pent-up frustration by the long-repressed Iraqi people. But this is not typical behavior for masses involved in revolution or liberation. The Russian tsar was pretty oppressive, too, but the Bolsheviks secured the palaces and churches and later turned most of them into museums to be viewed and enjoyed by all. The Sandinistas took a similar approach when Somoza was overthrown in Nicaragua. The people of Paris didn’t welcome Allied forces by trashing the Louvre.

Of course there are few Iraqis who are shedding tears for the fallen dictatorship. But that doesn’t mean that most are filled with joy and optimism. They hate and fear the thugs running amok as much as they did the disciplined Baath fascists. Right now they are worried about getting enough to eat, anxious to see the streets safe for travel. They haven’t yet had much of a chance to figure out how to deal with the occupiers.

The labor movement in the U.S., Britain, and Australia needs to develop solidarity with the working people of Iraq, to assist with material aid and help them form independent trade unions to defend their interests against bosses and occupiers. We should warn them that our ruling class is not their friend. That is why we opposed the war, why we continue to call for bringing the troops home.

Saturday, April 12, 2003