As Americans sat down to Thanksgiving dinner, Iraqis were mourning 40 protesters killed by police and soldiers on Thursday in Baghdad, Najaf and Nasiriyah. Nearly 400 protesters have been killed since hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets at the beginning of October. Human rights groups have described the crisis in Iraq as a “bloodbath,” Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi has announced he will resign, and Sweden has opened an investigation against Iraqi Defense Minister Najah Al-Shammari, who is a Swedish citizen, for crimes against humanity.
According to Al Jazeera, “Protesters are demanding the overthrow of a political class seen as corrupt and serving foreign powers while many Iraqis languish in poverty without jobs, healthcare or education.” Only 36% of the adult population of Iraq have jobs, and despite the gutting of the public sector under U.S. occupation, its tattered remnants still employ more people than the private sector, which fared even worse under the violence and chaos of the U.S.’s militarized shock doctrine.
Western reporting conveniently casts Iran as the dominant foreign player in Iraq today. But while Iran has gained enormous influence and is one of the targets of the protests, most of the people ruling Iraq today are still the former exiles that the U.S. flew in with its occupation forces in 2003, “coming to Iraq with empty pockets to fill” as a taxi-driver in Baghdad told a Western reporter at the time. The real causes of Iraq’s unending political and economic crisis are these former exiles’ betrayal of their country, their endemic corruption and the U.S.’s illegitimate role in destroying Iraq’s government, handing it over to them and maintaining them in power for 16 years.