“Before I left Baghdad on the day U.S. bombing began, I sat and cried with many of my Iraqi friends who asked me ‘What’s going to happen to us?’” Even after five years reporting from Iraq for Democracy Now!, the Nation and others, independent journalist Jeremy Scahill had no easy answer. In an interview with the World, Scahill touches on why this regime change will not liberate Iraq.

“The U.S. is overtly planning to impose military government over Iraq. There would be 22 ministries headed by a U.S. military official that would govern Iraq for a period of two to five years or more,” said Scahill. Though the U.S. is “seeking to work with [Iraqi] groups that are extraordinarily fundamentalist in the their orientation, those groups are rejecting the U.S. right now because they don’t want to be discredited by working with a government seen as an infidel.”

“The U.S. has been responsible for a dramatic de-secularization of Iraq society,” said Scahill, citing a decade of sanctions, bombings and now invasion. “Religious leaders, both Shiite and Suni, have become the most important players in Iraq. We are helping to raise a generation of fundamentalist Muslims who will grow up hating Americans, when Iraq was one of the most pro-American countries in the region just fifteen years ago.

“The bloodletting will not end when missiles stop hitting,” said Scahill, described the potential chaos in Iraq. Though it might appear as civil war, Scahill said, “remember that the U.S. created whatever situation results inside of Iraq.”

“The U.S. was not prepared for the consequences of invading,” said Scahill. Unlike in Afghanistan, he said, “the U.S. government doesn’t have a Hamid Karzai to put in place.” Scahill said, “Ahmed Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress is completely discredited in Iraq with his constituency more along the Potomac than it is along the Tigris or Euphrates.

“Only if the US is able to co-opt very senior Shiites from the current Iraq administration will they even begin to be able to consolidate power,” according to Scahill. But, he added, “even that is not likely because most of these people would be despised by large parts of the population for having collaborated with Saddam for all these years.

“The U.S. has a plan, not for democracy in Iraq, but for much of the same of what Iraqis have lived under since 1979, when Saddam Hussein came to power, only this time it will be headed by an imperialist force, namely the U.S.”

For Scahill, this begs the question, “What are they being liberated from? From a domestic tyrant to a foreign one? That’s not something most Iraqis are going to accept.”

Though Scahill sees no immediate prospect for progressive government in Iraq, he “would encourage people to research the Iraqi Communist Party. [They] have come under attack from all Iraqi governments over decades. Their analysis on the current situation is firmly anti-Saddam and anti-Bush. It’s very rare to have a secular group in Iraq taking this position.

“Many of these communists have had to flee Iraq because of repression, torture, imprisonment,” Scahill noted. “Though they live abroad, their analysis remains very interesting. They have very good contacts within the country and it’s incredible how accurate their information is at times.”

Scahill places the fate of Iraq in the context of what he sees as a U.S. strategy for “controlling oil production in the world, not just Iraq.” With exclusive control of Iraq’s oil, he says the U.S. “will no longer have dependence on Saudi oil.” And that means “the beginning stages of the erasing of borders in the Middle East into essentially an offshore American oilfield.”

“This is not only about Iraq anymore,” said Scahill. “We have to have a long term vision, because it’s about stopping this administration in Washington from carrying on with this merciless global agenda.”

The author can be reached at noelnoel@igc.org