Iraq: Occupation Nightmares

Revolutionary Worker #1204, June 22, 2003, posted at

Baghdad, Tikrit, Basra, Diwaniyah, Karbala, Fallujah, Balad, Baquba Al-Qaim, Beiji, Hit, Haditha.... Over the past months the people around the world have become increasing familiar with the cities and towns of Iraq. An American woman being interviewed on TV commented "Well, war is a way our children learn their geography." The U.S. occupiers continue to clamp down on the people of Iraq and we continue to learn the names of the many Iraqi towns. Towns where there is growing repression and desperation of the Iraqi people and growing resistance to the U.S. occupation.

This Is What an Occupation Looks Like

It's an old story, one that never tires of raising its ugly head. The "authorities" move in to "control" an area and they brutalize, humiliate and kill the masses in the process. When the masses of people cry out the injustice, the "authorities" deny any wrongdoing until they're blue in the face. It could be Brooklyn, NY last month when the people righteously resisted, in response to the police murder of Floyd Quinones. Or it could be Fallujah, Iraq, where the people are resisting the brutal and humiliating treatment of the U.S. occupiers.

In recent days numerous press accounts have indicated increased suppression of the Iraqi people by the U.S. military. There has also been an increase in attacks on U.S. troops throughout Iraq. More and more the strained conditions of the lives of the people in Iraq show no sign of light.

On Thursday the U.S. military launched its largest single operation since the seizure of Baghdad on the towns of Dhuluiya (90 miles northwest of Baghdad) and Balad (45 miles north of Baghdad). In a military offensive called "Operation Peninsula Strike," 4,000 GI's encircled the town of Dhuluiya--arresting hundreds. Since this operation began, according to the BBC News, up to 100 Iraqis have been killed. Press accounts quote U.S. generals describing the operation as "real warfare" while the people "bitterly complained" of excessive force used by the U.S. troops. While the quality of resistance to the U.S. occupation is hard to gauge, what is clear is U.S. troops are increasingly coming under fire. The same day as "Operation Peninsula Strike" was being carried out in the northwest, two U.S. aircraft crashed in the south, including an Apache AH-64 attack helicopter which was shot out of the sky southwest of Baghdad.

Many of the attacks on U.S. troops are taking place where there are larger concentrations of Sunnis-- who made up the bulk of the Baath Party's social base and were key forces in Iraq's army and militia. U.S. generals speculate that the resistance is coming from ex-Baath Party loyalists and former members of the Iraqi army, but they admit that it is not entirely clear who is attacking U.S. troops. At the same time the reality of the brutal occupation by U.S. forces is contributing to a growing anti-American sentiment among the people in Iraq--including those who may have welcomed the fall of the regime.

Tellingly, the U.S. military called its recent targets "terrorist training camps." Since when did resistance to a foreign occupation become "terrorist"? But clearly, the U.S. is once again using the term "terrorist" to set up a straw man excuse to suppress any and all resistance, including resistance from the people.

Just taking a brief survey of bourgeois media it becomes clear: occupiers can't be liberators.

"At least 5,000 civilians may have been killed during the invasion of Iraq, an independent research group has claimed. As more evidence is collated, it says, the figure could reach 10,000.

"Iraq Body Count (IBC), a volunteer group of British and U.S. academics and researchers, compiled statistics on civilian casualties from media reports and estimated that between 5,000 and 7,000 civilians died in the conflict."

-- Independent

"... it did not take long to see why children might throw rocks. There was another American soldier 40 metres away who was busy losing hearts and minds. `Tell them to get the fuck out of here,' he told a private, pointing at a group of teenagers. Then he turned to a middle-aged man sitting on a chair on the pavement. `You stand up and I'll break your neck,' he screamed at him."

--Robert Fisk, Independent

" `As we receive actionable intelligence, we strike hard and with lethal force,' Army Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq, said in a briefing Thursday. `Iraq will be a combat zone for some time.' "

--NBC News

" `Stop,' a soldier yelled, according to witnesses. `Stop,' he yelled again. But the young man, Ahmen Jassim, kept running. He was afraid they were going to arrest him as a thief. He said he had received permission to carry away `debris' from the destroyed ministry building.

"As Mr. Jassim rounded the corner onto Rashid Street, the lead soldier giving chase went down on one knee, leveled his weapon and fired, bringing Mr. Jassim down on the sidewalk. The bullet pierced his leg, severing a major artery, doctors said....

"...A sergeant at the checkpoint said his comrades had pursued Mr. Jassim because they assumed he was a looter. `He wouldn't have run unless he was guilty,' the sergeant said."

-- New York Times, June 11, 2003

"The aggressive raids angered people in Dhuluiyah, who complained of needlessly heavy-handed tactics by the Americans. One man said his 6-year-old son was handcuffed.

"In a mourner's tent on a side street of the mostly shuttered town, Abid Ali Jassem al-Juburi, a former general in Saddam's army, said he was grieving for his brother and cousin, who died early in the U.S. operation.

" `My brother was beaten, hit in the face and was killed,' he said, adding that U.S. troops took away medicine his family was bringing for a cousin who had suffered a heart attack `and smashed it under their feet.'

"Another resident, Ammar Salim, said 31 members of his family, males aged 13 to 70, were detained. `There was no reason for them to be arrested. They did nothing,' he said. `They (U.S. forces) destroyed all our furniture, all our belongings.' "

--Associated Press

" `It's too early to say for certain, but there is now a strong likelihood of a rather nasty, messy, what we would call a low-intensity campaign going on for months,' said Heyman, a former British army officer. `You could say that Baghdad could resemble a Middle Eastern Belfast, and suck in a lot of casualties over a long period.' "


"As U.S. Army patrols intensify in number and size, many residents complain that the increase in military muscle is heavy-handed. Resentment has been mounting since April 28, when U.S. troops, who said they were under attack by Iraqi protesters, killed 18 people and wounded 78, many of whom were children."

-- USA Today (talking about Fallujah)

"Angry locals near Balad showed a Reuters television crew ransacked houses, and said residents had been assaulted during the U.S. operation. In some houses, furniture had been overturned and beds upended. Books and ornaments were scattered on the floor. Locals said U.S. troops had caused the damage.

" `We couldn't communicate with the soldiers when they came into the house,' Hudhifa Mohammed said. `They hit my father, and fired shots. They handcuffed us and took us away.' "

-- Reuters

The People Tire of U.S. Occupiers

Here it comes the sound of terror from above,
He flex his Texas twisted tongue
The poor lined up to kill in desert slums
For oil that burn beneath the desert sun
Now we spit flame to flip this game
We are his targets taking aim
We're the targets taking aim
All his targets are taking aim

From "March of Death," Zach De La Rocha & DJ Shadow

According to the bourgeois press, several U.S. soldiers have been killed or wounded in the last two weeks in ambushes concentrated in two main areas -- to the west of Baghdad around Fallujah and Ramadi, and to the north around Balad, Baquba and Tikrit, Saddam's home town. The BBC also reported that there have been over 85 attacks on U.S. troops in May alone, triple the number in recent months.

"Senior generals now admit that the resistance they describe as `bad guys' are becoming increasingly sophisticated. U.S. soldiers on the ground have spoken of the accuracy and skill of their attackers. Most are armed with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, as well as handguns and assault rifles. Some attacks appear to be coordinated with signalling flares.

While few U.S. troops were killed in the weeks after the fall of the regime, a sudden burst of attacks in the past two weeks has claimed at least 10 lives and left more than 25 injured.

"U.S. military officials refuse to say how many attacks their troops face on a daily basis in which soldiers are neither injured nor killed, but some sources suggest that there have been more than a dozen such strikes a day in the past week. One source said there had been 26 attacks on one day."

-- The Guardian

A recent New York Times article reported: "American forces are still not clear exactly who their opponent is. Enemy fighters they have killed have not carried identification, and local residents have provided only limited intelligence about who is behind the attacks.

"But one thing is already clear. American forces seem to be battling a small but determined foe who has a primitive but effective command-and-control system that uses red, blue and white flares to signal the advance of American troops. The risk does not come from random potshots. The American forces are facing organized resistance that comes alive at night."

"Specialist William Fernandez experienced the enemy tactics first hand...

"When he saw a red flare he sensed his patrol was about to be attacked. Suddenly, a grenade exploded directly behind the column of six Humvees, a move he believed was intended to encourage the Americans to drive forward into the kill zone."

Other accounts have compared some areas of Iraq to Mogadishu, Somalia--made famous by the account in the movie Black Hawk Down . Still other accounts talk about the masses throughout towns like Fallujah, flicking on and off their house lights to signal the presence or arrival of U.S. troops. The most intense resistance has clearly happened at night.

While Bush takes joy rides on U.S. jets and declares an unofficial victory over Iraq, another picture is increasingly coming to the surface. According to Defense Department figures cited by the New York Times, 42 U.S. servicemen have died in fighting or accidents in Iraq since May 1. To get some perspective on these numbers, it is helpful to know that only 137 U.S. troops died in the intensive combat phase of the campaign launched March 20.

Cold Ironies

"Amid fears over the flagging morale of U.S. troops in the face of the attacks, the U.S. army launched a glossy patriotic magazine with a circulation of 5,000--called `Liberator'--to rally its Third Infantry Division."

-- AFP

The U.S. military is spilling over with cold ironies. Be it the fact that their army is made up of many working class people and people from oppressed nationalities--who are sent to foreign lands to kill and suppress other oppressed peoples. Or the reality that when the so-called "heroes" fighting for the U.S. military come home they will be broken, forgotten and many will have to live with the atrocities they have committed. Of course there is the basic fact that "serving your country" doesn't free you from the promise of coming home and being jacked up, humiliated or even being shot dead by the police.

There is a glaring reality in how things turn out. Looking at many of the young basic enlistees in the U.S. armed forces: Had they decided not to join the army, they wouldn't be sweating the people of Iraq, raiding their homes, handcuffing mothers and children, shooting down the people on behalf of the U.S. occupiers. Instead, all this same treatment could be happening to them by the police and other "authorities" that rule over the 'hoods of the U.S.

But there is also a cold irony in the fact that the U.S. armed forces on the ground are being turned into killers--killers for a system which, at the end of the day, doesn't give a fuck about them. It is a profound truth that most of the U.S. troops have more in common with the Iraqi people they are being pitted against, than with those generals and imperialist representatives who are handing out the orders.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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