From A World to Win News Service

Iraq: Occupation and Resistance

Revolutionary Worker #1209, August 10, 2003, posted at

We received the following from A World to Win News Service:

July 28, 2003. A World to Win News Service . Iraqi resistance forces have stepped up their attacks, and the U.S., too, has stepped up its efforts to crush the Iraqi people. Now everyone knows that the war Bush declared largely over May 1 is intensifying.

U.S. troops stormed into villages and homes in northern Iraq last week in what they called a campaign to arrest members of Saddam Hussein's ruling Ba'ath party. These mass roundups bore all the hallmarks of oppression--families terrified at gunpoint, houses destroyed and captives marched away with bags over their heads to prison and torture. They recall Israeli operations in the West Bank or even, at times, police incursions into American ghettos. The mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners has become so notorious that Amnesty International issued a report denouncing it and the U.S. military was obliged to charge four of its own soldiers with torturing prisoners at Camp Bucca in central Iraq.

Like many of the U.S. troops assigned to police and guard duties in Iraq, the four are reservists. One was a prison guard before being called up for active duty and another a police officer, with their occupations making a fitting link between their civilian and wartime duties. Apparently they were not interrogators but simply committed torture out of personal frustration, in public, and broke bones--official torturers try to leave no witnesses and no marks.

The U.S.'s greatest military success to date, what American officials hoped would be a "tipping point" in the war, was the killing of two men said to be Saddam's sons on July 22. This great "victory" came after a battle in which three adults and a teenager held off the American armed forces for hours until the attackers fired ten wire-guided missiles.

Their bodies were put on display after embalming and "cosmetic facial reconstruction" with wax to more closely resemble photographs. This grotesque show and the American military's refusal to allow their prompt burial deeply offended many Iraqis who have no love for Saddam. Although intended to humiliate Iraqis, it exposed the inhumanity and desperation of the occupiers. When Saddam's government broadcast news footage of GIs killed in fighting early in the war, U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld sputtered that this amounted to a public display of bodies. He said that this was a war crime in violation of the Geneva Convention, with the implication that there would be hell to pay for it after the war. Now it was apparently Rumsfeld himself who gave the order to parade these made-up corpses in public like trophies.

U.S. officials tried to justify this disgusting hypocrisy with the claim that the source of the resistance is limited to remnants of Saddam's regime. U.S. Joint Chief of Staff Richard Myers told a press conference in Baghdad that the fighters are mercenaries "paid money to go attack and paid more money if they kill American soldiers." This is ridiculous since no one in Iraq can come even close to matching the U.S. for bribery ($15 million for information leading to the capture of each of Saddam's sons, and similarly astronomical amounts of money for snitching on every level).

Myers's 24-hour mission to Iraq seemed mainly concerned with the morale among U.S. soldiers. "The most important thing is to understand why we're here," he told them. That is exactly what more and more GIs are asking themselves, according to interviews in the U.S. and UK media. In the face of both fierce fighting and undeniable mass hatred, why are they still there seems to be the most widespread question. For many, the question is why they were sent to Iraq in the first place.

One obvious counterargument to this claim that anti-American resistance is limited to the Ba'athist party comes from the continuing mass demonstrations against the occupation. Protest is especially strong among Shi'ite forces in the south who, we were told once upon a time, were going to look at American troops as liberators. About 10,000 people tried to march on the U.S. military headquarters in Najaf 25 July, in a continuing series of protests against the occupation led by the kind of clergymen the U.S. had counted on to help it rule. Marines fixed bayonets on their rifles and their commander threatened to shoot if the demonstrators did not disperse. On July 27, U.S. troops fired on demonstrators in Karbala.

In Mosul, just hours after the Hussein brothers were allegedly killed there, U.S. soldiers fired into an unarmed crowd demonstrating against the occupation, according to widespread reports in the media, which American authorities tried to deny. Many people were wounded and at least one protester died, a young student. His father said that his son hated Saddam Hussein and the brothers. The funeral turned into another demonstration against "the criminal Americans."

The nature of the war itself also gives the lie to the U.S. propaganda that resistance is limited to "pro-Saddam remnants." It is inconceivable that small units could appear, hit American troops and disappear again so readily if they were not supported by the people. If these fighters were acting out of narrow self-interest, as mercenaries or against their will, they would be far more likely to throw in their lot with the Americans.

But it is the way that the U.S. armed forces conduct themselves that is itself the most powerful refutation of U.S. slanders against the Iraqi resistance. The guiding rule for the U.S. occupiers is that every single Iraqi of whatever age, gender, ethnicity and religious affiliation is a potential guerrilla. Instead of seeking the cooperation of the local people, when U.S. troops are attacked they conduct home invasions and round up everyone in the area and threaten or torture them for information. If children appear unexpectedly, from a room or onto a rooftop, they are shot. Cars that fail to stop quickly enough at checkpoints are blasted. In short, they treat all Iraqis as less than human. The American armed forces cannot act any differently, because they are occupiers and the people are their enemy.

London Independent correspondent Robert Fisk reported that on July 27, as American troops were sweeping neighborhoods and farms throughout Baghdad and the north, they set up a roadblock outside a house they were raiding in the capital's middle class Mansur district. When a car approached in the dark, the troops opened fire on the car and passers-by in the street, killing as many as 11 people, including two children, their mother and crippled father. Another car caught fire, burning the occupants alive. The soldiers concentrated on preventing cameramen from filming, but they did nothing to try to remove the victims from the burning cars or to take the dead and wounded to hospital. A furious doctor at the Yamouk hospital where some of the civilians were brought told Fisk, "If an American came to my emergency room, maybe I would kill him."

Amnesty International has been refused permission to visit the U.S. detention center known as Camp Cropper at the Baghdad airport, where up to 2,000 prisoners are being held in airless tents, in extreme heat with little water and no sanitation. Amnesty's press release says that many prisoners there simply "disappeared" from the streets of Baghdad or elsewhere. They are often held without their families or anyone else knowing where they are, with no access to a lawyer or judge, and subject to torture. As a typical example, the Amnesty press release cites a man and his 80 year-old father who were held in neighboring cells. For eight days the son was not allowed to even sit down, let alone lie down or sleep. He was handcuffed and forced to stand or kneel facing a wall, a bright light next to his head and loud music blasting in his ears. In the next cell his father could hear him scream under interrogation. The facts about these men are known because they were eventually released. There have been three officially acknowledged but unexplained deaths of prisoners.

So much for American and British government pleas that we should forgive their lies about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction because the invasion saved Iraq from a regime of jails and torture. Saddam's secret police, the Mukhabarat, once characterized as the essence of everything that was evil about the former regime, is now being reconstituted by the American authorities. The New York Times of July 23 describes the CIA's efforts to "reach out to former Iraqi intelligence officials," who are being told to contact the U.S. military so that they can start "working with Americans." According to press accounts, the local police being recruited by the U.S. to help them are despised by the people as former Ba'ath party members, informers and other corrupt elements. But who else would work for the occupiers?

Eighteen American soldiers were killed in combat in the ten days ending July 28, including five within 24 hours. As of July 24, the U.S. Central Command reported 237 troops killed in this war. These figures include deaths from all causes, a more reliable figure than reported combat deaths since the latter does not include those who later die of their wounds. The U.S. has also been accused of not reporting all combat deaths. These figures only include a very small percentage of the daily one or two dozen attacks on American forces, whose body armor and modern medical facilities mean that many times more soldiers are wounded than die.

The Iraqi attacks continued and intensified even as the U.S. announced it was succeeding in capturing Ba'athist officials. Further, they occurred in fairly widespread areas, including Kurdistan and the south as well as the central area said to have been Saddam's stronghold. These hit-and-run attacks on patrols and convoys with rifles, rockets and grenades are not enough to drive the U.S. from Iraq. But these actions very clearly show what is really going on there. They reveal the possibility that the U.S. might never be able to subjugate the Iraqi people, and they are certainly disturbing American plans to use Iraq as a platform to more directly dominate the Middle East and as a keystone in its plans for global domination.

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