From A World to Win News Service

Iraq: Occupiers in Trouble

Revolutionary Worker #1218, November 2, 2003, posted at

We received the following article from A World to Win News Service.

October 20, 2003. A World to Win News Service.Everyone--maybe everyone but George Bush--knows the U.S. is in big trouble in Iraq. The occupiers are being slammed harder, more often, in more cities and by a wider circle of forces.

There's no denying that the war didn't end when Bush said it did, on May 1. Maybe it was just getting started. At this point, about as many U.S.-led coalition soldiers have died since May 1 as before. Roadside bomb and booby trap attacks on American troops are so common that the media hardly bothers to report them any more. On October 2, the Coalition commander told reporters that there were 15-20 attacks a day, about half of them involving face-to-face shootouts. The pace picked up sharply shortly after that.

The reason is simple: the Iraqi people want their country back. The more they demand it, the more the occupiers beat and shoot them, and the more oppression generates resistance.

American authorities like to claim that the resistance is coming from ex-Saddam regime forces. Even if that is an important part, why should Bush get to say who can do what in Iraq? Clearly very different Iraqi political forces are involved, and their military actions are guided by different political lines and goals. But no resistance could survive long without the backing of the people. No one but George Bush can deny that the resistance represents the will of millions upon millions of Iraqis. The hatred for the occupation is strongest not among the elite members of the old regime, who, except for a handful, are being offered a job by the Americans, but among the poor and downtrodden.

U.S. Troops Run Amok in Baiji

Here's a typical incident: Baiji, an oil refinery town north of Baghdad, has seen a growing back-and-forth spiral of fighting. Early in October, the U.S.-appointed police fired into a demonstration, wounding four people. The police said it was pro-Saddam protest. Even if that was one slogan, this only shows what kind of "democracy" has replaced him. Neighborhood people became so enraged that the police had to flee into a U.S. base north of the town. "U.S. troops have returned, with snipers on rooftops and armor in the streets, but they can control the town only by using military force," wrote the Independent . "This week a U.S. soldier was killed and another wounded when their armored vehicle hit a landmine."

One 14-year-old was shot dead while trying to fix a TV antenna on his roof. U.S. soldiers also killed a cleric who had gone out in the early morning to say his prayers before curfew was lifted.

A Swedish journalist told an Independent reporter that he had witnessed U.S. soldiers beating an elderly religious man almost to death. "Suddenly I saw the soldiers kick in a door and drag out an old man who screamed, `Me no shoot! Please, mister.' The soldiers shouted, `Shut the fuck up! Shut the fuck up!'

"They tied his hands behind his back, and then, as he lay on the ground, one said, `Keep his head still.' He slammed him on the head with his rifle butt again and again. Then the others kicked him. There was blood everywhere." The British news article continued, "U.S. officers later admitted that they were probably wrong about the old man, but said, `These things happen in the heat of action.' "

Clashes in Baghdadand Basra

In Baghdad former Iraqi soldiers demonstrated on October 4 to demand the $40 the occupiers promised them when they dissolved the Iraqi army and left them unemployed.

"It started when one man went to get a drink of water after we had been queuing for five hours," said a man interviewed in his hospital bed afterwards by the British Independent . "The U.S. soldiers wouldn't let him get back in the line and they beat him and us with long batons and electric cattle prods. Then we started throwing stones at them and they fired back." As protesters chanting "America, No! No!" moved from the former airport--now a U.S. base--toward the center city palace where the U.S. hand-picked Iraqi Governing Council sits, American helicopters fired on them. The authorities issued no report on casualties.

The city of Basra in the far South is under the occupation of the British, who like to think they are more sophisticated than the simply brutal Americans. During similar demonstrations the same day, UK troops fired on a crowd of people who had become restless after waiting in the sun for hours, killing one man. They also fired rubber bullets, whose use they perfected in shooting demonstrators and children in Northern Ireland.

Bush said that the Shia people would welcome the Americans as liberators. The vast Baghdad slums formerly known as Saddam City, home to four million people, were supposed to be especially receptive to the foreign troops who brought down Saddam. Now Saddam City, renamed Sadr City, is what the occupiers call a "red line area", a death trap for American troops.

On October 9, a bomb killed ten people at a police station in Sadr City. As the U.S. has tried to hire Iraqis to do their fighting and dying--mainly men who were formerly Saddam's police--attacks on them have been mounting steadily. American troops entering the neighborhood that night in three Humvees came under an attack U.S. authorities refused to explain. Apparently it involved a whole crowd of people, who are said to have lured the soldiers into leaving their vehicles and then opened fire on them with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades, killing two. The next day there was a funeral procession in Sadr City for two of the Iraqis killed in that firefight. Ten thousand people reportedly marched, some of them armed, and once again they clashed with U.S. troops.

Karbala, Kirkuk, and Falluja

In Karbala, a Shia holy city south of Baghdad, a firefight broke out when a U.S. military police patrol started shooting at men gathered around the offices of a Muslim cleric after curfew. The men fought back, some with automatic weapons and others with swords. They killed three U.S. soldiers and two of their puppet policemen. Among them was a lieutenant colonel, the highest-ranking American killed so far in this war. Five of the cleric's supporters were killed. The next day, October 17, U.S. troops returned to the scene and again there was fighting. The Polish troops who are supposed to be in charge of the area watched from a distance, apparently none too eager to die for Uncle Sam and George Bush. The city remains blocked by the occupiers.

Kirkuk, in Kurdistan, like Basra an area formerly described as "quiet" by the occupiers, now rings with automatic weapons and mortar fire. Resistance fighters mounted three hit-and-run operations in two hours October 7, firing mortar shells on a U.S. base and throwing a hand grenade into the U.S.-controlled city hall, and blew up a Humvee outside town. Residents report that a U.S. detention centre for Iraqi prisoners comes under mortar fire regularly. A plan to inaugurate a new police headquarters had to be cancelled. The police chief's home, a restaurant popular with GIs, and the offices of a Shia cleric allied with the U.S. were also attacked. Iraqis ambushed a U.S. patrol in Kirkuk and another in a nearby city October 19.

Unlike Karbala and Kirkuk, Falluja, north of Baghdad, has been the scene of constant fighting since U.S. soldiers murdered dozens of demonstrators in April. The occupiers have tried to cow the people through punishment raids and house demolitions. On October 19, a convoy of two Humvees and a tractor- trailer carrying missiles was blown up by roadside explosives set against a sign reading, "Welcome to Falluja." The soldiers in the lorry jumped into the Humvees and they all sped away. A gathering crowd doused the missile truck with gasoline and set it afire. A man explained to a reporter, "The Americans destroyed Falluja." As the vehicle exploded, young people danced in celebration and drivers honked their horns.

Several hours later, when the U.S. soldiers came back to save what they could and found nothing but wreckage, fighters opened up on them with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons. "Shells were flying everywhere like fireworks," a shopkeeper told the Independent . American authorities detained two reporters without explanation--although humiliation and a thirst for revenge might explain it.

Low MoraleAmong U.S. Forces

What is the U.S. going to do? They say the resistance is a "low level war" they can handle, and it is true that the Iraqis are a long way from being able to kick the occupiers out. Even at four dead a day--as on October 16--the U.S. is not going to run out of young men and women to feed this war. But even under current conditions, they are having trouble sustaining the occupation.

GIs have already been told that they will serve a year instead of the promised six months because the U.S. has already thrown its reserves into combat and has few other combat troops left to relieve them. The Pentagon-funded newspaper Stars and Stripes --circulated almost exclusively to soldiers--ran a poll in which about half the troops rated morale in their unit as "low" or "very low." Almost a third said that the war was "not worthwhile." The U.S. Armed Forces acknowledge that 10 percent of its total casualties are suicides. The percentage of U.S. soldiers who are sick of the role they are being forced to play may actually be higher than admitted, but what is most significant about the survey is that it seems to represent a cry of alarm from within the military hierarchy itself.

Behind the UN Resolution

The recent UN vote to put its stamp of approval on the occupation was a crime, but was it really a victory for the U.S.? The U.S. went to the UN looking for a solution and all it got was an empty resolution. Instead of encouraging more countries to send troops, the U.S.'s biggest hope so far, Turkey, is hesitating. The only country willing to give any real money is Japan. In terms of the concrete support for the occupation the U.S. desperately sought, this move was a flop.

To a large degree, the UN resolution was a maneuver by the European powers to respond to the power of the U.S. by letting the Iraqi people weaken the U.S. in a way that they can't. Former Clinton foreign policy advisor James Steinberg explained, "These guys [the European governments] all think it's going to fail, but they don't want to be blamed. It's not that they're on board in any sense. It's just that this way, they can avoid becoming the whipping boys for U.S. failure."

"Vietnamizing" the War in Iraq

Currently the Pentagon is discussing how to "Vietnamize" the war. Just as the U.S. tried to have "Asians fight Asians" to reduce American casualties in Vietnam, so now it is counting on raising a mercenary army to fight for it in Iraq. The political goal is to counter Iraqi unity against the Americans and to turn this into a civil war.

According to the Washington Post October 19, transferring routine occupation duties to 18 American-led Iraqi battalions is one scenario U.S. military planners are looking at. Aside from this "best case," there is also the "mid case", in which "Iraqi troops prove unreliable," thwarting the goal of drawing down U.S. forces. The "worst case" (which the article links to increasing armed resistance from the Shias) would require an increase in American troops. But no leading American politician is calling for withdrawing the U.S. Armed Forces. On the contrary, the Pentagon says it is trying to downsize the occupation forces so that they can stay there indefinitely.