from A World to Win News Service:

U.S.'s "West Bank" Tactics in Iraq

Revolutionary Worker #1225, January 18, 2004, posted at

January 5 2004. A World to Win News Service."I see no difference between us and the Palestinians," an Iraqi man told a New York Times reporter in Abu Hishma, a village of 7,000 people about 80 kilometers north of Baghdad.

"Hey, this is just like Gaza, isn't it?" a young Iraqi shouted to a correspondent from the UK Independent,from behind the chest-high, three-layer wire coils which separate his home in Awja, outside Tikrit, from the rest of the world.

According to the New York Times , the U.S. Army also sealed off three towns in western Iraq in a similar fashion.

The U.S. occupation forces announced a "get tough" strategy in late November, after losing a record number of troops to the Iraqi resistance. In some areas of Iraq's so-called "Sunni triangle" north and west of Baghdad, where guerrilla attacks on the occupiers have been particularly intense, this means turning villages into prison camps.

Two U.S. rifle companies sealed off Awja on the night of October 30. "We were asleep," recalled a shopkeeper. "We did hear some work during the night. When we got up, we found all this barbed wire around us."

Abu Hishma has been enclosed by ten kilometers of razor-wire fence since mid-November. That was when guerrillas ambushed an armored personnel carrier and killed an American soldier.

"This sign is here for your protection," reads a sign. "Do not approach or try to cross, or you will be shot." No one is allowed in or out for 15 hours a day. The curfew means that people can't go to mosque for prayers in the morning or evening, or have enough time to wait in the day- long lines at petrol filling stations.

The villagers are prisoners in a foreign land that used to be their own.

Even when the gate is not closed, all males 18 to 65 must present ID cards to get in and out of their village. The cards are issued by American troops. The men must pose for their photograph holding up cards with their U.S.-issued identification number. Their names, age and car model are written on the cards, not in Arabic script but English.

"This is absolutely humiliating," a 39-year-old primary schoolteacher told a reporter. "We are like birds in a cage."

That is the point. A U.S. colonel told the media that he would continue to punish everyone in the village until someone snitched on the six guerrillas believed to have attacked the U.S. army vehicle. The commander said the men in question might no longer be in the village, but that did not change his mind.

These tactics are being used in much of Iraq, not just the walled-off villages. The occupation forces are dropping half-ton bombs on homes, bulldozing houses and using artillery shells to destroy civilian structures and whole blocks. They have also been kidnapping family members of suspected resistance fighters and holding them hostage to force the guerrillas to turn themselves in. They treat neighborhoods in Baghdad and other cities as ghettos where everyone is a potential enemy with no rights.

A general responsible for the development of army doctrine wrote in the U.S. Army magazine that American officers traveled to Israel to study the strategy and tactics the Zionists use against the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

While the only reason Israel exists is because of the American support it gets as a key U.S. military outpost in the region, Israel and Iraq are not the same. The U.S. has not tried to expel all Iraqis from their country, as the Israelis have tried to do with the Palestinians. But one similarity in both cases is the brutal determination to classify an entire people as less than human and subjugate them.

Someone could think that after the capture of Saddam Hussein, the occupiers might back off. On January 3 in Tikrit, a convoy of vehicles of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division opened fire on a car. They hit it 27 times, killing a woman, her baby and two other passengers.

Standing at the gates to Abu Hishma, a U.S. company commander gave a reporter a straightforward explanation for the occupiers' conduct:

"The new strategy must punish not only the guerrillas but also make clear to ordinary Iraqis the price of not cooperating," the New York Times writer summarized.

"You have to understand the Arab mind," the commander pontificated. "The only thing they understand is force--force, pride and saving face."

This says a lot more about the logic of the U.S. rulers and their military officers than what Iraqi people may feel. A young Iraqi policeman (!) imprisoned behind the wire along with everyone else in Awja made himself heard to the reporter on the other side: "It will make the resistance stronger. Even those who did not fight when the Americans came to Iraq are being pushed to join the resistance."

On December 25 in Baghdad alone, American authorities reported 26 attacks on their forces. The occupiers celebrated the new year by pounding homes in the southern outskirts of Baghdad with mortar and artillery fire and aircraft machineguns. They did the same thing to other neighborhoods in the capital January 2. That day, resistance fighters brought the number of occupation troops killed to 572.