Iraq: U.S. Invasion of Samarra

Revolutionary Worker #1254, October 10, 2004, posted at

On the first day of October, 3,000 troops from the U.S. 1st Infantry Division launched a major offensive in the Iraqi city of Samarra. Following along in the wake of the U.S. forces were 2,000 army and national guard troops of the U.S.-controlled Iraqi regime.

With a population of 250,000 people, Samarra is an important city on the main highway from Baghdad to northern Iraq. And it has been one of a number of key cities around Iraq--especially in the "Sunni Triangle" area north and northwest of Baghdad--that have been under the control of armed resistance forces who have effectively made these areas "no-go zones" for the U.S. occupiers. The fact that many major population centers are in the hands of the anti-occupation insurgency has made a mockery of Bush's claim that the U.S. is "succeeding" in Iraq.

The October 1 assault on Samarra may well be the opening shot of a huge military offensive by the U.S. and its puppet regime to retake control of these "no-go zones"--which include Sadr City, the vast ghetto in Baghdad itself where Shi'ite fundamental cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is based. Such an offensive can only mean even more deaths and suffering for the Iraqi people at the hands of the brutal and unjust occupiers.

The U.S. troops moved into Samarra from three sides as aircraft and tanks bombarded neighborhoods. Electricity and water supplies to the city were cut off in advance. The New York Times reporter "embedded" with the U.S. troops wrote, "One by one, the houses in the Jebera neighborhood in the southeastern edge of the city were kicked open--and sometimes shot-gunned open--at one point revealing a bewildered wedding party that had not noticed that American forces were overrunning the neighborhood."

U.S. military officials said more than 100 "insurgents" were killed in the initial thrust into Samarra. It's unclear at this point exactly who were killed--and what the actual casualty figures are--but such U.S. "body counts" in Iraq have usually included many civilians. The Arabic-language news network Al Jazeera reported, "During Friday's clashes, Samarra's hospitals said dozens of bodies were brought in, including at least 11 women, five children, and seven old men. Staff could not cope with any more wounded, and bodies lay in the streets."

Rahim Abdul-Karim, a retired schoolteacher in Samarra, told the British newspaper The Independent: "There has been a lot of deaths, and they have been of ordinary people. They are killing us to save us."

During the U.S. war of conquest in Vietnam in the 1960s and early 1970s, the U.S. military operated under a murderous logic of "destroying the village in order to save it." The U.S. is carrying out a similar logic of classic counterinsurgency in Iraq--treating the people as a whole as the "enemy," bombing population areas from the air, conducting massive roundups, torturing and abusing prisoners.


The current U.S. plans for Iraq center on holding an election for a national assembly in January. This election has nothing to do with the people of Iraq getting a chance to express their will and regaining control over their country. It is a scheme to put an Iraqi face on the U.S. occupation and give some semblance of legitimacy to the puppet regime in Baghdad.

The Bush team hopes that such an election will slow the growing resistance to the occupation. The insurgents (who are a complex mix of different forces--primarily nationalist and Islamist) are now reportedly carrying out close to 90 attacks a day against the U.S. occupiers and the Iraqi puppet regime.

But the situation in places like Samarra, Fallujah, Tal Afra, Ramadi, and Sadr City (to name just some of the major "no-go zones") poses a big problem for the U.S.'s Iraq election plan. The occupiers cannot hold such an electoral exercise in areas not under their control. And if significant areas of the country are not included in the voting, the U.S. will find it difficult to promote the election as "legitimate"--within Iraq and around the world.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani--the top Shi'ite leader in Iraq--is reported to be increasingly worried about the U.S. election plan. Al-Sistani has generally gone along with the U.S. occupation, and the U.S. has seen him as a key element in their plans for a "stable" Iraq. But al-Sistani is concerned that the election will be postponed again (he had already agreed to a six-month delay)--or that his own legitimacy and position will be undermined if the election is considered to be manipulated by the U.S. or leads to an unfavorable outcome for Iraq's majority Shi'ite population.

So, in order to have a "credible" election that they hope might lend some legitimacy to the occupation, the U.S. must first try to militarily and politically pacify large sections of the country that are now out of their control.

Part of the strategy for such "pacification" has been to work out deals with Iraqi forces that the U.S. describes as more "moderate." In the city of Najaf, for example, the U.S. agreed to a "mediation" by al-Sistani in August after a bloody month-long standoff and intense battle with the militia led by Moqtad al-Sadr. Al Sadr's militiamen were allowed to leave Najaf, and the Iraqi police (which is trained and closely controlled by the U.S.) took official control of the city.

The occupation authorities tried a similar tactic in Samarra. Shortly after the battle in Najaf, U.S. troops enforced an economic blockade on the city, closing off the main bridge over the Tigris River and choking off all normal commerce. This led to great hardships for the people in the city. A group of clerics from Samarra then negotiated a deal with the occupiers. Under the agreement, the blockade was lifted--and in return, the U.S. troops could enter the city without being attacked. U.S. military patrols returned to the city in early September, and a new U.S.-backed city government was installed.

But almost immediately, the resistance forces denounced the agreement. Some clerics, allied with the insurgents, announced a government opposed to the U.S.-installed group. There were also reports that the guerrillas in Samarra had began coordinating with resistance forces in Fallujah--an ominous sign for the U.S. occupiers, since such coordination between the "no-go zones" was a new development that could lead to even bigger attacks against U.S. troops and the police and army of the puppet Iraqi regime.

Still, some political forces in Samarra apparently continued efforts to revive the agreement. According to the AFP news service, the provincial governor had said shortly before the October 1 offensive, "An agreement will be announced soon. A previous signed plan with the coalition will be ready to work again." Another prominent local figure told the AFP, "What we are seeing now is an effort to subdue Samarra by force and to sideline certain political forces to serve the agenda of the United States and that of its allied government."

The U.S. occupiers have clearly decided to settle the issue in Samarra with blatant and overwhelming military force.

The U.S. war planners might have decided to move on Samarra first because they considered it an easier target than some of the other "no-go" areas like Fallujah and Sadr City. While the U.S. troops met some resistance as they moved into the center of Samarra, by the second day the clashes seemed to have quieted. Most of the guerrillas had apparently avoided direct confrontation for now. An officer leading one of the groups carrying out house- to-house searches told the New York Times, "Our guess is, this battle is going to get pretty rough and will probably last a long time."

According to some reports, the current plan is to launch the major military attacks on rebel-held areas after the U.S. presidential election. Paul Krugman of the New York Times recently wrote: "It's widely believed that in November, a few days after the election, the Bush administration will launch an all-out offensive against insurgent-controlled areas. Such an offensive will, for all practical purposes, be an attempt to conquer Iraq all over again."

And such U.S. efforts to retake other strongholds of anti-occupation resistance promise to be even more vicious and bloody than what the U.S. has done so far in Iraq--which, by some estimates, has already led to 30,000 Iraq deaths since the initial U.S. invasion.

In Fallujah, a city of 350,000 people, the U.S. military has been conducting almost daily aerial bombings for many weeks. U.S. officials claim that they are carrying out "precision bombing" of "terrorist targets"--specifically the forces led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian who the U.S. insists (without any actual known evidence) is based in the city.

But by many accounts, including major news agencies, the U.S. air strikes have caused many deaths of non- combatants and much destruction in Falluja. After a recent air strike, for example--and yet another insistence by U.S. officials that only "terrorists" had been killed--CNN reported: "However, video and still photos of the scene--shot by Reuters and Associated Press photographers--showed two young children's lifeless bodies being pulled from the rubbles."

One U.S. official quoted in the Washington Times coldly "explained" these airstrikes in Fallujah: "They are shaping the battlefield right now. Those attacks are a prelude to much bigger military action."

The U.S. has invaded Iraq and raped the whole country--as part of their moves to restructure the whole world and expand their global domination. Now, as their occupation faces mounting contradictions, the U.S. is preparing a bloody "reconquest" of major cities. What will be the answer of the people of the world--and especially here in the "homeland" of the empire--to the savage, intensifying crimes of these imperialist gangsters?