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Isn't it time we called this a resistance war in Iraq?

Children are being withdrawn from newly opened schools after reports of child kidnapping and rape. The police stations are now guarded by US troops, surrounded by armour and guards with heavy machineguns, in lookout posts draped in camouflage netting.
American soldiers face new deadly enemy
June 30, 2003

By Robert Fisk

The allied forces may have 'liberated' Iraq, but US forces are finding themselves fighting another kind of battle, writes Robert Fisk.

Isn't it time we called this a resistance war in Iraq? Two Americans shot dead and another nine wounded by unidentified gunmen in Fallujah; two US military policemen badly wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade at a north Baghdad police station; a grenade thrown at American soldiers near Abu Ghraib.

That's Tuesday's little toll of violence - not counting the Muslim woman who approached US troops with a hand grenade in each hand, was shot down before she could throw it and then, as she tried to hurl her second grenade from the ground, was finally killed by the Americans.

Britain's Tony Blair and America's George W Bush are planning triumphal visits to "liberated" Iraq in the next two or three days, but they would do well to keep the rhetoric to the minimum. I know how the official briefings will go.

Fallujah was a Saddam stronghold where Americans could expect "remnants" of the old regime to fight on - "remnants", like the "remnants" of the Taliban and al-Qaida who are flooding back into Afghanistan and who appear to be arriving in battalion strength. More troops are on the way, Blair and Bush will be told.

Order is being restored.

Up to a point. Most people in Baghdad get only two hours' electricity a day. The petrol queues - in a country whose oil fields have already been corralled by the US military, along with the lucrative clean-up contracts for American companies - stretch to a few kilometres.

Children are being withdrawn from newly opened schools after reports of child kidnapping and rape. The police stations are now guarded by US troops, surrounded by armour and guards with heavy machineguns, in lookout posts draped in camouflage netting.

Nor am I surprised. A week ago, two American soldiers were shot dead in Baghdad. It was reported in the US as if they were victims of a natural disaster, like an earthquake or a minor traffic accident.

It's odd, the willing suspension of disbelief in which all here have to live. Caged inside the marble halls of Saddam's finest palace, thousands of American officers and civil servants - utterly cut off from the 5 million Iraqis around them - battle over their laptops to create the neo-conservative
"democracy" dreamed up by Donald Rumsfeld and the rest. When they venture outside, they do so in flak jackets, perched inside armoured vehicles with escorts of heavily-armed troops.

It was like this in Beirut in 1982. First came the US Marines and the French and Italians to protect the Palestinians and support the new right-wing Lebanese government. The first little hint of trouble came about six months later when Shia Muslim schoolchildren began throwing stones at American troops along a disused railway line.

Then "Death to America" was painted on the walls. It was almost a year before the first Americans were shot at, the first grenades thrown. It was more than a year before the US Marine base was blown up by a suicide bomber, with the loss of 241 Americans. But in Iraq, the anti-American attacks have begun within a month of the arrival of US forces who are now being assaulted almost daily.

The Fallujah shooting this week was about the most serious to date. The Americans said they came under fire from many directions, including a mosque, although witnesses spoke of two men climbing from a pick-up truck and opening fire on the Americans, all from the US Third Armoured Cavalry Regiment. The soldiers returned fire with guns mounted on Bradley Fighting Vehicles, one of which - in the chaos of the gun battle - smashed into a helicopter that had arrived to take the wounded Americans to hospital.

Fallujah has been the most dangerous town in Iraq ever since American soldiers there fired on a crowd of protesters last month, killing 18 Iraqis and wounding 78. On that occasion, the Americans claimed they were shot at from the crowd, though not a single bullet appeared to hit the American position.

US forces now drive through Baghdad much as the Israelis once did in southern Lebanon, ordering motorists to stay away from their vehicles and make no attempt to overtake into the same lane. But it's other features of their behaviour that Iraqis don't like. The other day, for example, I found a Bradley Fighting Vehicle parked in Yasser Arafat Street with a crowd of children in front. On top stood an American soldier in shades, staring over their heads, hands on hips and puffing on a huge cigar while his colleagues pointed their guns at passing cars. What was the message here supposed to be?

I know how it can be made to look different. Yes, there are free newspapers in the streets. Yes, electricity workers are now being paid. Yes, political parties are issuing tracts and claims and threats. Yes, you can even buy booze in the streets, although Shia clerics are promising to burn down every shop that sells it.

Prostitution - the most obvious free-market symbol in town - is back. And you can say what you like about anyone. Isn't that freedom?

But three days ago, near the site of one of Saddam's mass graves, I asked directions from a group of men in a car. Only when I leant out did I see that two of them nursed Kalashnikov rifles on their knees.

Why the guns? I asked. "Because we're not going to let thieves steal our car," one of them replied. Was this the only reason? They were sitting in their vehicle alongside the American army's main supply route to Baghdad.

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