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Operation Iron Hammer: Iraq: The War After the War

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Iraq: The War After the War -- RW ONLINE

Operation Iron Hammer

Iraq: The War After the War

Revolutionary Worker #1222, December 14, 2003, posted at rwor.org

"Since May, when major combat operations were declared over, a total of 2,227 guerrilla attacks took place in the Sunni Triangle, according to figures as of the end of last week. The rest of the country has had 1,416 attacks, most of them against occupation forces."

Boston Globe , November 29

As November 2003 started, U.S. helicopters were shot down by shoulder-launched missiles.

U.S. Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld scolded those, including within his own military, who thought the occupation was in trouble: "Sitting around wringing your hands and saying, `It's horrible, it's horrible, everything is terrible' is nonsense. It isn't all terrible. There's some darn good stuff happening."

But day by day, November just kept looking worse for the U.S. occupiers. The surprise attacks by Iraqi resistance forces grew in number, power and sophistication.

The U.S. and its allies suffered more combat deaths in November than any other month. Since March 2003, 437 U.S. soldiers have died, 81 of them in November alone. In last April, when the main combat of the invasion happened, there were 73 dead.

According to Pentagon reports, by the end of November about 10,000 U.S. soldiers in this war have either been killed, wounded, injured in accidents, or become ill enough to be evacuated. This war is causing such a high ratio of massive injuries and amputations that the military is slipping these casualties into the U.S. on night-time flights to avoid media coverage.

As the myth of the "welcomed liberators" fades, and as U.S. soldiers are picked off by the resistance, the morale among occupation forces has dropped. Many soldiers and their families have demanded to know why they are still in Iraq and what they are supposedly fighting for. Self-inflicted wounds have increased among U.S. soldiers--with suicides now representing 10 percent of non-combat deaths.

In early December, Le Canard Enchaine , the French weekly known for satires and expos?s, reported that French intelligence sources said over 1,700 soldiers have deserted from the U.S. military during this war--many of them not returning to duty after getting leave back in the U.S.

A Specter of Defeat

"We could lose this situation."

CIA report, November 2003

By mid-November, the U.S. occupiers were being hit 50 times a day in Iraq. U.S. forces felt like targets any time they stepped out of their bases. In one of the largest actions of the war, an Iraqi attack killed 19 Italian police.

As the attacks reached this new high point, a leaked CIA report sharply contradicted the official Pentagon line about fighting an isolated force of "Saddam deadenders and foreign terrorists." The report was written by the CIA station chief in Baghdad, and reportedly came to the White House with the endorsement of L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. colonial administrator in occupied Iraq.

This report concluded that the Iraqi resistance is "broad, strong and getting stronger." It stressed that these were not just "loyalists" of the old regime--but were drawn from many different parts of the population and dozens of different groups. The resistance forces were estimated at 50,000--including, along with the actual fighters, growing organized networks of supporters among the people.

As this summation sank in, the U.S. government announced major changes of war policy:

First, they announced that they would speed up the "transfer of power" to Iraqi political forces. At the same time, they announced that they would do this without elections that might produce an anti-American government.

Second, they announced they were speeding up the creation of a pro-American Iraqi military force-- so the U.S. could control Iraq without exposing U.S. soldiers to the dangerous work of counterinsurgency.

Finally, the U.S. government announced it would unleash the devastating fire-power of the U.S. arsenal against the Iraqi resistance.

Of these three plans, only one could be put into immediate action: The Pentagon called their new escalation "Operation Iron Hammer."

Hammering the People

"This is war. We're going to use a sledgehammer to crush a walnut. We're not going to prosecute this war holding one hand behind our back. We're going to use enough in our arsenal to win this fight."

Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack Jr.Commander, 82nd Airborne DivisionNov. 18, 2003

"We will win because we will stay on the offensive."

George W. Bush's Thanksgiving talk to the troops

For the second half of November, the U.S. military forces re-launched open warfare in Iraq. Five U.S. Army combat brigades--over 25,000 troops--conducted massive new operations targeting Baghdad and the areas north toward Tikrit, including the cities of Falluja, Samarra, Baqobah, Thuluya and Balad.

Tanks are entering civilian areas and blasting away at any sign of resistance. High altitude American jets are again dropping their so-called "precision bombs" and missiles right onto Iraqi towns. U.S. helicopters swoop down on villages and open up with massive, rapid-fire air cannons. This is collective punishment--rained down to terrify communities wherever resistance shows itself.

U.S. forces have surrounded whole towns, put the population on the ground at gunpoint and taken away large numbers of Iraqi men. The Pentagon said their forces had conducted 12,000 patrols and 230 raids and detained more than 1,200 "suspects" in the week from November 16 to 23 alone. U.S. jets bombed idle warehouses and factories with a randomness that has left inhabitants stunned.

The homes are being demolished-- sometimes from afar by satellite-guided missiles, sometimes up- close and personal. On Nov. 18, General Swannack described an operation that hauled off the men of six families in Mahmudiy: "We apprehended them and detained them, removed all family members out of the house, and we destroyed the house."

U.S. forces attacked the city of Baqubah on November 19. F-15 jets dropped 500-pound bombs on farmhouses. Apache gunships and ground artillery pounded the town with heavy shells.

U.S. forces directly invaded three Baghdad neighborhoods in force. Tanks and armored vehicles encircled whole blocks at a time, while helicopter gunships targeted cars that tried to escape. U.S. troops and Iraqi collaborators then barged into hundreds of homes and dragged away over 500 men. Intense barrages of air cannons boomed across the whole city.

A similar operation of over 1,000 U.S. soldiers hit the city of Hawija--men were taken away and U.S. troops brought armored bulldozers with them--as the Israeli forces do--to destroy houses on the spot.

This new U.S. offensive is openly about intimidating the people.

Asked why they had attacked Baqubah, Lt. Col. Mark Young reported: "To demonstrate one more time that we have significant firepower and we can use it at our discretion."

Asked if Iron Hammer would help win the "hearts and minds" in Baghdad, General Dempsey answered: "I'm not running for mayor, so I'm not trying to convince you that I have the popular support of the people of Baghdad every time I shoot an Apache helicopter."

Wrecking Samarra

"They attacked and they were killed. So I think it will be instructive to them."

General Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussing Samarra.

"Were the French happy under the Nazis? It is the same thing here."

Ismail Mahmoud Mohammed, U.S.-appointed police chief of Samarra, Financial Times, December 1

"Give me a gun, and I will also fight."

Majid Fadel al-Samarai, worker in Samarra's emergency room after U.S. attack

"I even saw Iraqi people throwing stones at us. I still can't understand why somebody would throw a stone at a tank, in the middle of a firefight."

Anonymous U.S. "combat leader" in Samarra

Almost none of these brutal events received coverage in the mainstream U.S. media. But then as November ended, the U.S. military itself decided to make a big splash.

They announced their forces had fought uniformed Saddam loyalists in Samarra -- killing 54, wounding 22, capturing up to 11, and only allowing a few to escape. The U.S. forces claimed that they only suffered seven wounded.

It was the first time the U.S. military had used a Vietnam-style "body count" to claim victory in Iraq. The Pentagon clearly wanted to give the impression that they were turning the tables on the resistance.

These U.S. reports were a lie, and quickly fell apart in the light of day. One commentator remarked that the precise number of the body count was a giveaway. This was all an invention of the military commanders, supposedly based on interviews with their soldiers.

Reporters discovered that the U.S. forces only had one prisoner, who may not be part of the resistance. The surrounding hospitals only had eight dead--all of them civilians. No bodies of dead fedayee were found at all.

Interviews were given by people of Samarra. U.S. "military expert" David Hackworth published a report claiming to be from an anonymous U.S. officer on the scene. A very different picture emerged.

As the AP dryly noted: "There was no way to reconcile the accounts."

It came out that six months ago, U.S. troops had shot an unarmed wedding party in Samarra, and that earlier this month, the town had been bombed from the air.

Then, on December 1, two U.S. columns--with six tanks and four armored vehicles plus squads of police and infantry--arrogantly entered Samarra in force to deliver a shipment of cash to the isolated pro- U.S. city authorities. Guerrilla fighters apparently knew they were coming--and launched a tenacious and well-planned attack.

Hackworth's correspondent said that the U.S. forces "hosed down houses, buildings, and cars" with machine gun fire and shells.

People of Samarra said that, as the resistance fighters withdrew, the U.S. forces simply kept pounding the surrounding residential areas for hours with their powerful tank rounds. Helicopters rocketed surrounding streets.

The BBC wrote: "Used in a densely populated urban area, built with flimsy mud-bricks, it is almost inconceivable that people well out of sight of the gunners were not also injured in the battle."

Residents claimed that at least 60 civilians were wounded. U.S. forces damaged a local mosque and destroyed a kindergarten (which had luckily just been cleared of children). Shrapnel cut into Abir al- Khayat, 28, and several others riding in a mini-bus taking them home from the local pharmaceutical factory.

The "battle of Samarra" was no U.S. victory. It was the latest U.S. atrocity in a month of atrocities.

The fact that the U.S. command dreams of propping up war support by inventing "body counts" of Iraqi dead shows the ugliness of their cause, and the deadliness of their intent.

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