Some People Push Back
By Thomas Wheeler
"Your sons have killed our fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters. Your sons have stolen, pillaged, raped, polluted the earth and the water, and burnt the fields. In fact, dear sisters, your sons are the real barbarians, the murderers, and criminals. Therefore, please don't blame us for hating them." - Letter from an Iraqi Mother
In April 2003, the United States was celebrating a "cakewalk" and on May 1, 2003, George Bush declared "the end of major combat operations" in front of a banner proclaiming "Mission Accomplished". In April 2004, "cakewalk" has been replaced with "quagmire" and "Mission Accomplished" has been taken over by a "Nightmare Scenario."
How bad have things gotten since the U.S. launched "Operation Iraqi Freedom" last year? Former weapons inspector Hans Blix has declared Iraq was better under Saddam Hussein. An Iraqi battalion refused to go to Fallujah to support U.S. Marines and significant portions of the Iraqi security forces stopped carrying out their duties. Respect for U.S. troops and the technological sophistication of the U.S. military machine has evaporated. Decades-old weaponry from the rag-tag Iraqi resistance are taking down their helicopters, hitting their convoys and battering their supply lines. Even children are celebrating and dancing on burned out American vehicles shouting "George Bush is Saddam Hussein. George Bush is terrorist!"
There is growing concern as the U.S. military struggles to secure their supply lines. Commenting on the deteriorating conditions, one defense contractor said the resistance fighters "own the roads." This situation has led to Halliburton suspending some convoy deliveries to the military in Iraq. Halliburton's support services are considered vital to the U.S. military and continued disruptions could result in shortfalls of food, water and fuel supplies. A rash of kidnappings has also increased the risks to contractors and foreigners, with some choosing to pull out of Iraq altogether. One Russian company is pulling out its entire staff of 370 people.
At least 83 U.S. troops have already been killed in just the first 12 days of April with more than 560 wounded. The 83 dead already makes this April the worst month ever and the number of wounded exceeds the worst month by more than 220 - and we still have two and a half weeks to go.
Last week's indiscriminate slaughter and brutal repression by the U.S. military against the popular resistance forces in Fallujah has meant that Iraqis are dying in much larger numbers. Deaths in the past week range from a conservative estimate of nearly 900 to more than 1,300 killed with thousands wounded. Independent correspondent Dahr Jamail reports that the Americans are slaughtering civilians in Falluja with numerous women and children shot by American snipers and ambulances being shot at by the Americans.
The Arab press is quite aware these U.S. military operations look similar to Israel's tactics in the West Bank and Gaza. The Israeli military has been teaching those tactics to the U.S. military. The same Israeli military that even encouraged its own army to "analyze and internalize the lessons of how the German army fought in the Warsaw ghetto." Israel's brutal tactics of repression include assassinations, mass detentions, house demolitions, indiscriminate torture, targeting ambulances, the denial of food, water, and electricity to the civilian population, brutal assaults on urban neighborhoods, and targeting journalists. This pretty much describes what the Americans are doing in Iraq. Professor Norman Finkelstein once wrote: "If Israelis don't want to stand accused of being Nazis they should simply stop acting like Nazis." The same obviously applies to the United States.
Another factor to consider is the racist contempt of the Iraqis by U.S. troops which is frighteningly common and pervasive. A British officer is quoted in The Telegraph as saying part of the problem was that American troops viewed Iraqis as "untermenschen" - the Nazi expression for "sub-humans". These American attitudes towards the Iraqi people were amply demonstrated in a CNN story called "Fit to Kill" where Marines celebrate the killing of a wounded Iraqi crawling on the ground. When interviewed about the execution of the Iraqi, one Marine replied "it was a good feeling" and proudly proclaimed "hell, yeah, that was awesome. Let's do it again!"
The first two weeks of April have certainly been pretty violent. What is frightening is it may get a lot worse. The fragile "ceasefire" supposedly in effect near Falluja may only be the relative calm before the real shitstorm. Some of the Marines who surround the city are anticipating a brutal and bloody offensive to take the city. They talk quite openly and eagerly of "leveling" the city of 200,000. Lance Cpl. Ryan Christiansen, told a Newsday reporter: "I really don't care; they're all gonna die."
A recent comment from the American commander, General John Abizaid, also indicates that the U.S. military may engage in a violent bloodbath to crush the Iraqi uprising. "We're going to do whatever it takes to ensure that we're successful out here," he said.
That includes a request for an additional 10,000 troops as U.S.-trained Iraqi policemen continue to abandon the Americans, join the insurgents, or simply refuse to fight. Pentagon officials have also announced that nearly 20,000 American troops that were scheduled to return home will instead remain in Iraq for as long as three additional months.
Besides the U.S. military reinforcements around Falluja, a 2,500-strong force with massive amounts of firepower is being massed on the outskirts of Najaf where cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is currently located. Ayatollah Ali Sistani has warned them against attacking the Shiite shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala. Many feel an attack on Najaf could result in a massive Shiite rebellion throughout the country. One expert on Middle East matters, Professor Juan Cole, wrote: "If the Shiites actively turn against the U.S., the whole military and security situation could become untenable." This has apparently not deterred U.S. war criminals like General Mark Kimmitt regarding Najaf where Muqtada al-Sadr is currently residing. Said Kimmitt: "We will hunt him down and destroy him."
The U.S. media have characterized the killing of four heavily-armed Blackwater mercenaries and the hanging of two of their bodies from a bridge as a "massacre" and characterized the behavior as "despicable" "savage" and "barbaric." White House spokesman Scott McClellan called them "horrific attacks" and "cowardly, hateful acts." U.S. proconsul Paul Bremer called those who engaged in this action as "ghouls and cowards." The New York Post called them "cold-blooded, ruthless barbarians." Interesting rhetoric when one recalls Vietnam where U.S. troops dragged bodies behind their vehicles and proudly displayed the severed body parts on their belts of the Vietnamese they butchered and mutilated.
The U.S. press and government officials take a decidedly different tone when it comes to the far more deadly, barbaric behavior of the U.S. military. U.S. troops have murdered a number of Iraqis by indiscriminately firing into crowds of unarmed protesters, dropping large bombs in urban neighborhoods, engaging in strafing runs by Apache helicopter gunships, and firing into vehicles filled with Iraqi men, women and children at military checkpoints. Descriptions in the mainstream U.S. media characterizing such brutality as "horrific attacks" or "cowardly, hateful acts" have been missing in action. Nor were these unprovoked massacres characterized as "savage" or "barbaric". Journalist John Pilger notes that as many as 55,000 Iraqis have been killed by the latest example of Western colonial terrorism. One word often used to describe these killings? "Justified."
General Mark Kimmitt declared, "Individuals who create violence, who incite violence... will be hunted down and captured or killed." Considering the vast majority of individuals creating violence and engaging in brutal war crimes are U.S. military personnel and U.S. mercenaries, it should not surprise Kimmitt that the resistance fighters appear to have adopted his advice and applied it to their situation.
Let's not forget that the U.S. occupation forces have kidnapped and detained thousands of Iraqis. There is significant evidence of torture. U.S. forces also engaged in kidnapping and detaining relatives of suspected former officials and insurgents who themselves were not suspected of any wrongdoing. U.S. occupation forces had some of their homes demolished, an action Human Rights Watch called "collective punishment" and a violation of the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Human Rights Watch also stated the detaining of relatives should be more accurately be called hostage-taking, which is a war crime.
Over the years, the Iraqis have endured the deliberate targeting and systematic destruction of water treatment facilities and sewage plants in order to create "favorable conditions for disease outbreaks, particularly in major urban areas" (according to a 1991 U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency document). This was followed by a deliberate U.S. policy of blocking humanitarian supplies to deny necessary repairs, medicines and medical equipment resulting in 1 to 1.5 million deaths, many of them children - a U.S.-enforced embargo declared "genocidal" by Denis Halliday, former Deputy Under Secretary of the UN. The deaths of 500,000 children as a result of the sanctions and blockade against medical supplies was deemed "worth it" by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
The United States is now engaged in a savage and brutal occupation against a vastly outgunned enemy with the civilian population as their primary target. As the anger, resentment, and resistance to the occupation has grown, the level of barbarism which is taking shape increasingly resembles those carried out by Nazi Germany against its enemies. The U.S. has committed and will likely continue to engage in terrorist atrocities and war crimes with ever greater fervor to suppress this legitimate and growing resistance.
But what also must be understood is when you push people around and brutalize them, some of these people will push back. And some of them will push back as hard as they can. The Iraqis have every right to armed resistance and to defend themselves against this brutal and vicious occupation by whatever means they see fit. Bush challenged them to "bring it on". And that is exactly what they are doing.
Thomas Wheeler is a contributing editor to Alternative Press Review. He can be reached at email@example.com