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"The army of 'liberation' has already become...
An army of occupation

April 25, 2003 | Page 5

"I WOULD say the vast majority of people want us here. I actually think things are going reasonably well." That was the verdict of Major Steve Katz, a Special Operations officer in the Iraqi city of Mosul last week--after U.S. Marines opened fire on a crowd of thousands of protesting Iraqi civilians. NICOLE COLSON reports on the cruel reality of the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

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THE MASK has been ripped off the U.S. "liberation" of Iraq--and the brutal face of U.S. occupation is exposed for the world to see. "It's going wrong, faster than anyone could have imagined," wrote British journalist Robert Fisk. "The army of 'liberation' has already turned into the army of occupation."

Nowhere was it clearer how "wrong" things are going than in Mosul, where U.S. Marines fired on crowds of Iraqi demonstrators, killing as many as 14 and wounding dozens more during two separate days of protests.

According to the Pentagon, demonstrators started throwing shoes and stones at Marines protecting the office of the new U.S.-installed governor, Mashaan Al-Juburi. Al-Juburi is a former commander of Saddam Hussein's bodyguards. In 1991, he led troops involved in putting down an uprising by Shiite Muslims in southern Iraq. Yet when a crowd of several thousand civilians began protesting Al-Juburi's calls for cooperation with the U.S., the "liberators" opened fire on them.

Marines say that they were fired upon. But the protesters tell a different story. "[The soldiers] climbed on top of the building and first fired at a building near the crowd, with the glass falling on the civilians," Ayad Hassun told Agence France Press. "People started to throw stones, then the Americans fired at them."

The message is clear: the U.S. will install whatever thugs its likes to rule Iraq--and if ordinary Iraqis don't go along, they'll be made to suffer the consequences.

In the rest of the country, anger at the U.S. occupation is growing as well. And why wouldn't it--since U.S. soldiers have stood by and done nothing as Iraq's museums and government buildings have been looted and systematically torched? "The looters come first," Robert Fisk reported. "The arsonists turn up later, often in blue-and-white buses…The passengers in those buses are clearly being directed to their targets."

Yet the mighty U.S. military--after bombing Iraq to pieces, destroying its infrastructure and wounding and killing thousands of people--can't protect what little is left of the country. Except, of course, for the Ministry of Oil--which has been under tight U.S. guard.

Now, U.S. marines have issued a "Message to the Citizens of Baghdad"--which is really a strict curfew from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. "Please avoid leaving your homes during the night hours after evening prayers and before the call to morning prayers," reads the message. "During this time, terrorist forces associated with the former regime of Saddam Hussein, as well as various criminal elements, are known to move through the area…Please do not leave your homes during this time. During all hours, please approach Coalition military positions with extreme caution."

So now, millions of Baghdad residents are effectively under house arrest--with no water or electricity--from dusk to dawn. "If I was an Iraqi and I read that," one woman shouted to Fisk, "I would become a suicide bomber."

Under conditions like these, is it any wonder that ordinary Iraqis see U.S. soldiers not as liberators, but conquerors? In Baghdad itself, as many as 30,000 people demonstrated last week with banners that read "Leave our country, we want peace."

In the southern town of Nasiriya, where the U.S. threw together a summit meeting to form a new government, 20,000 people marched, chanting, "Yes to freedom, yes to Islam. No to America, no to Saddam."

Two weeks ago, the Bush gang claimed that the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein--pulled down by U.S. soldiers to the cheers of a few hundred Iraqis--was the "will" of the Iraqi people. Today, they ignore the real will of Iraqis--for the U.S. occupiers to get out of Iraq.

Suffering and starvation in Baghdad

"GETTING THE water, the power, the trash back up, that's absolutely critical." That was the promise last week from Major Gen. James Mattis, the most senior U.S. military officer in Baghdad. But as Socialist Worker went to press earlier this week, electricity systems, telephones, water and food distribution networks remained in disarray across Iraq.

According to the United Nations, half the population has only enough food to last a few weeks. In Baghdad, in addition to the power outage, the telephone system has not worked for more than two weeks--since it was deliberately bombed by the U.S.

Thirty-five Baghdad hospitals are closed because of looting and arson. The three that still function report horrific conditions--and continued lack of supplies, including antiseptic, bandages, and most medicines. Now, the hospitals are reporting a rise in waterborne diseases like cholera--the result of the collapse of Iraq's sewage system.

But the Bush administration couldn't care less about the suffering of ordinary Iraqis. In fact, the anti-sanctions group Voices in the Wilderness was banned last week from meeting with the U.S. Civil Military Operations Center (CMOC) or with journalists in the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad. The reason? A day earlier, the group had issued a press release laying out the horrible details of Iraq's humanitarian crisis--and the criminally inept response of the U.S.

"Trash removal has not occurred for a month," the group reported. "Electricity, sanitation and communications were all seriously damaged during the U.S. war, and have yet to be restored. Cholera outbreaks have been reported in Basra, and rumored to have been found in the central Iraqi city of Hilla. Some of the local clinics are up and running, but medications for conditions such as hypertension and diabetes are no longer available."

As Irene Khan of Amnesty International said last week: "There seems to have been more preparation to protect the oil wells than to protect hospitals, water systems or civilians. The first taste of the coalition's approach to law and order will not have inspired confidence in the Iraqi people."

The media are now making much of the fact that Ali Ismaeel Abbas--the 12-year-old boy who lost both his arms in a U.S. air strike that killed his entire family--was flown to a hospital in Kuwait to receive treatment.

Yet there are others like Ali who will be condemned to death or a life of suffering because of the iron-fisted hand of U.S. occupation. Children like Ali Mustafa--a 5-year-old who was playing with his brother and two friends earlier this week when he picked up an unexploded cluster bomblet. It exploded in his hands, blinding him.

Across the ward, Adel Hamid was looking after his 10-year-old nephew--another victim of cluster bombs. And even as Ali was being transferred to the new hospital, U.S. forces refused to allow a plane from the British aid group Save the Children to land in northern Iraq. For more than a week, the group had tried to bring emergency feeding kits for starving children and enough medical supplies to treat 40,000 people--and were repeatedly denied.

Still, George W. Bush had the nerve to tell a crowd in Crawford, Texas, last week, "In this new era of precision warfare, we can target a regime. Our aim is to strike the guilty." The humanitarian crisis in Iraq shows the truth--that the U.S. war, and now the occupation, strikes thousands of innocent Iraqis every day.

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