New resistance to Washington's deadly occupation
By Nicole Colson | November 7, 2003 | Page 12
THE U.S. occupation of Iraq is falling apart. In the deadliest strike against U.S. forces in Iraq since George W. Bush declared victory in early May, 16 U.S. soldiers were killed and another 20 were wounded November 2 when an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter that was transporting them was hit by a surface-to-air missile over a village south of Fallujah.
That came on the heels of a rocket attack on the Rashid Hotel in downtown Baghdad--the home base to many of Washington's military and civilian overseers in Iraq--and suicide bombings that killed at least 34 people and wounded more than 200 in a coordinated assault on the International Red Cross headquarters and police stations in Baghdad.
For months, the Bush administration has tried to pass off the Iraqi resistance as "insignificant." These attacks proved that it is anything but.
True to form, George W. Bush and his administration are trying to spin a new picture. The increasingly deadly guerrilla assaults are the result of...progress. "The more progress we make on the ground, the more free the Iraqis become, the more electricity is available, the more jobs are available, the more kids that are going to school, the more desperate these killers become," Bush actually told reporters.
As antiwar journalist Robert Fisk wrote in Britain's Independent newspaper, "In Baghdad, the message of the past two days was simple: it told Iraqis that the Americans cannot control Iraq; more important, perhaps, it told Americans that the Americans could not control Iraq. Even more important, it told Iraqis they shouldn't work for the Americans. It also acknowledged America's new rules of combat: kill the enemy leaders."
Today, Iraq can hardly be considered a "free society," as much as Bush would like to claim to the contrary. A new study by the Project on Defense Alternatives says that as many as 15,000 Iraqis were killed between March 19 and April 20 alone, in the first days of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. As many as 4,300 of the dead were civilians.
There's no telling how many more civilians have died as a result of the continued occupation, but Fisk believes the number may be as high as 1,000 per week. Throughout the country, electricity and clean water are still not fully available, and hospital supplies continue to be in short supply.
Baghdad has been turned into a maze of concrete barriers and razor wire in the desperate hope of preventing more guerrilla attacks. The U.S. military announced it would lift its evening curfew to allow citizens to celebrate the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, but residents no longer feel safe walking the streets after dark--or even during the day.
At the Ibtikar school in Baghdad, 1,410 students usually come to school on any given day. But following the suicide bombings of the Red Cross and police stations the Washington Post reported that just 10 students showed up for school--the rest kept home because of rumors that more attacks were planned in Baghdad.
"In our mind, there's only death," Rasmiya Hassan, a worker at the school told the Post. "We'll die here, we'll die there. That's all we think aboutdeath," she added. "We know they'll do it. They do what they threaten. Maybe they won't do it today, maybe tomorrow. Everything is possible."
Things are getting so desperate for the Bush administration that the U.S.-run Coalition Provisional Authority is now considering possibly recalling entire units of the former Iraqi army to police the country. It's a recognition that the Bush administration is beginning to run out of options.
According to the New York Times, just days before the recent suicide bombings, at a meeting of the White House's new Iraq Stabilization Group, Bush administration aides "debated the trade-off between locking down Baghdad and demonstrating to Iraqis that they now live in an open society, where they are free to shop, go to work or even protest the American-led occupation."
"It wasn't much of a discussion," one of Bush's senior aides reported. "We couldn't turn the place into a police state for long, even if we wanted to. And if we did, it would be a Pyrrhic victory." In other words, U.S. official can't bring the boot of occupation down any harder on the necks of Iraqis--for fear of sparking even greater resistance. But, the Bush administration can't continue to face casualties and endless extension of the tours of reservists in Iraq, either.
Back on May 1, when Dubya staged his "Top Gun" photo op aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln to declare the war over, he stood beneath a giant banner reading "Mission Accomplished." But now, it's mission "unaccomplished."
The banner "of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished," commented Bush last week. "I know it was attributed some how to some ingenious advance man from my staff--they weren't that ingenious, by the way."
The real problem isn't about what slogan hung on a banner. It's that the Bush administration underestimated the level of hatred that ordinary Iraqis would have for the invading U.S. army--and underestimated the strength of the Iraqi resistance.
As Lt. Col. Kim Keslung told the Wall Street Journal last week, "It was a mistake to discount the Iraqi resistance. If someone invaded Texas, we'd do the same thing. They say there's a reason for everything, but I just can't find a reason for this," Jack Smith, whose nephew Ernest Bucklew was killed in the missile attack on the Chinook helicopter, told ABC News. "This country shouldn't be starting wars, we should be defending ourselves and others. I think all these boys should be sent home."
As the occupation drags on, and more U.S. soldiers are injured or killed, U.S. troops will inevitably begin to ask why it is that they remain in Iraq fighting for the Bush administration's right to oil and empire. Or, there are the hundreds of sick and wounded soldiers at Fort Stewart, Ga., housed in squalid cement barracks while waiting weeks for medical care, who are already asking why it is that their government has thrown them away.
According to United Press International, "The National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers' living conditions are so substandard, and the medical care so poor, that many of them believe the Army is trying push them out with reduced benefits for their ailments. I have loved the Army. I have served the Army faithfully and I have done everything the Army has asked me to do," said Sgt. 1st Class Willie Buckels, an Army Reservist for 27 years. "Now my whole idea about the U.S. Army has changed. I am treated like a third-class citizen."
For others still in Iraq, stretched the to breaking point, the stress and anger will burst out As it did, according to the Toledo Blade, in Vietnam decades ago. According to classified documents obtained by the paper, the elite 101st Airborne known as Tiger Force killed and mutilated dozens of unarmed Vietnamese civilians during a seven-month period in 1967.
The investigation apparently concluded that at least 18 soldiers committed war crimes, but nothing was ever publicly disclosed, no charges were filed, and the documents have remained classified since 1975. Atrocities like this are not isolated incidents. They are the horrific consequence of U.S imperialism and occupation. That's why it's more important than ever to build a movement here at home to end this occupation.