May 6, 2004
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Part two of three
By DAVID T. WRIGHT
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Editor's note. Mr. Wright completed parts one and two of this article just before the established media began to reveal the fuller scope of the Empire's torture and abuse of Iraqi "detainees." Nicholas Strakon, editor-in-chief, May 6, 2004
Fallujah has been on the bad side of the occupation forces from the beginning. In November, remarks by the commander of the 82nd Airborne division both foreshadowed the recent atrocities against the mercenaries and hinted at some of the reasons they occurred. According to Dexter Filkins of the New York Times:
General Swannack said Falluja was nowhere near ready to be handed over to the Iraqi police. In discussing the guerrillas in Falluja, he said: "They can make it easy on themselves and tell us who the bums are, and we'll go search them out, or they will be subjected to some pain.
"But we are not going to tolerate attacks on coalition forces and people jumping for joy in the streets." ("A U.S. General Speeds the Shift in an Iraqi City," November 18, 2003)
No jumping for joy allowed. We aren't told what "some pain" consists of, but another piece by the industrious Timesman Filkins, reporting this time from Abu Hishma, provides some clues:
As the guerrilla war against Iraqi insurgents intensifies, American soldiers have begun wrapping entire villages in barbed wire. In selective cases, American soldiers are demolishing buildings thought to be used by Iraqi attackers. They have begun imprisoning the relatives of suspected guerrillas, in hopes of pressing the insurgents to turn themselves in.
The Americans embarked on their get-tough strategy in early November, goaded by what proved to be the deadliest month yet for American forces in Iraq, with 81 soldiers killed by hostile fire. The response they chose is beginning to echo the Israeli counterinsurgency campaign in the occupied territories. ("Tough New Tactics by U.S. Tighten Grip on Iraq Towns," December 6, 2003. Brief comment by Nicholas Strakon on this story may be found here.)
Like the Israelis, the occupiers require special identification cards to pass the barriers. If one doesn't have one, one is trapped on one side, unable to carry on the tasks of everyday life. All of those actions violate the Geneva Conventions, not to mention all standards of civilized behavior. Taking hostages? When others do that, it's considered by our betters as definitive proof of barbarism. But Arabs are not like us, so I guess they don't count. Filkins writes:
... Underlying the new strategy, the Americans say, is the conviction that only a tougher approach will quell the insurgency and that the new strategy must punish not only the guerrillas but also make clear to ordinary Iraqis the cost of not cooperating.
"You have to understand the Arab mind," Capt. Todd Brown, a company commander with the Fourth Infantry Division, said as he stood outside the gates of Abu Hishma. "The only thing they understand is force force, pride, and saving face."
No doubt Captain Brown is fluent in Arabic, has lived among Arabs, and studied Arab culture for years. Otherwise, his remark would seem somewhat conceited and overbearing reminiscent of the things British imperialists used to say about various wogs, fuzzy-wuzzies, and other foreign riff-raff. Or reminiscent of recent utterings by the Neo-Trots and other geniuses whose machinations got America into Iraq. One wonders whether this "tougher approach" will develop into a policy similar to the one the Nazis used against conquered peoples: for every occupier killed by insurgents, ten ordinary citizens are taken out and shot.
Certainly it seems less and less likely that the consciences of Imperial warriors would prevent it. In a disquieting parallel to the way domestic police view ordinary Americans i.e., as the enemy U.S. soldiers no longer seem to bring even a residual decency into the military from civilian life. Paul Robinson writes in the Spectator:
... Dr Davida Kellogg, who has taught military ethics to American officer cadets for many years, told a conference at the Royal Military College of Canada that it was becoming increasingly difficult to persuade America's future officers to treat the other side with respect. She confronts, she says, "intense and sustained resistance" to expectations that they behave "chivalrously" towards civilians. The enemy are seen as beyond the pale; the normal rules do not apply to them.
The British journalist Oliver Poole, embedded with American forces during the invasion of Iraq, noted this phenomenon in practice during last year's invasion of Iraq. In his new book Black Knights, he states that the Americans he was with considered Iraqis "barely human." The protection of American soldiers, he reports, was always a much higher priority than the protection of the lives of Iraqi civilians. Faced with gunfire from an Iraqi building, the response was, "Anyone still in that building isn't a civilian." The same attitude prevails today. An Iraqi life, or an Afghan life, or the life of any civilian at the receiving end of "Coalition" military action, is clearly not worth the same as an American or British life. ("Extremism in the defense of liberty," April 24, 2003, posted through LewRockwell.com)
Other accounts provide evidence of the frightening brutality apparently lurking under the surface of the Empire's boys and girls in uniform. In November 2003, the AP reported that a female soldier had been demoted for beating prisoners:
One of four American MPs charged with beating prisoners of war at a detention camp in Iraq said Tuesday: "We were doing our jobs.... It is war. It is not back home where everybody is safe."
Shawna Edmondson, a 24-year-old Army reservist, accepted a demotion and a discharge rather than face a court martial, and returned to her hometown in northeastern Pennsylvania last week....
Fellow soldiers testified that the four Pennsylvania reservists punched and kicked prisoners who were being brought to an American camp in southern Iraq on May 12. One prisoner suffered a broken nose. One soldier said that during the attack, a beaten prisoner was "screaming for his life." Another testified that Edmondson told her that the attack was to "teach the prisoner a lesson on how to treat women." ("U.S. soldier accused of beating Iraqi prisoners says, 'It is war,'" posted at USA Today, November 25, 2003)
Ah, the enlightened fruits of feminism. I'm not sure how Miss Shawna can say "everybody is safe" back home when she'll be running around loose. What's even more disquieting is that MPs, or military police, often go into domestic police forces when they leave the military. Her mistake, of course, was beating Arabs instead of killing them outright:
... Workers at a nearby state-owned pharmaceutical plant said at least two colleagues were killed and many wounded as they walked out of the factory gates at the end of their shift and a U.S. tank opened fire in all directions....
Residents of Samarra told [Agence France-Presse] that a tank had been attacked by militants hurling explosives at around 12:55 pm (0955 GMT) sparking an exchange of fire that lasted some 50 minutes.
At 1:45 pm, just as staff at the State Enterprise for the Manufacture of Drugs and medical Equipment finished their shift, a second tank arrived and began firing in all directions, employees said.
"Two staff were killed and many wounded," said factory security guard Nuhad Ibrahim.
As an AFP correspondent stood outside the gates later in the afternoon, a visibly shaken company manager arrived, saying he had been summoned from Baghdad.
Challenged by AFP as to what had happened, he said: "Go see in the hospital," and declined to elaborate or even give his name. ("Clashes in Iraqi town of Samarra kill 46," Agence France-Presse dispatch posted at Sify news, December 1, 2003)
Apparently it is standard procedure for U.S. soldiers, when fired upon or even just when they feel threatened, to shoot indiscriminately at whoever is in sight. There are numerous reports of entire families being machine-gunned to death in their cars because they approached an unmarked, impromptu roadblock a little too fast for the soldiers' liking. No signs are displayed telling drivers to stop, and of course the soldiers scream and bark their commands only in English.
Other news accounts tell of U.S. soldiers gratuitously machine-gunning Iraqi civilians on a bridge, or killing 13-year old girls digging in trash by the side of the road: anyone digging by the road is considered to be planting a bomb. In Fallujah more than 600 civilians have died so far in the siege by U.S. Marines. Such killings, of course, serve only to make the population increasingly hostile to Imperial troops, which in turn makes them feel even more threatened and angry. Paul McGeough, an Australian reporter, illustrates the dynamic:
... Sadeer, a 28-year-old Shiite, had been an enthusiastic supporter of the Americans and he takes his life in his hands by working for me. Iraqis are being executed just for being in the company of Westerners.
But his encounter with a bullying U.S. soldier, who roughed him up as he came through the security cordon around the hotel, has pushed him into the nationalist Iraqi camp.
When the GI challenged him, Sadeer tried to explain in his limited English that he entered the hotel routinely. But he was barked at, shoved away and then belted on the foot with a rifle. He used to slow in traffic to greet the U.S. troops. Now he has turned: "Americans bad for Iraq too many problems." ("How GI bullies are making enemies of their Iraqi friends," smh.com,au, April 12, 2004)
Iraqi reporters recently walked out of an official news conference to protest the death of yet another colleague at the hands of U.S. soldiers (the tame American reporters stayed on, unruffled). Indeed, the death rate among reporters of all nationalities except American leads one to wonder whether they are deliberately targeted by the occupiers. McGeough writes:
Leaving the hotel on foot, we had to go through the same streets to get to [Sadeer's] car. I tried to explain our movements to the officer in charge of a U.S. tank unit, but we were greeted with a stream of invective.
As I thanked the officer for his civility and moved on, one of his men fell in beside me, mumbling. Asked to repeat himself, he exploded: "Don't you f---in' eyeball me."
Nodding to his officer and raising his weapon, he shrieked: "He has rank to lose. I don't. I'll take you out quick as a flash, motherf---er!"
Obviously, things are going to get a lot worse in Iraq before they get better. Lovers of peace may hope that this will lead to public pressure to withdraw, as it did in the cases of Lebanon, Somalia, and Vietnam. But it may be that the American public is simply too far gone: too badly educated, too uncaring, too desensitized. Results of a recent poll don't hold out much hope:
A majority of Americans continues to believe that Saddam Hussein was in cahoots with al-Qaida and that Iraq either had weapons of mass destruction or a significant program for developing them, according to a startling new opinion poll.
The poll, conducted by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes, suggested that months of revelations challenging Bush administration policy had so far had little effect on public opinion. In fact, most respondents seemed unaware of the devastating revelations made by David Kay, the administration's chief weapons inspector who found no weapons, or by Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism czar whose book Against All Enemies has been the talk of Washington for weeks.
A staggering 82 percent of respondents believed most experts supported the notion that Iraq was providing "substantial support" to al-Qaida a contention that President Bush himself has been forced to disavow.
Almost 60 percent were unaware that world opinion was overwhelmingly against the war in Iraq, with 21 percent saying the world was behind the U.S.-led invasion and 38 percent saying views were "evenly divided." ("Poll: Americans still believe in Saddam-al-Qaida link," by Andrew Gumbel, London Independent, April 24, 2004, posted at Seattlepi.com)
In other words, decades of the boob-tube and compulsory state "education" have rendered the Average American dumb as a post, just like his president.
Antiwar.com's Justin Raimondo believes that the current chaos in Iraq actually serves the purposes of the Neo-Trot warmongers perfectly: by getting Americans used to the deaths of U.S. troops and to the other horrifying results of war, it will allow the Emperor to pursue further aggression against such Israeli bête noires as Syria and Iran. (See "The Ugly Truth," April 9, 2004.)
Whether or not that proves to be true, the corruption of today's American society is becoming plain. U.S. soldiers regard Iraqis as Untermenschen, young women in uniform are as brutal as the men, and back home the American public isn't even paying attention. The United State has indeed become a mature empire.
© 2004 WTM
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