The following article was sourced
through readily available news and commentary on
the internet, most of it archived by date at www.bringthemhomenow.org in
the news section.
PATH TO PANDEMONIUM
FTW Military and Veteran's Affairs Editor
[The waste of life and limb
in America 's latest Iraq War has been escalating
wildly under Paul Bremer's watch. A few minutes
with any text of Roman history makes it all too
clear that the job of a proconsul is to keep his
assigned imperial province quiet – but
don't look to the Bush people for historical perspective.
Paying attention to the roots of today's mess might
obligate them to do what they don't like (thinking,
for instance). As his recent press conference made
clear, our Commander in Chief is unaware that he
makes mistakes; so far, his deputies share that trait.
By shutting down an independent Shia newspaper, the
Coalition Provisional Authority's clever little potentate
has triggered an uprising that makes April 2004 the
bloodiest month for American soldiers since 1971.
As for the population of Fallujah, it's more asymmetrical
casualties, more grief and bereavement. The question
of the moment is whether the “Coalition” – minus
the Spanish contingent, as of this morning – will
hold together if and when the Americans decide to
move on the holy city of Najaf . The British Commander
in Southern Iraq Brigadier Nick Carter, admitted
last week that a Major assault on Najaf might mean
the end of British involvement in this war: "A
crowd of 150,000 people at the gates of this barracks
would be the end of this, as far as I'm concerned… There
would be absolutely nothing I could do about that….
The moment that Sayid Ali (Sayid Ali al-Safi al-Musawi,
who represents Ayatollah Sistani, Iraq 's leading
Shia cleric) says, 'We don't want the Coalition here',
we might as well go home."
With oilmen and militarists at the helm of American
foreign policy, the Department of State has been
demoted from a diplomatic branch of the executive
to a glorified visa-hut. So it's no surprise that
American diplomacy is nowhere to be found. The book
of the week is Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack, whose
handful of tame revelations includes an open secret
about Colin Powell's marginality in the Bush regime.
It's no surprise that General Powell was not always
in “the loop” about Iraq – he's the only person in
the administration who ever put on a uniform. Conducting
ham-fisted diplomacy is like playing ham-fisted piano
music – it doesn't merit the term; it's just noise.
And Bremer's folly is other people's horror. – JAH]
April 20, 2004, 1900 PDT (FTW)- It
is always important to ask why we start history when.
For example, most commentators start
the history of Iraq with the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
There is also an occasional reference to the chemical
attacks at Halabja, in Iraqi Kurdistan on March 16,
1988 (now condensed to “Saddam used weapons of mass
destruction against his own people”). The latter
has to be boiled down considerably, because the chemical
attacks were part of a massive and pitched battle
with Iranians, which becomes a mitigating factor,
and more importantly because the US had actively
and materially supported the development and deployment
of these weapons just a couple of years earlier,
when none other than Donald Rumsfeld was Ronald Reagan's
Special Envoy to the Middle East.
See what happens when you go back
and start history just a wee bit earlier? Things
take on a brand new aspect.
In 1979, the Carter administration
encouraged Iraq to attack Iran because they had just
undergone the shock of the Iranian Islamist Revolution,
and almost the whole US Embassy in Tehran was taken
hostage for over a year.
The virtuous Kuwaitis, who were
so ruthlessly attacked by the demon hordes of Iraq,
by the way, were acting as US/UK surrogates in the
region ever since Kuwait was invented by Great Britain
in 1961. The US, alarmed at the development of Iraq
and its growing prestige among other Arab nations,
used Kuwait to undermine Iraq economically beginning
in the mid-1980s, even as the US was continuing to
encourage the perpetuation of the Iran-Iraq War.
Kuwaitis not only illegally annexed 900 square miles
of prime Iraqi oil land, they hooked up with the
Santa Fe Drilling Company, who specialized in “slant
drilling,” running drills across the Iraqi border
to pump billions of dollars of Iraqi oil, as they
dumped cheap oil onto the market – with encouragement
from the CIA – to cut the Iraqis' development revenues.
The American public, however, had
their history lesson start with the invasion of Kuwait,
complete with taxpayer-financed fabrications about
Iraqi soldiers dumping little Kuwaiti babies out
of their incubators (for the record, this story was
utter bullshit).1 The
United States had its villain and its passion play,
and off went Bush the Elder to crush Arab nationalism
in the guise of Ba'athist Iraq.
History is interesting, isn't it?
Now the United States is faced with
a furious rebellion against the military occupation
of Iraq, and Bush the Junior seems determined to
make sure that this rebellion succeeds, even as he
makes yet more manly noises from the White House
about how “we remain tough” in Iraq.
The Bush staff wants to start history
now with the April 5-6 armed operations by Muqtadi
Sadr's Mahdi militia, and with the ambush of four
American mercenaries in Fallujah on March 31st .
But let's go back to 1991 and work
our way forward.
22 January 1991
Defense Intelligence Agency document,
entitled “Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities,” is
published. It details how sanctions combined with
destruction of potable water infrastructure can be
used against the Iraqi people as a war measure, in
violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Laws
Here is an excerpt:
"Iraq depends on importing
specialized equipment and some chemicals to purify
its water supply, most of which is heavily mineralized
and frequently brackish to saline… With no domestic
sources of both water treatment replacement parts
and some essential chemicals, Iraq will continue
attempts to circumvent United Nations Sanctions
to import these vital commodities. Failing to
secure supplies will result in a shortage of
pure drinking water for much of the population.
This could lead to increased incidences, if not
epidemics, of disease… The quality of untreated
water generally is poor, [and drinking it] could
result in diarrhea… [Iraq's rivers] contain
biological materials, pollutants, and are laden
with bacteria. Unless the water is purified with
chlorine, epidemics of such diseases as cholera,
hepatitis, and typhoid could occur. [Chlorine]
has been embargoed [by sanctions]… Recent reports
indicate the chlorine supply is critically low… Food
processing, electronic, and, particularly, pharmaceutical
plants require extremely pure water that is free
from biological contaminants… Iraq conceivably
could truck water from the mountain reservoirs
to urban areas. But the capability to gain significant
quantities is extremely limited… The amount of
pipe on hand and the lack of pumping stations
would limit laying pipelines to these reservoirs.
Moreover, without chlorine purification, the
water still would contain biological pollutants.
Some affluent Iraqis could obtain their own minimally
adequate supply of good quality water from Northern
Iraqi sources. If boiled, the water could be
safely consumed. Poorer Iraqis and industries
requiring large quantities of pure water would
not be able to meet their needs… Precipitation
occurs in Iraq during the winter and spring,
but it falls primarily in the northern mountains… Sporadic
rains, sometimes heavy, fall over the lower plains.
But Iraq could not rely on rain to provide adequate
pure water… Iraq could try convincing the United
Nations or individual countries to exempt water
treatment supplies from sanctions for humanitarian
reasons… It probably also is attempting to purchase
supplies by using some sympathetic countries
as fronts. If such attempts fail, Iraqi alternatives
are not adequate for their national requirements… Iraq
will suffer increasing shortages of purified
water because of the lack of required chemicals
and desalination membranes. Incidences of disease,
including possible epidemics, will become probable
unless the population were careful to boil water… Iraq's
overall water treatment capability will suffer
a slow decline, rather than a precipitous halt… Although
Iraq is already experiencing a loss of water
treatment capability, it probably will take at
least six months [to June 1991] before the system
is fully degraded."2
This was one among many attacks
leveled at civilian essential infrastructure during
the war and as a component of sanctions. These sanctions
and regular bombing from 1991 until the 2003 destroyed
much of Iraqi infrastructure, and with it Iraq's
comparatively high living standards, as well as Iraq's
renowned social services. That social disruption
amplified crime and sectarian violence, triggering
harsher measures from the government to contain the
increasing social disorder. The official story now
is that Saddam Hussein destroyed the Iraqi economy.
While no one is disputing that Saddam's
rule was in many respects both harsh and venal, the
fact is that Iraq as a whole was in many ways the
most advanced, and even the most progressive (especially
with regard to women's legal status) regime in the
region. Honesty demands that we look at this whole
Sanctions alone are believed to
have been responsible for the premature deaths of
almost 1.5 million Iraqis in a 12 year period – a
third of them children – from malnutrition, medical
neglect, and disease.
As we go forward with this time
line, it is important to understand that kinship
bonds in Iraq are multi-lateral and extensive. The
killing, maiming, abuse, or humiliation of any one
Iraqi ripples over many relatives.
27 February 1991
380 Iraqi soldiers who had surrendered
to US forces were given food by one US Army unit
that then left, whereupon another Army mechanized
platoon appeared on the scene and machine-gunned
the unarmed and clearly marked POWs to death.
Does anyone think that this incident
was forgotten 12 years later, or that the kin of
these murdered troops were looking forward to being
2 March 1991
The Army's 24th Mechanized Infantry
Division, commanded by General Barry McCaffrey, who
would later go on to become Bill Clinton's “drug
tsar,” violated a declared cease fire and moved his
division forward of the cease fire line south of
400 Iraqi supply trucks and 187
Iraqi tanks – with guns locked to the rear and therefore
not prepared to fire – were in the process of retreating
north in accordance with the agreement that accompanied
the cease fire. Many of the Iraqi soldiers in this
retreating column had family members and other civilians
accompanying them on this northward retreat. They
thought they were protected by the Law of Land Warfare,
which prohibits attacking a retreating column during
a declared cease fire.
They were wrong.
McCaffrey ordered a full scale attack
on the column that employed ground and air forces.
In what was later referred to by
participants as a “turkey shoot,” the Iraqis were
annihilated. Among the thousands of Iraqis killed
was a school bus full of children accompanying the
If 5,000 Iraqis (a conservative
estimate) were killed at McCaffrey's “turkey shoot,” how
many relatives surviving them would welcome the 2003 “liberation”?
This is the pre-time line. Now let's
look at what has happened in the more immediate past,
where the massive expansion of Iraqi armed resistance
has triggered a political crisis in the Bush administration,
the extension of troop tours in Iraq, the anticipation
of more troops being deployed to Iraq, the employment
of yet more mercenaries to augment the 20,000 or
so that are already in Iraq – making private armies
the second largest occupying contingent there – and
a certain return to Congress for additional funds.
28-30 April 2003
I include here an excerpt from my
book, Full Spectrum Disorder:
Soon, a new town would gain
recognition in American popular discourse: Fallujah.
In Afghanistan, the U.S. refused to send stabilization
forces into the hinterlands. There is no oil
there. In Fallujah (and every other key city),
U.S. soldiers were sent there whether anyone
wanted it or not.
Once Iraqi combatants displaced
from Fallujah, local imams stepped in. They stopped
the looting and vengeance attacks, re-opened
public services, and established an interim constabulary.
Normalcy was beginning to take hold there, then
the Bradley fighting vehicles rolled into town
in late April, and the Americans took over a
recently re-opened school for their headquarters,
arrested the imams, installed their own mayor,
and road blocked the whole city. These actions
were their orders, orders from people who knew
nothing of Iraqi society, and this ignorance
was delivered into the hands of the Iraqi resistance
like a priceless gift.
Popular outrage was swift.
The Americans – still tightly strung from recent
combat – were besieged by angry demonstrators,
whom they then began to shoot. Between April
28 and April 30, twenty Iraqis were killed and
scores wounded. Lies about weapons in the crowds
were concocted, and eyewitnesses were effectively
excluded from the American media. CENTCOM could
say anything, no matter the number of witnesses,
and it would be given equal weight against all
claims to the contrary.
But lies are only misrepresentations
of reality. They do not erase reality. In Fallujah,
the masses were now served a helping of occupation
reality, and they were galvanized by it. Resistance
is fertilized by blood, and the American guns
in Fallujah nourished the greening fields of
Iraqi opposition. The popular basis for a guerrilla
struggle had been established by the American
military's hand, and it wouldn't be long in coming.
A whole population was now prepared to take a
supportive role in an armed resistance. This
was a signpost, but it was written in a foreign
tongue for the Americans.
We'll come back to
Michael Schwartz wrote an excellent
April 12 article entitled "What Triggered
the Shia Insurrection?" It begins:
The insurrection in Shia areas
of Iraq was not a sudden explosion, nor was it
primarily inspired by the events in Falluja.
It was, instead, the result of a long series
of actions and reactions between the Coalition's
armed forces and increasingly organized and anti-American
While the news media had us focused
on battlefield drama in Iraq, explains Schwartz,
Bremer's CPA was angling as early as last June to
retain control of the whole Iraqi government after
the putative handover of “sovereignty,” when Grand
Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the senior Shia Muslim cleric
in the world, let the CPA know that the 60% Shia
population of Iraq, of which he was a part, was not
going to have its numerical power politically diminished
in post-occupation Iraq. Sistani further advised
the CPA that sovereignty was to mean something… which
would include the right to ask the American military
The US goal has always been to establish
permanent bases in Iraq, of which Sistani is certainly
aware. Bremer is equally aware of it and was having
none of this. The problem was that Sistani exercised
tremendous influence in the Southern and most populous
half of Iraq, and Sistani's directive to his followers
not to take up arms (yet) against the occupiers allowed
the US to more or less ignore the South militarily
and concentrate forces against the more northern
focus of anti-occupation guerrilla warfare.
Viceroy Bremer's response to Sistani
was to send his lawyers on a mission to concoct a
way around Sistani's implicit challenge, which they
did. Bremer quietly announced last June that the
CPA had “ found a legal basis for American troops
to continue their military control over the security
situation in Iraq” whether the governing body
of ‘sovereign' Iraq voted to expel them or not .
Sistani did not respond by inciting
a rebellion, which is not the cleric's style anyway.
A BBC profile has described him as having a “quietist
approach.” That does not mean Bremer or anyone else
should underestimate him. Sistani managed to stay
put and retain his influence throughout the Ba'athist
era, marking him as a very patient and canny political
survivor. His patience, in fact, was what frustrated
younger, poorer Shias who were eventually drawn into
the orbit of Muqtada al-Sadr, a younger and less
conservative Shia leader from Baghdad.
Sistani's devout followers orient
more toward Persia, and have close relations with
Iran. Sadr's faction has typically oriented more
toward the Syrian-based Hezbollah, an organization
that formed as a militia to fight the Israelis in
Lebanon. These links further predispose them to Sistani's
slow deliberation (like a government, i.e., Iran)
and Sadr's preference for action seen as the propaganda-of-the-deed
(like a guerrilla organization).
Sadr's criticisms had actually developed
into armed confrontations between his militia and
Sistani in April 2003.
The Bush administration and Bremer's
CPA analytically reduced this conflict, and began
to think about Sistani as “the moderate” and Sadr
as “the radical.” This simplistic thought process
is partly responsible for the mess Bremer finds himself
in now, as does George W. Bush for that matter.
Sistani, having sat on his response
to the CPA's legal chicanery, released a typically
elliptical criticism of US plans.
The US seems to have ignored it,
having been preoccupied at this point with an increasingly
sophisticated guerrilla resistance and with growing
public vexation in the United States about the failure
to find the alleged weapons of mass destruction.
Sistani tells Bremer, “We want elections,
Bremer rejects elections until after
the US election.
22 March 2004
Israel assassinates Sheikh Ahmed
Yassin, the paraplegic leader of Hamas, in Gaza,
sparking worldwide outrage. While virtually the entire
world condemns the assassination, the United States
refuses to condemn it, calling it merely “troubling.”
The elephant in the living room
in Iraq – and throughout the region – which never
seems to get any coverage in the media, is Palestine
This of course requires its own
time line, but for that I refer readers to: http://www.globalissues.org/Geopolitics/MiddleEast/Palestine/Background.asp .
In the Arab and Muslim world, the
US is associated – correctly – with every Israeli
policy, including the expulsion of almost 800,000
Palestinians from their land in conjunction with
Israel's independence; the further expropriation
and annexation of Palestinian, Lebanese, and Syrian
land; the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza; and
the establishment of a system of virtual Apartheid
within Israel and the conversion of the West Bank
and Gaza into poverty-stricken and frequently attacked
The almost completely uncritical
support of Israel by the United States has been matched
by only one other nation, Apartheid South Africa.
The US props up Israel's perennial-war economy with
massive infusions of aid (Israel is the single largest
foreign recipient of US aid anywhere in the world),
credits to buy state-of-the-art weapons to continue
its war against the Palestinians, and the protection
of the US Security Council veto.
The issue of Palestine is tremendously
important to Arabs and Muslims, who regard this as
oppression of both Arabs for their ethnicity and
Muslims as co-religionists. When the US press does
what passes for analysis of the situation in Iraq,
its failure to mention Palestine is yet another sign
of its journalistic emptiness.
Attacks on Palestinians and the
assassination of Palestinian leaders like Yassin
inflame the entire region, and that heat is directed
at both Israel and the United States. It was felt
very strongly in Iraq, where it is already well known
that Israel has been training American troops for
the Iraq occupation – passing along the tricks of
the trade learned in the ruthless occupation of Palestine.
Vengeance strikes – called retaliatory
strikes – that collectively punish whole populations
are emblematic of Israeli occupation operations.
25 March 2004
Paul Bremer brusquely and arrogantly
announces that the US intends to maintain its 14
bases in Iraq for as long as it desires, regardless
of what any ‘sovereign' Iraqi government says.
Michael Schwartz, in his article,
outlined Bremer's statement:
1. The U.S. occupation itself
would be used as a club against any Iraqi activities
of which the Bush administration disapproves.
According to the New York Times, "Top aides
to Mr. Bremer have said in recent days that the
American troops will act as the most important
guarantor of American influence."
2. The U.S. would control
the newly formed Iraqi army. The Times wrote
of Bremer's document: "The document was
unequivocal on the ultimate control of the Iraqi
forces. 'All trained elements of the Iraqi armed
forces shall at all times be under the operational
control of the commander of Coalition forces
for the purpose of conducting combined operations,'
3 . The U.S.
would have permanent bases in Iraq . The 14
planned bases would be capable of housing over
100,000 troops, and are expected to be a part
of the permanent American presence in the Middle
4. The $18.4 billion in congressionally
mandated reconstruction aid would be used as
a guarantor of U.S. influence. According to the
Times it would "give Americans a decisive
voice” in the short run because it would be virtually
the only cash available to establish and maintain
public services. But more significantly, since
it would be used over the next few years to modernize
Iraq's electricity, communications and transportation
systems, it would give the U.S. Embassy -- projected
to be the largest in the world, with over 3000
employees -- policy control over the Iraqi infrastructure
for the foreseeable future.
Muqtada al-Sadr's newspaper, Al
Hawza, along with all Shia leadership, excoriated
the statement. But Bremer had – in brain-dead neo-con
fashion – already divided Sistani and Sadr into “moderate” and “militant,” and
he ordered Al Hawza closed by American
In response to Bremer's statement
that he would remain the Viceroy of Iraq for as long
as the US desired, Sadr's Mahdi militia had already
dusted off their weapons.
During a demonstration against the
closing of Al Hawza, American troops open
fire and kill an estimated 20 people, wounding dozens
The fuse is now lit.
23 March 2004
Shia Basra, until now the poster-child
city for ‘pacification,” erupts in riots. British
soldiers are attacked with stones and Molotov cocktails.
Two Finnish businessmen in Baghdad are killed. A
car bomb goes off north of Baghdad. A Marine local
security patrol in Ramadi is attacked. Iraqi police
south of Baghdad are added to a suddenly growing
list of dead Iraqi police. An oil pipeline is bombed.
The Mahdi militias are mobilized
in a region of the country where there is a very
low concentration of US forces, precisely because
the Shia leadership had called upon the populations
to wait. The story of the closing of Al Hawza, however,
and the killing of the demonstrators, spreads through
the country like wildfire. Sistani, respected as
the elder of Shi'ism, is now faced with growing rage
and impatience, and Sadr's popularity begins to grow.
His militancy is now a reflection of the mood of
26 March 2004
In response to a sharp increase
in the frequency of attacks, US troops mount “aggressive” operations,
and in one of them west of Baghdad a family is killed,
including a two-year-old child. This story has traveled
across all of Iraq in mere hours, and the sullenness
of many turns to murderous rage.
As if coordinated by a combined
general staff, the new combatants in the south and
the northern guerrillas from Mosul to Fallujah conduct
intensified and simultaneous attacks across both
regions, suddenly and overwhelming disorienting the
US military's operational planners.
Obliged now to respond to multiple
crisis points, the US military begins to shift forces
around on short notice, and the logistical activities
that support them also have their routines disrupted.
Supplies are being shipped to different points. Routes
are changing. The need to decisively and flexibly
respond is combined with disorientation, and US forces,
as well as contract soldiers, are temporarily blinded
31 March 2004
Americans at home have forgotten
the Fallujah of less than a year before, when for
three days, US troops fired on unarmed demonstrators.
But the people of Fallujah remember, and the city
has become a center of gravity for the resistance.
Four mercenaries who are escorting
supply convoys see a detour sign on the bypass route
for Fallujah. For days now, everything has been in
a flux, so this is no different. They take the detour.
In moments they encounter a lethal ambush. One vehicle
escapes only to hit a secondary ambush.
Journalists publish the pictures
of Fallujans celebrating their victory by desecrating
the bodies of the “contract employees.”
A recently returned troop, who wishes
to remain anonymous, says, “When I read about the
mutilated charred bodies of the Blackwater mercenaries
in the news, all I thought was that we did the same
thing to them. They would see us debase their dead
all the time. We would be messing around with charred
bodies, kicking them out of the vehicles and sticking
cigarettes in their mouths.”
Another returned troop, also anonymous,
says, “We would defecate on and run over dead Iraqi
But the story of the Blackwater
mercs hits the American public without this context,
and chauvinism combines with machismo all the way
through Washington and to the CENTCOM G-3. Planning
for an Israeli-like vengeance attack on Fallujah
Within hours, the north-south resistance
increases the frequency of attacks yet again, and
March closes as the month with the second-highest
US troop death toll since the war began. April, however,
would surpass it before our taxes were due.
5 April 2004
The Mahdi militias open up attacks
in Baghdad, Najaf, Nasiriya, and Kut. Eight GI's
are killed in one day, and police stations are abandoned
to the Mahdi. Two Marines are killed by resistance
fighters near Fallujah, where the US is ringing the
city with combat units in preparation to “pacify” the
For the first time since the occupation
of Baghdad was completed in 2003, Apache helicopters
begin pouring chain-gun ammunition into Baghdad neighborhoods,
in an Israeli-style counter-offensive.
Sadr' popularity soars, not only
in Iraq, but throughout the Arab and Muslim world.
Within days, knowledgeable observers will report
that he enjoys the support of more than 30% of Iraq's
The Sunnis and Ba'athists of the
north are also caught up in this admiration, and
old rivalries begin to melt in the face of a common
enemy. The success of these operations adds an element
of Arab pride.
George W. Bush's military conquest
of Iraq is beginning to undo 50 years of imperial
effort to destroy pan-Arab nationalism
and, in a spectacular historical paradox, is resurrecting
Attacks in Mosul and Kirkuk are
added to the equation.
6 April 2004
The US opens a lethal assault on
Fallujah, killing scores of civilians.
7 April 2004
As if in coordination with the defense
of Fallujah, Sadr's militias intensify combat in
Baghdad and Nasiriya. Northern guerrillas mount a
stunning attack on Ramadi, killing 12 Marines and
An anonymous Special Forces soldier
says, “Things are getting very bad and they're going
to get worse, but no one is saying that – either
because they don't know or because they don't want
you to know."
Military experts in the United States – not
the drones dutifully trotted out by CNN, but a panel
assembled for the Lehrer News Hour – warn that the
situation is dire. The US will now have to act even
more aggressively, not because they want to – this
is already a political and strategic disaster – but
to prevent being overwhelmed by “a swarm.”
In Baghdad, hospitals are again
swimming in blood from resistance and civilian casualties.
New recruits flock to Sadr's militia
8 April 2004
US forces receive heavy fire from
the vicinity of a mosque in Fallujah. Though there
are trained snipers in abundance, the ground commander
elects to call in an air strike on the mosque itself.
The Israeli mentality has firmly established itself.
Fallujah is in for collective punishment. The mosque
is hit with a 500-pound bomb and multiple shoulder
fired rocket missiles. Over 40 people are killed
inside, as the death toll in Fallujah, especially
the civilian death toll, rises steeply into three
If the military and political cul-de-sac
of the occupier has wakened the long-slumbering volcano
of pan-Arabism in Iraq, further north the prospect
of a Sunni-Shia-Ba'athist tactical alliance is heating
up the suspicious malevolence of the Kurdish Peshmerga
The story of the mosque bombing
spreads and the uprising is joined by thousands more – as
combatants, as demonstrators and rioters, and as
supporters. Fallujah becomes a symbol and Sadr becomes
Donald Rumsfeld tells reporters
that the attacks are the work of a small number of
people and that there is no popular uprising. The
Ukranian troops in Kut surrender to the insurgents.
Through all the spin, America begins to wake up that
something qualitatively different is afoot in Iraq.
9 April 2004
The US assault on Fallujah, met
with increasingly sophisticated tactics, fearless
resistance, and a home court advantage, stalls.
A Marine tells the story about receiving
fire from a building. Mechanized and light infantry
respond with a withering river of lead. The guerrilla
fires again. The Marine expresses a kind of respect.
The cover story for the stalled
offensive is that the US is halting for humanitarian
It will get more complicated. Bremer,
Rumsfeld, and Bush have repeatedly said they don't
negotiate with terrorists. They have characterized
both the resistance in Fallujah and Sadr along with
his militia as terrorists. Now they find themselves
tip-toeing around the fact that they are trying to
set up negotiations with the Fallujah resistance.
I'm remembering some old military
wisdom: Don't let an alligator mouth overload your
tweety-bird ass. But then neither Bremer nor Rumsfeld
nor Bush is actually fighting anyone; though they
assure the public that they will “remain tough.” Of
course they will.
The same day, a photograph taken
by a Marine gets published and circulates throughout
the Arab and Muslim world. A cocky, smiling Marine
has two Iraqi boys pose with him for the photograph,
holding a sign they can't read that says, “Lcpl Boudreaux
killed my dad then he knocked up my sister.” The
photograph had the effect of pumping pure oxygen
into a blazing fire.
From the New York Times:
Brent Bourgeois, a 20-year-old
lance corporal from Kenner, La., said he saw an
American helicopter fire a missile at a man with
a sling shot.
"Crazy, huh?" Corporal
Falluja is now a strange replay
of the war. Even with the ceasefire, the action
here represents the heaviest fighting since Mr.
Hussein's government fell a year ago.
"It's the fight that never
came last year," Major Petrucci said. "I
guess these guys didn't really want to die for
Saddam. But all this anti-American feeling is now
10 April 2004
US forces have begun to regroup
and recover partial control over cities in the south,
where it appears the Madhi militia – numbering around
10,000 – is withdrawing in order to close in around
its leader, Muqtada Sadr, in the holy city of Najaf
where a massive religious pilgrimage is underway.
The resistance – incapable of confronting
the US conventionally and therefore obliged to adopt ‘asymmetric'
methods – has a tactical imperative and a strategic
one. The tactical imperative is to blind the occupying
forces to its intents and actions. The strategic
imperative is to deny the purpose of the occupation – a
The primary US source of tactical
information in this alien cultural milieu is the
collaborator. Attack and/or intimidate the collaborator,
and a curtain drops between US military intelligence
and the resistance.
To stop the reconstruction, the
country must be depopulated of re-constructors. Kidnapping
is added to the resistance's tactical repertoire.
And on this day, politics kicks
into high gear in response to the attack on Fallujah
and the preparations to attack Najaf. At least 16
major cities are now embroiled in the uprising. Bremer's
Iraqi Quislings of the Interim Governing Council
begin to appeal to Bremer to seek a political solution.
They do not want to shred their last hope of exercising
power in a ‘new' Iraq, and they certainly don't want
to be left behind like the Vietnamese Quislings of
11 April 2004
In addition to Shia resistance in
Sadr City, Baghdad, Sunni neighborhoods join the
fighting, attacking US troops with Kalashnikovs and
RPGs. Tony Blair considers beefing up British forces
by 700 troops to prevent a “swarm” in Basra. Two
thirds of Americans polled now think Iraq may become
George W. Bush – who does not read
any of his briefings, instead depending on short,
simplified summaries from his closest advisors – dismisses
the uprising as “a small faction.”
Karl Rove, deep in the background,
pours over the poll numbers and thinks about November.
At a press conference, the ferret-like
Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt of CENTCOM verbally
abuses Arab journalists who have the temerity to
suggest that US troops have killed any civilians.
This is a thinly-veiled threat, because the US has
shown the willingness in the past to bomb news offices
that printed unwelcome information. In response to
one of those Arab journalists' question about the
images of dead and maimed women and children, Kimmitt
says in an oddly-strident tone, “Change the channel,
change the channel!”
This was the face of military comportment
for the occupier, who ritualistically defines anyone
who dies under the American gun to have been combatants.
12 April 2004
On C-Span, the Chair of the Brandeis
University Middle Eastern Studies Department, hosted
by the Woodrow Wilson International Studies Center,
spends over an hour stating what will likely become
the more sophisticated, academic version of the Democratic
Party's stance on Iraq.
Yitzhak Nakash begins by giving
a very clear and pointed account of the situation
Nakash states in no uncertain terms
that the current course of US military and political
policy is leading the US into a situation where the
occupation of Iraq will become “untenable.”
He is counseling that Sadr and his
followers be brought back into the fold with a seat
at the political table. His assessment is very realistic,
and he provides a wealth of evidence to support his
dark prognostications. His reasoning is that the
US cannot afford to fail in Iraq – without saying
why, but we can probably figure that one out – and
that to succeed, it must establish a political system
where the US does not direct the outcome, but
where pluralism creates a check-and-balance default.
Nakash explains that this would check the influence
of Sadr and others by the same means that Hezbollah
has been checked in Lebanon: precisely by putting
them in the Parliament. This is a very clever way
of saying that technical “democracy,” as such, is
a more effective means of population control than
direct occupation, and that it involves providing
various incentives and disincentives to ensure that
everyone is given enough power in a legitimized political
process to disincline them to step outside that process – a
circumscribed divide-and-conquer strategy.
This may prove too subtle for the
The most interesting part of this
refreshingly frank account of the degree of disorder
confronting the US occupation is what he sees as
the absolute precondition for all this political
maneuvering: “security,” meaning massive expansion
of troop numbers there, with a commitment to stay
for a decade or more.
The ruling class is trying to correct
here for a political establishment that has, in some
regards, gone out of control.
The political significance of religion
in Iraq, in Southwest Asia, and in the United States,
where Christian Zionists constitute a significant
fraction of the ruling party's base, cannot be overstated.
Nor can the Bush Doctrine politics of macho-narcissism.
As a favored writer of mine – Alf
Hornborg – says, we must “reconsider both the potency
of consciousness and the permeability of the material.” The
history, social bases, and development of various
strains of Islam must be understood, as must the
balance of forces in the US between evangelical,
ecclesiastical, and prophetic religions – in order
to grasp their political significance.
What Nakash points out is that this
religious Balkanization in the region can be worked
to advantage, and his greatest fear –stated explicitly – is
that the current Bush military policy in Iraq is
re-creating a form of Arab nationalism that threatens
to displace the religious divisions upon which he
and his fellow liberals would like to establish a
(US) manageable pluralism in Iraq.
As this liberal position becomes
clearer, people will again revisit the question of
elections. Not the outcome this time, because some
progressives are actually saying that there is something
to be said for a continuation of the Bush leadership,
to allow the debacle to reach its bottom. They are
also saying that instead of focusing on electoral
outcomes, the people need to see the elections as
a way to confront those in front of the cameras and
in the hot seat with questions like Iraq, Palestine,
and Haiti – which paradoxically puts the Democrats
in hotter water than the Republicans.
John Kerry will not welcome a strong
pro-Palestinian appeal directed at his potential
base, nor will he welcome Black Democrats confronting
him with the issue of the coup in Haiti . Both of
these are easily connectible to the occupation of
Iraq if they are put into the analytical frame of
That evening, Bremer suggests to
reporters that he might consider negotiations with
13 April 2004
Bad news pours into the White House.
Emblematic of the situation, an Apache helicopter
is shot down in Fallujah. The casualty numbers are
fearsome, with more than 70 US dead from hostile
fire. The military is issuing behind-the-scenes appeals
for more troops, fast.
Sistani warns Bremer that an attack
on Najaf will inflame the resistance.
George W. Bush, at the behest of
his edgy handlers, gives a rare evening press conference,
the third of his whole term, to explain the situation
to the American public. It is a pathetic and even
For almost 17 minutes, before taking
the first question, he gives a stump speech full
of generalizations, misrepresentations, and hare-brained
platitudes. The responses to the media questions,
asking about Iraq and the 9/11 Commission, are incoherent.
His most rehearsed line – repeated again and again,
often with no context whatsoever – is that “Saddam
was a threat.”
14 April 2004
Sadr publicly accepts the authority
of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, even as US forces
tighten their encirclement of Najaf, where Sadr is
surrounded by his militia. Sadr's goal from the outset
was to ensure that Shias, and poor Shias in particular,
would be included – with him at their head – in any
future apparatus of Iraqi governance. What had run
him afoul of the US was his insistence on the same
thing being demanded by Sistani… that sovereignty
be meaningful, and include the right to call for
the departure of the American military occupation.
George Bush publicly endorses Ariel
Sharon's categorical rejection of a Palestinian right
of return to Palestine.
15 April 2004
The Globe and Mail –
U.S. warplanes and helicopters
firing heavy machine-guns, rockets and cannons
hammered insurgents Wednesday in the besieged city
of Fallujah, and the commander of U.S. marines
warned that a fragile truce was near collapse.
In central Baghdad, a rocket hit the Sheraton Hotel,
where foreign contractors and journalists are staying,
breaking glass but causing no casualties. A second
rocket failed to fire and remained lying in the
The rocket attack took place
as UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi was holding a press
conference across the Tigris River in the U.S.-led
About 880 Iraqis and 87 U.S.
soldiers have been killed this month. Among the
Iraqi dead are more than 600 people — mostly civilians — in
Fallujah, according to the city hospital's director.
Faced with rising violence in
Iraq, the U.S. military plans to keep more than
20,000 troops from the 1st Armored Division and
2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment there this summer
beyond their promised yearlong tours, defense officials
said on Wednesday.
15 April 2004
The shaky truce in Fallujah is breaking
down. All signs are that the US plans to attack Najaf.
Another US helicopter is downed, and four Marines
Analysts suggest that the Bush administration
will have to go to Congress well before the election
in November to ask for a minimum of $70 billion additional
dollars for the war.
16 April 2004
Today… A captured American soldier
is shown on an Al Jazeera videotape.
The uprising spreads to another
city holy to Shi'ism – Kufa. Mahdi militias ambush
an American convoy, then withdraw when the Americans
strike back with mortars.
Tony Blair and George W. Bush appear,
in very expensive suits, for a short joint press
conference where each sticks to the same script.
In that script is a vow to attack Muqtada al-Sadr.
As of today, April has claimed the
lives of 92 US soldiers in combat in Iraq.
Today, at least 36 people were killed
and 66 wounded in fighting.
George W. Bush, the president who
does not read his memoranda, leaning back for instructions
from his mad mandarins, issues commands to his careerist
generals, and secures his place in history as the
mediocrity who put a simian smirk on the destabilization
of the American empire.
1. http://www.prwatch.org/books/tsigfy10.html; http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0906/p25s02-cogn.htm; http://www.antiwar.com/orig/cohen1.html; http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=14685; http://www.gvnews.net/html/Shadow/alert3553.html; http://mediafilter.org/caq/Hill&Knowlton.html; http://www.hillandknowlton.com/
Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies
By Richard Heinberg