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Iraq: From Conquest to Quagmire

Iraq: From Conquest to Quagmire

Revolutionary Worker #1207, July 20, 2003, href="">posted at

"People are always shooting at the Americans these

Young Iraqi man,
sitting outsidea U.S. base, July 4

"At night time you think about all the people you
killed... There's no chance to forget it, we're still here,
we've been here so long."

Corporal Michael
Richardson, 22 years old, 3rd U.S. Infantry Division's Bravo
Company, London Evening Standard , June 19

The armed resistance in Iraq is growing with each passing
week. U.S. occupation troops, their British allies, and local
Iraqi collaborators are being picked off in waves of guerrilla

On May 1, after six weeks of bombardment and land invasion,
President Bush strutted across an aircraft carrier to declared
victory over Iraq.

Now, almost three months later, his macho claims look
hollow. The war continues. And it has morphed from a high-tech
war of conquest into a brutal counterinsurgency fought out in
villages and alleyways across Iraq.

Since Bush's declaration of victory, U.S. forces have
suffered a steady drumbeat of casualties averaging one dead
American soldier a day.

Between May 1 and July 10, a total of 74 U.S. soldiers have
been killed and at least 380 have been injured or wounded. In
official reports, the U.S. military separates the combat
casualties from accidental deaths. However, many of those
so-called "accidents" result from humvees speeding to avoid

British occupation forces are also suffering continued
losses, including six soldiers killed by a crowd in the
southern town of Majar al Kabir.

On July 10, retiring General Tommy Franks told Congress that
U.S. forces are now being hit by between 10 and 25 attacks a

Few areas of the country are under secure U.S. or British
control. One significant example: On June 19, the U.S. Agency
for International Development released a report saying that
security at the port of Umm Qasr remains "a major problem" and
"has become even more problematic." Umm Qasr was the first town
taken by the invading forces, and it is highly strategic
because it is the only functioning port for incoming shipments.
Yet even there, the occupying forces are unable to establish

U.S. troops have repeatedly been shot by Iraqi men who
simply walk up to them and open fire. Mines have been planted
along convoy routes. And increasingly organized ambushes are
launched. Snipers shoot into American camps and road blocks.
And in some daring operations, Iraqis stand up in open cars to
fire rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) at passing American
convoys. In one attack, four mortars landed in the heart of a
U.S. airbase near Balad, north of Baghdad--and injured at least
18 U.S. soldiers.

U.S. forces nicknamed one highway 45 miles northeast of
Baghdad "RPG Alley" -- because grenades are shot constantly at
humvees from the string of villages.

British journalist Robert Fisk told Amy Goodman (
Democracy Now , June 12), "The people who I talked to,
the sergeants and captains and so on--most of them acknowledge
that something had gone wrong, that this was not going to be
good. One guy said to me, every time we go down to the river
area in's like Somalia down there. You always get
shot at and you always get stoned, I mean, have stones thrown
at them. Some of the soldiers spoke very frankly about the
situation in Baghdad...they all say that Baghdad airport now
comes under nightly sniper fire from the perimeter of the
runways from Iraqis. Two of them told me that every time a
military aircraft comes in at night, it's fired at. In fact
some of the American pilots are now going back to the old
[Vietnam era] tactic of cork screwing down tightly on to the
runways from above rather than making the normal level flight
approach across open countryside because they're shot at so

The attacks on U.S. and British forces are showing an
increasing degree of coordination and planning--sometimes
involving ambushes of small units, and at other times
coordinated with announcements in the Arab press. The day after
Paul Bremer announced that the occupation authorities would
sell off Iraq's national assets to foreign private companies,
an explosion blew up a key gas pipeline fueling electrical
production in Baghdad and much of central Iraq.

At the same time, Iraqi collaborators have everywhere become
targets of the resistance. One Iraqi man, who has joined the
new police forces serving the occupation, described to the
New York Times how he found a letter in his yard that
said, "Leave the coalition forces, or else you will regret it."
It was signed "Iraqi Liberation Army (Muhammad's Army)."

On July 5, an explosion went off in Ramadi, just as the
first American-trained class of Iraqi police recruits were
going through their graduation ceremonies. Seven collaborators
died and 54 were injured. "That is what you get for working
with the Americans. They have all been warned before," one
elderly Iraqi shouted in the emergency ward of a nearby

Afterwards, former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard
Kerik, who now heads the Baghdad police force, offered $2,500
reward to encourage informers. A week later, grenades were
launched into the Fallujah police station. And one hundred
Iraqi police threatened to quit if the U.S. forces were not
pulled out of town.

Brutality and Collective Punishment

"There is still a war going on ... But there is no
crisis. We can handle it. We're killing them on a daily basis
when they attack us."

Maj. Gen. Ricardo
Sanchez, U.S. ground forces commander

"Maysam Salaah Abd al Rasool Mashkoor, a university
student, was killed in the U.S. bombing."

"Kalil Abrahim al Saidy, a lawyer, died from burns after
American troops fired a missile at his car."

Some of the
funeral banners hanging throughout Baghdad in busy

"Operation Sidewinder," carried out in the first week of
July and named after a poisonous snake, was designed
specifically to threaten people in more than 20 villages across
a broad swath of central Iraq. The region has become "the nexus
of paramilitary activity in central Iraq," the military said in
a statement.

"We go in with such overwhelming combat power that they
won't even think about shooting us," Lt. Col. Mark Young, a 4th
Infantry battalion commander, said before the start of the

One Associated Press report (July 2) described how U.S.
tanks and helicopters roared into a small town of As Sadah,
north of Badhdad. Their raid found nothing, other than a few
typical caches of weapons. In three days of such operations,
the U.S. had seized 300 men, but admitted that none were known

Lt.Col. Young openly admitted that his goal was to threaten
the local people with collective punishment. He told reporters:
"The purpose of the operation is to go in and let the local
community know that we will not tolerate their complacency or
support for the attacks." The AP reported: "Several times
during the raid, Young pulled aside local leaders and--through
the battalion's Arab translator--warned them they would be
viewed with suspicion until the attacks stopped."

Unable to capture resistance fighters, the U.S. military is
falling back on the traditional tactics used by occupiers--from
the Nazis in Europe to the Israelis in Palestine--they threaten
the people, hoping their overwhelming power and brutality will
terrify any supporters of resistance.

And, like occupiers before him, Lt. Col. Mark understands
well that it may not work. "There's always the risk of
alienating an entire town by blundering in there," he said.

And, in fact, even while "Sidewinder" was underway, a wave
of attacks hit the U.S. forces across Iraq, apparently timed
for July 4.

Meanwhile, there are increasing reports documenting the
intense brutality used by U.S. forces against those they round
up. Amnesty International wrote in a June 30 report: "The
conditions of detention Iraqis are held under at the Camp
Cropper Center at Baghdad International Airport--now a U.S.
base--and at Abu Ghraib Prison may amount to cruel, inhuman or
degrading treatment or punishment, banned by international

News reports, including in the New York Times , have
documented how during the U.S. raids on Iraqi, civilians are
tightly cuffed, hooded, denied water and forced to kneel
painfully for hours, and even days. Many report being beaten
and tortured. Many are seized and taken away--without charges,
without notifying relatives where they are, and simply held for
weeks and even months under brutal conditions.

When prisoners protested their detention, U.S. guards opened
fire above their heads, and in one case shot a prisoner to
death. Amnesty International is reporting the military
detention of an 11-year-old boy for three weeks.

The Associated Press reported the treatment of Khraisan
al-Abally, a 39-year-old Iraqi businessman who was seized at
home on April 30--after soldiers shot his brother to death. He
described how he was forced to kneel naked and forbidden to
sleep. Al-Abally said that during eight days of interrogation
"he was bound and blindfolded, he was kicked, forced to stare
at a strobe light and blasted with `very loud rubbish music.'

" `I thought I was going to lose my mind,' said
al-Abally.... They said, `I want you on your knees.' After
three or four days it's very painful. My knees were bleeding
and swollen."

There are widespread reports of U.S. troops taking cash and
valuables from Iraqis during raids.

Getting in Deeper

"This idea that we will be in just as long as we need to
and not a day more--we've got to get over that rhetoric. It is
rubbish. We're going to be there a long time. We must
reorganize our military to be there a long time.''

Senator Richard G.
Lugar, Republican Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations

"We're waist deep in the Big MuddyAnd the big fool says
to push on."

Pete Seeger, 1967,
as Lyndon Johnson escalated the Vietnam War

Time magazine, which has strongly supported the war,
wrote in a recent cover story: "Despite the President's
bluster, Bush administration officials are privately worried
that U.S. forces are caught in a dangerous loop. The
persistence of attacks has forced the U.S. to remain on a
combat footing, which has diverted attention and resources away
from the reconstruction effort. The heavy military footprint,
in turn, has soured Iraqi opinion and created a more hospitable
climate for anti-American agitators."

Rumsfeld and his generals officially insist they can hold
U.S. troop levels at 150,000, which is three times the force of
50,000 that they previously said would be needed for
occupation. And, at the same time, there are increasing leaks
from military planners and generals in Iraq itself suggesting
that even more forces will be sent in.

The Washington Post reports (July 7): "There is even some
quiet worry at the Pentagon, where some officers contend
privately that the size of the U.S. deployment in Iraq--now
about 150,000 troops--is inadequate for force protection, much
less for peacekeeping. The Army staff is reexamining force
requirements and looking again at the numbers generated in the
months before the war, said a senior officer who asked not to
be named. `If you talk to the guys in Iraq, they will tell you
that it's urban combat over there,' the officer said. `They all
are saying, `What we have is not enough to keep the peace.'

A spokesman for the Army's Field Support Command has
announced that the military contractor Kellogg Brown &
Root--famous for constructing U.S. military facilities in the
Vietnam War--will be building permanent housing for at least
100,000 U.S. troops at about 20 bases across Iraq. These will
not be moveable tent cities but permanent barracks built of

Realities Sinking In

"The Army now has more than half of its 10-division
active duty force assigned to Iraq. There is the equivalent of
another division deployed in Afghanistan, and two to three are
typically kept in reserve for a potential confrontation with
North Korea. And, because the Army likes to keep three or four
divisions training and preparing to eventually replace each
division in action, the Pentagon at the moment has no troops to
replace many of those on extended deployments in Iraq."

, July 3

"I want my husband home. I am so on edge. When they first
left, I thought yeah, this will be bad, but war is what they
trained for. But they are not fighting a war. They are not
doing what they trained for. They have become police in a place
they're not welcome."

Luisa Leija, wife
of an artillery captain in Iraq New York Times, July 4,

"It pisses everyone off, we were told once the war was
over we'd leave when our replacements get here. Well, our
replacements got here and we're still here."

Corporal Michael
Richardson, 3rd U.S. Infantry Division, Bravo

"We're more angry at the generals who are making these
decisions and who never hit the ground, and who don't get shot
at or have to look at the bloody bodies and the burnt-out
bodies, and the dead babies and all that kinda stuff."

Unnamed soldier,
3rd U.S. Infantry Division, Bravo Company

"U.S. officials need to get our asses out of here. I say
that seriously. We have no business being here. We will not
change the culture they have in Iraq, in Baghdad. All we are
here is potential people to be killed and sitting

reservist from Pittsburgh, 307th Military Police Company,
Washington Post, July 1st, 2003

They were told they would be liberators. They were told they
would be going home quickly as heroes. And with each passing
day, it has become clearer to U.S. soldiers in Iraq that they
are still at war, and they are seen as enemies by huge parts of
Iraq's population. And it is becoming clear that many of them
may remain there for a long time.

Under the hard conditions of Iraqi summer and the intense
pressure of a mounting insurgency, U.S. soldiers are starting
to question why they are in Iraq and when they will get to

The Christian Science Monitor printed excerpts from
letters written by soldiers to congressmen. One letter said:
"Most soldiers would empty their bank accounts just for a plane
ticket home." Another said: "The way we have been treated and
the continuous lies told to our families back home has
devastated us all." An officer wrote, "Make no mistake, the
level of morale for most soldiers that I've seen has hit rock
bottom." Another officer described the rising tensions among
soldiers within his unit: "They vent to anyone who will listen.
They write letters, they cry, they yell. Many of them walk
around looking visibly tired and depressed.... We feel like
pawns in a game that we have no voice [in]."

There are even reports of suicide among the
soldiers--disguised as "non-hostile gunshot incident" in the
Pentagon reports.

The New York Times reported (July 4): "Military
families, so often the ones to put a cheery face on war, are
growing vocal... Frustrations became so bad recently at Fort
Stewart, Georgia that a colonel, meeting with 800 seething
spouses, most of them wives, had to be escorted from the
session. `They were crying, cussing, yelling and screaming for
their men to come back,' said Lucia Braxton, director of
community services at Fort Stewart."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on
Revolutionary Worker Online

Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654

Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497 - Revolutionary Worker Online -RW resource page on resisting the juggernaut of war and repression - Discuss revolutionary strategy and the RCP's Draft Programme


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