Occupation is a Daily Crime
US Atrocities in Iraq
By Shannon Bundock
“Rape. The latest of American atrocities. Though it's not really the latest- it's just the one that's being publicized the most. The poor girl Abeer was neither the first to be raped by American troops, nor will she be the last. The only reason this rape was brought to light and publicized is that her whole immediate family were killed along with her. … We've been hearing whisperings about rapes in American-controlled prisons and during sieges of towns like Haditha and Samarra for the last three years. The naiveté of Americans who can't believe their 'heroes' are committing such atrocities is ridiculous. Who ever heard of an occupying army committing rape??? You raped the country, why not the people?”
– July 11th 2006, from a young Iraqi woman’s blog, “riverbendblog.blogspot.com”
In the three years and four months that US-led forces have been occupying Iraq the list of massacres, rapes, torture, humiliation, and destruction has become difficult to navigate. The following paragraphs attempt to summarize, to focus on those atrocities that can represent the gravity of the crisis facing Iraqi people under occupation. Through this, perhaps we can gain an understanding of life and death in Iraq. What fuels the Iraqi resistance? What future – or lack thereof – faces Iraqi people living under the boot of this era of war and occupation?
While Iraqis suffered immeasurably under deadly United Nations sanctions for twelve years prior to the US-led invasion, a new chapter in death and destruction opened in March 2003. Before the war started, Bush had bragged that the US would cripple the infrastructure, hearts and minds of the Iraqi people with this two day massive barrage of bombings. Clearly, this attack was meant to murder hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people and deal out “shock and awe” to the dissident people of the world with a clear lesson; if you cross the US, you will be destroyed.
On March 21st 2003, following the official entry of occupation forces on March 20th, parts of the port town of Umm Qasr, south of Basra, were seized by US military. Bombs and missiles began to strike Baghdad for a third successive night, in a massive scaling-up of air strikes.
On March 23rd 2003, American B-52 bombers continued heavy raids on Baghdad with these raids killing 106 civilians in that single night. On March 24th 2003, a US missile hit a Syrian passenger bus near the Iraqi border killing five innocent people. That same day, the Red Cross warned of a humanitarian emergency as water supplies began to run out in Basra.
The bombing of civilian targets continued thought the invasion and on March 26th 2003 a US missile struck a busy Baghdad market, killing many civilians. By March 27th 2003 – only one week after the invasion – 350 Iraqi civilians had died in air raids alone.
“The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want to the get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.”
– Dick Cheney, March 16th 2003, “Meet the Press” Interview
Despite the terrorizing “Shock and Awe” of the opening week of destruction of Iraq, the US and UK were finding out the victory may not be as near as they’d predicted. Infact, the brutality and intensity of the attack was met with a great force of resistance, backed by record-breaking international mobilizations against the war. Iraqi forces, making clever use of guerrilla warfare and flanking tactics, shattered confident predictions of an easy victory and the rapid demise of Saddam Hussein and his regime.
Resentment and fear among these soldiers was growing, and according to independent sources, the morale of soldiers was lowering. At a rear base in Kuwait, a US Army Captain was killed and 15 wounded when grenades were rolled into three tents of the 101st Airborne Division by one of its own soldiers. By March 24th 2003, US and UK casualties totaled at least 60 dead, 20 captured, 300 wounded.
This pattern of aerial bombardment and killing continued throughout the opening months. Despite the May 1st declaration of the “end of major combat” by George Bush, “Operation Iraqi Freedom” was actually only the first in a series of criminal military operations that continue today.
Escalation of Attacks and the First Siege of Fallujah
By April 2004, over one year after the initial invasion, the imperialist occupying forces had descended into a deep quagmire. As a result, of this crisis for the occupation forces they escalated their attacks tremendously. On April 4th, in Kufa, near Najaf during a demonstration denouncing the closure of a Baghdad newspaper at least 20 Iraqi protesters and two occupation soldiers were killed and more than 200 people injured.
On April 6th fierce gun battles broke out as US troops fought their way, block by block, into the city of Fallujah. US warplanes pounded Fallujah with 500lb laser-guided bombs and marines battled with Iraqi resistance fighters on the ground. Abrams tanks and an AC-130 gunship pounded outlying neighborhoods with shells and machine gun fire. US planes fired rockets into the town, destroying four houses and killing 26 Iraqis, including women and children, and wounding 30 others, said a doctor at Fallujah general hospital.
According to US reports, some 615 Iraqis were killed in the First Battle of Fallujah, along with approximately 120 US troops. According to Cairo’s Al-Ahram Weekly “Iraqi doctors set the death toll from five days of fighting at more than 300, many of them women and children. But these were preliminary estimates. Soon it rose to 600. Later counts would range from 219 to 950. Is it conceivable that these were all rebels? When whole neighborhoods with cowering families were wiped out? When snipers operated with impunity?”
On April 29th 2004 graphic photographs showing the torture and sexual abuse of Iraqi captives at Abu Ghraib prison were shown on CBS television news in America. The face of occupation that the Iraqi people had known for too long, was being slowly brought into light for the world to view. Stomach turning photographs of physical and sexual torture, humiliation, and degradation of Iraqis also showed the smiling, laughing, sadistic faces of the “heroes of America”. The worst of these photographs, including US soldiers gang raping Iraqi women, were never released publicly.
The US administration responded by sacrificing some of its lowest ranking troops; piling the mountains of responsibility and blame onto the shoulders of a handful of privates. An empty apology was issued by Donald Rumsfeld, who then proceeded to wash his hands clean of the scandal. Over the following weeks however, more and more soldiers came forward to report that the abuse was ordered and sanctioned by higher levels. This was echoed by the author of a scathing internal Army report on the abuses. “…Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, told Congress that they were caused by lax leadership. He blamed not so much individual soldiers as their superior officers, from the brigade commander on down.” – Christian Science Monitor, May 12th 2004
While Rumsfeld attempted to play innocent, speculation increased that he knew of the torture long before the images were exposed. “… as details emerge of the physical abuse and deaths of scores of Iraqi and Afghan detainees in US military custody, other documents and reports suggest a contributing factor was the top-down weakening of military standards of humane prisoner treatment as part of the Bush administration's drive for intelligence in the war on terrorism.” Christian Science Monitor, June 10th 2004
And despite the international scandal of Abu Ghraib, reports of torture and abuse are still flowing in. Both the British and Australian troops have faced their own Abu Ghraib-style torture scandals. As well, taking the crisis further were August 2004 reports of the existence of a ‘children’s wing’ of Abu Ghraib prison. A UNICEF report has discovered that over 100 children were being detained, although the actual number is significantly higher since the organization was denied access to many prison facilities known to be holding children.
Imperialist Massacres Continue
May 20th 2004 – Baghdad, The Wedding Party Massacre: “A senior Iraqi police officer told the Associated Press that a helicopter fired at the [wedding] party early yesterday morning in a remote village close to the Syrian border, killing between 42 and 45 people. Television footage showed a truck carrying the bodies of the dead arriving in Ramadi, the nearest big town. Many of the dead were clearly children.” – “Iraqis claim more than 40 killed in US helicopter attack” Thursday May 20th 2004 The Guardian
August 2004 – Three Week Siege of Najaf: The US invaded the Holy city of Najaf in August 2004, killing hundreds of civilians in the opening week of the siege. For three weeks Najaf was the site of the most intensive battles in Iraq since the war began. Whole areas of the city were left in ruins; scores of civilians left dead and tens of thousands of people were forced to flee.
September 12th 2004 – US Attack Baghdad: “The heaviest fighting for months erupted in the centre of Baghdad yesterday, only a brief stroll from the office of the prime minister, Ayad Allawi. Witnesses said at least 13 Iraqis were killed and 55 wounded after US helicopters attacked a crowd of unarmed demonstrators” – “Thirteen die in US attack on Baghdad crowd” Sept 13th 2004 The Guardian
September 12th 2004 – US Attack Tal-Afar: “Reports put the death toll across Iraq yesterday at between 60 and 100. The health ministry said the worst casualties were in the capital, where 37 were killed, and in Tal Afar, near the Syrian border, where 51 people died after US troops mounted a large offensive.” – “Thirteen die in US attack on Baghdad crowd” Sept 13th 2004 The Guardian
October 1st 2004 -The Assault on Samarra: “US and Iraqi government troops, backed by armored vehicles and warplanes, advanced through the town [of Samarra] neighborhood by neighborhood. …Some of the fighting took place close to a mosque that attracts many Shia Muslim pilgrims to the region. Residents spoke of cowering in their homes during a night of explosions.” “'Scores die' in Samarra assault” October 1st BCC News
During this dual siege of Samarra all water and electricity was cut. US Defense Secretary Donald Rumseld commented on the siege, "What has to be done in [Iraq] is what basically was done in Samarra over the last 48 hours."
The Second Siege of Fallujah
In November 2004, for a second time, the US-led occupation forces prepared for a massive siege of the city of Fallujah. The city suffered extensive damage nearly half of the city’s 200 mosques were destroyed in the attack. Half of the homes in the city suffered damage. About 7,000 to 10,000 out of 50,000 buildings in the city were destroyed. While “Operation Phantom Fury” shared many of the atrocious characteristics of previous land and air raids of cities across Iraq, it also carried a particularly disturbing factor.
White Phosphorous - a chemical weapon that burns through human flesh - was admittedly used by US forces in the second siege of Fallujah. Official US administration documents dispute the particularities of the use of this weapon “It is only used to create a smoke shield” (!). In November 2005, the Italian state-run broadcaster RAI (Radio Audizioni Italiane) ran a documentary titled "Fallujah, The Hidden Massacre" depicting the United States' use of white phosphorus in the attack. The bodies of the people of Fallujah attacked by this weapon were partially turned into what appears to be ash, and sometimes the hands of the bodies had skin or skin layers peeled off, hanging like gloves.
November 2004 – November 2005: Attacks and Sieges from Ramadi to Haidtha
From November 2004 throughout 2005, more and more sieges and massacres, by means of land and air attacks continued across Iraqi cities, towns and villages. On May 7th 2005 US forces launched a massive assault on Qaim, killing scores of people, attacking the local hospital and forcing thousands to flee their homes. In June 2005 US forces attacked Karabila and Qaim, killing at least 17 civilians. Iraq's deputy health minister warned of possible starvation among the 6,000 families who fled the assault. In August 2005 US-led forces attacked Haditha, Haqlaniya and Barwana. One Haditha resident described the bombs as 'falling like heavy rain'. That same month 40 civilians were killed in air strikes in Husayba. On September 2nd 2005 US-led forces launched a massive assault on Tal Afar. The local hospital reported receiving cases of dead women and children. Tens of thousands of residents fled the city in anticipation. On October 1st 2005 1,000 US troops backed by helicopters attacked Sadah. On October 16th 2005 US airstrikes in western Iraq killed more than 70 people, including dozens of women and children.
About one month later, on November 19th in Haidtha, a massacre took place which only began to come to light months later, in early 2006. According to Time Magazine March 27, 2006 “The incident seemed like so many others from this war, the kind of tragedy that has become numbingly routine amid the daily reports of violence in Iraq. On the morning of Nov. 19, 2005, a roadside bomb struck a humvee carrying Marines from Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, on a road near Haditha, a restive town in western Iraq. The next day a Marine communiqué from Camp Blue Diamond in Ramadi reported that … 15 Iraqi civilians were killed by the blast and that "gunmen attacked the convoy with small-arms fire," prompting the Marines to return fire, killing eight insurgents and wounding one other...
“But the details of what happened that morning in Haditha are more disturbing, disputed and horrific than the military initially reported. According to eyewitnesses and local officials interviewed over the past 10 weeks, the civilians who died in Haditha on Nov. 19 were killed not by a roadside bomb but by the Marines themselves, who went on a rampage in the village after the attack, killing 15 unarmed Iraqis in their homes, including seven women and three children. Human-rights activists say that if the accusations are true, the incident ranks as the worst case of deliberate killing of Iraqi civilians by U.S. service members since the war began.”
Following the massacre in Haditha the words Mai Lai were being whispered across the world. Once again the Vietnamization of Iraq had surfaced. In 1971 Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, which exposed the detailed patter of lies and deceptions by the American administration to conceal their war crimes in Vietnam. Ellsberg commented on the Haditha massacre in a June 11th 2006 article that he wrote for the Los Angeles Times, “Haditha holds up a mirror not just to American troops in the field, but to our whole society. Not just the liars in government but to those who believe them too easily. And to all of us in the public, in the administration, in Congress, in the media who dissent so far ineffectively or who stand by as murder is being done and do nothing to stop it or expose it.”
According to Reuters on July 9th 2006, “Officers say generals are cracking down to try to curb harm to civilians that have turned Iraqis against U.S. troops. One said a report submitted on Friday to the top general in Iraq should see action against Marine commanders who failed to act on evidence troops may have killed civilians at Haditha on November 19.”
March 2006: “Rape, Kill, Burn” - Mahmoudiya
When I was searching for news about the most recently exposed atrocity by American troops in Iraq, I googled “Rape, Kill, Burn”. I got dozens of results. “American GIs Rape Iraqi Woman, Kill 3 Fam Members, Then Burn Her Body” and “Described as ‘Adult Female’ Alleged Iraqi Rape Victim Was Actually 14 Years Old”.
It was only late last month that the story surfaced. In March 2006, a group of four US soldiers identified their target; a 14-year-old Iraqi girl. They armed themselves with M4 rifles from the armory and they were fuelled with alcohol. According to the Guardian “Three of the alleged assailants changed into dark clothing; a witness also said Mr Green covered his face with a brown T-shirt.”. They then moved, on foot, to the home of 14-year-old Abeer Qasim Hamza, where they carried out this disturbing and premeditated crime.
With one soldier standing guard outside, the other three entered the home. They murdered Abeer’s parents, and her seven-year-old sister with gunshots to the head. Three of the soldiers then took turns raping Abeer. She too, was shot in the head. In a callous attempt to cover their criminal tracks, they then burned the bodies of the family.
As the opening sentences of this article read, we should not take this as such a surprise. While disturbing and infuriating, it is unfortunately not unusual. Women all over the world know the synonyms for “war” include “rape”. What the case of Abeer exposes is the depths of brutality to which this war has sunk. Like Vietnam, where stories of rape and killing of women and children poured from the shaking lips of returned US soldiers, this time around in Iraq we can expect no less.
Sifting through three years of massacres, torture and indiscriminate killing of Iraqi men, women and children begs one central question: how have Iraqi’s responded?
The resistance to occupation which has taken a hold of Iraq, and which has forced the US-led forces into an impossible quagmire, was born out of the bombed Mosques, homes, hospitals and schools of Baghdad, Samarra, Najaf, Tal Afar, Fallujah, Haditha, of Mahmoudiya. It was born in the torture chambers of Abu Ghraib. Millions of Iraqis birthed this resistance as they saw their loved ones, their neighbors, their brothers and sisters across the country being murdered, tortured, raped and humiliated.
Despite imperialist attempts to paint all resistance fighters as “Saddamist Insurgents” and “Terrorists”, Iraqi women, youth, workers and students are those returning fire. And returning fire has meant several things. Iraqis have staged massive demonstrations in the streets since the opening of the invasion, they have led workers strikes to cripple the occupation-controlled economy. They have boycotted the occupation-run farce elections. They have sabotaged and infiltrated the collaborator Iraqi police and military. They have also fought militarily, with what little means they have at their disposal.
So, one may ask “What future is there for Iraq under occupation?” The answer unquestionably, is “No future”. The only road towards a just, humane society in Iraq is the road constructed by Iraqi hands themselves. The past three and a half years have proven the failure and impossibility of imperialist imposed so-called “liberation” and so-called “democracy”. With this understanding amazingly, heroically, the Iraqi people, against all odds, have beat back the occupation forces, and threatened to decisively destabilize their foothold.
The US Administration now faces skyrocketing desertions among their troops, plummeting support from the US population and splits in the ruling class about how the hell they are going to get out of Iraq, and when. On the ground in Iraq, the desperation has played out in increasingly brutal assaults.
Fighting for Humanity on Every Front
Over the past three and a half years, people of the world have looked on in wonder and amazement at the resilience of the Iraqi people. But awe is not enough. To do justice to our brothers and sisters on the front lines against this imperialist battle for empire, we too must join the struggle.
The US and its imperialist allies and opponents have set forth on a mission to carve up the Middle East, and from there, to spread their tentacles to the corners of the earth. This project for domination, this era of war and occupation, must be decisively challenged in its opening stage.
For all peace loving people, all people who would like to see a better world, there are two choices: to join the struggle for humanity, or accept this era of war and occupation. The Iraqi people have chosen their side, we, across the world, must join them.
END IMPERIALIST ATROCITIES AND MASSACRES IN IRAQ!
US/UK OUT OF IRAQ!
BRING ALL TROOPS HOME NOW!
SELF-DETERMINATION FOR IRAQ NOW!
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