by Maria Tomchick
June 19, 2003
The circus lions of the U.S. media faithfully refrained from reporting on the June 9th launch of the largest U.S. military offensive in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad, leaving Americans blissfully unaware that George W. Bush lied about more than the existence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
Bush's stage-managed victory celebration on an aircraft carrier in the Gulf was almost immediately contradicted by U.S. military officers in the field, who've repeatedly told the British press and wire service reporters that the war is far from over. In fact, BBC News (6/12/03) recently reported that, since May 1 when Bush declared the war largely won, there were 85 attacks on U.S. forces in May alone, triple the number of attacks in the previous month. The Guardian of London (6/13/03) reported that at least 10 U.S. troops have died and 25 been injured in the two weeks since the beginning of June, with more than a dozen strikes per day against U.S. troops in the past week alone. One horrible day last week was filled with 26 separate attacks against U.S. troops all over Iraq.
Military spokesmen in Qatar and Washington have told reporters that the new offensive was launched to flush out Saddam Hussein loyalists in a triangular area north and west of Baghdad, the reputed "Sunni triangle," which includes towns (like Fallujah) where U.S. troops have come under daily sniper fire since the beginning of the occupation. But many of the attacks have been made in areas outside of the "Sunni triangle," including Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul, which U.S. military officers recently (prematurely) hailed as a model of security.
The charge that the offensive is aimed ostensibly at Baath Party members and other Saddam loyalists would hint that there is an organized resistance to be defeated. But both U.S. military spokesmen and reporters have pointed out that the resistance is scattered, "diverse," and not organized into any chain of command -- once again contradicting the Bush administration in Washington, which wants the American people to desperately believe that things are under control in Iraq. The official story goes like this: once the military cleans up the last vestiges of Saddam's militias (and hopefully finds Saddam himself), these attacks will go away.
Troops on the ground, however, have reason to doubt the official line. Few of their attackers have been revealed to be Baath Party loyalists.
Diverse Iraqi groups, from Shiites in the south to Kurdish groups in the north, organized militias long before the current spate of attacks against U.S. soldiers began to escalate in May. With the start of the war, as each successive city and town was abandoned by Saddam's troops, tribal groups and armed gangs quickly moved in and held sway. In larger cities, including Baghdad, neighborhoods organized their own militias. The first priority of newly formed political parties has been to hire men with guns to police their "turf." Even Iraqi exile groups returning to Baghdad -- most notoriously Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress -- immediately hired small personal armies. Widespread looting of police stations has made it all possible, allowing every household in Iraq to possess AK-47s or Kalishnikovs, while abandoned armed caches have provided grenade launchers and landmines to enterprising scavengers.
So far U.S. efforts to disarm the population have failed dismally, and no wonder. Crime and looting are still rampant in most cities and towns, where the streets remain deserted at night for safety reasons. Iraqi businesses close early to avoid robberies and Iraqi truck drivers carry automatic weapons to repel looters and hijackers. Iraqi women report a huge upsurge in rapes and child disappearances. Even the head of the Iraqi oil industry is deeply frustrated by the continued looting, even today, of newly-repaired Iraqi oil infrastructure.
A host of other ills plague Iraqis. With a lack of clean water, food, and medical supplies, Iraqis are suffering an upsurge in malnutrition and disease since the beginning of the war, according to U.N. aid agencies. The lack of security makes it nearly impossible to remedy these problems. Few Iraqi civil servants have returned to their jobs, because the U.S. Interim Authority hasn't issued any paychecks. Revenue that was supposed to be coming in from Iraq's oil fields has been stalled by continued looting -- and outright sabotage -- of the oil infrastructure, a nightmare scenario that may foreshadow the need for thousands of more U.S. troops just to guard Iraqi pipelines and pumping stations.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Interim Authority remains sequestered behind high walls in one of Saddam's opulent palaces -- a symbol not wasted on embittered and embattled Iraqis. When Paul Bremer, the U.S.'s viceroy, travels outside of the compound, he rides in a bulletproof limousine surrounded by troops in armored vehicles. This prevents any assassination attempt, but also prevents any contact with ordinary Iraqi people and their concerns.
Even the failed search for weapons of mass destruction has frustrated Iraqis and turned them against the U.S. Interim Authority. Most Iraqis hated Saddam Hussein and now yearn for justice. Naturally, they want a war crimes tribunal. But such a trial requires evidence, and the U.S. military has fumbled the ball. By allowing major weapons sites and government buildings -- from major ministry buildings in Baghdad down to lowly police stations in outlying villages -- to be ransacked by looters who carried away file cabinets and computers, importance evidence has disappeared. U.S. search teams tasked with finding evidence for war crimes trials in Iraq are still languishing here in the U.S., waiting to be dispatched overseas.
Meanwhile, relatives of the people murdered by Saddam Hussein's brutal regime are being forced to dig up mass graves by themselves and attempt to identify the remains of their loved ones with no help from the U.S., Britain, or the U.N. International war crimes experts have warned that valuable information that could be used to convict Baath Party officials will be lost while Iraqis disturb mass graves and move remains. The U.S. Interim Authority has ignored this problem.
Even George Bush's and Tony Blair's outright lies about weapons of mass destruction have added to Iraqi hostility. While George Bush, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney attempt to soothe the U.S. press by saying that the search is continuing and that weapons of mass destruction will be found eventually, the seven U.S. military Site Survey Teams in Iraq are all sitting idle, having completely run out of places to look. And now the CIA has leaked information that shows the Bush administration knowingly presented false evidence to the U.N. and the American people. Iraqis understand the implications of this: the US attacked them for their oil, and not because Saddam Hussein was an international threat.
In the meantime, the new U.S. military offensive is not achieving its stated goals: no huge weapons caches have been found, few Baath Party members have been captured, Saddam is still at large, and attacks against U.S. troops continue all over Iraq. On Thursday, June 12, after three days of fighting in the Sunni triangle, the U.S.'s main nightmare scenario in Iraq came true: the main oil pipeline between Iraq's northern oil fields and Turkey was sabotaged near Kirkuk. While U.S. sources claim the pipeline ignited on its own, the pipeline was not being used at the time, and nearby residents of the village of Makhoul told reporters, "some Iraqis came and blew it up" to "stop the Americans taking the oil out to Turkey."
Clearly, the U.S.'s new offensive has nothing to do with rooting out a few leftover Baath Party supporters. Instead, it's a desperate bid to regain control in Iraq, where a heavily armed population is quickly turning against the U.S. occupation.
Maria Tomchick is a co-editor and contributing writer for Eat The State!, a biweekly anti-authoritarian newspaper based in Seattle, Washington (www.eatthestate.org). She can contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org. This article first appeared in ZNET (www.zmag.org/weluser.htm)