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The following article was sourced through readily available news and commentary on the internet, most of it archived by date at in the news section.



Stan Goff
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 of Warfare.

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 picture.

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 likewise liberated?

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 Basra.

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 column.

Photo of a chaos of broken-down vehicles in a parched white desert, most of them in two parallel lines as on a highway . There are all kinds of vehicles - mostly passenger cars and pickup trucks, a couple of buses, tanker trucks, cargo trucks; not a single military vehicle.

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 Fallujah.

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 Shia militias.

June 2003

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 to leave.

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.

October 2003

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.

November 2003

Sistani tells Bremer, “We want elections, not appointments.”

December 2003

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: .

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 Bantustans.

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,' it said.”

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 East .

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 forces.

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 of others.

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 the masses.

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 and exposed.

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 bodies.”

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 begins immediately.

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 city.

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 Shias.

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 it.

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 wounding dozens.

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 figures.

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 militias.

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 an icon.

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 reasons.

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 Bourgeois asked.

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 uniting them."

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 colonial reconstruction.

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 1975.

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 another Vietnam.

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 in Iraq.

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 neo-cons.

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 colonialism.

That evening, Bremer suggests to reporters that he might consider negotiations with Sadr.

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 bizarre performance.

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 street outside.

The rocket attack took place as UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi was holding a press conference across the Tigris River in the U.S.-led coalition headquarters…

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.

Reuters –

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 are killed.

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.




Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies

By Richard Heinberg

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Truth And Lies About 9-11