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Commentary :: Organizing
AS PENTAGON SENDS MORE TROOPS: BATTLES RAGE ACROSS IRAQ
19 Apr 2004
Modified: 02:48:27 PM
AS PENTAGON SENDS MORE TROOPS: BATTLES RAGE ACROSS IRAQ
Resistance Broadens after Pentagon Atrocities

By Deirdre Griswold
-------------------------
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the April 22, 2004
issue of Workers World newspaper
-------------------------

April 14--The stakes keep getting higher.
Even as George W. Bush was telling a news
conference at the White House last night that
now his lofty goal in Iraq is to "change the
world for the better," the Pentagon was making
plans to send overseas another 10,000 to 20,000
troops. And Iraqis of all backgrounds were saying
they would fight to the death to win back their
country.

In the past week there was fierce fighting
between U.S. troops and the Iraqi resistance
in Baghdad, Falluja, Ramadi, Kerbala, Kufa,
Najaf, Kut, Mosul and Nasariyah, and clashes
in many smaller cities. The death toll among
Iraqis has been horrific. In Falluja alone,
the head of the main hospital reported 600
dead in less than a week--mostly the elderly,
children and women. This account and many
eyewitness reports refute the claim of the
Pentagon that it only targets "fighting men."

U.S. forces have sustained their largest
casualties since the end of the "official"
war a year ago. In the first 13 days of April,
at least 82 U.S. troops were killed and more
than 560 wounded. (The Sun [UK], April 14)

However, this tells only half the story.
According to Robert Fisk and Patrick Cockburn,
"At least 80 foreign mercenaries--security
guards recruited from the United States, Europe
and South Africa and working for American
companies--have been killed in the past eight
days in Iraq. ... At least 18,000 mercenaries,
many of them tasked to protect U.S. troops and
personnel, are now believed to be in Iraq,
some of them earning $1,000 a day. ...
[A]lthough many of the heavily armed Western
security men are working for the U.S. Department
of Defense--and most of them are former Special
Forces soldiers--they are not listed as serving
military personnel. Their losses can therefore
be hidden from public view." (The Star, April 13)

The intransigence of the Bush administration,
and the absence of any real opposition to this
hideous war of conquest from within the U.S.
capitalist political establishment, makes it
clearer than ever that it will be ended only
through the combined efforts of the Iraqi
resistance and the massive anti-war movement
around the world.

In the United States, where a call to restore
the draft is already creeping into editorial
and opinion columns in the corporate media, and
where disillusioned veterans are starting to
return from the battlefields--many facing the
threat of being sent back to fight again--the
prospect of another militant, Vietnam-type
anti-war resistance is on the horizon.

SUNNI-SHIITE UNITY DISMAYS PENTAGON

The sharp escalation of the fighting came after a
Shia Muslim cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, called on his
followers to rise up against the U.S. occupation.
The Pentagon had already targeted al-Sadr. U.S.
troops had closed his newspaper, al-Hawza, on
March 28 and then put a price on his head.

The strategy of U.S. and British imperialists
has long been to try to foment antagonism among
various sectors of Iraqi society. While U.S.
overseer L. Paul Bremer III talks about "nation
building" and the "protection of minority rights,"
the invaders have tried to pit Sunni and Shiite
Muslims against one another. But that strategy
was dealt a strong blow when the Shiites in a
wide area rose up just as the Pentagon was laying
siege to the city of Falluja, in a predominantly
Sunni area.

Jonathan Steele and Rory McCarthy reported from
Baghdad about a huge solidarity rally there:

"Up to 200,000 Iraqi believers, many of them
Shias, crowded into the precinct of Baghdad's
largest Sunni mosque yesterday to denounce the
American occupation and pledge solidarity with
the people of Falluja as well as the uprising
led by the Shia cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr. It was
the largest show of joint support by Iraq's Sunni
and Shia communities.

"'Long live Moqtada, long live Falluja, long live
Basra, long live Kerbala,' they shouted, naming
the various cities where Shias have attacked
coalition forces. Many punched the air with
their fists.

"'It is a year since America with its ally, the
British devil Tony Blair, launched its attack.
The Americans invaded the land of Iraq, but they
did not penetrate its people or their souls,' Dr.
Harith al-Dhari, the main preacher at the Umm
al-Qura mosque thundered into a loudspeaker, as
the overflow crowd sat on the lawns and concrete
concourse.

"'A year has passed and where is the democracy
they promised? Instead, we have terror and
censorship and rivers of blood,' he went on."
(The Guardian [UK], April 10)

Faced with such widespread opposition, the U.S.
claims to be seeking negotiations, both in
Falluja and with al-Sadr in Najaf, all the while
moving in fresh troops. Anticipating an
assassination attempt by the U.S., al-Sadr
told Lebanon's al-Manar television, "I call on
the people not to allow my death to cause the
collapse of the fight for freedom and an end to
the occupation."

GUERRILLAS SHOW 'NEW SOPHISTICATION'

A report by Thomas E. Ricks, appearing in the
Washington Post of April 14, quotes U.S. military
sources in Iraq as saying that the resistance in
the south is showing a "new sophistication" in its
tactics. Guerrillas successfully destroyed three
bridges on the route taken by a U.S. convoy moving
south from Baghdad toward Najaf, the Shiite holy
city where al-Sadr is holding out.

"'The dropping of the bridges was very interesting,
because it showed a regional or even a national
level of organization,' [Army Col. Dana J.H.]
Pittard said in an interview. He said insurgents
appeared to be sending information southward,
communicating about routes being taken by U.S.
forces and then getting sufficient amounts of
explosives to key bridges ahead of the convoys.

"With occupation forces battling Sadr's Shiite
militiamen south and east of Baghdad and Sunni
Muslim insurgents to the north and west, the
timing of the Iraqis' tactical development is
nearly as troubling for U.S. forces as its
effect. But the explanation for the change is
not yet clear, military commanders said.

"Here in southern Iraq, which is overwhelmingly
Shiite, U.S. officers say the best guess is that
former soldiers who served under President Saddam
Hussein have decided to lend their expertise and
coordinating abilities to the untrained Shiite
militiamen.

"'It's a combination of Saddam loyalists and
Shiite militias,' Maj. Gen. John R. Batiste,
commander of the 1st Infantry Division, said ... ."

Naomi Klein reported on this remarkable unity
from Baghdad:

"For months, the White House has been making
ominous predictions of a civil war breaking
out between the majority Shiites ... and the
minority Sunnis ... . But this week, the
opposite appeared to have taken place. Both
Sunnis and Shiites have seen their homes
attacked and their religious sites desecrated.
Up against a shared enemy, they are beginning
to bury ancient rivalries and join forces
against the occupation. Instead of a civil war,
they are on the verge of building a common front.
You could see it at the mosques in Sadr City on
Thursday: Thousands of Shiites lined up to donate
blood destined for Sunnis hurt in the attacks in
Falluja. 'We should thank Paul Bremer,' Salih Ali
told me. 'He has finally united Iraq. Against him.'"
(Los Angeles Times, April 9)

U.S. SNIPERS TARGET AMBULANCES

Klein described the U.S. atrocities that had
precipitated this unity:

"At Al Thawra Hospital, I met Raad Daier, an
ambulance driver with a bullet in his abdomen,
one of 12 shots he says were fired at his
ambulance from a U.S. Humvee. At the time of the
attack, according to hospital officials, he was
carrying six people injured by U.S. forces,
including a pregnant woman who had been shot in
the stomach and lost her baby.

"I saw charred cars, which dozens of eyewitnesses
said had been hit by U.S. missiles, and I confirmed
with hospitals that their drivers had been burned
alive. I also visited Block 37 of the Chuadir
District, a row of houses where every door was
riddled with holes. Residents said U.S. tanks
drove down their street firing into homes. Five
people were killed, including Murtada Muhammad,
age 4."

This, multiplied by thousands of other tragic
stories, is what the occupation has done, and this
is why the Iraqi people are so furious and will
attack anyone they see as part of it.

What the U.S. military and their Commander-in-
Chief continue to deny, but is attested to by
hundreds of reporters and other observers, and by
the facts on the ground, is that the Iraqi people
as a whole have grown to detest the U.S.
occupation. It has brought them nothing but death,
destruction and the transfer of control over their
country and resources to the predatory billionaire
corporations favored by the Bush clique.

The administration, which invaded a country that
had done absolutely nothing to the U.S.--despite
Bush's desperate use of innuendo to somehow blame
Iraq for 9/11--is now in a deadly spiral of
answering the people's resistance with more
violence, which merely increases the resistance.

In his news conference, Bush restated his
administration's plan to hand over "sovereignty" to
Iraqis on June 30. Which Iraqis? The ones installed
by Washington, of course. Yet even they are so shaky
these days that bourgeois critics are demanding the
president explain how his plan is going to work.

IRAQI SOLDIERS REFUSE TO FIGHT

The U.S. is finding it impossible to build an Iraqi
puppet state that can be relied on to carry out its
demands. This was made very clear when, according to
the Washington Post of April 11:

"A battalion of the new Iraqi army refused to go to
Falluja earlier this week to support U.S. Marines
battling for control of the city, senior U.S. Army
officers here said, disclosing an incident that is
casting new doubt on U.S. plans to transfer security
matters to Iraqi forces. It was the first time U.S.
commanders had sought to involve the postwar Iraqi
army in major combat operations, and the battalion's
refusal came as large parts of Iraqi security
forces have stopped carrying out their duties.

"The 620-man 2nd Battalion of the Iraqi Armed Forces
refused to fight Monday after members of the unit were
shot at in a Shiite Muslim neighborhood in Baghdad
while en route to Falluja, a Sunni Muslim stronghold,
said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who is overseeing
the development of Iraqi security forces. ...

"Eaton said members of the battalion insisted during
the ensuing discussions: 'We did not sign up to fight
Iraqis.'

"The refusal of the battalion to perform as U.S.
officials had hoped poses a significant problem for
the occupation. The cornerstone of the U.S. strategy
in Iraq is to draw down its military presence and
turn over security functions to Iraqis.

"Over the past two weeks, that approach has suffered
a severe setback as Iraqi security forces have
crumbled in some parts of the country. In recent days
perhaps 20 percent to 25 percent of the Iraqi army,
civil defense, police and other security forces have
quit, changed sides, or otherwise failed to perform
their duties, a senior Army officer said Saturday."

COALITION OF THE NOT-SO-WILLING

In this heroic uprising, untrained Iraqi civilians
armed only with rifles or stones picked up from the
street are facing down helicopter gunships and
troops armed with tanks, mortars, rockets, machine
guns and night-vision equipment.

The fighting has been accompanied by a rash of
kidnappings of foreigners inside Iraq, especially
aimed at countries that have bowed to Washington's
pressure and sent troops there.

As a result, a number of countries have announced
they may be pulling back their personnel. Russia is
sending seven planes to Iraq on April 15 to begin
the evacuation of 800 contract workers from Russia
and other former Soviet republics. The president
of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, says
she is considering withdrawing Philippine troops and
aid workers--a demand of anti-war forces at home.
Thailand and Spain say they intend to withdraw their
troops this summer.

THE 9/11 COMMISSION

Even as this volcano of resistance has erupted in
Iraq, the commission investigating 9/11 has been
grilling Bush and Clinton administration officials
on what the government knew about threats from
al-Qaeda and how prepared it was for terrorist
attacks. It has drawn out much testimony showing that
Bush and his Cabinet badly wanted a war on Iraq and
were focused on that objective when the 9/11 attacks
occurred.

However, in approaching the question of the "security"
of the United States, the bipartisan commission is not
asking any questions about the many egregious
atrocities committed for decades around the world by
U.S. imperialism's military and secret police, which
were bound to antagonize millions of people. It is
only asking questions that will lead to restructuring
the executive branch of the government in order to make
it more efficient at carrying out repression.

In the age of jet planes and the Internet, no wall, no
matter how fortified, is big enough to isolate this
country from the rest of the world. The best security
for the workers here is to resist the aggressive war
policies of this government--and of the Democrats, too,
who are calling for more troops to Iraq--and build
solidarity with all peoples around the world fighting
for justice and self-determination.

Putting Bush and his co-conspirators on trial for war
crimes would do more to protect the people of this
country than any new intelligence super-agency of the
type that is likely to come out of the 9/11.

- END -
See also:
http://www.workers.org

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