Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Baghdad Clampdown


Is it humorous or grim, this pretence that American actions in Iraq have anything to do with the well-being of Iraqis? Perhaps both, a death-head grin, that favour to which almost a million Iraqis have returned. On the one hand, the atrocious rate of mortality under the rubric of the 'surge' is being deliberately suppressed, even as the Foreign Office works hard to prevent one of the Lancet authors from presenting the information that was knowingly smeared by the Ministry of Defense. On another entirely separate field of digits, what Reuters refers to as "the Baghdad neighbourhood wall" (fuck off) is proceeding despite "the hostility the project sparked among residents in Adhamiya", also reflected in comments by Sadr, several Sunni representatives, and even Maliki who (gasp) is supposed to be flexing his muscles with the Americans to 'modify' the wall. Maliki, like an Anglican church-goer, has no muscles to flex. He is a hanging vine draped around the American embassy. If anyone is exerting any pressure, it is probably those capable of mobilising popular constituencies.

As Simon Assaf rightly points out, the wall is being built around a stronghold of anti-occupation resistance in a fashion similar to the carving up of Fallujah after it was destroyed by two successive American attacks. It has nothing to do with protecting the people that America wishes to crush. There have already been protests about this in Adhamiya, but Sadr has called for a mass protest against this "sectarian, racist and unjust wall that seeks to divide" Iraqis, a hugely positive step. Unity over this crucial battle could ironically have the effect of substantially undermining the sectarian political dynamics supported by the US and its client-regime.

Another aspect of the Baghdad clampdown is the appearance of torture stations across the capital. Aside from erecting enclosures, some of them formal walls, others make-shift concrete barriers, the US has been building up a large and secret apparatus of incarceration across the capital, with a rolling wave of torture - the scorched, blackened skin of an electrocuted detainee is the ensign of the occupation. And let us not forget, since a large number of the new civilian deaths are attributed to death squads, that the Special Police Commando unit, particularly its notorious Wolves Brigade, continues to operate on behalf of the occupiers (although you have to love the US army pretending that these guys are somehow maverick outsiders, as if General Petraeus didn' take full credit for their training and operations). No small part of the toll from death squad activity will be directly attributable to those forces.

And they're worried about sectarianism in Iraq. Sure.