Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Writing about the assault on Baqubah, you may recall, I said: "It will be a while before anyone starts to hear many details of what has happened to that city." One story has now emerged, from an area beyond the iron wall surrounding the city: a small, largely Shi'ite village, named al-Khalis. The BBC reports that one of the headline assaults last week that supposedly killed 17 'Al Qaeda' fighters actually wiped out a bunch of guards who were protecting the village from precisely the kinds of interlopers that the yanqui conquistadores were supposedly exterminating. The occupiers claim to have killed about forty 'Al Qaeda' fighters, and captured dozens more - but before they started this assault, they claimed that there were at least 300 fighters in Baqubah (itself an utterly implausible, ridiculous claim), so any trumpeted 'success' is likely to be an inflation at the least. And, as Juan Cole points out, the operation is an attempt to bring an unwilling, largely Sunni population under the control of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, now known - since the US has already effected their 'revolution' - as the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC). That isn't going to fly.
Although it is claimed that the US has so far taken 60% of the west of Baqubah, all reports have indicated that Iraq's Vichy army is not capable of holding the city for the SIIC. However, bear in mind the scale of this operation: as in other city-assaults, they have sealed the place off and entered with all guns blazing and bombers tearing up the streets. This is far from over, and if they seriously intend to keep the city under SIIC control, then I would anticipate an escalation. Don't expect a serious body count or even estimate until some of the humanitarian agencies get a look in there. I don't think there were many more than a dozen civilian deaths reported by the embedded media in Fallujah during Operation Phantom Fury, (and remember, all non-embedded reporters are being kept out of Baqubah right now), but the first post-bombing estimate was that 800 had died in the blitz, and later, NGOs estimated up to 6,000 deaths. It would have been much higher had most of the population not been driven out into the deserts to seek the canvas hospitality of any aid organisation that would provide it. And, as you know, that city has been under forced labour servitude, biometric lockdown, and round-the-clock military rule ever since. They constructed a huge torture regime in Camp Mercury on the outskirts of the city, where 82nd Airborne, describing themselves as Murderous Maniacs, would attack and torture their hostages: they called it "fucking" them. Now you know what to call it if you want to be as objective as possible by media standards: it is, after all, the term prescribed by the US military. 150,000 of the city's citizens remain refugees and, of course, reconstruction is practically non-existent. Having destroyed the city and run it as an open air prison, they are still facing resistance: they say they will have suppressed 'Al Qaeda' in that city by this August (although, if you recall, they didn't actually discover any 'Al Qaeda' there when they took the city, and they didn't expect to). And now, it is reported that they have blockaded that city for a month, keeping aid workers out. Why? Because they too might be 'Al Qaeda'. Residents are under a renewed curfew, and once again the prisoners are having to drink dirty water and live without electricity. Such is the calculated object-lesson in terror, annihilation and deprivation that the US decided to set for Iraqis, and if they have to make another example of another city, they will. It is called humanitarian intervention.
Still, Operation Arrowhead Ripper has thus far had a very successful media run. Little has been discussed beyond the occasional 'success'. We learn nothing, and they will tell us nothing that doesn't immediately jar as an obvious propaganda piece. One press-release from the MNF claims that troops have discovered 'Al Qaeda' prisons, torture chambers, execution houses. Its claims are broadly reflected in much of the coverage, with some variations and bagatelles. Who knows, it may even contain some truth: whatever combination of groups there are running the area, I daresay they impose some fairly strict discipline, up to and including executions. However, the idea is seriously being offered that the US military are liberating Iraqis from imprisonment, torture and death. Why don't they simply call it Operation Irony Death?
Meanwhile, Adhamiya seems to be experiencing a crackdown. It has been heavily cordonned off, and they are depriving neighbourhoods of electricity and water supply, as part of a blackmail to get residents to 'hand over' local insurgents. You'll remember that this is a Sunni district north of Baghdad, where a 'security wall' was built against the wishes of the local population, who were thus roundly abused as being 'Al Qaeda' (you begin to see how this works). And in Anbar, the local fighters who the US recruited with a sack full of $75m appear to have collapsed after the guy running the show ran off with all the cash. Now that sixteen of the tribal sheikhs that the occupiers were using to try and take control of local affairs for them in Anbar (on the basis of the military's stupendously racist 2003 assessment I would guess) have copped it from a suicide attack, some experts 'query' this way of going about things. On the contrary, the policy is ideal if taken to its logical conclusion: the occupation forces should transfer as much of their weaponry and money to Iraqis as quickly as possible. I guarantee you that this would result in less bloodshed all-round, and a much speedier exit for the poor, exhausted troops.