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U.S. in Iraq - The "Shoot-to-Kill" Occupiers

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U.S. in Iraq

The "Shoot-to-Kill" Occupiers

Revolutionary Worker #1200, May 25, 2003, posted at rwor.org

"You will see more soldiers, if you have not seen them already, day and night."

Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan, the commander of American land forces in Iraq

The occupation of Iraq has taken a brutal new turn. The first sign came when the old Overseer of Iraq Lt. Gen. Jay Garner was fired. The new colonial ruler, L. Paul Bremer III, arrived and quickly told his staff that the soldiers need to shoot more people in the streets "so that the word gets around."

The New York Times (May 14) reported that the troops were given new orders -- unleashing them to shoot and kill Iraqis they encounter in their street raids. Later that same night, U.S. high command sent out a blitz of patrols and raids in Baghdad. Thousands of soldiers went rumbling through the capital's darkened neighborhoods, seizing people from the streets in 300 missions. Further north, 500 soldiers surrounded the river village of Ad-Dawr before dawn -- with howitzers, Apache helicopters and gunboats. Assault troops went house to house for five hours -- kicking in the doors -- taking hundreds of men and boys away at gunpoint. The U.S. authorities later claimed they captured an Iraqi army officer they were hunting.

On May 15, after this night of raids and roundups, Bremer gathered reporters to brag that his troops had seized over 300 people in 48 hours. He reported new prisons were opening.

Since the U.S. government claims to be "liberators," the world was told that these attacks were about "letting Iraq's people get back to a normal life" by dealing with "looters and car-jackers."

But this harsh new wave of raids, arrests and new colonial announcements is about controlling the people -- not helping them.

The Empire has gotten itself into some deep shit in Iraq. And you can sense the sick mix of desperation and brutality--as Washington's new Overseer L. Paul Bremer III quickly orders troops into the streets and sticks their guns right in the faces of Iraq's people.

Every move the U.S. has made to strengthen its power since it invaded Iraq has brought it into conflict with the Iraqi people. Now this new switch in colonial regime from Garner to Bremer reveals even more sharply that the U.S. occupiers can't be liberators--and that the goals of the U.S. in Iraq mean the suppression of the people.

Failing to Get a Grip

For the U.S. government, this Gulf War 2 was about getting rid of a defiant government, grabbing control of this strategic oil-rich region, and showing other governments around the world that they better give in quickly to U.S. imperialist demands.

Overseer Garner was sent in to create a new pro-U.S. regime--by fusing together different Iraqi forces willing to serve U.S. interests. This project has been a complete failure. The U.S. and British occupation troops find themselves isolated, and straining to dominate a hostile sea of 22 million Iraqi people.

The people of Iraq are suffering tremendously after the U.S. bombings and invasion. There is no electricity, phone service or gasoline in most areas. Raw sewage is contaminating drinking water, causing deadly cholera. Hospitals are barely operating, and many people are dying from lack of medical care. Many people are trapped in their homes. Most factories and offices remain shut down. Moving around to get food or go to work is difficult and dangerous--including because of U.S. roadblocks. There are reports of widespread rape, and women have virtually disappeared from the streets. The country is peppered with unexploded shells and bombs from the war--that kill more people day after day.

All over Iraq, people are working to restore basic services--schools, hospitals, patrolling against theft. And different political forces are stepping out to lead these efforts-- all while building up their forces to make bids for overall political power . The destruction of Iraq's military and Baathist government has created a huge power vacuum in the country that is rapidly being filled by political forces who often have a different agenda than the U.S. occupation forces.

Meanwhile, the U.S. command is holed up in highly fortified strongpoints, and their troops move in constant fear of snipers, "suicide bombers," and crowds of angry people. Thousands of soldiers are pinned down defending hundreds of "strategic" locations in Iraq--like command posts, bridges and oil fields.

One account from Baghdad ( New Republic , May 26) describes the rapid growth of political militias involving thousands of armed fighters. "Since the fall of Saddam, more than 30 different political parties have established themselves in Baghdad, ranging from the Kurdish People's Front to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a theocratic group under the authority of newly returned Shia leader Mohammed Bakr Al Hakim." Most are operating outside U.S. control.

In the first weeks after the war, the U.S. armed forces simply evicted such forces from the city halls at gunpoint. But now, as these forces organize and arm themselves with heavier weapons, the U.S. command faces a growing challenge in the streets.

Unable to cobble together a government with Iraqi faces that can effectively serve the larger U.S. interests and that has a base of support in the country, the U.S. has dropped their talk of forming an Iraqi government and announced that they are going to remain directly in charge.

The Hard Face of Occupation

The wave of U.S. military raids has been accompanied by a series of harsh new colonial announcements.

On May 15, Lt. Gen. David McKiernan announced his soldiers would now arrest anyone possessing or selling firearms. This is a plan for disarming the people and declaring war on the growing militias of various Iraqi political parties.

The next day, on May 16, Bremer shocked a meeting of Iraqi political forces by announcing the U.S. was dumping plans to form an interim government. The New York Times reported he announced that "allied officials would remain in charge of Iraq for an indefinite period."

Then Bremer signed an order banning Baathists from the party's "top four echelons" from any public position--including universities, hospitals or minor government posts--and adding even stricter rules against Baathists running the future Iraqi military and police forces. Baathists were immediately removed from posts in the new colonial administration, including the interim head of the Health Ministry.

The Pentagon announced that Bernard B. Kerik, a former head of the New York Police Department, will be running the Iraqi police as a "senior policy adviser" in the Interior Ministry.

Lt. General Garner was an expert in Middle Eastern politics and negotiations. His replacement, L. Paul Bremer III, has no expertise in this region at all (other than a long record of calling for American military attacks against this or that Middle Eastern government). Bremer was sent in to oversee a hard new military crack-down in Iraq--and unlike Garner has now been given control over the use of U.S. and British troops.

The arrival of Bremer means that the U.S. government has made a decision: to escalate the use of armed force to control Iraq by any means necessary. In a rare moment of honesty, Lt. Gen. David McKiernan described to reporters how hard that would be: "Imagine spreading 150,000 soldiers in the state of California and then ask yourself could you secure all of California all the time with 150,000 soldiers. The answer is no."

So, after promising to pull out of Iraq, the Pentagon is now sending more muscle. 15,000 more U.S. troops are being rushed to Baghdad. Ground troops there, who thought they were going home, are being kept in Iraq.

The U.S. operation in Iraq is unjust and shaky in every possible way.

The U.S. government claimed this war was about capturing Iraqi weapons of mass destruction--but so far they can't find any. The U.S. government said this would make Americans safer from attack --but now the Riyad explosions remind everyone that aggression against Iraq has made U.S. imperialism even more isolated and hated in the world.

The U.S. government is pressing ahead for "regime change" in Iraq, but Bremer's harsh colonial moves make it clearer this conquest had nothing to do with "liberation" and everything to do with strengthening U.S. domination. The U.S. army is more and more taking ordinary Iraqi people as an enemy. Any self-organization, any expression of demands and political hopes, are being treated as rebellion.

After all their talk of constitutions, laws, "Iraqi faces in high places" and of "bringing liberation and democracy," the U.S. government is moving to rule Iraq's people in a direct colonial way for the foreseeable future.

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