April 7, 2004
Empire Notes

Opening the Gates of Hell

by Rahul Mahajan

BAGHDAD (Iraq) -- Before the Iraq war, at a meeting of the Arab League, Secretary General Amr Moussa famously said that a U.S. war on Iraq would "open the gates of hell."

In Iraq, those gates are yawning wider than they ever have before -- at least for the United States.

"Sunni and Shi'a are now one hand, together against the Americans," . . .

We're being told a convenient and self-serving story about those events. In that story, a few barbaric "isolated extremists" from the "Saddamist stronghold" of Falluja killed four contractors who were guarding food convoys in an act of unprovoked lawlessness. Moqtada al-Sadr is fighting the U.S. forces right now because, in the words of George Bush, he decided that "rather than allow democracy to flourish, he's going to exercise force."

The truth is rather different. Falluja, although heavily Sunni Arab, was hardly in Saddam's pocket. Its imams got into trouble for refusing to obey his orders to praise him personally during prayers. Many inhabitants were Salafists (Wahhabism is a subset of Salafism), a group singled out for political persecution by Saddam.

In fact, during the war, Falluja was not a hotbed of resistance. Its turn to resistance started on April 28, when U.S. troops opened fire on a group of 100 to 200 peaceful protesters, killing 15. They claimed they were returning gunfire, but Human Rights Watch investigated and found that the bullet holes in the area were inconsistent with that story -- and, furthermore, every Iraqi witness maintained that the crowd was unarmed. Two days later, another three protesters were killed. . . .

The most recent incident, in which four mercenaries from Blackwater Security, a company formed by ex-Navy Seals (Blackwater people are performing many of the same functions as soldiers in Iraq and do get involved in combat), did not arise in a vacuum. In fact, just the week before, U.S. Marines had mounted heavy raids on Fallujah, killing at least seven civilians, including a cameraman. Residents spoke of this as the reason for the attack on the Blackwater people and the gruesome spectacle that followed. . . .

In general, there is no quicker way to get an Iraqi to laugh than to talk about how the United States is bringing freedom or democracy to the country. Shaykh Sadun al-Shemary, a former member of the Iraqi army who participated in the 1991 uprising and now a spokesman for the al-Sadr organization in Shuala, told me, "Things are exactly the same as in Saddam's time -- maybe worse." . . .

That is all you need to know about the occupation of Iraq.


[Rahul Mahajan is the publisher of the weblog Empire Notes. His latest book is "Full Spectrum Dominance: U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond."]

Susan Sachs, "Where Brave Constitutions Are Often Window Dressing," The New York Times, March 9, 2004

"Blix: Iraq better off under Saddam," Associated Press, April 4, 2004

Robert Fisk, "Iraq on the brink of anarchy," Independent, April 6, 2004

Naomi Klein, "Bremer is deliberately pushing Iraq's Shia south into all-out chaos," Guardian, April 6, 2004

Karl Vick, "Muslim Rivals Unite In Baghdad Uprising," Washington Post, April 7, 2004

Rupert Cornwell, "Kennedy evokes the Vietnam 'quagmire' fears of Americans," Independent, April 7, 2004

"'40 dead' as US rockets hit Fallujah mosque," Associated Press, April 7, 2004

Robert Fisk, "A PoW's exit: US airlifts Saddam out of Iraq," Independent, April 7, 2004

"Hospital Official: Fallujah Dead Are Women, Children,", April 11, 2004

Rick Rogers, "Retired general assails U.S. policy on Iraq," San Diego Union-Tribune, April 16, 2004

[What we do routinely in the imperial west, wrote Richard Falk, professor of international relations at Princeton, is propagate "through a self-righteous, one-way moral/legal screen positive images of western values and innocence that are threatened, validating a campaign of unrestricted violence." Thus, western state terrorism is erased, and a tenet of western journalism is to excuse or minimize "our" culpability, however atrocious. Our dead are counted; theirs are not. Our victims are worthy; theirs are not.--John Pilger, "Get Out Now, Before We Are Thrown Out,", April 16, 2004]

Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Karl Vick, "Revolts in Iraq Deepen Crisis In Occupation," Washington Post, April 18, 2004

Mona Eltahawy, "Why the Arab world can thank Bush," International Herald Tribune, April 20, 2004

Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, "A Full Range of Technology Is Applied to Bomb Falluja," New York Times, April 30, 2004

"Iraqis hail Falluja 'victory'," Reuters, May 1, 2004

Patrick Graham, "'We've had a lot of experience of US weapons'," The Observer, May 2, 2004

[In burning Falluja, we saw the United States acting with the same imperial ferocity as did the Soviets in Hungary, Afghanistan, and Chechnya. We saw the same pattern of ruthless collective punishment in reprisal for a single atrocity against occupation forces that may turn the entire nation against the invader. We saw the horrifying spectacle of America, land of liberty, using tanks to crush Iraqi resistance.--Eric Margolis, "IRAQ: BECOMING WHAT YOU HATE,", May 4, 2004]

Justin Huggler, "One incident. Forty dead. Two stories. What really happened?," The Independent, May 21, 2004

Robert Fisk, "Iraqi academics targeted in murder spree," The Independent, July 14, 2004

[But what I saw was infinitely more disturbing: a nation whose government rules only its capital,--Robert Fisk, "'A better and safer place'," The Independent, July 20, 2004]

Farnaz Fassihi, "A Journalist's Letter from Iraq," The Wisdom Fund, September 30, 2004

Bonnie Azab Powell, "Investigative Journalist Seymour Hersh Spills the Secrets of the Iraq Quagmire and the War on Terror," University of California-Berkeley, October 12, 2004

"Wounded Spanish Journalist Olga Rodriguez Describes the U.S. Attack on the Palestine Hotel That Killed Two of Her Colleagues," Democracy Now!, March 23, 2005

[Haifa Zangana writes there is a systematic campaign to assassinate Iraqis who speak out against the occupation. --"Iraqi Novelist Haifa Zangana: U.S. Troops Must Withdraw Now," Democracy Now!, March 9, 2006]

[Highly trained personnel employed with the private security firm formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide sometimes operated side by side with CIA field officers in Iraq and Afghanistan as the agency undertook missions to kill or capture members of insurgent groups--R. Jeffrey Smith and Joby Warrick, "Blackwater tied to clandestine CIA raids," Washington Post, December 11, 2009]

PHOTOS: "Pictures of Destruction and Civilian Victims of the Anglo-American Aggression in Iraq," Robert Fisk

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