Girl-blogger (her designation for herself) River of Baghdad Burning has written a couple of incredible posts about the situation in Iraq since the release of the Abu Ghraib photographs. Here’s some of what she wrote yesterday:
People are seething with anger- the pictures of Abu Ghraib and the Brits in Basrah are everywhere. Every newspaper you pick up in Baghdad has pictures of some American or British atrocity or another. It’s like a nightmare that has come to life.Everyone knew this was happening in Abu Ghraib and other places… seeing the pictures simply made it all more real and tangible somehow. American and British politicians have the audacity to come on television with words like, “True the people in Abu Ghraib are criminals, but…” Everyone here in Iraq knows that there are thousands of innocent people detained. Some were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, while others were detained ‘under suspicion’. In the New Iraq, it’s “guilty until proven innocent by some miracle of God”.
People are so angry. There’s no way to explain the reactions- even pro-occupation Iraqis find themselves silenced by this latest horror. I can’t explain how people feel- or even how I personally feel. Somehow, pictures of dead Iraqis are easier to bear than this grotesque show of American military technique. People would rather be dead than sexually abused and degraded by the animals running Abu Ghraib prison.
There was a time when people here felt sorry for the troops. No matter what one’s attitude was towards the occupation, there were moments of pity towards the troops, regardless of their nationality. We would see them suffering the Iraqi sun, obviously wishing they were somewhere else and somehow, that vulnerability made them seem less monstrous and more human. That time has passed. People look at troops now and see the pictures of Abu Ghraib… and we burn with shame and anger and frustration at not being able to do something. Now that the world knows that the torture has been going on since the very beginning, do people finally understand what happened in Falloojeh? (emphasis added by me–M)
Do we? River’s question cuts to the heart of the Abu Ghraib issue in a way that no pundit’s analyzing has. Are we finally willing, on the stength of incontrovertible, undeniable evidence, to admit that Fallujah (note her Persian spelling) was a native insurrection fueled by anger at what our troops have been ordered to do to them?
The Sharon-style tactics of the past year–bulldozing the houses of Iraqis “suspected” of knowing where or who the insurgents are; midnight raids when troops break down doors without warning, throw the inhabitants to the floor and handcuff them, male and female, put bags over their heads, and hustle them off to prison; strip searches; the arbitrary arrest and detention of civilians guilty of no bigger crime than trying to pass through a checkpoint; and on and on–have produced exactly the response from Iraqis that Israelis get from the Palestinians: fear, suspicion, hatred, and, finally, insurrection. What did we expect was going to happen? Did we think the Iraqis were somehow different, weaker, more subservient than the Palestinians? Is that what we thought?
Randi reported the other day on an incident in Baghdad when US soldiers at a checkpoint began searching a man’s wife as the two of them tried to pass through. The husband became agitated, not unnaturally, and protested. The soldiers hit him, handcuffed him, and arrested him. When another man attempted to intervene, they threw him to the ground on his stomach, hand-cuffed his hands behind his back, and one of the soldiers held the man’s face to the tarmac with his boot–a horrendous insult in Arabic cultures (and not much appreciated in any others).
What we MUST understand about this is that these are tactics that were deliberately and carefully developed by the Israeli military to humliate a subject population. THESE SOLDIERS WERE UNDER ORDERS TO DO WHAT THEY DID, just as Israeli soldiers are under orders when they do them. NONE OF THIS IS ACCIDENTAL, these are NOT “isolated incidents”: THEY ARE US POLICY, a policy stolen whole from the Israeli Army Occupation Playbook, a policy that will produce in Iraq exactly what it produces in Israel–fear, suspicion, hatred, and insurrection. It has backfired in Israel, it will backfire in Iraq. As it has made Israelis less safe, it will make us less safe. THERE CAN BE NO OTHER OUTCOME.
The uprising in Fallujah is not some bastard child unwanted and unbidden, it is the direct offspring of Sharon’s (and Likud’s) utterly failed hard-line strategies, the step-brother of the intifadehs, and a promise of things to come. “Quagmire” doesn’t begin to describe it any more. If these people aren’t stopped–and stopped SOON–we are going to make bin Laden’s crazy dream come true: we are going to create a massive jihad–the Great Jihad that the Mahdi tried to raise against the British in the 1880’s, a jihad prosecuted by the entire Arab world. This isn’t a “quagmire”; it’s a religious war.
The British Army may have broken the back of the Mahdi’s rebellion militarily, but it could only do so because Gordon’s unswerving devotion to the Sudanese and his martyred death in their name broke its spirit. To put it bluntly, Bremer is no Chinese Gordon. We have not a single figure in Iraq who represents Iraqi interests, only neocon faith-healers who represent their own grand illusions and ignorant pipe-dreams, greedy corporations draining the country as dry as they can as fast as they can, and crooked wanna-be kings like Chalabi who are maneuvering to have their US masters leave them on the throne to rape whatever’s left when they bolt.
Kerry has to stop all this horseshit about how “we have to stay and make the best of it” and GET US OUT.