FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Occupation is Damned

by ROBERT FISK

The Independent

Cigarette sellers don’t have names. They said he was called Fouad but even the shopkeeper whose nephew drove the wounded, screaming man to the hospital didn’t know his family name.

There was just a pile of crushed Marlboro boxes and a lot of blood that had poured from his half-severed arm when the bomb went off in the middle of Karradah. It was aimed at the Americans of course, and, as so often happens, the Iraqis paid the price. None more so than the man in black trousers and white shirt who was torn apart by the explosion and whose crushed body was dragged off on a wooden cart. Another day in the life and death of Baghdad. As always, there were the odd little ironies of violence. The dead man–and nobody in Karradah knew him because he had arrived in a taxi–was on his way to the local bank to change currencies, from the old dinar notes with Saddam’s face on them to the new dinars with the ancient Iraqi mathematician Al-Hassan Ibn al-Haitham in place of the captured dictator.

In one sense, therefore, the dead man had been making his way from “old Iraq” to “new Iraq” when he died. A cafe owner called Anwar al-Shaaban–the living always have names–thought the man might have been called Ahmed.

Then there was Yassir Adel. He was a 12-year-old schoolboy and he was taking his two brothers to school when the bomb exploded in the centre of the crowded highway. “The American patrol had just gone past and one of their vehicles was blasted over the road,” he told me with a maturity beyond his years. “It’s like that here these days–every day.”

I recognised the grocery store on the corner. In the last days of the Anglo-American invasion in April, I had bought my eggs and water here and I remember hiding with the owner behind his counter when an American jet flew low down the street and bombed a building at the far end.

Yesterday–eight months later–his eggs were a grey-yellow sludge, the plastic water bottles flooding the shop, the owner muttering to himself as he knocked the splinters from his window frame.

A group of US troops and members of the new, hooded “Iraqi Civil Defence Force”–a militia in all but name–turned up afterwards in those all-too-vulnerable Humvees. Their comrades had been the target and within an hour they were handing out coloured pamphlets–produced for just such an occasion by the occupation authorities–which some of the shopkeepers, sweeping their shattered glass into the street, threw into the gutters in anger.

One showed a group of children, with the legend: “The terrorists and troublemakers are putting bombs on both sides of the roads and highways and they don’t care about who gets hurt … You, the citizens of Iraq, hold the key to stopping this violence against your people.” But to people blasted by just such a bomb, this was a heavy sell. “The terrorists wish to make anyone a victim–women, children, mothers, fathers,” the leaflet said. “These terrorists care about nothing except fear and darkness. Their aim is to destroy your new freedom and your self-government [sic] … Tell the police and coalition forces about any information you have.”

It was a bad time to ask the people of Karradah to be collaborators. The insurgents who are cutting down young American lives every daydo not care if Iraqis die in the attacks, but everyone knows that the Americans are the targets–which the leaflets failed to mention. And indeed, the explosives were hidden in the centre of the highway. There had been a gap in the concrete central reservation for cars to turn left onto the street from a side road. Someone had re-sealed the gap with stones and placed the bomb beneath them. When the first American patrol passed, that same someone had set off the bomb–and missed the soldiers. Did he see the man with the dinars crossing the highway in his black trousers and white shirt? Did he see Fouad the cigarette salesman with his Marlboros? No doubt he did.

But one young man walked up to me and blamed the Americans. “At least under Saddam there was security–now we are afraid to go to work,” he shouted. “At least under Saddam, the innocent didn’t suffer.”

I disputed this. He knew this was a lie. But another, older, educated man arrived. “We were better off under Saddam,” he said. “No, we were not free, but you have brought us anarchy.” Even the old Shia lady in black, buying lemons from the stall on the other side of the street cursed the Americans.

It was the same old story of every foreign occupier: damned if you do and damned if you don’t–especially when the innocent die.

ROBERT FISK is a reporter for The Independent and author of Pity the Nation. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s hot new book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

 

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 30, 2017
William R. Polk
What Must be Done in the Time of Trump
Howard Lisnoff
Enough of Russia! There’s an Epidemic of Despair in the US
Ralph Nader
Crash of Trumpcare Opens Door to Full Medicare for All
Carol Polsgrove
Gorsuch and the Power of the Executive: Behind the Congressional Stage, a Legal Drama Unfolds
Michael J. Sainato
Fox News Should Finally Dump Bill O’Reilly
Kenneth Surin
Former NC Governor Pat McCory’s Job Search Not Going Well
Binoy Kampmark
The Price of Liberation: Slaughtering Civilians in Mosul
Bruce Lesnick
Good Morning America!
William Binney and Ray McGovern
The Surveillance State Behind Russia-gate: Will Trump Take on the Spooks?
Jill Richardson
Gutting Climate Protections Won’t Bring Back Coal Jobs
Robert Pillsbury
Maybe It’s Time for Russia to Send Us a Wake-Up Call
Prudence Crowther
Swamp Rats Sue Trump
March 29, 2017
Jeffrey Sommers
Donald Trump and Steve Bannon: Real Threats More Serious Than Fake News Trafficked by Media
David Kowalski
Does Washington Want to Start a New War in the Balkans?
Patrick Cockburn
Bloodbath in West Mosul: Civilians Being Shot by Both ISIS and Iraqi Troops
Ron Forthofer
War and Propaganda
Matthew Stevenson
Letter From Phnom Penh
James Bovard
Peanuts Prove Congress is Incorrigible
Thomas Knapp
Presidential Golf Breaks: Good For America
Binoy Kampmark
Disaster as Joy: Cyclone Debbie Strikes
Peter Tatchell
Human Rights are Animal Rights!
George Wuerthner
Livestock Grazing vs. the Sage Grouse
Jesse Jackson
Trump Should Form a Bipartisan Coalition to Get Real Reforms
Thomas Mountain
Rwanda Indicts French Generals for 1994 Genocide
Clancy Sigal
President of Pain
Andrew Stewart
President Gina Raimondo?
Lawrence Wittner
Can Our Social Institutions Catch Up with Advances in Science and Technology?
March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why Not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail