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

Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
Libby Lunstrum - Patrick Bond
Militarizing Game Parks and Marketing Wildlife are Unsustainable Strategies
Andy Thayer
More Cops Will Worsen, Not Help, Chicago’s Violence Problem
Louis Yako
Can Westerners Help Refugees from War-torn Countries?
David Rosen
Rudy Giuliani & Trump’s Possible Cabinet
Joyce Nelson
TISA and the Privatization of Public Services
Pete Dolack
Global Warming Will Accelerate as Oceans Reach Limits of Remediation
Franklin Lamb
34 Years After the Sabra-Shatila Massacre
Cesar Chelala
How One Man Held off Nuclear War
Norman Pollack
Sovereign Immunity, War Crimes, and Compensation to 9/11 Families
Lamont Lilly
Standing Rock Stakes Claim for Sovereignty: Eyewitness Report From North Dakota
Barbara G. Ellis
A Sandernista Priority: Push Bernie’s Planks!
Hiroyuki Hamada
How Do We Dream the Dream of Peace Together?
Russell Mokhiber
From Rags and Robes to Speedos and Thongs: Why Trump is Crushing Clinton in WV
Julian Vigo
Living La Vida Loca
Aidan O'Brien
Where is Europe’s Duterte? 
Abel Cohen
Russia’s Improbable Role in Everything
Ron Jacobs
A Change Has Gotta’ Come
Uri Avnery
Shimon Peres and the Saga of Sisyphus
Graham Peebles
Ethiopian’s Crying out for Freedom and Justice
Robert Koehler
Stop the Killing
Thomas Knapp
Election 2016: Of Dog Legs and “Debates”
Yves Engler
The Media’s Biased Perspective
Victor Grossman
Omens From Berlin
Christopher Brauchli
Wells Fargo as Metaphor for the Trump Campaign
Nyla Ali Khan
War of Words Between India and Pakistan at the United Nations
Tom Barnard
Block the Bunker! Historic Victory Against Police Boondoggle in Seattle
James Rothenberg
Bullshit Recognition as Survival Tactic
Ed Rampell
A Tale of Billionaires & Ballot Bandits
Kristine Mattis
Persnickety Publishing Pet-Peeves
Charles R. Larson
Review: Helen Dewitt’s “The Last Samurai”
David Yearsley
Torture Chamber Music
September 22, 2016
Dave Lindorff
Wells Fargo’s Stumpf Leads the Way
Stan Cox
If There’s a World War II-Style Climate Mobilization, It has to Go All the Way—and Then Some
Binoy Kampmark
Source Betrayed: the Washington Post and Edward Snowden
John W. Whitehead
Wards of the Nanny State
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail