As the U.S. Army’s Seventh Combat Support Group, a unit of the Third Infantry Division, moved northward in the Arabian desert west of the Euphrates River towards the town of Najaf on March 26, the commander, realizing his exhausted men faced shortages of food and water, was looking for a place of refuge. He found it in the form of two Bedouin families.
Drew Brown, reporter from Knight Ridder News Service who was embedded with the unit, reported that Col. John P. Gardner ordered the two families to leave their land and turn it over to his men. He reportedly gave them “receipts” for the tents, dogs, chickens, bowls, pots and other possessions they left behind–receipts that neither he nor anyone else could tell them how they could redeem–and sent them off “befuddled” into the desert.
If any incident illustrates the true nature of the Anglo-U.S. invasion of Iraq, this one is it. A modern army unit, bristling with the latest in high-tech, high-powered weaponry, purportedly in the country to “liberate” the natives from the tyrant who “enslaves” them, summarily casts two defenseless groups of men, women and children out of their homes into the barren desert, handing them worthless IOUs for their trouble.
Obviously Col. Gardner the liberator didn’t do much studying of American history or he would have known that the Third Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the one that bans the billeting of troops in private households, was a direct result of the British practice of taking over colonial farms and households at will for the quartering of Redcoat troops. It was this obscene imperial behavior, perhaps more than the issue of “taxation without representation”, that really fed the fires of rebellion in the U.S. colonies. Brown doesn’t tell us what the two “nomad” families felt or said as they were driven by Gardner and his men from their homes and lands, but it’s a fair bet they weren’t awash with feelings or gratitude at their liberation.
As this war continues to look more and more like a quagmire, this and other actions by the army of liberation are likely to cause problems for the liberators.
Take the U.S. attacks on Iraqi television and on the telephone headquarters in Baghdad. Under the doctrine of reciprocity, a country that suffers any type of attack during a war is entitled to respond in kind, even if the initial attack was outside the bounds of normally acceptable rules of war. This means that should Iraq decide to respond by sending sappers to the U.S to blow up the headquarters of CNN or Fox TV, for example, such attacks would not be acts of terrorism, but of war.
President Bush said he was invading Iraq to make America safe. In fact, by going to war in Iraq, he has, legally speaking, made the entire U.S. a potential battlefront in this war, inviting Iraq to send its agents into the country, or to get sleeper agents already here activated.
It’s unlikely that Iraqi sappers would be billeting themselves in American households, but should they do so, in an effort to hide from Ashcroft’s minions, or simply to seek temporary refuge, they could always cite the precedent of Col. Gardner, and say they were just behaving reciprocally.
Hopefully, if they force any American families out of their homes, those Iraqi agents will be as thoughtful about providing their unwilling hosts with receipts as was the Seventh Combat Support Group.
Dave Lindorff is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. A collection of Lindorff’s stories can be found here: http://www.nwuphilly.org/dave.html