The crisis in Iraq has again jumped up and bitten the Bush war machine in the ass. In two separate incidents only a few hours and a few miles apart, there were clear signs that the American war against and occupation of Iraq is going badly.
In the first, a major firefight–actually it would be more appropriate to say battle this time–Iraqi guerrillas attacked an U.S. Army convoy, destroying several trucks,, killing two GIs and wounding seven more. This was reportedly one of the biggest shootouts in recent weeks, and it suggests that the guerrillas are becoming bolder and more confident, ready to stay and fight it out with beleaguered U.S. troops instead of just laying mines or tossing the random grenade. This latest deadly shootout is liable to make the American occupiers even more jumpy and alienated from the people we are supposedly “liberating.”
Worse yet was the killing–slaughter really–of eight Iraqi policemen and the wounding of another seven in what is being called a “friendly fire” incident.
“Friendly fire”–a wonderfully ironic bit of jargon coined by the Pentagon in the darker days of the Vietnam conflict as a way of trying to minimize casualty figures by separating out those U.S. deaths caused by our own guys–is hard enough to take when a soldier is shot by his own comrades, but it’s not likely to go down well at all among Iraqis, for whom any allegiance to U.S. occupying forces is tenuous at best.
The Iraqi police force, still a work-in-progress of the American occupying authority, is in a precarious spot. Many of its members, especially at the officer level, are former police from the Saddam Hussein era whose loyalty to the occupation is purely practical. If they think that American soldiers are going to be mowing them down, that loyalty will quickly dissipate. Others, particularly at the street level, are men who, desperate for some income, have agreed to sign up for police duty. Again, whatever their attitude towards Iraq’s former regime, their loyalty to the occupier is purely economic.
U.S. soldiers will have to be a lot less quick on the trigger if this idea of establishing a local army and police force in Iraq to take over the front line duties of American occupation troops is going to work.
Meanwhile, the slaughter of the Fallujah cops provides a grim window on the way this occupation is really operating.
Here in America, we supposedly read about every American soldier’s death. But reports from Iraq make it clear that we aren’t getting the full story about the Iraqi deaths. Military authorities in Iraq, Kuwait and the Pentagon don’t report on Iraqis killed unless specific incidents are brought to their attention. That is, if reporters learn about an incident in which Iraqi civilians have been slain, and ask the military about it, they may get an answer as to what happened and how many were killed, though there are no guarantees. The occupation authority and the Pentagon don’t simply issue reports of such killings.
So when something like this happens, where it involves the killing of Iraqi uniformed police, and it is necessarily reported, it lets us see just how quick to resort to massive deadly force U.S. troops really are. In this incident, Iraqi police were pursuing a white Mercedes that they suspected was carrying “bad guys”–either criminals or perhaps guerrilla troops. During that chase, they inadvertently found themselves headed towards a group of American soldiers. The Americans, thinking they were under attack by armed Iraqis, opened fire. Though the police drove off into a field and were reportedly shouting “We’re police, we’re police,” the Americans kept firing, with grim results for the police.
One has to ask, if the police were not firing back–and there is no indication that they did–why did the U.S. troops continue to unleash their deadly fusillade?
The answer is that these are dangerous times for American soldiers. Waiting could mean death. Not waiting, however, means death–lots of death–for the Iraqis.
We have to wonder how many such massacres of Iraqis are occurring in the midst of this madness and chaos.
Unless the Pentagon starts giving an honest, up-to-date accounting of all incidents in which weapons are fired in Iraq, we in the U.S. won’t know.
Iraqis will know, however. Every time an Iraqi civilian is mowed down by an American soldier, the family and neighbors of that victim of the occupation know what happened and whom to blame.
Little wonder then, that the longer this goes on, the worse it seems to get.
Every such “friendly fire” incident, every killing of a civilian, deepens and further muddies that water in which the guerrilla forces are swimming.
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