Dexter Filkins reports in a New York Times [December 7, 2003] article, titled, “Tough New Tactics by US Tighten Grip on Iraq Towns” that the US Army is now on “wrapping up entire villages in barded wire.” The report says that US soldiers are now “demolishing buildings thought to be used by Iraqi attackers,” and “imprisoning the relatives of suspected guerrillas, in hopes of pressing the insurgents to turn themselves in.” This is a part of United States’ “get-tough strategy” and it closely follows the Israeli occupation army’s practices in occupied Palestine. The US military officials admitted to have “studied closely the Israeli experience” and detailed briefs from “Israeli defense experts,” that is, Israeli specialists in occupation and torture.
The Iraqi village of Abu Hishma is now “encased in a razor-wire fence.” Filkins report that the villagers are forced to any ID cards, printed only in English. Only residents with cards are allowed in and out by the US occupation army. An Iraqi man called Tariq told the reporter: “I see no difference between us and the Palestinians. We didn’t expect anything like this after Saddam fell.”
The use of such collective punishment against an entire village should be a matter of grave concern to all. The Iraqi villagers are being punished fro the resistance to Anglo-American occupation. This is not the first time that the US army has used collective punishment in Iraq. For example, right after Iraqis downed a US helicopters, US military swept through Iraqi neighborhoods , firing at houses suspected to be harboring hostile forces. Patrick Cockburn reported the US army bulldozed ancient groves of date palms as well as orange and lemon trees in central Iraq. All forms of collective punishment is strictly illegal under international law.
Underlying the “new” Anglo-American strategy, which replicates Israeli methods in occupied Palestine, is a deeply racist ideology typified by Capt. Todd Brown’s remarks about Arabs: “You have to understand the Arab mind. The only thing they understand is force—force, pride and saving face.” There is little doubt that the Anglo-American occupiers are not only adopting Israeli methods but are in the process of internalizing a racist ideology necessary to oppress Iraqis. This is not untypical in colonial occupation. The occupier and the racist who loses his own humanity regards the occupied people as ants and claims that they do not did not value human life.
The use of collective punishment has a notorious history. It is routinely used by Israelis against the Palestinians, and was also used by some of the most vile regimes of the twentieth century. False politeness may prevent recalling their names, but when one acts like them comparison is certainly apropos.
ABU SPINOZA is a columnist for Pressaction.