Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Occupation is Damned

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.

 

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
May 18, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Donald, Vlad, and Bibi
Robert Fisk
How Long Will We Pretend Palestinians Aren’t People?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Wild at Heart: Keeping Up With Margie Kidder
Roger Harris
Venezuela on the Eve of Presidential Elections: The US Empire Isn’t Sitting by Idly
Michael Slager
Criminalizing Victims: the Fate of Honduran Refugees 
John Laforge
Don’t Call It an Explosion: Gaseous Ignition Events with Radioactive Waste
Carlo Filice
The First “Fake News” Story (or, What the Serpent Would Have Said)
Dave Lindorff
Israel Crosses a Line as IDF Snipers Murder Unarmed Protesters in the Ghetto of Gaza
Gary Leupp
The McCain Cult
Robert Fantina
What’s Wrong With the United States?
Jill Richardson
The Lesson I Learned Growing Up Jewish
David Orenstein
A Call to Secular Humanist Resistance
W. T. Whitney
The U.S. Role in Removing a Revolutionary and in Restoring War to Colombia
Rev. William Alberts
The Danger of Praying Truth to Power
Alan Macleod
A Primer on the Venezuelan Elections
John W. Whitehead
The Age of Petty Tyrannies
Franklin Lamb
Have Recent Events Sounded the Death Knell for Iran’s Regional Project?
Brian Saady
How the “Cocaine Mitch” Saga Deflected the Spotlight on Corruption
David Swanson
Tim Kaine’s War Scam Hits a Speed Bump
Norah Vawter
Pipeline Outrage is a Human Issue, Not a Political Issue
Mel Gurtov
Who’s to Blame If the US-North Korea Summit Isn’t Held?
Patrick Bobilin
When Outrage is Capital
Jessicah Pierre
The Moral Revolution America Needs
Binoy Kampmark
Big Dead Place: Remembering Antarctica
John Carroll Md
What Does It Mean to be a Physician Advocate in Haiti?
George Ochenski
Saving Sage Grouse: Another Collaborative Failure
Sam Husseini
To the US Government, Israel is, Again, Totally Off The Hook
Brian Wakamo
Sick of Shady Banks? Get a Loan from the Post Office!
Colin Todhunter
Dangerous Liaison: Industrial Agriculture and the Reductionist Mindset
Ralph Nader
Trump: Making America Dread Again
George Capaccio
Bloody Monday, Every Day of the Week
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Swing Status, Be Gone
Samantha Krop
Questioning Our Declaration on Human Rights
Morna McDermott
Classrooms, Not Computers: Stop Educating for Profit
Patrick Walker
Today’s Poor People’s Campaign: Too Important Not to Criticize
Julia Stein
Wrestling With Zionism
Clark T. Scott
The Exceptional President
Barry Barnett
The Family of Nations Needs to Stand Up to the US  
Robert Koehler
Two Prongs of a Pitchfork
Bruce Raynor
In an Age of Fake News, Journalists Should be Activists for Truth
Max Parry
The U.S. Won’t Say ‘Genocide’ But Cares About Armenian Democracy?
William Gudal
The History of Israel on One Page
Robert Jensen
Neither cis nor TERF
Louis Proyect
Faith or Action in a World Hurtling Toward Oblivion?
David Yearsley
The Ubiquitous Mr. Desplat
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail