The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi] Fisk:Secret slaughter by night, lies and blind eyes by day

Dear List,

An excellent article from Robert Fisk. It draws a real
picture of how “liberated” Iraqis are suffering at the
hands of their “liberators”.
I hope no one will accuse Fisk of being a Saddam
apologist.. As to his knowledge, then the man has
spent a long time investigating these issues in Iraq;
not just some weeks..


Secret slaughter by night, lies and blind eyes by day

In the suburbs of Baghdad and the Sunni cities to the
north the American military policy of 'recon-by-fire'
and the breakdown of law and order is exacting a heavy
toll on a war-torn people, reports Robert Fisk in his
first major dispatch since returning to Iraq

14 September 2003

In the Pentagon, they've been re-showing Gillo
Pontecorvo's terrifying 1965 film of the French war in
Algeria. The Battle of Algiers, in black and white,
showed what happened to both the guerrillas of the FLN
and the French army when their war turned dirty.
Torture, assassination, booby-trap bombs, secret
executions. As the New York Times revealed, the fliers
sent out to the Pentagon brass to watch this
magnificent, painful film began with the words: "How
to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of
ideas..." But the Americans didn't need to watch The
Battle of Algiers.

They've already committed many of the French mistakes
in Iraq, and the guerrillas of Iraq are well into the
blood tide of the old FLN. Sixteen demonstrators
killed in Fallujah? Forget it. Twelve gunned down by
the Americans in Mosul? Old news. Ten Iraqi policemen
shot by US troops outside Fallujah? "No information,"
the occupation authorities told us last week. No
information? The Jordanian embassy bombing? The
bombing of the UN headquarters? Or Najaf with its 126
dead? Forget it. Things are improving in Iraq. There's
been 24-hour electricity for three days now and -
until two US soldiers were killed on Friday - there
had been five days without an American death.

That's how the French used to report the news from
Algeria. What you don't know doesn't worry you. Which
is why, in Iraq, there are thousands of incidents of
violence that never get reported; attacks on Americans
that cost civilian lives are not even recorded by the
occupation authority press officers unless they
involve loss of life among "coalition forces". Go to
the mortuaries of Iraq's cities and it's clear that a
slaughter occurs each night. Occupation powers insist
that journalists obtain clearance to visit hospitals -
it can take a week to get the right papers, if at all,
so goodbye to statistics - but the figures coming from
senior doctors tell their own story.

In Baghdad, up to 70 corpses - of Iraqis killed by
gunfire - are brought to the mortuaries each day. In
Najaf, for example, the cemetery authorities record
the arrival of the bodies of up to 20 victims of
violence a day. Some of the dead were killed in family
feuds, in looting, or revenge killings. Others have
been gunned down by US troops at checkpoints or in the
increasingly vicious "raids" carried out by American
forces in the suburbs of Baghdad and the Sunni cities
to the north. Only last week, reporters covering the
killing of the Fallujah policemen were astonished to
see badly wounded children suddenly arriving at the
hospital, all shot - according to their families - by
an American tank which had opened up at a palm grove
outside the town. As usual, the occupation authorities
had "no information" on the incident.

But if you count the Najaf dead as typical of just two
or three other major cities, and if you add on the
daily Baghdad death toll and multiply by seven, almost
1,000 Iraqi civilians are being killed every week -
and that may well be a conservative figure. Somewhere
in the cavernous marble halls of proconsul Paul
Bremer's palace on the Tigris, someone must be
calculating these awful statistics. But of course, the
Americans are not telling us. It's like listening to
Iraq's American-run radio station. Death - unless it's
on a spectacular scale like the Jordanian or UN or
Najaf bombings - simply doesn't get on the air. Even
the killing of American troops isn't reported for 24
hours. Driving the highways of Iraq, I've been reduced
to listening to the only radio station with up-to-date
news on the guerrilla war in Iraq: Iran's "Alam
Radio", broadcasting in Arabic from Tehran.

It's as if the denizens of Mr Bremer's chandeliered
chambers do not regard Iraq as a real country, a place
of tragedy and despair whose "liberated" people
increasingly blame their "liberators" for their
misery. Even when US troops on a raid in Mansour six
weeks ago ran amok and gunned down up to eight
civilians - including a 14-year-old boy - the best the
Americans could do was to say that they were
"enquiring" into the incident. Not, as one US colonel
quickly pointed out to us, that this meant a formal
enquiry. Just a few questions here and there. And of
course the killings were soon forgotten.

What is happening inside the US occupation army is
almost as much a mystery as the nightly cull of
civilians. My old friend Tom Friedman, in a break from
his role as messianic commentator for the New York
Times, put his finger on the problem when - arranging
a meeting with an occupation official -- he reported
asking an American soldier at a bridge checkpoint for
his location. "The enemy side of the bridge," came the

Enemy. That's how the French came to see every native
Algerian. Talk to the soldiers in the streets here in
Baghdad and they use obscene language - in between
heartfelt demands to "go home" - about the people they
were supposedly rescuing from Saddam Hussein. A Polish
journalist in Karbala saw just how easily human
contact can break down. "The American guards are
greeting passers-by with a loud 'Salaam aleikum'
[peace be with you]. Some young Iraqi boys with a
donkey and cart say something in Arabic and suddenly,
together, they run their fingers across their throats.

"'Motherfucker!" shout the Marines, before their
translator explains to them that the boys are just
expressing their happiness at the death of Saddam
Hussein's sons ..." Though light years from the
atrocities of Saddam's security forces, the US
military here is turning out to be as badly
disciplined and brutal as the Israeli army in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip. Its "recon-by-fire", its lethal
raids into civilian homes, its shooting of
demonstrators and children during fire-fights, its
destruction of houses, its imprisonment of thousands
of Iraqis without trial or contact with their
families, its refusal to investigate killings, its
harassment - and killing - of journalists, its
constant refrain that it has "no information" about
bloody incidents which it must know all too much
about, are sounding like an echo-chamber of the
Israeli army.

Worse still, their intelligence information is still
as warped by ideology as was the illegal
Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. Having failed to
receive the welcome deserved of "liberators", the
Americans have to convince themselves that their
tormentors - save for the famous Saddam "remnants" -
cannot be Iraqis at all. They must be members of
"al-Qa'ida", Islamists arriving from Iran, Syria,
Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan ... Among its
1,000 "security" prisoners at Baghdad airport - the
total number of detainees held without trial in Iraq
is around 5,500 - about 200 are said to be
"foreigners". But in many cases, US intelligence
cannot even discover their nationalities and some may
well have been in Iraq since Saddam invited Arabs to
defend Baghdad before the invasion.

In reality, no one has produced a shred of evidence
al-Qa'ida men are streaming into the country. Not a
single sighting has been reported of these mysterious
men, save for the presence of armed Iranians outside
the shrines of Najaf after last month's bombing. Yet
President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld have talked up
their supposed presence to the point where the usual
right-wing columnists in the US press and then
reporters in general write of them as a proven fact.
With powerful irony, Osama bin Laden's ominous 11
September tape suggests that he is as anxious to get
his men into Iraq as the Americans are to believe that
they are already there.

In practice, fantasy takes over from reality. Thus
while the Americans can claim they are being assaulted
by "foreigners" - the infamous men of evil against
whom Mr Bush is fighting his "war on terror" - they
can equally suggest that the suicide bombing of the UN
headquarters in Baghdad was the work of the Iraqi
security guards whom the UN had kept on from the
Saddam regime. Whatever the truth of this - and the
suicidal expertise of the UN attack might suggest a
combination of both Baathists and Islamists - the
message was simple enough: Americans are attacked by
"international terrorists" but the wimps of the UN are
attacked by the same Iraqi killers they helped to
protect through so many years of sanction-busting.

There are foreign men and women aplenty in Baghdad -
Americans and Britons prominent among them - who work
hard to bring about the false promises uttered by
Messrs Bush and Blair to create a decent, democratic
Iraqi society. One of them is Chris Woolford, whose
account of life in Bremer's marble palace appeared
only in the internal newsletter of the UK regulatory
Office of Telecommunications, for whom he normally
works. Mr Woolford insists that there are signs of
hope in Iraq - the payment of emergency salaries to
civil servants, for example, and the reopening of
schools and administrative offices.

But it's worth recording at length his revealing
description of life under Bremer. "Life in Baghdad can
only be described as bizarre," he writes. "We are
based within a huge compound... in Sadam (sic)
Hussein's former Presidential Palace. The place is
awash with vast marble ballrooms, conference rooms
(now used as a dining room), a chapel (with murals of
Scud missiles) and hundreds of function rooms with
ornate chandeliers which were probably great for
entertaining but which function less well as offices
and dormitories ... I work in the 'Ministries' wing of
the palace in the Ministry of Transport and
Communications. Within this wing, each door along the
corridor represents a separate ministry; next door to
us, for example, is the Ministry of Health and
directly across the corridor is the Finance Ministry.
Behind each door military and civilian coalition
members (mainly American with the odd Brit dotted
about) are beavering away trying to sort out the
economic, social and political issues currently facing
Iraq. The work is undoubtedly for a good cause but it
cannot but help feel strange as our contact with the
outside world - the real Iraq - is so limited." Mr
Woolford describes how meetings with his Iraqi
counterparts are difficult to arrange and, besides,
"key decisions are still very much taken behind the
closed doors of the CPA (the Coalition Provisional
Authority), or for the most significant decisions,
back in Washington DC". So much, then, for the interim
council and the appointed Iraqi "government" that
supposedly represents the forthcoming "democracy" of
Iraq. As for contacting his Iraqi counterparts, Mr
Woolford admits that Iraqi officials are sometimes
asked to "stand outside in their garden between 7pm
and 8pm so that we can ring them on satellite phones"
- a process that is followed by the departure of CPA
staff for their meeting with "bullet-proof vests and
machine-gun mounted Humvees (a sort of beefed-up
American Jeep) both in front and behind our own
four-wheel drive..." Thus are America and Britain
attempting to "reconstruct" a broken land that is now
the scene of an increasingly cruel guerrilla war. But
there is a pervading feeling - among Iraqis as well as
journalists covering this conflict - that something is
wrong with our Western response to New Iraq. Our lives
are more valuable than their lives. The "terrible
toll" of the summer months - a phrase from a New York
Times news report last week - referred only to the
deaths of Western soldiers.

What is becoming apparent is that we don't really care
about the Iraqis. We may think we want to bring them
democracy but, on an individual level, we don't care
very much about them or their lives. We liberated
them. They should be grateful to us. If they die now,
well, no one said democracy was easy.

Donald Rumsfeld - who raged away about weapons of mass
destruction before the invasion - now admits he didn't
even discuss WMD with David Kay, the head of the
US-led team looking for these mythical weapons, on his
recent visit to Baghdad. Of course not. Because they
don't exist. Mr Rumsfeld is equally silent about the
civilian death toll here. It's the followers of his
nemesis Bin Laden that now have to be publicised.

Bin Laden must be grateful. So must the Palestinians.
In the refugee camps of Lebanon last week, they were
talking of the events in Iraq as a form of
encouragement. "If Israel's superpower ally can be
humbled by Arabs," a Palestinian official explained to
me in one of the Beirut camps, "why should we give up
our struggle against the Israelis who cannot be as
efficient soldiers as the Americans?" That's the
lesson the Algerians drew when they saw France's
mighty army reduced to surrender at Dien Bien Phu. The
French, like the Americans, had succeeded in murdering
or "liquidating" many of the Algerians who might have
negotiated a ceasefire with them. The search for an
interlocuteur valable was one of de Gaulle's most
difficult tasks when he decided to leave Algeria. But
what will the Americans do? Their interlocuteur
valable might have been the United Nations. But now
the UN has been struck off as a negotiator by the
suicide bombing in Baghdad. And the Bin Ladens and the
adherents of the Wahabi sect are not interested in
negotiations of any kind. Mr Bush declared "war
without end". And it looks as though Iraqis - along
with ourselves -- are going to be its principal

Do you Yahoo!?
Yahoo! SiteBuilder - Free, easy-to-use web site design software

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]