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[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] Ask AbIout IslamAsk the Scholar Iraqis and the Occupation Bloody Ramadan Begins in Iraq By Firas Al-Atraqchi Freelance Columnist 27/10/2003 Baghdad is burning. The stench of death and mutilated corpses filled the air on the first day of Ramadan (the spiritual holy month for 1.3 billion Muslims) in Baghdad. A time usually earmarked for atonement, spiritual renewal and compassion has taken on deadly implications as some 40 people have died (at press time) in a spate of suicide bombings and attacks throughout the Iraqi capital. And that is in Baghdad only one wonders what is in store for the rest of Iraq. - 16 Killed, Dozens Injured in Baghdad Attacks The attacks targeted the compound of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Abu Ghraib prison where US forces maintain a camp, a number of police stations, and the Al-Rashid Hotel in central Baghdad. The attacks have become more brazen and have increased in frequency. According to the Associated Press, one failed suicide bomber screamed ³Death to the Iraqi police! You¹re collaborators!² The signs were there. Any historian of Iraqi culture and politics could have easily predicted that this Ramadan would be a bloody one. Any student of the history of US occupations (remember the Vietnam Tet offensive?) could have predicted what would happen during the first Ramadan under occupation. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned of this repeatedly. Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, said that an occupation of Iraq ³would open the gates of hell.² Baghdad is a living hell on the first day of the holiest month of the Islamic calendar. Semantics do count here. For one, this is an occupation: An Al Jazeera poll found that more than two thirds of Iraqis considered the US presence in Iraq to be an occupation. The word itself has negative connotations and inspires expressions of combating the occupier, whether peacefully or violently. The US is not in control. Despite the desperate statements by White House, Pentagon and State Department officials that Iraq is secure and becoming safer by the day, events on the ground are ostensibly to the contrary. There are numerous crimes from rape, murder, kidnapping, to revenge killing that are not accounted for by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) nor non-Arab media. The news of such events amount to no more than a trickle. After the 10-missile attack on the Al-Rashid Hotel, which has become a makeshift center of operations for US forces and visiting Congressional delegations, hotel resident and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz quickly escaped, fearing for his life. At a press conference a few hours later, Wolfowitz appeared shaken, his apparel disheveled. He said that the violence would not deter the US mission to ³bring democracy² to Iraq. Some democracy. Iraqis are dying en masse. Whether getting run over by half-sane US drivers, getting gunned down by nervous US soldiers on alert from constant attacks (four Iraqi civilians were killed by US soldiers earlier Monday) or getting attacked by Iraqi resistance fighters for collaborating with occupation forces, the number of Iraqi dead is surpassing 50 a week. Since Iraq¹s police force was reactivated, some 87 Iraqi policemen, including senior force officers, have been killed. The US-controlled CPA may now rescind its decision to lift the night-time curfew imposed on Baghdad for the past six months. Iraqi analysts had warned that such a move could likely result in an upsurge in violence. Nevertheless, the CPA and the Iraqi Governing Council, both keen on cementing a relationship with the Iraqi people, felt that by lifting the curfew in Ramadan they would gain the confidence of local residents. After Bloody Monday, neither the Iraqis nor the US soldiers are confident any longer that they are about to enter into more stable times. The attacks are almost certainly devised to undermine the US presence in Iraq. For one, it highlights to the Iraqi people that their new rulers¹ cannot protect them. This has severe psychological implications: it is designed to ensure that those collaborators¹ working with the CPA desist from doing so. It is also designed as a show of force; whether it is Saddam fedayeen, independent Iraqi resistance or foreign Islamic fighters who carry out these attacks, the message is that the US is not the only power in Iraq. The depth, coordination and ensuing devastation of these attacks show that there is a highly mobile, highly sophisticated and highly determined organization (or union of organizations) with the resources, technical prowess and popular support to keep the CPA weak and vulnerable. Iraqis will now think twice before agreeing to working with the CPA. It remains to be seen how the relationship between the Iraqi police and US forces will be affected. The UN has packed up and left. Various human rights and humanitarian assistance groups have pulled out. Now the ICRC is likely to pack up and leave. This is very discouraging for other international efforts aimed at restoring stability and speeding up rebuilding initiatives in Iraq. In light of recent events, the 30-billion-dollar pledges from the Madrid conference no longer signal a diplomatic victory for the Bush administration. Firas Al-Atraqchi is a Canadian journalist of Iraqi heritage. Holding an MA in Journalism and Mass Communication, he has eleven years of experience covering Middle East issues, oil and gas markets, and the telecom industry. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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