US Terror from the
US troops, backed up by helicopter gunships and air strikes by American warplanes, are picking their way through Ramadi, neighborhood by neighborhood.
Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province and predominantly Sunni, is normally home to some 400,000 residents. Today, only 150,000 people remain.
The rest have fled because of a suffocating U.S. siege. “Whole city blocks here look like a scene from some post-apocalyptic world: row after row of buildings shot up, boarded up, caved in, tumbled down,” according to the New York Times.
Beginning weeks ago, the U.S. closed all but one of the roads into and out of the city and began cutting water and electricity supplies, imposing tight curfews, stationing snipers on rooftops, limiting medical aid and -- most terrifying of all -- carrying out random air strikes.
“They’re using the Falluja model,” said Beau Grosscup, a professor of international politics at California State University-Chico, referring to methods used by the U.S. in its two assaults on the nearby city of Falluja in April and November 2004. “Civilians are told to leave -- if you don’t, we assume that you are in support of the insurgents. That’s been going on for months.”
“The use of air power becomes the primary way to ‘soften’ up the enemy in support of the snipers who are already in there and to flatten the city if that’s what it takes, as they say, to bring ‘security.’”
The mainstream media regularly describes Ramadi as the “most violent city” in Iraq. But when U.S. forces retreat to the outskirts and don’t attempt patrols into the city, it’s no more violent or dangerous for Iraqis than most other towns. It’s the U.S. presence that is responsible for the violence.
Reports indicate that U.S. war crimes are reaching the levels of the Falluja assaults. “In the April 2004 attack on Falluja, the reports of civilian casualties came from the Iraqi doctors and medical staff, based on who was coming into their hospital,” explains Grosscup, who is the author of a forthcoming book Strategic Terror: The Politics and Ethics of Aerial Bombardment. “In the air attack on Falluja in November, they didn’t want those reports coming out, so they made the first targets the clinics and hospitals -- which in fact killed many, many medical staff.”
“From their vantage point, it’s a military tactic to win the war. What has happened--and this is true of strategic bombing in general which began after the First World War -- is the designation of the civilian infrastructure as military targets, whether it be hospitals, the electrical grid, transportation systems or shopping malls, as was the case during the Operation Shock and Awe bombing of Baghdad in March 2003.
“They justify them as dual-use targets -- meaning that an electrical grid provides power to the civilian population, but is also instrumental to maintaining the military capacity of the armed forces. So it’s a wonderfully elastic definition of what counts as a military target.”
The victims in Ramadi, like in Falluja, are those who don’t have the means to flee, or anywhere to flee to -- primarily, the poor and elderly.
Plus, the siege has made it nearly impossible for medical personnel who remain in the city to treat the victims of U.S. firepower. “A Doctors for Iraq assessment team in Ramadi reports a severe shortage of medicine and medical equipment, such as IV fluids, surgical sutures, antibiotics and anesthetic drugs,” said Doctors for Iraq in a press release. “Our teams described the situation in the city and the plight of displaced families as being desperate.”
Though the U.S. offensive in Ramadi is taking a terrible human toll, it also highlights the difficulties facing the U.S. as it tries to implement its strategic plan to dominate Iraq.
The U.S. wants to train Iraqis to replace its troops on the ground, but when it comes to mounting a serious offensive, whole battalions of Iraqi soldiers seem to melt away. During a recent operation in a Ramadi neighborhood, the 250 U.S. troops outnumbered their 145 Iraqi counterparts, according to the New York Times.
Some 500 more Iraqi soldiers in the largely Sunni battalion stayed in Mosul rather come to Ramadi to join the battle. “They said, ‘We don’t want fight our own people,’” explained Lt. Col. Raad Niaf Haroosh, the battalion commander.
Nevertheless, the Bush administration is trying to claim that Iraq has reached another turning point following the assassination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Bush even made a “surprise” visit to Baghdad to meet with leaders of the new Iraqi government--though he only stayed five hours.
Afterward, Democrats in the Senate tried to counter the Republican campaign with amendments to a defense planning bill calling for some troop withdrawals. But the amendments were filled with conditions and loopholes--and far from what opponents of the war want: immediate withdrawal.
Grosscup says it’s important to realize that Democrats in particular share an enthusiasm for the kind of bombing campaigns causing so much misery in Ramadi. “This is exactly what Rep. John Murtha has in mind,” says Grosscup. “Murtha, who’s a very pro-military guy, wants to get U.S. forces out of Iraq, let Iraqi troops do the fighting and ‘provide support.’ The U.S. prosecution of the war, therefore, will be from outside Iraq through using air power.
“When you saw the bombing of Zarqawi’s compound, Zarqawi was killed -- not initially, but by the blast of the 500-pound bomb which ripped apart his internal organs. But it also killed the people in the compound as well. This notion of a clean war -- it’s clean only for the bombers.
“What’s really disturbing here is that we were rightly upset by the close to 3,000 people who died on 9/11, and we call it a terrorist act because it was civilians who died. From my vantage point, which is trying to be objective, through the use of air power in particular, we’re fighting a war on terrorism with a war of terrorism.”
The sentiment for immediate withdrawal isn’t as far outside the mainstream as the Democrats and Republicans would like us to believe. This position was recently voiced by an unlikely figure -- retired Gen. William Odom. In a Foreign Policy article titled “Cut and Run? You Bet: Why America Must Get Out of Iraq Now,” Odom argued, “The prewar dream of a liberal Iraqi democracy friendly to the United States is no longer credible.”
Of course, Odom looks to withdrawal as a way to rescue the U.S. military as a fighting force and preserve the ability of the U.S. to carry out its aims in the Middle East. But if a general can call for immediate withdrawal, the antiwar movement should confidently demand the same.
Eric Ruder writes for Socialist Worker, where this article first appeared. Thanks to Alan Maass.
Other Articles by Eric Ruder