This is a part two of the six-part series "Report form Baghdad" by Pacifica Radio KPFK Los Angeles Reporter Lee Siu Hin's July 2003 trip to U.S. occupied Iraq, to commemorate 6-months commemoration of U.S. invaison of Iraq (Sep 20), and to understand the future of Iraq.
To view the entire series, please visit:
Iraq Ambushed and Destroyed U.S. Humvee in Baghdad
July 21, 2003, The Department of Defense announced today that Sgt. Justin W. Garvey, 23, Townsend, Mass., was killed on July 20 in Tallifar, Iraq.
Garvey was patrolling in his vehicle when it was ambushed and struck by rocket propelled grenades. Garvey was assigned to Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 1-187 Infantry Battalion, Fort Campbell, Kentucky…
(Department of Defense Press Release, July 21, 2003)
Since last May when President Bush declared "Mission Accomplished" - the "major combat" in Iraq was over - at least one American and one British soldier have been killed and many more injured per day by Iraqi ambush.
The majority of the Iraqis I met - whatever their social background, political leaning, religion or age - told me that they don't like U.S. troops in their country. Although many Iraqis are happy that Saddam is gone, there are many others who still support him. Regardless of where they stand on their country's former head of state, the majority of them told me that they want the U.S. troops to leave. Many even said they would arm themselves and rise up against the U.S. occupiers if they stay in Iraq any longer.
In numerous interviews, Iraqis told me that U.S. troops had wrongfully killed members of their family, bombed their place, looted their houses and stolen their money. Soldiers have arrested many people they know who have disappeared and haven't been heard from since.
Iraqi's complaints against U.S. troops are echoed in a recent Amnesty International report, Iraq: Memorandum of Concerns Relating to Law and Order. They include disappearance, unlawful detention, torture, ill treatment of prisoners and shooting Iraqi demonstrators. Amnesty concludes it's "...shameful to still hear of people who are being detained in inhumane conditions without their family knowing where they are and with no access to a lawyer or a judge, often for weeks on end [by U.S. troops]."
During the U.S. invasion in March and early April, the Iraqi Body Count Project documented the deaths of over 7,000 civilians and up to 2,300 Iraqi soldiers, in addition to the confinement of thousands of detainees.
According to the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC), most of the detained Iraqis are interned at Baghdad airport (formally known as Saddam airport), including some high-profile former Ba'ath party officials such as Tariq Aziz. Most of them, though, are ordinary Iraqi civilians arrested during house raids by U.S. troops and sent to detention. They are there without formal charges pending against them, denied both the right to consult with their lawyers and the chance to talk to their families. So far the U.S. military has refused to allow any families of the detainees or journalists to visit the detention camp, nor will they release the names of the detainees.
ICRC spokesperson Muin Kassis says in order for them to be able to visit the camp and meet with the detainees, they need to make deals with U.S. troops, includes not reviewing who they had visit.
Who is the Iraqi Resistance, Anyway?
On July 13th, under heavy U.S. military escort, there was a celebration of the formation of the 25-member Interim Iraqi Administrative Council. Most of its members are exiled Iraqis. This would include the members of the Iraqi National Congress in New York, who were funded by the United States to run the post-Saddam regime, and who were airlifted by the U.S. to Baghdad for this occasion, and powerful Iraqi Shi'ite clerics from Iran, who are not viewed favorably by Americans.
The Council has promised to form a new permanent government, draft a new constitution and hold free elections soon. Yet the U.S. administrator - the highest authority in occupied Iraq - holds the ultimate power to approve or veto the Council's decisions. "This is a U.S. puppet regime," many Iraqis told me. Just a few hours after the ceremony, an Iraqi resistance ambush against the U.S. military resulted in one U.S. soldier dead and six wounded.
The Catch-22 for the United States is that it is the one now blocking Iraqis from forming a new government. The U.S. wants to install a pro-western puppet regime, but it doesn't have any credibility in Iraq to survive, and it doesn't want a new Iraqi government that won't listen to Americans.
Many people believe if there's a government tomorrow in Iraq truly run by Iraqis, it'll most likely be run by powerful Shi'ite Muslims from the south. The majority in Iraq, Shi'ites make up approximately 50 to 70 percent of the population, they are the de facto local government in southern Iraq after the war replace Saddam's regime. They oppose Saddam (who is Sunni and persecuted Iraq's Shi'ite for decades), and welcomed his downfall by the U.S. invasion, but they are also against American occupation. They openly advocate that the future Iraqi government should be an Islamic government, and that America should leave as soon as possible.
Because of the importance of the Iraqi Shi'ite communities, they are represented in the Interim Council. The most powerful Iraqi Shi'ite leader, Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-al-Hakim, was exiled to Iran during Saddam's period, and formed an exiled group called the "Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq" to oppose Saddam's government. After the invasion and the regime's fall, he returned to his homeland and enjoys wide support from the Iraqi Shi'ite community. He is viewed as one of the most likely future Iraqi leaders, but he was assassinated on August 29th in the bombing in Najaf, the most important Shi'ite city in Iraq.
Before al-Hakim's assassination, I interviewed Mohammad al-Haiddary, Imam of al-Khielany Mosque and the leader of Baghdad's Shi'ite community. Like al-Hakim, he was a member of the exiled group in Iran during Saddam's period. He recently returned to Baghdad with al-Hakim after the regime's fall. He said Iraqis don't want Americans to stay in their country, however, unlike the resistance he claims the Shi'ite strategy consists of peace actions, "including diplomatic ways. Just like peaceful protests to demonstrate [our demands] using the national forces, to talk with the Americans and put pressure on them for a timetable for their leaving."
Although several Shi'ite religious leaders had openly called for an uprising against U.S. occupiers, leaders like al-Hakim and his exiled group refused armed revolt. Many Iraqi Sunnis called them cowards. al-Haddary defends their strategy, and blames the deadly attacks against Americans on Saddam's loyalists. "The Americans understand that Shi'ite leaders [only] do peace actions, and the attacks that have happened were not done by [Iraqi] Shi'ite nor Sunni, but by the Ba'athists, based on [certain] information. We have good relations with Sunni; some of them are in the [Interim] Council, some of them are not, but none of them has declared a fight against America. And when I said Ba'athists, that means some are Sunni and some are Shi'ite."
His claims are only half-true, while many people in Iraq - especially Iraqi Shi'ites - are against Saddam, and many are even glad that the U.S. invaded Iraq to oust him. That does not mean, however, that they support U.S. troops and occupation. On July 22nd, when U.S. troops killed Saddam's two fearful sons, Udei and Qusay, in the northern city of Mosul, even hours before the U.S. commander in Iraq General Schanez's announcement, people in Baghdad already knew and were firing triumphant gunshots into the air to celebrate the news. U.S. President George Bush described it as "positive news" and "further assurance to the Iraqi people that the regime is gone and won't be back."
Qusay, Saddam's second son, was blamed for organizing what the U.S. calls the "die-hard" Saddam loyalists to attack U.S. troops after the invasion. Qusay was one of his father's most trusted lieutenants and was widely seen as his heir apparent. "This is very important. This will contribute considerably to reducing attacks on coalition soldiers," says Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress in New York, one of those airlifted by the U.S. to Baghdad to become one of the Iraqi Interim Council members. However, the almost daily attacks against U.S. troops, and the bombing that killed al-Hakim after Qusay's death, have completely shattered American and Chalabi's wishful thinking.
Despite American media claims, it's common knowledge in Iraq that most of Iraq's underground resistance forces are not the so-called "die-hard" Saddam supporters or foreign groups (such as al-Qaida); rather, they are mainly organized by the local clans and religious clerics who have no connection with Saddam's inner circle. They are the ones who control local politics; even during Saddam's period, he needed to consult with them to get what he wanted.
One of the example is Fallujah, a town 70 kilometers west of Baghdad, and the historical Sunni Muslim religious center. It's also become the center of the Iraqi resistance since the U.S. invasion. Many people believe if there's a call for "jihad" against Americans, it will be most likely come from places like Fallujah, so the opinions of people in this town can indicate the future of Iraq resistance movements.
Abdul Al-Lah Al-Azez is from Saad bin Abiy Wakas Mosque in Fallujah. He is a famous Sunni leader in town, and was one of the self-run city council members last June who negotiated a deal with U.S. troops after they occupied the city. He opposed Saddam, but is against American occupation as well, because he said they cannot accept Christian-based American troops invaded and occupied a Muslim country. He claims he doesn't know any resistance forces, but fully supports what they do and is looking for an armed uprising against the U.S. soon.
To understand whether or not Iraq can possibly organize to oust U.S. troops from their country in the future, I had a rare opportunity to interview the former Iraqi army colonel al-Akid Jaf Sadk Hussin al-Shmary. He was an al-Istikhbarat (military intelligence officer) in the Iraqi 51st mechanics unit in the al-Basra area during the beginning of the U.S. invasion in mid-March. He was in charge of between four to five thousand soldiers, and 400 to 450 tanks and vehicles. He was based in the al-Zubayr area, the first defense line against U.S. troops from Kuwait. "We stayed in the Safwan, al-Rdga, al-Shemlia and al-Barjsia areas. And our job was to defend Al-Basrah and our base was in Al-Barjasia in al-Zubayr. There were 10 kilometers between us and the American forces," al-Shmary said.
Al-Shmary was angry the U.S. used brutal force against Iraqi military and civilians. He says when the U.S. began its invasion of Iraq on March 20th, during the first few days of fighting, they lost 200 to 250 tanks in battle, and the Iraqis burned the rest of the tanks. "We lost around six or seven hundred soldiers and officers, and 1,000 or more became prisoners of war. [Since then], they have released most of the soldiers, but have still kept the high-ranking officers." He said after their defensive line was broken, they retreated to the city of al-Basra.
Al-Shmary blames their loss on traitors from Saddam's inner circle. He said they sold Iraq out to the U.S. They caused the quick defeat of the Iraqi army and lost Baghdad within few days. "First one, General Maher Sufian al-Tikriti," he is Saddam's cousin and the general of Republican Guard, and "Abdol Kareem Nufos al-Nada - he's Saddam's cousin - and they're from Saddam's family, and we can see that Maher Sufian made a deal with the Americans. He sold the defense plan [to the Americans] for al-Basrah. When he was in al-Basrah, he took a copy of the plan from our base and I think he gave this to the Americans," he said. Asked if he knew where they are right now, he answered, "Ask the Americans; they know where they are."
Regarding the Iraqi resistance against Americans, al-Shmary denied he has any connections, but said "I think they are from Islamic resistance, even from Fedayeen Saddam (Saddam 'Men of Sacrifice'). They went to the Islamic resistance and you can see that in al-Falluja. If the Iraqi army wants to do something, they will hurt the Americans a lot and I wish they would do something if the God wants that." Looking into his crystal ball, al-Shmary predicts future fighting in Iraq against Americans "will never be from the tank because we don't have them [anymore], but we could fight as street fighters, like what you saw in Baghdad, Falluja, Tikrit, Diyala, Mosul, and Diwaniyeh."
Asked why he came to me and did the interview, he says, "I don't care … for the death, the life will come to you. I showed something to the media, so if I will die, I will die once, and the Imam Ali said anyone in this life will taste the death. I wasn't afraid in battle. Do you want me to be afraid of some [U.S.] soldier who puts handcuffs on me?"
***"Report From Baghdad" CD-ROM on Sale!!***
Dear peace activists:
Pacifica Radio KPFK Los Angeles Reporter Lee Siu Hin's July 2003 trip to U.S. occupied Iraq. An interactive CD-ROM with articles, over 50 photos, and hours of audio & video interviews includes:
- People of Iraq, former Iraqi military commander, general manger of
- U.S. Military: interview at U.S. military base, and follow their patrol and raid in Baghdad;
- Human rights workers from UNICEF, Voice in the Wilderness, Amnesty International;
- Shi'ite and Sunni religious leaders from Baghdad, Fllujah, and more!
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