Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume III, Number 44 December 7 - 13, 2004 Quezon City, Philippines
Through the American Looking Glass
are civilians. Tanks that crush civilians
are traffic accidents. And civilians should endure heavy doses of fear
Robert Fisk in Baghdad
very unpleasant is being let loose in Iraq . Just this week, a company
commander in the US 1st Infantry Division in the north of the country
that, in order to elicit information about the guerrillas who are killing
American troops, it was necessary to "instill fear" in the local
villagers. An Iraqi interpreter working for the Americans
had just taken an old lady from her home
to frighten her daughters and grand-daughters into believing that she was
battalion commander in the same area put the point even more baldly. "With
a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we
can convince these people that we are here to help them," he said. He was
speaking from a village that his men had surrounded with barbed wire, upon which
was a sign, stating: "This fence is here for your protection. Do not
or try to cross, or you will be shot."
to explain that this treatment - and these words - offend the very basic
humanity of the people whom the Americans claimed they came to
"liberate" and you are met in Baghdad with the same explanation: that
a very small "remnant"
of "diehards" - loyal to the now-captured Saddam Hussein, etc,
etc - have to be separated from the civilians whom they are
point out that the intimidation is largely coming from the American occupation
force - to the horror of the British in southern Iraq who fear, understandably,
that Iraqi revenge will be visited upon them as it was on the Italians and the Spanish
- is useless.
we are told that American troops are winning those famous hearts and minds with
the spirit of Christmas. There was a grim example of this - and the inherent
racism that pervades even reporting of such events - on the Associated Press
wire agency just this week.
how an American soldier in a Santa Claus hat was giving out stuffed animals to
children, reporter Jason Keyser wrote that one 11-year- old child "looked
puzzled, then smiled" as the soldier gave him a small, stuffed goat.
Then the report continued: "Others in the crowd of mostly Muslims
grabbed greedily at the box," adding the soldier's
remark that: "They don't know how to handle generosity."
don't doubt the soldier's wish to do good. But what is one to make of the
"mostly Muslims" who "grabbed greedily" at the gifts? Or the
soldier's insensitive remarks about generosity? Iraqi newspapers have been
front--paging a Christmas
card produced by US troops in Baghdad: "1st Battalion,
22nd Infantry Wishes you a very Merry Christmas!"it says.
the illustration is of Saddam Hussein in his scruffy beard just after his
capture, with a Santa hat superimposed on top of his head. Funny enough for us,
no doubt - I can't personally think of a better fall-guy for St Nicholas - but a
clear insult to Sunni Arabs who, however much they may loathe the beast of
Baghdad, will see in this card a deliberate attempt
to humiliate Muslim Iraqis. It is for Iraqis to demean their ex-president - not
their American occupiers.
almost as if the occupying powers want to look through Alice's looking glass .
This week, we had the odd statement by British General Graeme Lamb that Saddam
could be compared to the Emperor Caligula. Now the good general was probably
relying on Suetonius's Twelve Caesars for his views on Caligula. But if
anything, the Roman was a good deal more insane than Saddam and even more
heedless of human life.
crazy Uday Hussein, son of Saddam, might have been a more appropriate parallel.
But what was all this supposed to achieve? A serious war crimes trial -
preferably outside Iraq and far from the country's contaminated judiciary - is
the way to
define the nature of Saddam's repulsive regime.
references to the ex-dictator as Hitler, Stalin, Attila the Hun or Caligula
- like all suggestions that Tony Blair or George Bush are Winston
Churchill - are infantile. And again, they will appear insulting to the Sunni
Muslims of Iraq , the one community which the Americans should be desperate to
it is the Sunnis who are primarily resisting the occupation.
the looking -glass effect seems to have taken hold of US pro-consul Paul
Bremer's entire authority. Like President George Bush, Bremer has now taken to
repeating the absurdity that the greater the West's success in Iraq, the more
frequent will be the attacks on American troops.
personally feel that we'll actually have more violence in the next six
said a couple of weeks ago, "and the violence will be precisely because of
the fact that we're building momentum toward success." In other words, the
become, the worse they're going to get. And the greater the violence, the better
we're doing in Iraq .
wouldn't worry about this nonsense so much if it wasn't mirrored on the ground
n Iraq. Take the US claim - now regarded as an absurdity – that they
killed "54 insurgents" in Samara a month ago. The truth is that they
killed at least
eight civilians and there's not a smidgen of evidence that they killed
anyone else. But still they insist on sticking to the story of their great
week, they pushed out a similar version of the same story. This time there
were 11 dead "insurgents" in Samara. But when The Independent
investigated, it could only find records of four dead civilians and a lot of
of the wounded – presumably "insurgents" if the Americans
believe their own story - had been visited in hospital by
US forces who might, if they didn't question them, at least have apologised.
even more peculiar habit has now manifest itself among spokesmen for the
occupation authorities. When a tank drove over a prominent Shiite Muslim cleric
in the Baghdad suburb of Sadr City three weeks ago, they claimed this was
accident", as if driving an M1A1 Abrams tank over a car and a robed prelate
is the kind of thing that can happen on any downtown street.
few days later, after a truck-bomber crashed into a car and killed 17 civilians,
the occupation lads churned out the same rubbish again. It was, they said, a
"traffic accident" involving a petrol tanker. But there was no tanker
first American troops on the scene found the grenades intended to detonate the
bomb and the victims were all blasted to bits – not burned, as they would have
been if the petrol tanker had simply caught fire. Those of us who reached
the scene shortly after the slaughter could still smell the explosives.
was a "traffic accident".
yesterday we had an equally bizarre event. Jets, C-130 aircraft mounted with
chain guns, and heavy artillery were all reported to be striking "guerrilla
bases" in Operation Iron Hammer south of Baghdad. But investigation proved
the targets were empty fields and that some of the heavy guns were firing
blank rounds as part of an artillery maintenance routine.
let's get this right. Insurgents are civilians. Truck bombs and tanks that crush
civilians are traffic accidents. And the "liberated" civilians who
live in villages surrounded by razor wire should endure "a heavy dose of
fear and violence" to keep them on the straight and narrow.
along the way, they will probably be told about democracy as well.
December 26, 2003