Sep 13, 2004
By the second week of September, U.S. forces were carrying out new military offensives in several cities in Iraq.
In Tal Afar, in the far north near the Syrian border, U.S. forces invaded the city with overwhelming firepower, including jets, helicopters and tanks. A U.S. military spokesman said that U.S. forces killed 57 enemy fighters with "great precision and without a single American casualty." But in fact, the main victims of this attack were civilians. A local hospital reported that it had received scores of civilian dead and wounded, including women and children.
Further south, 35 miles west of Baghdad, the U.S. military bombed Falluja for four straight nights (as of this writing). A spokesman for the U.S. military explained that the reason for one of the raids was that "the target was a building frequently used by terrorists at the time of the strike." Iraqi doctors reported that the U.S. air strikes killed twelve Iraqis, including five children and two women. In the rubble of another house demolished by another U.S. air strike, workers found only one survivor, a 10-month-old infant. In another 24-hour period of U.S. bombing, Iraq's Health Ministry reported that at least 16 civilians had been killed. In the face of those reports, the U.S. military spokesman had to change his tune slightly: "In spite of the great care taken to spare the lives of non-combatants, an unknown number of Iraqi civilians were unfortunately among those killed and wounded in the strike."
One can only imagine with what kind of "great care" the U.S. F-16's and Apache helicopters bombed and rocketed Falluja's apartment buildings and homes!
Finally, in Sadr City, the massive and teeming Baghdad slum that had gone from being a hotbed of opposition to Saddam Hussein to a center of opposition to the U.S. occupation, a week-long period of "calm" dissolved into gun battles between U.S. troops and local militias said to be loyal to cleric Muktada al-Sadr. These battles left 40 Iraqis dead and 202 wounded – also mainly civilians.
What are behind these latest U.S. offensives?
Over the last several months, the Iraqi resistance has forced the U.S. to retreat first from most of what the U.S. calls the "Sunni Triangle," the swath of territory in the center of the country that includes the cities of Falluja, Ramadi and Samarra, and more recently from key sectors in the south around Kufa and Najaf. U.S. forces retreated only after their bombing and rocket attacks left thousands of people dead and much of the cities destroyed. Perhaps the most ferocious and destructive of these battles took place in Najaf just last month.
But the retreat of the U.S. troops from big parts of Iraq has only allowed the insurgency against the U.S. to grow undisturbed, gaining more support, force and power. The U.S. military reports that the insurgents are searching out U.S. troops in more sophisticated ambushes and hit-and-run attacks. This accounts for the rising death toll and the even faster rise in the number of U.S. troops seriously wounded. In August, for example, there were 65 U.S. deaths – and 1,100 troops seriously wounded. September is shaping up to be even bloodier, with 25 U.S. fatalities in just the first week! The bloodiest single attack took place outside Falluja on September 5, when seven U.S. Marines were killed, the single highest death toll for U.S. troops in several months.
The latest U.S. offensives in Tal Afar, Falluja and Sadr City were most likely in response to these attacks. Of course, the offensives made the Iraqi population, including women and children, pay the heaviest price, in an effort to try to break the spirit of the population and isolate the resistance. But everything indicates that these attacks are creating the exact opposite, that is, they are only feeding the resistance. When a New York Times reporter questioned a couple of ordinary people in Sadr City after the most recent gun battles, one person said, "Of course, the violence is the fault of the Americans; they entered the city. Just imagine if I came into your home, arrested and killed members of your family. You would protect yourself." Another person said, "Even if people don't support Muktada, they will join him if the Americans come into the city."
These latest U.S. offensives are certainly only the preludes to much bigger ones that the U.S. will launch after the November election – no matter who is elected president. Both Rumsfeld and the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force General Richard B. Myers, have already assured the press that those offensives are now in the advanced planning stages, guaranteeing that the future death toll will skyrocket, first of all, for the Iraqi population, but also for U.S. troops as well.
No, "there is no light at the end of the tunnel," as the politicians used to say four decades ago during the Viet Nam War. On the contrary, Senator John McCain, the outspoken Republican hawk, recently told CNN that he expects U.S. troops to be fighting a war in Iraq for "the next 10 or 20 years."
What a grim and bloody future for us all – until the U.S. population finds the way to force the U.S. government to stop the bloodbath it is now carrying out in Iraq.