Although 2007 will have seen the largest number of American military deaths in Iraq and the passing of the one million mark in Iraqi civilians killed, there has been much triumphant harrumphing of late about a slight drop in the horrific death count in Iraq — proof, we are told, for the umpteenth time, that the war of aggression has finally
turned the corner (i.e., the conquered people have finally been beaten into submission).
To the extent that there has been any lessening of the ongoing slaughter for a short period, much of that can be put down to a factor little discussed in the American media-political bubble (at least not in terms of stark reality): the fact that the White House and St. Gen. David Petraeus have simply legitimized what used to be recorded as terrorist acitivity by paying the former killers of Americans to kill and repress other Iraqis. Thus, in some areas of Baghdad now controlled by American-paid, American-armed Sunni extremist militias, executions, mass killings, horrific torture, kidnapping and rampant extortion still go on — but these are no longer counted as
insurgent violence. These horrors are now regarded as legitimate police actions by
concerned citizens groups — almost all of them former close allies of the most savage sectarian bands (now loosely called
al Qaeda by everyone, regardless of any actual relationship, however tenuous, to the gang of one-time CIA ally Osama bin Laden).
In other words, Bush and St. David are now giving American taxpayer money — and copious amounts of arms, equipment and flash vehicles — to those responsible for some of the most sickening assaults on innocent life since Bush destroyed Iraqi society and plunged it into sectarian warfare, which the Administration has encouraged and exacerbated at every step.
This is one way of keeping the American death count down: you just turn over various walled enclaves in Baghdad to a band of thugs in your pay, lard them with guns and money, then get the hell out of Dodge, letting the thugs do what they will. It is absolutely vital for the Washington warmongers to keep the American death count low. As long as
only two or three Americans are being killed every day or so, they can keep a lid on the rising but still very manageable popular discontent with the war back home. The increased use of airpower — blunderbuss assaults on civilian areas with bombs and attack helicopters — also helps toward this goal. And, as noted, it also helps lower the official numbers on
terrorist violence, following the age-old tradition of U.S. foreign policy: if somebody is killing, raping and torturing with our money, in our name, why then, it can’t be terrorism. It’s just a grassroots initiative to restore law and order, and bring freedom to benighted peoples.
… In Saturday’s Guardian, the paper’s remarkably courageous man in Baghdad, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, gives us a vivid portrait of one of these American-paid gangs in action. It is the tale of Abu Abed, a violent, neurotic, vainglorious killer of Americans (and former intelligence officer for Saddam Hussein) who has been crowned by none other than St. David himself to rule as undisputed king over the walled Baghdad ghetto of Ameriya:
Abu Abed, a member of the insurgent Islamic Army, has recently become the commander of the US-sponsored
Ameriya Knights. He is one of the new breed of Sunni warlords who are being paid by the US to fight al-Qaida in Iraq. The Americans call their new allies Concerned Citizens…A former intelligence officer and a pious Sunni, Hajji Abu Abed has the aura of a mafia don. And for Abu Abed, like a don, connections are everything. His office is decorated with pictures of him hugging US officers, including the senior commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus…On Abu Abed’s desk stands a glass box containing a black suede cavalry hat and a letter proclaiming him an honorary US cavalryman.
The Americans pay him $400 (£200) a month for each fighter he provides, he said, and he had 600 registered. His men are awed by his courage, his piety and his neurotic rages…
Abu Abed began hugging St. David — and taking the Saint’s payoffs — after falling out with
al Qaeda in a dispute over loot. The Qaedas were demanding a 25 percent cut of all swag to fund their self-proclaimed Islamic Republic of Iraq; Abu Abed balked at the demand, and decided to eliminate his rivals. But he was outgunned his fellow sectarians, so he turned to the Americans.
… And how is the huggable Abu Abed bringing the blessing of freedom to his fiefdom? Like so:
When we arrived at the house where [an] alleged al-Qaida commander was hiding, Bakr [Abu Abed's head of intelligence] was already in action. He was dragging a plump man into a car, grabbing his neck with one hand and his BKC machine gun with the other. The horrified man begged them not to take him.
By Allah, I didn’t say Qaida is better than you, you are our brothers, just let me go! A gunman kicked the man and pushed him into a car.
The suspect’s brother, still in his pyjamas, pleaded, and women in nightgowns stood in the street wailing and begging the gunmen to release him. The gunmen pointed their guns at the people and pushed them back. A young fighter carrying an old British sub-machine gun fired a burst into the air.
Abu Abed walked into the scuffle. The detained man was not the [alleged al Qaeda] target. Someone had overheard him saying Abu Abed’s men were
worse than al-Qaida after Bakr’s men raided the house. Furious at the insult, Abu Abed aimed his gun at the brother.
Al-Qaida is better than us, huh? Did you forget when the bodies were piled in the streets?
Some neighbours intervened, and the man was released. His brother grabbed him by the arm and pushed him inside. Abu Abed, shaking his head and waving his gun, walked back to his car, murmuring
Al-Qaida, better than us…
He stopped in mid-stride and turned to charge with his men back into the house. They pushed the gate open and ran inside firing their weapons in the air. In the dark kitchen, they grabbed the man again, pushed him to the floor and kicked him. The women were screaming and crying. One of them pulled away her headscarf and wailed, holding on to the man’s ripped shirt as Abu Abed and the gunmen dragged him out, kicking and slapping him. Other fighters fired their Kalashnikovs in the air. The man was shoved into a car, as was his brother.
Abu Abed, screaming and pointing his gun, charged at the crowd.
Qaida is better than me? I will show you! He held his gun high and quoted al-Hajjaj, a 7th-century ruler of Iraq, in a hoarse voice:
Oh, people of Iraq, I had come to you with two swords, one is for mercy which I have left back in the desert, and this one — he pointed his gun at the crowd –
is the sword of oppression, which I kept in my hand.
The convoy drove off, sirens blaring, fighters hanging out of the car windows.
Al Qaeda is not Abu Abed’s only enemy, of course. In addition to constantly threatening to renege on his deal with his new best friends — the Americans he used to kill — if they don’t properly acknowledge his authority, Abu Abed is also violently attacking forces aligned with the Iraqi government:
That night, Abu Abed decided to attack another group of Ameriya Knights under his general command. He suspected their commander, Abu Omar, was allied with the vice-president’s Islamic party, which has been trying to control the Sunni area.
I have to show them there is one commander. If the Americans don’t like it, I will withdraw my men, he told me.
Let’s see if they can fight al-Qaida alone. By sunset, his men were gathered in front of the house again. He distributed extra guns and he carried an extra shotgun with his machine gun.
… Abu Omar’s men were rounded up. Some were put in pick-up trucks, others were squeezed in car boots. By the light of headlamps, Abu Abed’s men looted weapons, ammunition boxes and radios.
One terrified child was brought for questioning.
Where are Abu Omar’s sniper rifles? Abu Abed asked him.
I don’t know, replied the boy.
Look, this head of yours, I will cut it off and put it on your chest if you don’t tell where the guns are by tomorrow. He tried to put his shotgun in the boy’s mouth but his men restrained him.
–From Chris Floyd at Empire Burlesque (2007-11-10): Shotgun Wedding: The Saint, the Insurgent and the Surge’s