State-funded gang war brings “peace” to Baghdad, from “Shotgun Wedding: The Saint, the Insurgent and the Surge’s ‘Success’” by Chris Floyd

November 21st, 2007

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 Success.

Disabled, by Wilfred Owen

September 4th, 2007

Disabled

He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,
Voices of play and pleasure after day,
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.

About this time Town used to swing so gay
When glow-lamps budded in the light blue trees,
And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim, –
In the old times, before he threw away his knees.
Now he will never feel again how slim
Girls’ waists are, or how warm their subtle hands.
All of them touch him like some queer disease.

There was an artist silly for his face,
For it was younger than his youth, last year.
Now, he is old; his back will never brace;
He’s lost his colour very far from here,
Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry,
And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race
And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.

One time he liked a blood-smear down his leg,
After the matches, carried shoulder-high.
It was after football, when he’d drunk a peg,
He thought he’d better join. – He wonders why.
Someone had said he’d look a god in kilts,
That’s why; and maybe, too, to please his Meg,
Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts
He asked to join. He didn’t have to beg;
Smiling they wrote his lie: aged nineteen years.

Germans he scarcely thought of; all their guilt,
And Austria’s, did not move him. And no fears
Of Fear came yet. He thought of jewelled hilts
For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;
And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears;
Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.
And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.

Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.
Only a solemn man who brought him fruits
Thanked him; and then enquired about his soul.

Now, he will spend a few sick years in institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity they may dole.
Tonight he noticed how the women’s eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don’t they come
And put him into bed? Why don’t they come?

Wilfred Owen (1917)

Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism: mass murders met with martial law and shoot-on-sight orders in Assam, India

January 7th, 2007

Hundreds of soldiers on Sunday patrolled parts of violence-torn Assam in the wake of an indefinite curfew and shoot-on-sight orders issued after a wave of militant killings left 48 Hindi-speaking people dead.

The outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) went on a rampage for two straight days beginning from Friday killing 48 people and wounding 30 in separate raids in the three eastern districts of Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, and Dhemaji, targeting Hindi-speaking migrant workers.

Security forces have fanned out across the region with the army, police, and paramilitary troopers engaged in a systematic anti-insurgency offensive, Tinsukia district magistrate Absar Hazarika said.

Authorities in eastern Assam have formed several peace committees involving leaders of all communities to instill confidence among the Hindi-speaking minorities, many of whom are reported to be fleeing their homes in panic.

These peace committees are working as vigilantes, helping the affected people come to terms with reality and trying to heal the wounds, a police official said.

Most of the victims were from Bihar and had made Assam their home for decades, doing odd jobs as brick kiln workers, fishermen and daily wage earners.

In 2000, ULFA militants killed at least 100 Hindi-speaking people in Assam in a series of well-planned attacks after the rebel group vowed to free the state of all non-Assamese migrant workers. The ULFA is yet to claim responsibility for the recent attacks.

There is no doubt that the killings are the handiwork of the ULFA, said Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.

Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal is likely to visit Assam for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation and review demands by the local government for additional paramilitary forces to deal with the rebel flare-up.

… Witnesses said hundreds of migrant workers have fled their homes in eastern Assam.

People are leaving eastern Assam in all modes of vehicles and trains, moving to safer areas out of fear, said Bimal Tiwari, a businessman.

Hindustan Times (2007-01-07): Shoot-on-sight orders in Assam, no overnight violence

“Kill Every One Over Ten:” The Burning of Samar and the Balangiga Massacre

January 5th, 2007

Kill Every One Over Ten — Gen. Jacob H. Smith

Here is an editorial cartoon with a line of American soldiers preparing to execute blind-folded young boys.

Criminals Because They Were Born Ten Years Before We Took the Philippines.

New York Evening Journal, May 5, 1902

This editorial cartoon, from the May 5, 1902 New York Evening Journal, was drawn in protest of the burning of Samar, in late 1901, during the American occupation of the Philippines. News of the campaign eventually reached the United States, and the commander, General Jake Howling Smith, faced a court martial in May 1902, on charges of conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline. During the trial it was revealed that Smith had ordered his soldiers to shoot anyone over the age of ten who had not surrendered, as potential enemy combatants. Smith, found guilty, was given a verbal reprimand and retired without further punishment.

Read the rest of this entry »

Perpetual State of Fear

August 14th, 2006

I grew up with duck and cover, fear obsession culminating in that abysmal, overdone, excessively histrionic Day After miniseries years ago. I grew up afraid; made more so, nay encouraged, by my own government. My government, which feared communism more than plague, hurricane, or other phenomena if one judges the amount of energy and wealth expended in defense.

After a while, people got tired of being afraid. We got tired of silly wars with very unsilly death counts. We got tired of being afraid, and turned that fear into laughter and even derision. We watched movies such as Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, we protested in the streets, and we created art–book, paintings, photos–in defiance not of government so much, but against fear.

Then the best possible thing happened: The Soviet Union collapsed. The walls of Berlin came down. The hand of friendship was extended to the west, and didn’t we rejoice in the streets?

Not our government, though. The enemy without that we had depended on for so many years was now gone. How can you control a population, if you don’t give them something to fear? Not to worry, though–those in Washington DC are nothing if not creative. We now have a new government-mandated fear. This time the enemy won’t let us down: it won’t take down the walls. It will be nebulous, and undefeatable, made more so by our own actions. We, the last of the generation of ‘duck and cover’ can now rest safely at night knowing that our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren, will know fear. Every damn day of their lives.

You see, it is to our government’s advantage to have us be afraid. When we’re afraid, we don’t look around us and see how 43 million Americans still have no health care coverage; the middle class is dwindling while the ranks of the poor are increasing; there are jobs, but too many at wages that can barely cover subsistence living. You can get a happy meal for less than a gallon of gas now, and buying both feeds the same corporate machine which is raking in record profits at a time when our country is teetering on the edge of a major climate and economic shift.

As for this new round of fear, just like in the 1960’s you can only push fear at people for so long before they push back. It’s time for our government to be afraid, very afraid. Not of terrorists, but of laughter.

zeFrank’s Be Afraid–funny and serious, an explosive combination. Don’t take this man on a plane in your carry-on.

And you know what’s really funny? Laughter scares the shit out of the terrorists, too.

Shelley Powers (2006-08-12): Perpetual State of Fear