Al Fallujah is known in Iraq as the city of mosques. There is a reverence for the holiness of the city and Muslim leaders made clear to American troops that they did not want them in their city. The US troops responded by saying they had to be there for security. The Muslim leaders, led by Sunni Imam Jamal Mahmood, said they had their own security. The US troops were determined to stay. They say, Saddam had weapons factories there. The Iraqis say the factories have been destroyed and there is no need for the US troops to stay.
After two days of killing of Iraqi civilians, the Iraqis have responded by lobbing grenades at our troops and wounding two. There are two sides to this problem, the troops say they were shot at, the Iraqis say the troops fired on purpose. At this point, three things are clear--we don't know the truth because both sides claim the truth as theirs, we cannot say these demonstrations are being fomented by the Shia or Iran because Al Fallujah has always been a Sunni stronghold and that we have reached a point of diminishing returns in Al Falluja. Thus, America cannot blame this on Iran, the Hezbollah, Hamas or the Shi'a--it shows the Muslims in Iraq are united in wanting the US/UK to leave Iraq.
There is something troubling about this situation. Why is it that these crowds of people could not be dispersed by tear gas rather than bullets? Why did the troops insist on staying there when they knew it was leading to conflict that would be counterproductive to our mission of "liberating" Iraq, especially in places the Iraqi Sunni consider "a holy city, a city of mosques." Surely, our commanders must be at least half way intelligent; they should know this will cause upset and protests. Or, are these commanders following orders from above so that there can be cause for firing on the crowds in order to terrorize them into submission. Are the American troops following the Israeli style of occupation, massive force, even against stone and shoe throwing protesters to show them that America controls Iraq and that the Iraqis had better get used to it in a hurry?
A rabbi who is a friend of mine, a man who protested Sharons brutality in Israel because he said it was against Judaism, called and said, Look at that, its Israel and Palestine all over again! At first, I thought it was his fixation and anger, but then as time went on, I began to feel that he could be right. It's now public knowledge that America has hired many former KGB agents to work with the Homeland Security Agency, so too has the National Transportation Security Agency that protects airports hired many former Mossad agents. This is not normal command procedure for American troops when confronted by a demonstrating crowd; they are told not to cause civilian casualtiesat least were our orders until this new administration. Has something changed in our military rules of engagement when dealing with crowds? Has America taken on a new military culture? If so, we need to know.
I am worried that our men are becoming part of a new brutality as seen through their behavior in Iraq. I remember one young soldier, early in the war, when interviewed on TV saying, I want to get my nose wetI want to get me some Iraqis, I want to kick some butt. These are not the words of a mature human beingthey are the mouthings of an immature and impressionable TV spawned juvenile who neither realizes the value of human life or the humanity of the soldier fighting on the other side. Many of the US military, when I have heard them at West Point and in Annapolis, sound the same as our Commander in Chief, Bush, when he says, Im gonna git him, dead or alive. This sounds like something out of a bad black and white Western. But our leaders must understand, this is not a two valued world, not black and white; thus, our behavior and response must take into consideration variables of each culture with which we interact. The Iraqis see us as occupiers; Bush sees us as "liberators." There has to be some new understandings lest Al Fallujah and other cities get further out of hand so that it becomes a lose-lose situation.
But to hear Rumsfeld, Cheney and Franks and some of the other generals speak, without giving any apologies for these killings but instead always blaming the civilians, I can start to believe that our men are getting orders to shoot live bullets into crowds; this is a strange new method of crowd control. If not, then why were there children killed in the last few days in Al Fallujah? Surely, the children did not shoot at our troops, if anyone shot at them at all. NO, something is wrong in this scenario and should be the subject of congressional hearings. Just what are the orders to our soldiers and who is giving them. There has to be an explanation for the shootings in Al Fallujah two days in a row, without apology; with a terse, we heard gun shots coming at uswith the Imams and the cities leaders contradicting them.
As a veteran and as a US citizen, I am waiting to see what the military will do about these killings in Al Fallujah. I hope our congress will look into this matter and find out if our troops are being given new orders of engagements toward civilians, or are our troops so poorly trained that they panic at the slightest thing. We must also ask our command group in Iraq and DC why they insist on remaining in situations that clearly show diminishing returns--unless we intend to colonize Iraq.
If we intend to keep Iraq as a base colony in the Middle East, especially in light of the pulling out of our troops from Saudi Arabia--we are going to have a long and brutal occupation because the Iraqis will fight back--the British occupation from 1918 through the 1950s is still fresh in their minds.
Sam Hamod is an expert in Middle Eastern and Islamic affairs, he is a former advisor to the US State Department and former Director of The National Islamic Center in Washington, DC. He may be reached at email@example.com
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