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News :: Peace
These Uniforms Draw A Lot of Attention Current rating: 0
29 Aug 2005
A report from a Christian Peacemakers Team in Iraq
29 August 2005

There is an orphanage in Baghdad one of my colleagues has volunteered
at for several years. Last week I went with her to help feed and play
with the kids. I was in the play room holding a young boy as a large
group of U.S. soldiers entered the room. Several began picking up
children, as others, from the Army's public affairs division,
immediately began taking photos, which they said would be sent to
newspapers back home (1). One of the commanders said hello to me, and
was no doubt surprised to see me there. I asked him, "Isn't it
dangerous for you guys to be here?" He responded, "It's dangerous for
us, but it's more dangerous for the kids. These uniforms always draw
a lot of attention". Of course the danger for the kids was exactly
what I was referring to.

I reminded the commander of an incident in New Baghdad several weeks
ago where 24 children were killed in a terrorist bombing. US soldiers
had gathered many children from the neighborhood together in the
middle of the street to hand out toys and candy, when a car bomb
targeting the soldiers exploded, killing the children and one soldier
(2). Despite the danger that exists to everyone around them, the US
military still publicly undertakes token humanitarian activities for
the sake of improving its image. Even if US troops commit no
atrocities against Iraqi civilians (which they do), their mere
presence endangers Iraqis because it draws foreign terrorists "like a
magnet", as one Iraqi friend recently commented to me.

President Bush has often declared that Iraq is now the central front
in the War on Terror. He explains that "if we do not confront these
evil men abroad, we will have to face them one day in our own cities
and streets, and they know that the safety and security of every
American is at stake in this war (3)." While this argument may
satisfy Americans whose daily lives continue in "safety and
security," many here in Iraq are far less happy with President Bush's
decision to turn their country into the battle ground of a war that
has nothing to do with them. When a suicide bomber targeted a Baghdad
bus station last week, 43 Iraqi civilians were killed (4). These dead
Iraqis, and the 88 others who were injured, paid the price with their
blood for President Bush's decision to "confront these evil men
abroad." With each car bombing, many Iraqi civilians wonder why
their "own cities and streets" should be the new front in the global
War on Terror, while it is the actions of the US government
throughout the world which led to the war's initiation to begin with
(5). Why must Iraqis experience terror and fear and insecurity, so
that Americans can themselves live in safety and security? Is
American blood more precious than their own?

As terrible as life was under Saddam, life for Iraqis is now much
worse. In addition to the fear of terrorist bombings, Iraqi civilians
suffer from mass detentions and torture at the hands of the Iraqi
security forces, who are now engaged in a bloody counter-insurgency
war (6). US forces bomb populated urban cities (Falluja, Qaim, and
more recently Haditha) from the air, killing civilians and destroying
homes, while the terrorists simply leave the area and regroup
elsewhere. Crushing poverty, joblessness, and high child mortality
rates compound the suffering yet further. President Bush's
declarations about the progress being made in the "New Iraq" stand in
glaring contrast to the daily life of Iraqis, which is more miserable
than ever. Despite the disaster that the US invasion and subsequent
occupation of Iraq has brought upon the Iraqi people, President Bush
doesn't care. Living in his own imaginary world, he insists we stay
the course, when the current course of continuing to occupy Iraq is
itself the problem.


(1) One of the Public Affairs officers told me that she writes
stories to be sent to newspapers back home, and that she would be
writing a story about the orphanage visit. She said this was
important because people at home only see the bad things going on in
Iraq.

(2) New York Times, July 14th, 2005.

(3) Reuters, August 20th, 2005. http://news.yahoo.com/news?
tmpl=story&u;=/nm/20050820/us_nm/bush_dc).

(4) New York Times August 18, 2005.

(5) The causes of the atrocities of September 11th are well known and
have long been clearly stated by Osama Bin Laden and others. These
include US support for Israel's brutal occupation of the West Bank,
Gaza, and (previously) southern Lebanon, the US/UK sanctions on Iraq
after the first Gulf War, which led to the deaths of between 500,000
and 1 million Iraqi children, and US support for corrupt Middle East
regimes generally.

(6) Common methods of torture include electric shocks, the use of
electric drills, severe beatings and so forth. Torture victims are
then often executed by gunshot at close range. I have come across
some cases of this personally and have heard of many cases second
hand, while others have been reported in the media. The New York
Times reported on July 14th that "Residents of a predominately Sunni
district in northern Baghdad said Wednesday that 13 Sunni Arabs,
including a cleric from a local mosque, had been arrested on Sunday
by a group of men in police uniforms, taken away and killed.
According to relatives, bodies of the missing men appeared two days
after the arrests, dumped in Sadr City, a mainly Shiite neighborhood
of Baghdad. Some of the bodies showed signs of torture, they said."
See also "Iraq police Accused of Torture, BBC News Online, 27 July
2005 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4718999.stm. A Human
Rights Watch Report released last January detailed many cases of
Iraqi Police torture which occurred last summer, as Iraqi Government
and US forces sought to quell the uprising of the Mahdi Army, the
private militia of Shiite Cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr. Human Rights Watch,
The New Iraq? Torture and ill-treatment of detainees in Iraqi
custody, January 2005 Vol. 17, No. 1(E). For a good overview of the
Iraqi police commando units, as well as American involvement in their
establishment, see "The Way of the Commando" by Peter Maas, New York
Times Magazine, May 1st, 2005. The article draws comparisons between
Iraq and the El Salvador government's US-backed dirty war against
leftist guerillas in the 1980's. James Steele, a U.S. official who at
that time oversaw El Salvador government security force activities,
is now an adviser for the Iraqi commando units.
See also:
http://www.cpt.org

This work is in the public domain

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