Iraq: The War After the War -- RW ONLINE
Operation Iron Hammer
Iraq: The War After the War
Revolutionary Worker #1222, December 14, 2003, posted at rwor.org
"Since May, when major combat operations were declared
over, a total of 2,227 guerrilla attacks took place in the
Sunni Triangle, according to figures as of the end of last
week. The rest of the country has had 1,416 attacks, most of
them against occupation forces."
Boston Globe ,
As November 2003 started, U.S. helicopters were shot down by
U.S. Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld scolded those,
including within his own military, who thought the occupation
was in trouble: "Sitting around wringing your hands and saying,
`It's horrible, it's horrible, everything is terrible' is
nonsense. It isn't all terrible. There's some darn good stuff
But day by day, November just kept looking worse for the
U.S. occupiers. The surprise attacks by Iraqi resistance forces
grew in number, power and sophistication.
The U.S. and its allies suffered more combat deaths in
November than any other month. Since March 2003, 437 U.S.
soldiers have died, 81 of them in November alone. In last
April, when the main combat of the invasion happened, there
were 73 dead.
According to Pentagon reports, by the end of November about
10,000 U.S. soldiers in this war have either been killed,
wounded, injured in accidents, or become ill enough to be
evacuated. This war is causing such a high ratio of massive
injuries and amputations that the military is slipping these
casualties into the U.S. on night-time flights to avoid media
As the myth of the "welcomed liberators" fades, and as U.S.
soldiers are picked off by the resistance, the morale among
occupation forces has dropped. Many soldiers and their families
have demanded to know why they are still in Iraq and what they
are supposedly fighting for. Self-inflicted wounds have
increased among U.S. soldiers--with suicides now representing
10 percent of non-combat deaths.
In early December, Le Canard Enchaine , the French
weekly known for satires and exposés, reported that
French intelligence sources said over 1,700 soldiers have
deserted from the U.S. military during this war--many of them
not returning to duty after getting leave back in the U.S.
A Specter of Defeat
"We could lose this situation."
CIA report, November
By mid-November, the U.S. occupiers were being hit 50 times
a day in Iraq. U.S. forces felt like targets any time they
stepped out of their bases. In one of the largest actions of
the war, an Iraqi attack killed 19 Italian police.
As the attacks reached this new high point, a leaked CIA
report sharply contradicted the official Pentagon line about
fighting an isolated force of "Saddam deadenders and foreign
terrorists." The report was written by the CIA station chief in
Baghdad, and reportedly came to the White House with the
endorsement of L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. colonial administrator
in occupied Iraq.
This report concluded that the Iraqi resistance is "broad,
strong and getting stronger." It stressed that these were not
just "loyalists" of the old regime--but were drawn from many
different parts of the population and dozens of different
groups. The resistance forces were estimated at
50,000--including, along with the actual fighters, growing
organized networks of supporters among the people.
As this summation sank in, the U.S. government announced
major changes of war policy:
First, they announced that they would speed up the "transfer
of power" to Iraqi political forces. At the same time, they
announced that they would do this without elections that might
produce an anti-American government.
Second, they announced they were speeding up the creation of
a pro-American Iraqi military force-- so the U.S. could control
Iraq without exposing U.S. soldiers to the dangerous work of
Finally, the U.S. government announced it would unleash the
devastating fire-power of the U.S. arsenal against the Iraqi
Of these three plans, only one could be put into immediate
action: The Pentagon called their new escalation "Operation
Hammering the People
"This is war. We're going to use a sledgehammer to
crush a walnut. We're not going to prosecute this war holding
one hand behind our back. We're going to use enough in our
arsenal to win this fight."
Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack
Jr.Commander, 82nd Airborne DivisionNov. 18, 2003
"We will win because we will stay on the
George W. Bush's
Thanksgiving talk to the troops
For the second half of November, the U.S. military forces
re-launched open warfare in Iraq. Five U.S. Army combat
brigades--over 25,000 troops--conducted massive new operations
targeting Baghdad and the areas north toward Tikrit, including
the cities of Falluja, Samarra, Baqobah, Thuluya and Balad.
Tanks are entering civilian areas and blasting away at any
sign of resistance. High altitude American jets are again
dropping their so-called "precision bombs" and missiles right
onto Iraqi towns. U.S. helicopters swoop down on villages and
open up with massive, rapid-fire air cannons. This is
collective punishment--rained down to terrify communities
wherever resistance shows itself.
U.S. forces have surrounded whole towns, put the population
on the ground at gunpoint and taken away large numbers of Iraqi
men. The Pentagon said their forces had conducted 12,000
patrols and 230 raids and detained more than 1,200 "suspects"
in the week from November 16 to 23 alone. U.S. jets bombed idle
warehouses and factories with a randomness that has left
The homes are being demolished-- sometimes from afar by
satellite-guided missiles, sometimes up- close and personal. On
Nov. 18, General Swannack described an operation that hauled
off the men of six families in Mahmudiy: "We apprehended them
and detained them, removed all family members out of the house,
and we destroyed the house."
U.S. forces attacked the city of Baqubah on November 19.
F-15 jets dropped 500-pound bombs on farmhouses. Apache
gunships and ground artillery pounded the town with heavy
U.S. forces directly invaded three Baghdad neighborhoods in
force. Tanks and armored vehicles encircled whole blocks at a
time, while helicopter gunships targeted cars that tried to
escape. U.S. troops and Iraqi collaborators then barged into
hundreds of homes and dragged away over 500 men. Intense
barrages of air cannons boomed across the whole city.
A similar operation of over 1,000 U.S. soldiers hit the city
of Hawija--men were taken away and U.S. troops brought armored
bulldozers with them--as the Israeli forces do--to destroy
houses on the spot.
This new U.S. offensive is openly about intimidating
Asked why they had attacked Baqubah, Lt. Col. Mark Young
reported: "To demonstrate one more time that we have
significant firepower and we can use it at our discretion."
Asked if Iron Hammer would help win the "hearts and minds"
in Baghdad, General Dempsey answered: "I'm not running for
mayor, so I'm not trying to convince you that I have the
popular support of the people of Baghdad every time I shoot an
"They attacked and they were killed. So I think it will
be instructive to them."
General Peter Pace, vice
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussing Samarra.
"Were the French happy under the Nazis? It is the same
Ismail Mahmoud Mohammed,
U.S.-appointed police chief of Samarra, Financial Times,
"Give me a gun, and I will also fight."
Majid Fadel al-Samarai,
worker in Samarra's emergency room after U.S. attack
"I even saw Iraqi people throwing stones at us. I still
can't understand why somebody would throw a stone at a tank,
in the middle of a firefight."
Anonymous U.S. "combat
leader" in Samarra
Almost none of these brutal events received coverage in the
mainstream U.S. media. But then as November ended, the U.S.
military itself decided to make a big splash.
They announced their forces had fought uniformed Saddam
loyalists in Samarra -- killing 54, wounding 22, capturing up
to 11, and only allowing a few to escape. The U.S. forces
claimed that they only suffered seven wounded.
It was the first time the U.S. military had used a
Vietnam-style "body count" to claim victory in Iraq. The
Pentagon clearly wanted to give the impression that they were
turning the tables on the resistance.
These U.S. reports were a lie, and quickly fell apart in the
light of day. One commentator remarked that the precise number
of the body count was a giveaway. This was all an invention of
the military commanders, supposedly based on interviews with
Reporters discovered that the U.S. forces only had one
prisoner, who may not be part of the resistance. The
surrounding hospitals only had eight dead--all of them
civilians. No bodies of dead fedayee were found at
Interviews were given by people of Samarra. U.S. "military
expert" David Hackworth published a report claiming to be from
an anonymous U.S. officer on the scene. A very different
As the AP dryly noted: "There was no way to reconcile the
It came out that six months ago, U.S. troops had shot an
unarmed wedding party in Samarra, and that earlier this month,
the town had been bombed from the air.
Then, on December 1, two U.S. columns--with six tanks and
four armored vehicles plus squads of police and
infantry--arrogantly entered Samarra in force to deliver a
shipment of cash to the isolated pro- U.S. city authorities.
Guerrilla fighters apparently knew they were coming--and
launched a tenacious and well-planned attack.
Hackworth's correspondent said that the U.S. forces "hosed
down houses, buildings, and cars" with machine gun fire and
People of Samarra said that, as the resistance fighters
withdrew, the U.S. forces simply kept pounding the surrounding
residential areas for hours with their powerful tank rounds.
Helicopters rocketed surrounding streets.
The BBC wrote: "Used in a densely populated urban area,
built with flimsy mud-bricks, it is almost inconceivable that
people well out of sight of the gunners were not also injured
in the battle."
Residents claimed that at least 60 civilians were wounded.
U.S. forces damaged a local mosque and destroyed a kindergarten
(which had luckily just been cleared of children). Shrapnel cut
into Abir al- Khayat, 28, and several others riding in a
mini-bus taking them home from the local pharmaceutical
The "battle of Samarra" was no U.S. victory. It was the
latest U.S. atrocity in a month of atrocities.
The fact that the U.S. command dreams of propping up war
support by inventing "body counts" of Iraqi dead shows the
ugliness of their cause, and the deadliness of their
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