21, 2003, The Department of Defense announced today that Sgt. Justin
W. Garvey, 23, Townsend, Mass., was killed on July 20 in Tallifar,
Garvey was patrolling in his vehicle when
it was ambushed and struck by rocket propelled grenades. Garvey
was assigned to Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 1-187 Infantry
Battalion, Fort Campbell, Kentucky
(Department of Defense Press Release, July
Since last May when President Bush declared "Mission
Accomplished" - the "major combat" in Iraq was over
- at least one American and one British soldier have been killed and
many more injured per day by Iraqi ambush.
The majority of the Iraqis I met - whatever their social background
political leaning, religion
or age - told me that they don't like U.S. troops in their country.
Although many Iraqis are happy that
Saddam is gone, there are many others who still
support him. Regardless of where they stand on their country's
former head of state, the majority of them told me that they want
the U.S. troops to leave (1,
2). Many even said they would
arm themselves and rise up against
the U.S. occupiers if they stay in Iraq any longer.
numerous interviews, Iraqis told me that U.S. troops had wrongfully
killed members of their family, bombed their place (1,
2), looted their houses and stolen
their money. Soldiers have arrested many people they know who have
disappeared and haven't been heard from since.
Iraqi's complaints against U.S. troops are echoed
in a recent Amnesty International report, Iraq:
Memorandum of Concerns Relating to Law and Order. They include
disappearance, unlawful detention, torture, ill treatment of prisoners
and shooting Iraqi demonstrators. Amnesty concludes it's "...shameful
to still hear of people who are being detained in inhumane conditions
without their family knowing where they are and with no access to
a lawyer or a judge, often for weeks on end [by U.S. troops]."
During the U.S. invasion in March and early April,
the Iraqi Body Count Project documented the deaths of over 7,000
civilians and up to 2,300 Iraqi soldiers, in addition to the confinement
of thousands of detainees.
According to the International Committee of Red
Cross (ICRC), most of the detained Iraqis are interned at Baghdad
airport (formally known as Saddam airport), including some high-profile
former Ba'ath party officials such as Tariq Aziz. Most of them,
though, are ordinary Iraqi civilians arrested during house raids
by U.S. troops and sent to detention. They are there without formal
charges pending against them, denied both the right to consult with
their lawyers and the chance to talk to their families. So far the
U.S. military has refused to allow any families of the detainees
or journalists to visit the detention camp, nor will they release
the names of the detainees.
ICRC spokesperson Muin
Kassis says in order for them to be able to visit the camp and
meet with the detainees, they need to make deals with U.S. troops,
includes not reviewing who they had visit.
Who is the Iraqi Resistance, Anyway?
On July 13th, under heavy U.S. military escort, there was a celebration
of the formation of the 25-member Interim Iraqi Administrative Council
Most of its members are exiled Iraqis. This would include the members
of the Iraqi National Congress in New York, who were funded by the
United States to run the post-Saddam regime, and who were airlifted
by the U.S. to Baghdad for this occasion, and powerful Iraqi Shi'ite
clerics from Iran, who are not viewed favorably by Americans.
Council has promised to form a new permanent government, draft a
new constitution and hold free elections soon. Yet the U.S. administrator
- the highest authority in occupied Iraq - holds the ultimate power
to approve or veto the Council's decisions. "This is a U.S.
puppet regime," many Iraqis told me. Just a few hours after
the ceremony, an Iraqi resistance ambush against the U.S. military
resulted in one U.S. soldier dead and six wounded.
The Catch-22 for the United States is that
it is the one now blocking Iraqis from forming a new government.
The U.S. wants to install a pro-western puppet regime, but it doesn't
have any credibility in Iraq to survive, and it doesn't want a new
Iraqi government that won't listen to Americans.
Many people believe if there's a government tomorrow
in Iraq truly run by Iraqis, it'll most likely be run by powerful
Shi'ite Muslims from the south. The majority in Iraq, Shi'ites make
up approximately 50 to 70 percent of the population, they are the
de facto local government in southern Iraq after the war replace
Saddam's regime. They oppose Saddam (who is Sunni and persecuted
Iraq's Shi'ite for decades), and welcomed his downfall by the U.S.
invasion, but they are also against American occupation. They openly
advocate that the future Iraqi government should be an Islamic government,
and that America should leave as soon as possible.
Because of the importance of the Iraqi Shi'ite communities,
they are represented in the Interim Council. The most powerful Iraqi
Shi'ite leader, Ayatollah
Mohammed Baqir al-al-Hakim, was exiled to Iran during Saddam's
period, and formed an exiled group called the "Supreme Council
for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq" to oppose Saddam's government.
After the invasion and the regime's fall, he returned to his homeland
and enjoys wide support from the Iraqi Shi'ite community. He is
viewed as one of the most likely future Iraqi leaders, but he was
assassinated on August 29th in the bombing in Najaf, the most important
Shi'ite city in Iraq (1, 2).
Before al-Hakim's assassination, I interviewed
Mohammad al-Haiddary, Imam of
al-Khielany Mosque and the leader
of Baghdad's Shi'ite community. Like al-Hakim, he was a member of
the exiled group in Iran during Saddam's period. He recently returned
to Baghdad with al-Hakim after the regime's fall. He said Iraqis
don't want Americans to stay in their country, however, unlike the
resistance he claims the Shi'ite strategy consists of peace actions,
"including diplomatic ways. Just like peaceful protests to
demonstrate [our demands] using the national forces, to talk with
the Americans and put pressure on them for a timetable for their
several Shi'ite religious leaders had openly called for an uprising
against U.S. occupiers, leaders like al-Hakim and his exiled group
refused armed revolt. Many Iraqi Sunnis called them cowards. al-Haddary
defends their strategy, and blames the deadly attacks against Americans
on Saddam's loyalists. "The Americans understand that Shi'ite
leaders [only] do peace actions, and the attacks that have happened
were not done by [Iraqi] Shi'ite nor Sunni, but by the Ba'athists,
based on [certain] information. We have good relations with Sunni;
some of them are in the [Interim] Council, some of them are not,
but none of them has declared a fight against America. And when
I said Ba'athists, that means some are Sunni and some are Shi'ite."
His claims are only half-true, while many people
in Iraq - especially Iraqi Shi'ites - are against Saddam, and many
are even glad that the U.S. invaded Iraq to oust him. That does
not mean, however, that they support U.S. troops and occupation.
On July 22nd, when U.S. troops killed Saddam's two fearful sons,
Udei and Qusay, in the northern city of Mosul, even hours before
the U.S. commander in Iraq General Schanez's announcement, people
in Baghdad already knew and were firing triumphant
gunshots into the air to celebrate the news. U.S. President
George Bush described it as "positive news" and "further
assurance to the Iraqi people that the regime is gone and won't
Qusay, Saddam's second son, was blamed for
organizing what the U.S. calls the "die-hard" Saddam loyalists
to attack U.S. troops after the invasion. Qusay was one of his father's
most trusted lieutenants and was widely seen as his heir apparent.
"This is very important. This will contribute considerably
to reducing attacks on coalition soldiers," says Ahmad Chalabi,
head of the Iraqi National Congress in New York, one of those airlifted
by the U.S. to Baghdad to become one of the Iraqi Interim Council
members. However, the almost daily attacks against U.S. troops,
and the bombing that killed al-Hakim after Qusay's death, have completely
shattered American and Chalabi's wishful thinking.
American media claims, it's common knowledge in Iraq that most of
Iraq's underground resistance forces are not the so-called "die-hard"
Saddam supporters or foreign groups (such as al-Qaida); rather,
they are mainly organized by the local clans and religious clerics
who have no connection with Saddam's inner circle. They are the
ones who control local politics; even during Saddam's period, he
needed to consult with them to get what he wanted.
One of the example is Fallujah, a town 70
kilometers west of Baghdad, and the historical Sunni Muslim religious
center. It's also become the center of the Iraqi resistance since
the U.S. invasion. Many people believe if there's a call for "jihad"
against Americans, it will be most likely come from places like
Fallujah, so the opinions of people
in this town can indicate the future of Iraq resistance movements.
Abdul Al-Lah Al-Azez is from Saad bin Abiy Wakas
Mosque in Fallujah. He is a famous Sunni leader in town, and was
one of the self-run city council members last June who negotiated
a deal with U.S. troops after they occupied the city. He opposed
Saddam, but is against American occupation as well, because he said
they cannot accept Christian-based American troops invaded and occupied
a Muslim country. He claims he doesn't know any resistance forces,
but fully supports what they do and is looking for an armed uprising
against the U.S. soon (1, 2).
To understand whether or not Iraq can possibly organize
to oust U.S. troops from their country in the future, I had a rare
opportunity to interview the former Iraqi army colonel
al-Akid Jaf Sadk Hussin al-Shmary. He was an al-Istikhbarat
(military intelligence officer) in the Iraqi 51st mechanics unit
in the al-Basra area during the beginning of the U.S. invasion in
mid-March. He was in charge of between four to five thousand soldiers,
and 400 to 450 tanks and vehicles. He was based in the al-Zubayr
area, the first defense line against U.S. troops from Kuwait. "We
stayed in the Safwan, al-Rdga, al-Shemlia and al-Barjsia areas.
And our job was to defend Al-Basrah and our base was in Al-Barjasia
in al-Zubayr. There were 10 kilometers between us and the American
forces," al-Shmary said (1,
Al-Shmary was angry the U.S. used brutal force against
Iraqi military and civilians. He says when the U.S. began its invasion
of Iraq on March 20th, during the first few days of fighting, they
lost 200 to 250 tanks in battle, and the Iraqis burned the rest
of the tanks. "We lost around six or seven hundred soldiers
and officers, and 1,000 or more became prisoners of war. [Since
then], they have released most of the soldiers, but have still kept
the high-ranking officers." He said after their defensive line
was broken, they retreated to the city of Al-Basra.
Al-Shmary blames their loss
on traitors from Saddam's inner circle. He said they sold Iraq out
to the U.S. They caused the quick defeat of the Iraqi army and lost
Baghdad within few days. "First one, General Maher Sufian al-Tikriti,"
he is Saddam's cousin and the general of Republican Guard, and "Abdol
Kareem Nufos al-Nada - he's Saddam's cousin - and they're from Saddam's
family, and we can see that Maher Sufian made a deal with the Americans.
He sold the defense plan [to the Americans] for al-Basrah. When
he was in al-Basrah, he took a copy of the plan from our base and
I think he gave this to the Americans," he said. Asked if he
knew where they are right now, he answered, "Ask the Americans;
they know where they are."
Regarding the Iraqi resistance against Americans,
al-Shmary denied he has any connections, but said "I think
they are from Islamic resistance, even from Fedayeen Saddam
(Saddam 'Men of Sacrifice'). They went to the Islamic resistance
and you can see that in al-Falluja. If the Iraqi army wants to do
something, they will hurt the Americans a lot and I wish they would
do something if the God wants that." Looking into his crystal
ball, al-Shmary predicts future fighting in Iraq against Americans
"will never be from the tank because we don't have them [anymore],
but we could fight as street fighters, like what you saw in Baghdad,
Falluja, Tikrit, Diyala, Mosul, and Diwaniyeh."
Asked why he came to me and did the interview,
he says, "I don't care
for the death, the life will
come to you. I showed something to the media, so if I will die,
I will die once, and the Imam Ali said anyone in this life will
taste the death. I wasn't afraid in battle. Do you want me to be
afraid of some [U.S.] soldier who puts handcuffs on me?"