Monday, July 25, 2005

Winning Hearts and Minds...

Kudos to the generally conservative Los Angeles Times for offering a glimpse into a subject that most Americans don't care about or choose to ignore - the reckless slaughter of Iraqi civilians by US troops, committed at will and without penalty.

Bush can provide daily lip service about "freedom" and "democracy" in Iraq, but what actually exists is a US-run police state where American soldiers and mercenaries are given free license to kill. There are some who compare our occupation of Iraq to the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, but the Israelis tend to be more public relations minded when it comes to shooting children and even Sharon doesn't make the bizarre and outrageous claim that their occupation is providing "freedom" and "democracy" to the Palestinians.

The Times story is a bit of a long read, but important in helping to understand the current dynamics in Iraq and the growth of the insurgency. Americans don't like to face unpleasant facts that might harm their self-image as beacons of freedom, but they need to realize that these atrocities are being committed in their names using their taxpayer dollars. Here are a few excerpts from the story:

BAGHDAD — Three men in an unmarked sedan pulled up near the headquarters of the national police major crimes unit. The two passengers, wearing traditional Arab dishdasha gowns, stepped from the car.

At the same moment, a U.S. military convoy emerged from an underpass. Apparently believing the men were staging an ambush, the Americans fired, killing one passenger and wounding the other. The sedan's driver was hit in the head by two bullet fragments.

The soldiers drove on without stopping.

This kind of shooting is far from rare in Baghdad, but the driver of the car was no ordinary casualty. He was Iraqi police Brig. Gen. Majeed Farraji, chief of the major crimes unit. His passengers were unarmed hitchhikers whom he was dropping off on his way to work.

"The reason they shot us is just because the Americans are reckless," the general said from his hospital bed hours after the July 6 shooting, his head wrapped in a white bandage. "Nobody punishes them or blames them."

... The continued shooting of civilians is fueling a growing dislike of the United States and undermining efforts to convince the public that American soldiers are here to help. The victims have included doctors, journalists, a professor — the kind of people the U.S. is counting on to help build an open and democratic society.

"Of course the shootings will increase support for the opposition," said Farraji, 49, who was named a police general with U.S. approval. "The hatred of the Americans has increased. I myself hate them."

... Abdul-Jabbar said he and his family had supported the U.S. troops when they first invaded Iraq, but no longer.

"This kind of incident makes people hate the Americans more and more," he said. "They don't care about the lives of the people. Each day they make new enemies."

... Salihee's widow, Raghad al Wazzan, said she accepted the American soldiers' presence when they first arrived in Iraq because "they came and liberated us." She sometimes helped them at the hospital where she works as a doctor. But not anymore.

"Now, after they killed my husband, I hate them," she said. "I want to blow them all up."

The Iraqi people didn't ask for Shock and Awe; they didn't invite American troops into their country so they could spray bullets into their husbands and wives and sons and daughters; they didn't ask for us to destroy their infrastucture and leave them without a reliable water or electrical supply in the dead of summer; they didn't ask anything of us. But still we came, in a blaze of freedom, democracy, God and flag-waving, shooting to kill.

The only thing the Iraqis are now asking of us is to remove our presense - to leave a place where we never belonged. Yet some Americans - now a minority, unless you're a Democrat with presidential aspirations like Biden or Hillary - still see this dance of death as some kind of political imperative, that we have the need to "stay the course" as though the future holds anything more than the kind of hatred and random bloodshed described in the article. Stay the course - for what? To what end?

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