A disturbing trend noticeable in Iraq for quite
some time now is that each aggressive Israeli military operation in the occupied
territories results in a corresponding increase in the number of attacks on
U.S. forces in Iraq. One of the first instances of this was the assassination
of Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin in March 2004 and the reaction it set off
among Shia and Sunni, ultimately spiraling into the siege and devastation of
Fallujah. Fallujah is but one example one may use to demonstrate how the ongoing
use of heavy-handed tactics by the U.S.-Israel alliance is proving to be as
suicidal as it is homicidal. U.S. troops in Iraq and Israeli civilians in their
homes can bear testimony to this, as they are the ones who bear the brunt. Not
to mention the collateral damage in Iraq.
May 17, 2004, Washington
Cofer Black, at the time coordinator for counterterrorism for the U.S. State
Department, in a talk at the 2004
Policy Conference for the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC),
said that of all the nations cooperating with the U.S. in the global war on
terror, "none [is] more stalwart than the state of Israel." He told the audience
of the powerful lobby group that "Our two great nations will stand together
to fight terror" and deemed the U.S.-Israel Joint Counterterrorism Group (JCG)
"an important part of our counterterrorism partnership."
May 10, 2004, Fallujah, Iraq
The first U.S. siege of Fallujah ended in early May 2004, and on May 10 U.S.
forces abandoned all control of the city, handing it back over to the Iraqis.
April 4, 2004, Fallujah, Iraq
U.S. military directed to launch the first, and eventually failed, revenge
assault in retaliation for the four Blackwater USA mercenaries killed on March
31. The siege caused severe casualties among the people of Fallujah, killing
736 people, over 60 percent of whom were women, children,and the elderly, according
to the director of Fallujah General Hospital.
April 2, 2004, Iraq
Speaking on al-Manar TV, Moqtada al-Sadr pledged, "From here I announce my
solidarity with the genuine unity announced by Hezbollah general secretary Hassan
Nasrallah with the mujahedin movement Hamas. Let them consider me their striking
hand in Iraq whenever the need arises. As the martyr Sheik Ahmed Yassin said,
Iraq and Palestine have the same destiny."
March 31, 2004, Fallujah, Iraq
Four Blackwater USA mercenaries killed in Fallujah in an attack avenging the
assassination of Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin. Nine days after the assassination,
the bodies of four mercenaries from Blackwater USA were burned, chopped into
pieces, dragged behind vehicles bearing posters of Sheik Yassin, and finally
put on display by being hung from a bridge. Pamphlets were distributed at the
scene declaring the attack against the four men as having been carried out in
the name of Yassin. It was also reported by several Arab media outlets at the
time that a group known as the "Phalange of Sheik Yassin" claimed responsibility
for the attack, and that the deaths of the four men were meant as a "gift to
the Palestinian people."
March 28, 2004, Baghdad, Iraq
The head of the CPA, Paul Bremer, ordered the closing of the al-Hawza
newspaper, the mouthpiece of Moqtada al-Sadr. One of Sadr's spokespeople, Sheik
Mahmud Sudani, told reporters at the time that al-Hawza had attracted
censure because of its strong critique of the killing of Sheik Yassin by Israeli
forces. The closing of this paper was a primary factor that led to the first
violent uprising called by Sadr against the occupiers.
March 26, 2004, Iraq
Four days after the assassination of Yassin, thousands of followers of the
Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, carrying portraits both of Yassin and Sadr, demonstrated
after Friday prayers in protest of Israel's action by burning Israeli flags,
chanting "No, no to Israel" and "No, no to occupation." In Najaf, an imam with
the extremely powerful political party the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution
in Iraq (SCIRI) called for demonstrations outside the revered Imam Ali mosque.
Similar demonstrations were also held as far north as the city of Mosul.
The demonstration began promptly after it was ordered, with protesters shouting,
"Death to Israel, death to America." Other demonstrations continued across Iraq
daily for weeks after the assassination, denouncing Israel's actions. Even U.S.-appointed
puppets in Iraq's Interim Governing Council expressed grave concerns that the
killing of Yassin, who was highly respected throughout the Arab world, would
escalate violence in Iraq. This concern materialized within hours, as blood
began to flow throughout central and southern Iraq.
On the same day Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who commands more followers
than any leader in Iraq, political or spiritual, released an unusually staunch
statement of criticism, referring to the assassination of Yassin as "an ugly
crime against the Palestinian people" with an injunction, "We call upon the
core of the Arab and Islamic nations to close ranks, unite, and work hard for
the liberation of the usurped land."
March 22, 2004, Gaza
While he was being wheeled out of his morning prayer session in his wheelchair
on March 22, 2004, Sheik Ahmed Yassin was assassinated by U.S.-built Hellfire
missiles fired by a U.S.-built helicopter piloted by members of the Israeli
military. The quadriplegic elder died along with two of his bodyguards and six
bystanders. The half-blind Hamas leader was replaced by his son Rantissi, who
was also murdered shortly after his father, on April 17.
There was a clear connection between events in Gaza and what these generated
This act of state-sponsored terrorism by the Israeli government was opposed
even by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who said, "It [Israel] is not
entitled to go in for this kind of unlawful killing, and we condemn it. It is
unacceptable, it is unjustified, and it is very unlikely to achieve its objectives."
Reaction from the United States? The usual feeble inauthentic mumblings of
"We condemn this attack." Once again, actions spoke far louder than words when
the U.S. vetoed a UN resolution condemning Yassin's assassination.
Cofer Black later became vice president of Blackwater USA, the erstwhile employer
of the four mercenaries killed in Fallujah.
The ongoing alliance of unbridled and unbalanced military aid flowing into
Israel from the U.S. has gone unchallenged for years. "Since 1976, Israel has
been the largest annual recipient of U.S. foreign assistance, and is the largest
cumulative recipient since World War II," according to an issue
brief [.pdf] for Congress from 2002. This U.S. military support to Israel
has caused, especially in Iraq, an incredible backlash against U.S. troops and
contractors. This is not helped by the fact that much of this aid comes in the
form of weapons. Israel is one of the largest importers of weapons from the
U.S., and in the last decade alone, Israel
purchased $7.2 billion in weapons and other military equipment. As a result,
Israel is now the proud owner of the largest fleet of F-16 fighter jets outside
of the United States.
I found it to be common knowledge in Iraq that, during the last six years of
the Clinton presidency, the U.S. gave Israel free weapons and ammunition, such
as M-16 rifles, grenade launchers, .50 caliber machine guns, and the ammunition
for all of them.
The reputation of the U.S. in the region has been further demolished both by
the failed occupation of Iraq and by its perpetual support for Israeli policies,
generally viewed with contempt throughout the Arab and Muslim world. The ongoing
violations of international law by both countries don't exactly assist matters
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who had given the "green light" for the Yassin
operation, monitored its progress in real-time video transmitted from the Israeli
military helicopters. His ecstasy was accompanied by complete dismissal of all
Ask any U.S. military commanders how they feel about the deaths of U.S. soldiers
in Iraq generated by revenge attacks in reaction to Israeli military policy
against Palestinians. The consensus is an overwhelming thumbs down regarding
the effectiveness of the strategy.
One could ask the families of the four Blackwater USA mercenaries who were
killed in Fallujah on March 31, 2004, as well. The four men were killed in a
revenge attack that had two causes – reports had been coming out of Fallujah
for months about assassinations, rapes, and thefts carried out by "plain-clothed"
men working for the U.S. military. But more pertinent to this particular attack
is the date on which it occurred.
I remember seeing photos of Sheik Yassin in several areas of Baghdad and Abu
Ghraib while both entering and exiting Fallujah on April 9 and 10, during the
U.S. attack on the city. The photos of the slain Hamas leader were pasted on
the sides of cars, trucks, roadside food stalls, and even some houses.
It would appear that Cofer Black had left Israeli Prime Minister Sharon out
of the cooperation loop of his counterterrorism strategy, as the Israeli military
was being instructed by Sharon to carry out operations that engendered severe
repercussions in Iraq and took the form, and continue to take the form, of dead
Not so coincidentally, less than a year after the first siege of Fallujah,
on Feb. 4, 2005, Cofer Black was named vice chairman of Blackwater USA. The
press release proudly announced his arrival in the company's leadership, asserting
that during his time in the State Department, Black's responsibilities included
"coordinating U.S. government efforts to improve counterterrorism cooperation
with foreign governments, including the policy and planning of the Department's
Antiterrorism Training Assistance Program."
Is it perhaps possible that despite a 28-year career in the Directorate of
Operations at the CIA, Black was unaware of Sharon's plans to murder Yassin,
or was unable to stop it, or most likely, approved of this methodology?
The latter possibility seems most likely when we consider the instances of
direct Israeli involvement with U.S. policy on the ground in Iraq that have
long since come to light.
"One step the Pentagon took was to seek active and secret help in the war against
the Iraqi insurgency from Israel, America's closest ally in the Middle East,"
wrote Seymour Hersh in The
New Yorker in December 2003,
"According to American and Israeli military and intelligence officials,
Israeli commandos and intelligence units have been working closely with their
American counterparts at the Special Forces training base at Fort Bragg, North
Carolina, and in Israel to help them prepare for operations in Iraq. Israeli
commandos are expected to serve as ad-hoc advisers – again, in secret – when
full-field operations begin. (Neither the Pentagon nor Israeli diplomats would
comment. 'No one wants to talk about this,' an Israeli official told me. 'It's
incendiary. Both governments have decided at the highest level that it is in
their interests to keep a low profile on U.S.-Israeli cooperation' on Iraq.)"
Hersh also told the BBC that his sources had confirmed the presence of Israeli
intelligence personnel operating inside Iraq.
During that same month, it was reported that Israeli counter-insurgency specialists
were sent to Fort Bragg to teach American special forces how to control an unruly
Iraqi population. Also during December 2003, it
was reported that "Israeli advisers are helping train U.S. special forces
in aggressive counter-insurgency operations in Iraq, including the use of assassination
squads against guerrilla leaders, U.S. intelligence and military sources said
on Monday," and "The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has sent urban warfare specialists
to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the home of U.S. special forces, and according
to two sources, Israeli military 'consultants' have also visited Iraq. U.S.
forces in Iraq's Sunni triangle have already begun to use tactics that echo
Israeli operations in the occupied territories, sealing off centers of resistance
with razor wire and razing buildings from where attacks have been launched against
Iraqis are all too aware of this, and I even saw this played out on the ground
in Samarra as far back as December 2003. I interviewed a family whose home
was demolished by military bulldozers after a roadside bomb detonated near
it hit a passing U.S. patrol. This, coupled with collective punishment of the
city by cuts in electricity, water, and medical aid, had everyone infuriated,
and continues to do so today as these policies gain in scale, frequency, and
These collective punishment tactics have been imposed, to one degree or another,
in other cities in Iraq, such as Fallujah, Abu Hishma, Siniyah, Ramadi, areas
of Baghdad, Balad, and Baquba, to name just a few. Iraqis see the collective
punishment meted out by Israeli military forces in Palestinian neighborhoods
in the occupied territories via Arab satellite television networks, and are
horrified to witness the very same tactics being applied on their soil.
Another destructive link highlighting the intertwined policies of the two countries
is Abu Ghraib. In July 2004, after the torture scandal broke, Brig. Gen. Janis
Karpinski, the U.S. officer at the heart of the Abu Ghraib scandal, told
BBC she had evidence that Israelis helped interrogate Iraqis at another
detention facility in Iraq. Karpinski told the BBC she'd met a man who told
her he was from Israel while she was visiting an intelligence center with a
senior U.S. general. "I saw an individual there that I hadn't had the opportunity
to meet before, and I asked him what did he do there, was he an interpreter
– he was clearly from the Middle East," she said. "He said, 'Well, I do some
of the interrogation here. I speak Arabic but I'm not an Arab; I'm from Israel.'"
I've spoken with several Iraqis who had been tortured in various military detention
facilities throughout Iraq. Several of them testified to being interrogated
by Mossad (an Israeli intelligence agency).
Another event that sent shock waves throughout Iraq was the news from December
2004 that detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were tortured and, according
to FBI agents, one detainee was wrapped in an Israeli flag and subjected
to extremely loud music in order to shake his resistance to his interrogation.
It is clear that the longer the two countries continue with the use of their
brute military power as the prime strategy in their war on terrorism, the greater
grows the threat to the civilians they claim to protect.
This article originally appeared on Truthout.com.