December 3, 2003

SHOWDOWN IN SAMARRA
Iraqi insurgents raise their heads, U.S. claims 'victory' – but what really happened?

by Justin Raimondo

The blue-tiled shrine of the Hidden Imam looms over the northern Iraqi city of Samarra, reminding the now rather decrepit and dusty-looking town of its former glory as the seat of the Muslim Caliphate. It was there, perhaps not too surprisingly, that the Iraqi insurgency first raised its head and showed the recognizable face of an enemy.

The U.S. military is trumpeting the battle of Samarra as a "significant victory," in which they claim to have killed 54 insurgents. There's just one problem: no one can find the bodies:

"The U.S. military said it believed 54 insurgents were killed in intense exchanges in the northern Iraqi town of Samarra the previous day but commanders admitted they had no bodies. The only corpses at the city's hospital were those of ordinary civilians, including two elderly Iranian pilgrims and a child."

An American convoy escorting a shipment of freshly-printed dinars to the local bank was ambushed by the largest force of insurgents yet seen: a total of 60, who attacked in two groups, as another four took on a separate convoy of engineers. The Washington Post, while dutifully echoing the Pentagon's claims of a "devastating defeat" inflicted on the Iraqis, also reported that the insurgency seems to have reached a new level of resistance:

"Witnesses described dozens of guerrillas in checkered head scarves brazenly roaming the streets in the heat of battle, U.S. soldiers firing randomly in crowded neighborhoods and civilian bystanders taking up arms against U.S. forces once the fight got underway."

Guerrilla movements can only succeed, as the Maoists used to put it, if they "swim in the sea of the people." This strategy requires popular support, however, which hardly fits the profile really, a caricature drawn by this administration that depicts all resistance to the occupation as emanating from "Baathist dead-enders" who pine for the return of Saddam Hussein. MSNBC reports the sentiments of 22-year-old Safa Hamad Hassan, whose cousin was wounded when a tank shelled the area near his house:

"Everyone is with the resistance. Saddam Hussein is finished. We are protecting our honor and our land."

Hassan is no Baathist. He sounds more like an Iraqi patriot to me.

Australia's ABC News Online cites Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations in Iraq, backing away from an earlier claim that 11 insurgents had been captured: the number has inexplicably shrunk to one. The General, we learn,

"Also sought to play down earlier reports that many of the attackers wore the uniforms of the disbanded Saddam Fedayeen militia of the ousted regime."

Why would guerrillas, no matter their politics, wear uniforms, anyway? That part of the official story was never all that believable to begin with, but, as it turns out, that's the least of the lies we're being told about what happened in Samarra.

The residents of that city, for their part, tell a completely different story, one that seems to have occurred in a separate reality. As the Telegraph put it:

"Local people and a hospital doctor reported only eight dead, who they insisted were mainly civilians, including an Iranian pilgrim. It was impossible to reconcile the two versions of the battle."

It's a mystery, as Agence France Presse reports:, "which borders on solving a mathematics equation." We are told that a total of 60 insurgents ambushed those convoys, but if U.S. troops killed 54 and captured 1, that leaves 5 insurgents to carry away the bodies.

Everything about the Americans' account of the battle the number and nature of the Iraqi casualties, and the circumstances under which they occurred – appears to be a lie. The pro-war Telegraph reports the testimony of Iraqi witnesses who said:

"Tanks fired a round at workers from a drug factory as they left work at 2.00pm. One woman was killed and 18 injured. A crater from the shell and a pool of blood remained nearby. They said four cars were also hit in the parking area of the hospital and a nearby mosque was shelled, killing two."

"The Americans have done a lot of shooting," says Dr. Faleh Hassan Asamara, who witnessed the battle of Samarra from his vantage point at the hospital, "but I don't think the number of dead they claimed were killed."

And they were shooting at civilians. ABC Online reports:

"Samara's Police Chief, Colonel Ismail Mohammed told reporters the attackers had withdrawn before the Americans brought the full weight of their firepower on the town. He said the Americans had fired indiscriminately using all the weapons in their arsenal."

Desperate for a victory, the American occupiers are trying to spin their "victory" in Samarra as evidence that they are taking the offensive. But as their story unravels, what is being underscored is their confusion and impotence in the face of a rising rebellion.

Colonel Frederick Rudesheim, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team stationed in Samarra, vows to take the fight to the insurgents:

"This is the most significant contact we have had to date in the city of Samarra. We are going to have to respond accordingly."

Col. Rudesheim was singing a far different tune in those heady halcyon days of April, when Samarra, freshly "liberated," was supposedly filled with supporters of the U.S. invasion, and our troops were "forging alliances" with them, according to the Denver Post:

"Indeed, as soon as soldiers with the brigade's 1-12 Infantry Battalion had cleared the Baathist compound, taking nine men into custody as possible regime sympathizers, Rudesheim found himself to be a popular man in Samarra. All day long, men came, each offering information."

How quickly they turn.

Everything about this war is turning out to be a lie: its provenance and its execution. This isn't "the fog of war" it's more like the self-protective effusions of a cornered squid. "Weapons of mass destruction" are transmuted into a frustrated desire to procure such weapons: a pitched battle in which the insurgents are supposedly soundly defeated somehow becomes the occasion for American tanks firing at a kindergarten:

"'Luckily we evacuated the children five minutes before we came under attack,' said Ibrahim Jassim, a 40-year-old guard at the kindergarten. 'Why did they attack randomly? Why did they shoot a kindergarten with tank shells?'"

Good questions. Does George W. Bush have any good answers? If not, he'd better forget about rallying the public around his agenda of perpetual war in the Middle East. Because there are going to be a lot more bombed kindergartens, and a lot more enraged Hassans who will join the insurgency in droves. Previously localized cells will metastasize into a nationwide resistance capable of coordinating far more than two attacks.

The key evidence that we are headed for disaster in Iraq is how the Coalition Provisional Authority is dealing with the recent demand by the Grand Ayatollah Sistani, spiritual leader of the Shi'ite majority, that direct elections be held as soon as possible to form a new government. The Americans had come up with some complicated formula, whereby "caucuses" would choose the candidates – thereby ensuring that the future government would essentially consist of their handpicked Chalabi clones. Forget the insurgents: their AK-47s are mere twigs to the Grand Ayatollah's lethal fatwa, which flatly demanded direct national and municipal elections without any ifs, ands, or buts.

The Americans then ordered their handpicked "Iraqi Governing Council" to insist on the caucus system, setting up a confrontation with Sistani and the Shi'ite majority. So much for anyone in the Middle East deluded enough to take seriously all that militant pro-democracy malarkey emanating from the White House. That, too, is a lie.

And so much for the hope of a quick exit strategy. Not that the neocons, and their allies in the Democratic party who are now attacking Bush for trying to get out too soon would ever have allowed that to happen.

Sistani is a moderate Shi'ite: there are other Shi'ite leaders, however, who might take to the battlefield. The Shi'ite Muslims are already organized into a military force, the Badr Brigade, which was armed and trained in Iran for many years, and crossed into Iraq with the fall of the Ba'athists. If a radicalized Shi'ite populace hooks up with Sunni-led insurgents, the U.S. occupation is in major trouble.

There are already rumblings of an underground Shi'ite insurgency in the relatively peaceful south: the coming clash with Sistani could ignite a nationwide uprising that would not end until the occupation is ended. As the forces unleashed by American arms and imperious arrogance collide head on with Washington's illusions, what happened in Samarra will look like a minor skirmish compared to what's coming.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

I'm told my new book, The Terror Enigma: 9/11 and the Israeli Connection, is doing quite well, and that's gratifying to know.

I just now got my own copies in the mail, and in reading the Introduction I'm struck by the clarity of the case I made for some significant degree of Israeli foreknowledge of the 9/11 terrorist plot. I don't think anyone with the least amount of objectivity can deny the thoroughness and extensive documentation of this book. No matter what your politics are, or your attitude toward Israel, you're bound to come away from The Terror Enigma convinced that, with all the smoke, there's bound to be fire.

If you're having any trouble ordering the book from iUniverse online, just call: 877-288-4737.

So there I was, wasting time while waiting for that little elf Jeremy to post this column, surfing around until I wandered over to Matt Drudge, and clicked on a story headlined:

AMAZON: DRUDGE SURPASSES MAJOR NEWS OUTLETS IN WEB TRAFFIC...

This took me to Alexa, the popular site-rating service, and sure enough there was good old Matt at number 8, just below Google.com and ahead of the Washington Post. Way to go, Matt! I looked down the rest of the list: USA Today, CBS News, the Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, until my gaze fixed on number 36 Antiwar.com!

We're just below the Chicago Tribune, beating out Time magazine, Newsday, the Associated Press, National Geographic, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and the Houston Chronicle, among others.

Wow. I'm impressed, and – believe it or not – humbled.

– Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.

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