The 26 April explosions at a chemical warehouse
being raided by the U.S. military constitute yet another example of heavy-handed
tactics gone awry. US officials say they had reason to believe the facility
was being used to manufacture chemical munitions. Rather than use other means
to investigate, such as better human intelligence or a more discreet method
of entry, the military used its preferred reconnaissance approach: a cadre of
soldiers, armored vehicles and a blowtorch. Troops stormed their way into the
facility, with horrendous consequences.
The US military reports two soldiers died and fifteen were wounded in two massive
explosions that immediately followed troops' attempt to access the building.
When I arrived at the scene, a witness told me, "People were jumping and
dancing on the burning Humvees because of the hatred towards the Americans due
to their dealings with Iraqis. People were cheering for Fallujah." Images
of the aftermath were broadcast and printed throughout the Western media.
In order for Western observers to understand why the deaths of people presented
to Western audiences as liberators would be cheered by those supposedly being
liberated, the media would need to present the hundreds of raids that result
in Iraqi suffering. Monday's perfume factory calamity was certainly not the
first time a military raid in occupied Iraq has backfired on the soldiers carrying
But botched raids typically go unnoticed by the international media because
officials are loathe to point them out and reporters rarely follow the numerous
leads that circulate around Baghdad and beyond.
Earlier in this month, for instance, the Army conducted an early morning raid
searching for weapons in the Abu Hanifa Mosque in a Sunni neighborhood of Baghdad.
The fruits for crashing through two gates with tanks, for driving a Humvee over
and destroying three tons of food-aid stockpiled for Fallujah, for holding 210
people inside the mosque at gunpoint, for smashing through classroom doors and
for shooting up walls and ceilings? Not one bullet. The raid wasn't entirely
without results for occupation forces, though. The US military gained even more
resentment, distrust and rage from the Iraqis in Baghdad.
Troops conduct home raids throughout Iraq on a daily basis. At times these
do produce weapons, and sometimes even a person engaged in the increasingly
popular resistance to the US-UK occupation. However, a great number of them
yield nothing but anguish.
In one case I reported on last winter, a late night raid on a house found soldiers
breaking the door to the home of two Baghdad University professors, even though
they were offered free access. The home was destroyed, furniture broken and
torn apart, bags of rice dumped on the kitchen floor, and the husband and son
The next day soldiers revisited the home, I was told, excusing themselves for
having had poor information. The husband and son remain in detention, whereabouts
unknown to the family.
The raid on 26 April erupted into more than the two explosions reported by
eyewitnesses. The warehouse incident is symbolic of so many raids the occupation
forces have conducted. One witness told me he saw the warehouse's owner
offer a key to the soldiers before they entered, but they refused it, preferring
instead to force their way in.
Stories such as this abound on the Iraqi street. More often than not, they
end in dead, beaten or detained Iraqis and personal property stolen by soldiers.
This time, because it ended in American deaths, the raid received at least
some mention in the Western press.
When human rights organizations estimate that at least half of the 13,000 detainees
in the horrid, overflowing Abu Ghraib prison had no affiliation with the armed
resistance prior to being arrested by occupation forces, one can imagine how
they, their families and friends now view the Anglo-American occupation of their