The U.S. Army has missed its recruiting goals
for the last three months. On Friday, May 20 they stopped recruiting to retrain
recruiters who were misleading and threatening potential recruits. At the same
time the resistance in Iraq is growing. Is the U.S. military more successful
in recruiting for the resistance than it is for the U.S. Army?
The level of insurgent activity in Iraq today is four or five times higher
than it was in early summer 2003 when there were 10-13 attacks per day. Currently,
there are approximately 50 per day. A report
released by the Project for Defense Alternatives explains why the resistance
to U.S. occupation is expanding – the root cause is the U.S. occupation itself.
In a March-April 2004 poll sponsored by USA Today, CNN, and Gallup, 58
percent of Iraqis said US forces have behaved very or fairly
badly. Indeed, nearly one in four Iraqis – 22 percent – have been "directly
affected by violence in terms of death, handicap, or significant monetary loss"
during the occupation according to a survey
by the International Republican Institute.
The report, Vicious Circle: The Dynamics of Occupation and Resistance in Iraq, notes U.S. occupation offends many Iraqis every day. They face:
- Constant foreign military patrols - about 12,000 per week;
- Ubiquitous (and too often deadly) vehicle check-points;
- Raids – 8,000 total since May 2003; and
- Citizen round-ups – 80,000 detained since April 2003.
Perhaps the most invasive are house raids by U.S. forces. The International Committee of the Red Cross described how the raids are conducted in a February 2004 report:
"Arresting authorities entered houses usually after dark, breaking
down doors, waking up residents roughly, yelling orders, forcing family members
into one room under military guard while searching the rest of the house and
further breaking doors, cabinets, and other property. They arrested suspects,
tying their hands in the back with flexicuffs, hooding them, and taking them
away. Sometimes they arrested all adult males in the house, including elderly,
handicapped, or sick people. Treatment often included pushing people around,
insulting, taking aim with rifles, punching and kicking, and striking with rifles.
Individuals were often led away in whatever they happened to be wearing at the
time of arrest – sometimes pyjamas or underwear... In many cases personal belongings
were seized during the arrest with no receipt given.... In almost all incidents
documented by the ICRC, arresting authorities provided no information about
who they were, where their base was located, nor did they explain the cause
of arrest. Similarly, they rarely informed the arrestee or his family where
he was being taken or for how long, resulting in the defacto disappearance of
the arrestee for weeks or even months until contact was finally made."
Most of these intrusive and aggressive raids turn up nothing – 70 percent
according to one officer – and most of those detained are soon released.
The International Committee of the Red Cross reports
being told by military intelligence officers that between 70 percent and 90
percent of these were being held by mistake – an estimate affirmed independently
by some who have worked in the system. These invasive house searches continue.
Last week, U.S. marines went from town-to-town along the Syrian border searching
houses and finding nothing – but certainly seeding the ground for new resistance
The other common occupation-encounter is checkpoints. These are a constant
reminder of occupation, can be intimidating and violent. Iraq
Body Count, which surveys press reports of Iraqi war deaths, records a minimum
of 90 civilians killed at U.S.-manned road-blocks between March 31, 2003 and
April 21, 2005 – no doubt a conservative estimate. The violence at checkpoints
received international attention on March 4, 2005 when the automobile of Italian
journalist, Guiliana Sgrena was fired on, killing her body guard. This occurred
just after she was released as a hostage being held by insurgents. As has been
noted in interviews with soldiers on DemocracyRising.US, these check points
are poorly trained, equipped and as a result often do damage to U.S.-Iraqi relations.
In addition to road block searches Iraqis also witness daily, routine street
patrols. An embedded reporter with Knight Ridder, Ken Dillian, describes how
these operate in a February 2005 article:
"All day long, the soldiers pointed their guns at Iraqi civilians,
whom they called 'hajis'... Wary of ambushes, they rammed cars that got in the
way of their Humvees. Always on the lookout for car bombs, they stopped, screamed
at, shoved to the ground and searched people driving down the road after curfew
– or during the day if they looked suspicious."
In addition to these daily interactions there have been major errors made by the U.S. military. Fallujahh, for example, did not become a hot-bed of resistance until U.S. military action against civilians in that city. Vicious Cycle provides examples:
- The troubles in Fallujah began on April 28 and 30, 2003, when in two separate incidents US troops shot and killed between 13 and 17 people protesting the U.S. presence. Fifty more were wounded. Fallujah was further alienated by the 12 September 2003 accidental killing of 10 Iraqi police and security personnel as well as a hospital worker.
- In the Mosul area, between 17 and 24 civilians were killed in four seperate
incidents between 15 April and 26 July.
- On 25 May 2003 in Samarra, four members of a wedding party were killed and
nine injured when U.S. troops fired on their vehicles. Three days later a
12-year old boy and 15-year old girl were killed at a checkpoint. The incidents
led to a spiral of local violence due to tribal dynamics.
Of course, the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal has had the broadest, most damaging effect. Opinion survey show a rapid decline in views of the U.S. occupation during the period the scandal came to light. A June 2004 poll by Oxford Research International found Abu Ghraib was the primary reason for the decline in support.
CIA Director Porter Goss recently testified before the U.S. Senate describing
Iraq as a magnet and training ground for terrorists. Many Iraqis and others
from the Middle East are joining the resistance to the U.S. occupation of Iraq
resulting in increasing violence, loss of life and undermining the U.S.-supported
government. In the future they are likely to focus their attentions on the U.S.
outside of Iraq and within the United States. The need to enforce an unpopular
occupation is undermining not only security in Iraq, but in the United States
as well. In July 2003, President Bush urged "Bring 'em on," referring
to the battle in Iraq. Unfortunately for Iraq and the United States he is getting
what he asked for.