Senior British commanders have condemned American military tactics in Iraq as heavy-handed and disproportionate.
One senior officer said that America’s aggressive methods were causing friction among allied commanders and that there was a growing sense of “unease and frustration” among the British high command.
The officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said part of the problem was that American troops viewed Iraqis as untermenschen – the Nazi expression for “sub-humans”.
Speaking from his base in southern Iraq, the officer said: “My view and the view of the British chain of command is that the Americans’ use of violence is not proportionate and is over-responsive to the threat they are facing. They don’t see the Iraqi people the way we see them. They view them as untermenschen. They are not concerned about the Iraqi loss of life in the way the British are.”
The phrase untermenschen – literally “under-people” – was brought to prominence by Adolf Hitler in his book Mein Kampf, published in 1925. He used the term to describe those he regarded as racially inferior: Jews, Slavs and gypsies.
Although no formal complaints have as yet been made to their American counterparts, the officer said the British Government was aware of its commanders’ “concerns and fears”.
The officer explained that, under British military rules of war, British troops would never be given clearance to carry out attacks similar to those being conducted by the US military, in which helicopter gunships have been used on targets in urban areas.
“When US troops are attacked with mortars in Baghdad, they use mortar-locating radar to find the firing point and then attack the general area with artillery, even though the area they are attacking may be in the middle of a densely populated residential area.
“They may well kill the terrorists in the barrage, but they will also kill and maim innocent civilians. That has been their response on a number of occasions. It is trite, but American troops do shoot first and ask questions later.”
Recently, the Australians revealed that their pilots had similar complaints during the invasion.
And, as if further proof of this point were needed, here’s Paul McGeough, writing from Baghdad –
Still refusing to acknowledge a rising consensus among observers that it faces a broad-based nationalist movement, President George Bush insisted in a weekend radio address that “a small faction is attempting to . . . seize power”, and his Baghdad spokesman, Dan Senor, railed against “two-bit thugs . . . despised by a majority of Iraqis”.
But, while the Americans kill Iraqis in the numbers that they have taken to, they will have little or no support from Iraqis – no politician or religious leader can afford such an association. Personally many find it distasteful and if they were to support it publicly, they would go through their lives fearing a fate similar to that of the US security contractors in Falluja.
Unless the US can pull back, it risks having no Iraqi administration for what is largely a ceremonial return of sovereign power to Iraqis on June 30. There is still no agreement on the make-up of the proposed administration, and the events of the last week could leave the US alone at the negotiating table as it attempts to craft one.
The US is close to being as isolated in Iraq as the Firdos Square plinth from which US forces stage-managed the demolition of a statue of Saddam on April 9 last year. Few Iraqis were there to celebrate last year and none were in the square for the first anniversary.
Access was denied as part of a tight US security lockdown. US tanks prowled the square and loud-hailers were used to warn that those who approached the square could be shot on sight.
The only other weekend activity in the square was the arrival, almost to the hour of the anniversary of the statue coming down, of a team of US soldiers.
Despite the chaos across the city, it was deemed important enough for them to be sent to the square with a ladder to remove posters of Moqtada al-Sadr that Iraqis had hung from the obscure sculpture which has replaced Saddam on the plinth.
But just off the square, in a shuttered shop, there was a stunning measure of how the US has squandered Iraqi support.
The 56-year-old shopkeeper was too scared to give his name. Among his bolts of cloth and bottles of detergent, he talked about how this time last year his family’s hopes were so high, but now they feared that things would just get worse.
The son of a Shiite father and a Sunni mother, he spoke of his two brothers who Saddam had executed as political prisoners, and then he gave his verdict on the occupation: “The invasion was a bad idea. Saddam was bad and Bush is bad – but we’d have Saddam back any day.”
Sadeer, my driver in Baghdad, is leaning the same way.
When he arrived at the Palestine Hotel yesterday he was limping; the leg of his jeans was soaked in blood. The cut was small and we were able to bandage it, but George Bush had lost another Iraqi friend.
Sadeer, a 28-year-old Shiite, had been an enthusiastic supporter of the Americans and he takes his life in his hands by working for me. Iraqis are being executed just for being in the company of Westerners.
But his encounter with a bullying US soldier, who roughed him up as he came through the security cordon around the hotel, has pushed him into the nationalist Iraqi camp.
When the GI challenged him, Sadeer tried to explain in his limited English that he entered the hotel routinely. But he was barked at, shoved away and then belted on the foot with a rifle. He used to slow in traffic to greet the US troops. Now he has turned: “Americans bad for Iraq – too many problems.”
Leaving the hotel on foot, we had to go through the same streets to get to his car. I tried to explain our movements to the officer in charge of a US tank unit, but we were greeted with a stream of invective.
As I moved on one of his men fell in beside me, mumbling. Asked to repeat himself, he exploded: “Don’t you f—in’ eyeball me.”
Nodding to his officer and raising his weapon, he shrieked: “He has rank to lose. I don’t. I’ll take you out quick as a flash, motherf—er!”
This is all so disgusting and counterproductive and depressing. I was already depressed from identifying with this Jim Henley post:
And I had spent the morning reading GinMar’s journal from her arrival in Kuwait to the aftermath of the ambush in what was pretty clearly Kut, and over the month and a half’s worth of entries you can really see one of two things happening: relations with the locals sour measurably, OR, GinMar simply gets familiar enough with the culture to perceive the animosities that have been there all along. Either way, the trajectory of her entries provides a bass line to April’s crescendo of violence – it makes the claims that the Sadrist uprising is unconnected to any generalized mass hostility sound distinctly off-key.
And Deeds puts on a brave face about sitting unmolested in the Green Zone with a drink on his terrace despite reports that some group or other vowed to overrun the Green Zone, when the real story is not that he’s safe in the compound but that he dare not leave it. And Salam stops blogging and Zeyad loses faith and Raed, bless his heart, tries to apologize for kidnappings that are in no way his fault and what I am contemplating is the likelihood that these good people, folks of whom we’ve grown internet-fond, are slaughtered – Western-identified secular cosmopolitans in a country where, as of the much-touted February poll, “only” ten percent of Shiites approved of attacks on Americans, which is to say, ten percent of 60 percent of 24 million people, which is to say, 1.4 million people more or less, plus 30 percent of Iraq’s Arab Sunni population, which is to say 30 percent of 20 percent of 24 million people, or, actually, another 1.4 million people. And here and there Captain Chowns lose their battle to hang on to their humanity, and our people go nowhere but in armor and in force and at breakneck speed when they go at all and if they violate any two of these rules they die, and when they obey all three they strike the locals as like “giant lizards from another star.”
And I saw it coming – really, I did – and I begged people not to go through with it and, like I said, here we are.
As families and friends gather to enjoy this Easter season, we celebrate God’s gift of freedom and His love that conquers death. For those who observe Easter, our faith brings confidence that good will overcome evil and that joy is everlasting. Today, we give thanks for God’s many blessings and pray for His peace in the affairs of men.
Laura joins me in sending our best wishes for a happy Easter.
GEORGE W. BUSH
Paging George Orwell.