posted on Apr, 21 2003 @ 04:14 AM
War of liberation from U.S. occupation is about to begin
The army of "liberation" has already turned into the army of occupation. The Shiites are threatening to fight the Americans, to create their own war
At night on every one of the Shiite Muslim barricades in Sadr City — formerly known as Saddam City — there are 14 men with automatic rifles.
Even individual U.S. Marines in Baghdad are talking of the insults being flung at them.
"Go away! Get out of my face!" an American soldier screamed at an Iraqi trying to push toward the wire surrounding an infantry unit in the capital.
I watched the man's face suffuse with rage.
"God is Great! God is Great!" the Iraqi retorted. "F--- you!"
The Americans have issued a "Message to the Citizens of Baghdad," a document that is as colonial in spirit as it is insensitive in tone.
"Please avoid leaving your homes during the night hours after evening prayers and before the call to morning prayers," it tells the people of the
"During all hours, please approach Coalition military positions with extreme caution."
So now — with neither electricity nor running water — the millions of Iraqis here are ordered to stay in their homes from dusk to dawn. Lockdown.
Written by the command of the U.S. Marines 1st Division, it's a curfew in all but name.
"If I were an Iraqi and I read that," an Arab woman shouted at me, "I would become a suicide bomber."
And all across Baghdad, you hear the same thing, from Shiite Muslim clerics to Sunni businessmen, that the Americans have come only for oil, and that
soon — very soon — a guerrilla resistance must start.
No doubt the Americans will claim that these attacks are "remnants' of Saddam's regime or "criminal elements." But that will not be the case.
Marine officers in Baghdad held desperate talks with a Shiite militant cleric from Najaf to avert an outbreak of fighting around the holy city and I
met the prelate just before the negotiations began.
He told me that "history is being repeated."
He was talking about the British invasion of Iraq in 1917, which ended in disaster for the British.
To gain entrance to the desert town of al-Ambar, U.S. intelligence officers had to negotiate with tribal leaders in the best restaurant in Baghdad.
Everywhere are the signs of collapse. And everywhere the signs that America's promises of "freedom" and "democracy" are not to be honoured.
Why, Iraqis are asking, did the United States allow so many of Saddam's top leaders to escape?
It's not just the Beast of Baghdad and his two sons, Qusay and Uday, who've escaped but also vice-president Taha Yassin Ramadan, deputy prime
minister Tariq Aziz, Saddam's personal adviser Dr. Abdul Al-Hashimi, the ministers of defence and health, even Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, the minister
Long before journalists cozied up to him, al-Sahhaf was the official who read out the list of executed "brothers" in the purge that followed
Saddam's revolution — relatives of prisoners would dose themselves on Valium before each al-Sahhaf appearance.
Consider the vast security apparatus with which Saddam surrounded himself, the torture chambers and the huge bureaucracy that was its foundation.
President George W. Bush promised that America was campaigning for human rights in Iraq, that war criminals would be tracked down and brought to
Now, the 60 secret police headquarters in Baghdad are empty; even the eight-square-kilometre headquarters of the Iraqi Intelligence Service.
I have been to many of these sites. But not a single British or American officer has visited them to sift through the wealth of documents lying there
or talk to the ex-prisoners who are themselves visiting their former places of torment.
Is this through idleness? Or is this wilful?
Take the Qasimiyeh security station beside the Tigris River. It's a pleasant villa — once owned by an Iranian-born Iraqi who was deported to Iran in
the 1980s — and there's a little lawn outside and at first you don't notice the three big hooks in the ceiling of each room or the fact that big
sheets of red paper, decorated with footballers, have been pasted over the windows to conceal the rooms from outsiders. But across the floors, in the
garden, on the roof, are the files on all this suffering.
They show, for example, that the head of the torture centre was Hashem al-Tikrit and his deputy was Rashid al-Nakib.
Ex-prisoner Mohamed Aish Jassem showed me how he was suspended from the ceiling by his torturer, Capt. Amar al-Isawi, who believed Jassem was a member
of the religious Dawa party.
"They put my hands behind my back like this and tied them and then pulled me into the air by my tied wrists," Jassem told me. "They used a little
generator to lift me up, right up to the ceiling. Then, they'd release the rope in the hope of breaking my shoulder when I fell."
The hooks in the ceiling are just in front of Capt. al-Isawi's desk. I understood what this meant: There wasn't a separate torture chamber and
elsewhere an office for documentation; the torture chamber was the office.
While the man or woman shrieked in agony above him, Capt. al-Isawi would sign papers, take phone calls and — given the contents of his rubbish bin —
smoke many cigarettes while he waited for the information he sought from his prisoners.
Were they monsters, these men? Yes. Do the Americans seek them? No. Are they now working for the Americans? Quite possibly.
Indeed, some of them may well be in the long line of ex-security thugs who queue every morning outside the Palestine Hotel in the hope of being
re-hired by the U.S. Marines' civil affairs unit.
The names of the guards at the Qasimiyeh torture centre in Baghdad — pedestrians were forbidden to walk down the road outside lest they'd hear the
screams — are all named on the documents lying on the floor.
They were Ahmed Hassan Alawi, Akil Shaheed, Noaman Abbas and Mohamed Fayad.
But the Americans haven't bothered to find this out. So Messrs Alawair, Shaheed, Abbas and Fayad are welcome to apply for work from the Americans.
There are prisoner identification papers on the desks and in the cupboards. What happened to Wahid Mohamed, Majid Taha, Saddam Ali or Lazim Hamoud? We
shall not know.
Ex-prisoners told me there is a mass grave in the Al-Khedeer desert, but no one — least of all Baghdad's new occupiers — are interested in finding
"We committed no sin," said a 40-year-old ex-inmate whose prison duties included the cleaning of the hangman's trap of blood and feces after each
"We are not guilty of anything. Why did they do this to us? America, yes, it got rid of Saddam. But Iraq belongs to us. Our oil belongs to us. We
will keep our nationality. It will stay Iraq. The Americans must go."
If the Americans and the British want to understand the nature of the religious opposition here, they need only consult the files of Saddam's secret
I found one, Report No. 7481, dated Feb. 24 — when the Iraqi muhabarrat security men were still working hard on their Shiite enemies less than a month
before the U.S.-led invasion.
But of course, no one has bothered to read this material or even look for it.
There's an even more terrible place for the Americans to visit in Baghdad — the headquarters of the whole intelligence apparatus, a massive
gray-painted block that was bombed by the Americans and a series of villas and office buildings that are stashed with files, papers and card
It was here that Saddam's special political prisoners were brought for vicious interrogation — electricity being an essential part of this — and it
was here that Farzad Bazoft, the Observer correspondent, was brought for questioning before his dispatch to the hangman.
It's also graced with delicately shaded laneways, a children's area for the families of the torturers and a school in which one pupil had written an
essay in English on (suitably perhaps) Beckett's Waiting For Godot.
There's also a miniature hospital, flowerbeds and a road named "Freedom St."
It's the creepiest place in all of Iraq. I met, extraordinarily, an Iraqi nuclear scientist walking in fear around the compound, a colleague of the
former head of Iraqi nuclear physics. "This is the last place I ever wanted to see and I will never return to it," the scientist said.
"This was the place of greatest evil in all the world."
But the Americans should pay a visit. The top security men in Saddam's regime were busy in the last hours of their rule, shredding millions of
documents. I found a great pile of black plastic rubbish bags at the back of one villa, each stuffed with the shreds of thousands of papers.
Shouldn't they be taken to Washington or London and re-constituted to learn their secrets? That's what the Iranians did with shredded U.S. embassy
files in Tehran in 1980.
Files that were left unshredded contain a wealth of information about this place.
There's a substantial pile of papers, for example, recording the existence of a new super-drug for cancer that a number of Arab doctors wanted to
manufacture in Iraq and — according to one file — "test on Iraqis."
But again, the Americans have not bothered — or do not want — to search through these papers.
If they did, they would also find the names of dozens of senior Iraqi intelligence men, many of them identified by the files of congratulatory letters
that Saddam's secret policemen insisted on sending each other every time they were promoted.
Where now, for example, is Col. Abdulaziz Saadi, Capt. Abdulsalam Salawi, Capt. Saad Ahmed al-Ayash, Col. Saad Mohamed, Capt. Majid Ahmed and scores
We may never know. Or perhaps we are not supposed to know.
Iraqis are right to ask why the Americans don't search for this information, just as they are right to demand to know why so many of Saddam's top
lieutenants got away.
Here's another question the Iraqis are asking.
On the last weekend of the invasion, the Americans dropped four 900-kilogram bombs on the Baghdad residential area of Mansour.
They claimed they thought Saddam was hiding there. They knew they would kill civilians because it was not, as one of the Centcom mandarins said, a
So, they dropped their bombs and killed 14 civilians in Mansour, most of them members of a Christian family.
The Americans announced that they couldn't be sure they had killed Saddam until they could carry out forensic tests at the site.
But this turns out to have been a lie. I went to the site on Tuesday. Not a single American or British official — forensic or military — had bothered
to visit the bomb craters. No Western forensic experts have examined the mass of debris.
When I arrived, there was a putrefying smell and families pulled the remains of a tiny baby from the rubble. No American officers have apologized for
this appalling killing.
It's easy for a reporter to predict doom, especially after a brutal war that lacked all international legitimacy.
But catastrophe usually waits for optimists in the Middle East, especially for those who are false optimists and invade oil-rich nations with
ideological excuses and high-flown moral claims and accusations like weapons of mass destruction that are still unproved.
So, I'll make an awful prediction. That America's war of "liberation" is over. Iraq's war of liberation from the Americans is about to begin.
In other words, the real and frightening story starts now...