US FORCES have launched military operations in central Iraq over the last few days on a scale not seen since the height of the war. This is the same war that was supposed to have ended two months ago. Instead of liberation and justice, there are daily reports of civilian suffering. US troops are breaking into homes, rounding up young men and opening fire on bystanders.
Planes and artillery opened fire on what the US claimed was a 'terrorist training camp' near the town of Rawa in central Iraq. They killed at least 70 people. Local people were enraged, no matter whether those killed came from Iraq or from other countries. Hassan Ibrahim walked past the graves and said, 'This town was safe before the Americans came here and made a lot of blood. Is this the democracy they were talking about?'
Marwan Alrawi, also from Rawa, said, 'If I get a chance, I would shoot an American, because they are now my enemies. 'Before this, one of 10,000 Rawa citizens would fight the Americans. Now, more than half would.'
In the same week 4,000 US troops launched an offensive against the town of Thuluyia. They seized 397 male residents. Despite claims the town was a guerrilla base, US troops found only a small number of weapons. The ones they did find are common in rural areas of Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.
But the raid did prompt an ambush of a US tank column on Friday. The US central command said 27 guerrillas were killed in the battle. Local US commanders, however, admitted the true figure was seven - five of them civilians when US troops riddled their car with gun fire. On Friday a US officer came and apologised to the family of the five dead civilians.
The Independent's Patrick Cockburn reports, 'The official American reports of the search operation chillingly resemble those issued at the height of the Vietnam War, with all the dead described as enemy combatants.'
Two days later 1,300 US troops swept into the town of Falluja, which has seen rising resistance to the occupation since US infantry shot dead 18 unarmed protesters last month. Occupation authorities claim these major assaults are directed at 'Saddam loyalists'.
But top military figures accept there is no central co-ordination to the resistance and it is taking place in towns which were strongly opposed to Saddam Hussein. The resistance had killed some 49 US soldiers and wounded scores more between Bush's victory speech on 1 May and the beginning of this week. Two US Apache attack helicopters were shot down last week. Ambushes took place in Baghdad and on the one road from central Iraq to neighbouring Jordan. They were continuing on Monday of this week.
It is not only in the areas populated by the minority Sunni Muslim population that hostility to the occupation is growing. Among other protests, over 10,000 people took to the streets of British controlled Basra, southern Iraq, on Sunday to demand self rule. It is Iraq's second city and overwhelmingly Shia Muslim.
British military vehicles were stoned during the protest as people raised slogans such as, 'Answer our demands or you will regret it.' US troops came under two separate grenade attacks in the city of Mosul, in Kurdish controlled northern Iraq.