Socialist Worker

Iraq gets more like Vietnam every day

The deaths of six British soldiers on Tuesday shows very clearly that the war is far from over. Resistance from guerrilla fighters is worrying the occupying forces

Issue No. 1857

A TOP US general is already comparing the occupation of Iraq to the 'quagmire' the US sank into in Vietnam. The US had 'failed to understand the mindset and attitudes of the Iraqi people and the depth of hostility towards the US in much of the country', admitted retired general William Nash last weekend.

He spoke as the number of US troops killed in armed attacks in Iraq since the supposed end of the war topped 55. Nash said, 'You can't tell who is behind the latest rocket-propelled grenade. 'It could be a father whose daughter has been killed. It could be a political leader trying to gain a following, or it could be rump Saddam. Either way, they are starting to converge.'

The continuing resistance in Iraq to the occupation has begun to crack the pro-war political consensus in the US. A leading contender for the Democratic Party nomination for next year's presidential race has started to attack George Bush over the war. Opinion polls show a slow but consistent decline in support for the occupation. Families of several US servicemen killed over the last few weeks are calling for troops to be pulled out.

Bush was forced to respond in his weekly national radio broadcast on Sunday to fears that the body count could rise dramatically. In a further, sick echo of Vietnam US troops copied a scene out of the film Apocalypse Now last week. They blasted out Wagner's piece of music Ride of the Valkyries before smashing into houses in the city of Ramadi, in western Iraq.

In the movie the same music plays as a crazed US officer launches a helicopter strike on a Vietnamese village. The arrogance and brutality of the occupation is fuelling resistance. Even Adnan Pachachi, one of the Iraqi former exiles once lined up by the US State Department to run the country, says Iraq is three weeks away from erupting.

'The Americans are occupiers and aggressors,' says Sayyid Ali, one of 2,000 Shia Muslims who protested on Friday of last week outside the vast palace compound in Baghdad now used by Iraq's US rulers. Fellow protester Mohammed Obeid said, 'Under Saddam, we had no medicine. It was all in this palace. Now it's the same, except the Americans are in the palace.'

There was disbelief from ordinary Iraqis in Baghdad when the US overlord Paul Bremer claimed the capital had 20 hours of electricity a day. It is more like a couple of hours.

The US occupiers sit in fully air conditioned offices. With the daytime temperature topping 130F, most ordinary Iraqis don't even have working refrigerators. The chaos and suffering are not the result of some administrative failure of the US to plan for the occupation. They are a product of its imperialist strategy in the region.

'Kill as many people as you can'

THE London Evening Standard, which supported the war, carried a chilling series of interviews last week in which US soldiers admitted they kill Iraqi civilians. Anthony Castillo of the US infantry said, 'When there were civilians there, we did the mission that had to be done. 'When they were there, they were in the wrong spot, so they were considered the enemy.'

Sergeant John Meadows said, 'You can't distinguish between who's trying to kill you and who's not. 'Like, the only way to get through shit like that was to concentrate on getting through it by killing as many people as you can.' He later described leaving injured Iraqis to die: 'The worst thing is to shoot one of them, then go help him.'

Corporal Richardson added, 'Shit, I didn't help any of them. I wouldn't help the fuckers. Once you'd shot them and you're moving through, you shoot them again. You didn't want any prisoners of war.'

'You make the rules as you go along. Like, in Fallujah we get rocks thrown at us by kids. You wanna turn round and shoot one of the little fuckers.' Anthony Castillo also pointed to the rising anger among US troops at their own commanders: 'We're more angry at the generals who are making these decisions and who never hit the ground, and who don't get shot at or have to look at the bloody bodies and the burnt out bodies, and the dead babies and all that kinda stuff.'

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