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Nir Rosen
Nir Rosen is a fellow at the New America Foundation and a free-lance writer. His book on postwar Iraq, "In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq" was published by Free Press in May 2006.

His articles from Iraq and elsewhere are available on


The Occupation of Iraqi Hearts and Minds

(Page 4)

Several hours later, a call was intercepted from the Ayoub whom the Americans were seeking. “Oh shit,” said the S2 captain, “[we’ve got] the wrong Ayoub.” The innocent father of six who was in custody actually was a worker in a phosphate plant the Americans were running. But he was not let go. If he was released, there would be a risk that the other Ayoub would learn he was being sought. The night after his arrest a relieved Ayoub could be seen escorted by soldiers to call his family and report he was fine but would not be home for a few days. “It was not the wrong guy,” the troop’s captain said defensively, shifting blame elsewhere. “We raided the house we were supposed and arrested the man we were told to.”

When the soldiers who had captured Ayoub learned of the mistake, they were not surprised. “Oops,” said one. Another one wondered, “What do you tell a guy like that, sorry?” “It’s depressing,” a third said. “We trashed the wrong guy’s house and the guy that’s been shooting at us is out there with his house not trashed.” The soldier who shot the nonlethal ordinance at Ayoub said, “I’m just glad he didn’t do something that made me shoot him [with a bullet].” Then the soldiers resumed their banter.

A few days later, the Army did a further analysis of the phone calls that had originally sent them in search of a man named Ayoub. In the calls, Ayoub had indeed spoken of proceeding to the next level and obtaining land mines and other weapons. This had rightfully alarmed the Army’s intelligence officers. But at some point an analyst realized that Ayoub was not a terrorist intent on obtaining weapons; he turned out to be a kid playing video games and talking about them with his friend on the phone.



The Procrustean application of spurious information gathered by intelligence officers who cannot speak Arabic and are not familiar with Iraqi, Arab or Muslim culture is creating enemies instead of eliminating them. The S2 captain could barely hide his disdain for Iraqis. “Oh he just hates anything Iraqi,” another captain said of him, adding that the intelligence officers do not venture off the base or interact with Iraqis or develop any relations with the people they are expected to understand. A lieutenant colonel from the Army’s civil affairs command explained that these officers do not read about the soldiers engaging with Iraqis, sharing cigarettes, tea, meals and conversations. They read only the reports of “incidents” and they view Iraqis solely as security threat. The intelligence officers in Iraq do not know Iraq.

In every market in Iraq hundreds of wooden crates can be found piled one atop the other. Sold for storage, upon further examination these crates reveal themselves to be former ammunition crates. For the past 25 years Iraq has been importing weapons to feed its army’s appetite for war against Iran, the Kurds, Kuwait and America.  When empty, the crates were sold for domestic use. The soldiers with the Army unit I was with assumed the crates they found in nearly every home implicated the owners in terrorist activities, rather than the much simpler truth. During the operation described here I saw one of the soldiers find such a crate overturned above a small hole in a man’s backyard. “He was trying to bury it when he saw us coming,” one soldier deduced confidently. He did not lift the crate to discover that it was protecting irrigation pipes and hoses in a pit.

Saddam bestowed his largesse upon the security services that served as his praetorian guard and executioners. Elite fighters received Jawa motorcycles. Immediately after the war, Jawa motorcycles were available in every market in Iraq that sold scooters and motorcycles. Some had been stolen from government buildings in the frenzy of looting that followed the war and was directed primarily against institutions of the former government. Soldiers of the Army unit I accompanied were always alert for Jawa motorcycles, and indeed it was true that many Iraqi paramilitaries had used them against the Americans. On a night the troop had received RPG fire, its members drove back to base through the town. When they spotted a man on a Jawa motorcycle they fired warning shots. When he did not stop they shot him to death. “He was up to no good,” the captain explained.

On Nov. 26, 2003, after two weeks of brutal daily interrogations by military intelligence officers, Special Forces soldiers and CIA personnel, Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush, the former chief of Iraqi air defenses whose arrest I had witnessed, died in a U.S. detention facility. Twenty-four to 48 hours before that, he had been interrogated and beaten by CIA personnel. The Army’s Criminal Investigation Division began looking into Mowhoush’s death that same day. The next day an Army news release stated that he had died of natural causes. “Mowhoush said he didn’t feel well and subsequently lost consciousness,” according to the statement, ” ... the soldier questioning him found no pulse and called for medical authorities. A surgeon responded within five minutes to continue advanced cardiac life support techniques, but they were ineffective.” On Dec. 2, 2003, an Army medical examiner’s autopsy said the general’s death was “a homicide by asphyxia,” but it was not until May 12, 2004, that the death certificate was issued,  with homicide as the cause. The Pentagon autopsy report in May said he had died of “asphyxia due to smothering and chest compression” and that there was “evidence of blunt force trauma to the chest and legs.” Mowhoush was one of several Iraqis whose death certificates were not issued until May of 2004, long after their deaths.

Next Page:  “Iraqis in their own country are reminded at all times who has control over their lives, who can take them with impunity.”

Dig last updated on Jun. 27, 2006

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By Blueboy1938, July 9, 2006 at 5:25 pm Link to this comment
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Alas, Scott, the URL you posted now only refers to the increasing brutality of the perpetrators of civil war in Iraq, who are Iraqis(!).

Now, as for your misinformed and hyperbolic mischaracterizations of our military in Iraq, I shall just give the educational quotient:


Prior to 9/11, 98 % of [Army] recruits have HS education OR HIGHER, compared to 75 % of non-recruits [18-24 in the general population].  After that date, education levels INCREASED, with 2.8 % MORE having some college or a college degree.

As for your own rather paranoid concept that suddenly the returning troops will be unleashed upon quivering liberals by the forces of darkness, I have a news flash:  The law enforcement ranks are full of conservatives as we speak!  And just what illegal activities do you think liberals will be perpetrating to justify some cockamamy pogrom?  Blaming the troops who are engaged in difficult and dangerous circumstances because of the administration’s wrong-headed policies is misdirected fire.  Get busy rousing the already disenchanted electorate to take back both houses of Congress instead of name-calling and playing some kind of blame game upon our troops.  Yes, they tend to be conservative on the whole, but that does not make them “paranoid” monsters spoiling to lay waste to the blue staters with their combat-honed battle skills as newly minted peace officers.

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By David, July 9, 2006 at 10:33 am Link to this comment
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John’s post is an invitation to commit atrocities and this how most occupation’s in history become debauched affairs which ultimately destroy’s the nations that are occupied and dehumanizes the occupier’s. (ex. the French in Algeria, the Israelis in Lebanon, the British in Iraq, and the US in the Philippines, South Korea, and Vietnam). 

“Nice guys finish last”, why don’t we ask the survivors of Mei Lai how nice the US soldier’s were to them and whether they love and respect the US.  At the same token maybe we should ask a victim of a vicious crime whether they like and respect the person who brutalized them?  As you can see I am being sarcastic not serious just like John when he posted his comments.

Perpetrating atrocities and war crimes will not help us achieve victory (which is not possible with the current deployment of US forces in Iraq in any possible event). All it will do is unite our adverseries and force us to find an exit before we are forced into the position of fighting the entire population. 

I believe in this country and I mean the US but I am not insane or stupid enough to believe that we can butcher our way to any semblance of victory.  How about some moderation in the US? 


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By Scott, July 9, 2006 at 9:21 am Link to this comment
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Blueboy1938’s post doesn’t square with other accounts about the quality of troops on the ground in Iraq.

I’ve also read accounts of a directed recruitment effort that targets evangelical Christians - who could ever forget General Boykin? Boy what a combination neo-nazis and born again Christians would make. The kindest and gentlest army in the world for sure. I’m sure hearts and minds everywhere will be swooning.

One day the troops will come home and at the very least many of these highly trained and deluded paranoiacs will become members of police and other security forces around the US. It’s not hard to imagine the War on Drugs getting a whole lot more violent is it?

What if America’s right wing were to finally step off the deep end and declare a War on Liberalism, who’s side do you think these troops and cops and so on would be with?

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By John, July 8, 2006 at 1:08 pm Link to this comment
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Well, you certainly seem well rounded in your opinions, but you have left out the part about having boots on the ground, in uniform, combatant status experience.  Oh, that’s right, you don’t have that.  News flash for you:  It’s a whole different world. 

As a Special Forces operator with two tours in Iraq and countless operations and raids under my belt, let me give you an on the ground view of the world.  Close Quarters Battle (CQB) is the technique used during raids.  CQB is not a nice business.  CQB has a historically high casualty rate for the assault force.  CQB is full of unknowns.  Is there a tripwire on the door we are about to enter?  Did this guy pick tonight to have a regional insurgent meeting with about 20 of his heavily armed friends?  How many of his insurgent friends that we don’t know about live in the neighborhood?  Is this guy a paranoid freak who sleeps in a suicide vest to prevent himself from being taken alive? 

You want to see what happens when you are nice and knock on the door and invite them back to the base for milk and cookies and a little chat?  Watch COPS.  Those poor bastards have to be nice, and the nasty attitudes and outright hostility they have to deal with are ridiculous.  As I said earlier, CQB is not a nice business.  From start to finish, your whole purpose in life is to project mayhem and chaos, in addition to lethal ability (not lethal intent, which would be intending to kill.  Lethal ability, which means the ability to kill should you have to.) 

You want to know why there are so many civilian casualties?  It is because until the bad guys grab a gun, they are civilians.  It’s not like they put on a uniform, go to basic training, and get listed as part of a foreign army.  They dig up their AK and RPG launchers in the back yard, and they go ambush a convoy.  Or they drop an IED by the side of the road on their way to the market.  Or they drive a VBIED into a checkpoint.  Welcome to the world of paranoia and overreaction, but it keeps your ass alive. 

Someone once asked me if I would fight Mike Tyson.  I said sure, as long as he gets to play the part of the U.S. and I get to play the part of the insurgents.  See, Mike would have to play by the rules of boxing.  I’d bring a baseball bat, a chainsaw, and a whole array of instruments dedicated to the defeat of the enemy.  I wouldn’t have to play by any rules.  Anyone want to make a bet on who would win? 

The moral high road is all fine and dandy when you are sitting safe at home in your little comfort zone.  Once you get out in the real world, you learn the hardest lesson of all real fast:  Nice guys finish last.

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By Blueboy1938, July 8, 2006 at 11:48 am Link to this comment
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Freedem states the most arrant nonsense I’ve seen on a lot of military related Iraq blogs.  The current volunteer armed services are filled by the best educated and best trained personnel they have ever seen.  Sure, some choose the military for economic reasons, but that doesn’t make them stupid.  Today’s military is a highly technical force, which requires sharp mental abilities as well as the traditional brawn and guts.  While NCOs may come from the ranks, officers typically do not.  They are products of the military acadamies and the general college population through ROTC.  Lumping them in indescriminately is completely illogical and misinformed.  Furthermore, company officers from second lieutenant to captain usually have less than four years in the service and consequently don’t fit Freedem’s characterizations at all.  I would also guess that most of the regular army non-coms at field unit level have similar time in service.  Moreover, at least 30% of the troops in Iraq are National Guard and Reserve, which means they are not career military but come out of civilian jobs to do their tours in Iraq.  The problem, which I outlined in my previous comment, is the fact that we are asking combat-trained personnel to undertake enforcement operations, for which they are not adequately trained.  Condemning the troops in the manner of Freedem is inaccurate, misleading, and prejudicial.  Considering the extremely dangerous and ambiguous theater of operations, there are actually a very small percentage of individuals involved in really serious, Haditha-like activities.  Those individuals should be and are being prosecuted.  Sure, the mattress tramplers should be more careful, but they are trying to survive while doing an almost impossible job.  Give them a break!  At the very least, be more accurate and informed when commenting on their performance.

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By Freedem, July 8, 2006 at 8:19 am Link to this comment
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Alas, Mr Rosen’s horror story confirms again, in richer detail, what has been obvious before the first tank crossed the border.

The Army was always mostly made up of folk who cannot afford to avoid it. Those youth less well off economicallly, tend also to be less well off educationally, and to be more committed to a simpler religion, not having the time or education to explore nuances, or alternatives.

All this before bootcamp gets a hold on them.

Even without the rightward spin increasing in the peacetime military, bootcamp is not a place for anything beyond instant over-reaction to instilled psycotic paranoia of any convievable threat, much less selfexploratory sensitivity training, or broad cross cultural enlightenment.

Leading them (on the ground, from sargents to captains), are folk much like themselves, but committed to a military life, and having spent a lifetime imagining a real fight, but not since Viet-Nam actually being in one.

Such squabbles that did exist taught all the wrong lessons. That the most innocent thing or action could kill, and kill hundreds. That a hundred civillians could be killed that one soldier might avoid injury. That even dozens of American soldiers might need to die to retrieve the body of one of their own, but all others are not even worthy of counting.

And worst of all, in the First Iraq war, the Iraq Army committed many real and imagined attrocities, but collapsed like wet kleenex in the open desert billiard tables American military had been designed to fight in for a hundred years.

Massive surrender, and the exposure of few cultural underpinnings, created attitudes about Iraqis in particular that were most unfortunate.

Even if there were good and real reasons for going in, how can such a mindset turn out any way but badly?

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By John, July 7, 2006 at 8:18 pm Link to this comment
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Please read and send to your list

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By native child, July 5, 2006 at 4:10 pm Link to this comment
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Shades of the U.S. occupation of the Philippines at the end of the nineteenth century.  That one cost the natives there 600,000 lives.  Our troops then were even more brutal than those now serving in Iraq. They used beheadings to intimidate the natives (put them up on sticks), much like their predecessors had done in the genocide of our own native people.  Our military isn’t unique in behaving this way. The French lined the streets in Hanoi with the heads of decapitated Vietnamese patriots, not to mention what the Japanese military did to civilians in Nanking seventy years ago.
So we’ve got to stop thinking that our loved ones can do no wrong when they’re sent off to war, because they, too, commit war crimes.  War does that to a soldier.  What’s the answer?  Troops out now and no more wars, that’s what.

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By David, July 4, 2006 at 12:05 pm Link to this comment
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I really liked this article, but I remember an old phrase that seems to be perfect at this dark time in our history, and I paraphrase “he who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it”.  This article and its contents could have been written about America’s experience in Vietnam or the British Empire’s conquest of Iraq and its subsequent guerilla war from 1917 to 1920.

With the internet we have access to an incredible amount of knowledge in seconds.  Yet I have never met a people more ignorant about history in my entire life.  Even after Vietnam and all that our nation experienced and the damage that conflict caused to an entire generation.  Its as if the only lesson we learned is “do not launch a war on Vietnam.”

Now we have wasted so many lives and so much money on a disasterous war all that can be said is that we now have no good options. Our standing among nations has never been as low, our nations fiscal health is very poor with staggering debts that will take generations to completely pay off.  We are in a tough spot and while our leaders discuss important subjects like “gay marriage” and “flag burning” our brave men and women and uniform will continue to pay the ultimate price for our leaders failures.

There is a solution and it starts here and not in Baghdad.  Its called reform and it involves opening up our political system to allow more newer political parties and movements to get involved in the political process in this country.  It also involves opening up our Media and press and allowing for the development of more press outlets and finally for the idea that questioning our leaders is unpatriotic to be eliminated especially in matters of war and peace.


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By Scott, July 1, 2006 at 8:21 pm Link to this comment
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America, you have a problem.

In light of the Big Sort, who do you think your troops are likely to “be with” when they finally are brought home?

Be careful for what you wish for.

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By Scott, July 1, 2006 at 7:24 pm Link to this comment
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“The occupation has been one vast extended crime against the Iraqi people, and most of it has occurred unnoticed by the American people and the media.”

Excuse me? Ignored is more like it! I didn’t have any trouble noticing it from Canada so…

Sorry, I couldn’t get past that without commenting. I guess I’ll go read the rest now.

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By VeryOldMan, July 1, 2006 at 6:38 pm Link to this comment
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Ossama Bin Laden joined the fight in Iraq quite a while back.
Rich Sultans pay for double agents by the tanker load.

Meanwhile, the bitter at home wonder still wonder how
it was the Soviet Union died after all the trillions of sincere
words written by so many “great” minds condemning
the “capitalist crimes” of the West during the Cold War.

Their loving children still march for peace. Peace now,
peace at any cost, peace if it means suicide. All we
are saying is buy peace a chance. Three for five dollars.

Islam is a religion of peace. The peace of the grave for
the infidel. With petro dollars from our gas guzzlers,
mass graves. Some teenagers drive around aimlessly
chanting, “don’t want to be an American idiot” or
words to that effect. Of course they don’t. Do you?

Why is Cheney so evil? Because we’re so stupid.
We teach people who don’t have the capacity to
think how to read.

God is a servant of the victors. Always has been,
always will be. Ask the millions of Japanese we
butchered during World War II if they regret
the current Prime Minister is a huge Elvis Presley
fan. You see? The dead only have regrets in
Hollywood movies.

Forever and ever, Amen.

Seen the new Superman film yet?

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By Blueboy1938, July 1, 2006 at 6:29 pm Link to this comment
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Our troops are operating in what is now a generally hostile environment, where it is really impossible a lot of the time to tell friend from foe.  It is very likely that wars, whoever is involved, will no longer be frontal, with clearly defined opposing lines and everyone conveniently in identifiable uniforms, but assymetrical, as this one has turned into.  Most of what Mr. Rosen reports is simply enforcement activity being carried out by people, whatever their motivation for joining up as soldiers, who are not trained in law enforcement techniques but in combat.  Sure, tromping on mattresses in combat boots where Muslims would not even wear shoes is insensitive.  “Trashing” the wrong dwelling because of inadequate intelligence is unfortunate.  However, as Mr. Rosen points out more than once:  most of these actions are not intentional brutalities.  Those involved in actions, like Haditha, that are should be and are being prosecuted.  Mr. Rosen reports instances of corrective actions:  The NCO that pointed out that a soldier’s mother might react in the same way as the woman annoying him in her ullalations over her son being taken away; the soldiers “tenderly” bringing babies to their distraught mothers.  Yes, it’s the wrong war for the wrong (read: trumped-up) “reasons” in the wrong place with the inevitable unintended consequences (propping up an Inran-centric government; brutalizing our troops by using them as enforcers instead of what they were trained for).  Yes, we have to extricate ourselves by defining specifically what the level of Iraqi self-sufficiency has to be, and then planning in concrete terms our disengagement strategy, which will inevitably involve the dreaded “withdrawal timetable.”  Meanwhile, let’s not, as Mr. Rosen does, assume that what he saw, disturbing as it is, can be multiplied by the number of similar-sized units operating in Iraq and universally condemn our troops.  They’re doing what has to be done in a difficult situation.  Could they do it better?  You bet! (To use the Donald’s [Rumsfeld] rhetorical turn of phrase.)  Let’s not indulge in our own “Viet Nam Syndrom” and blame the soldiers for doing their jobs, however ineptly or well, when it is really the neocons that pushed us into this mess that are to blame.

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By Glenn, July 1, 2006 at 1:56 am Link to this comment
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A brilliant article. I have to say though that I am encouraged in these dark times by the intelligence and compassion of the responses to this article. There is undoubtedly a growing movement across the globe who are sick and tired of this evil being executed in our names and who yearn to be in a position to do something about it.

Marching with permission from the state doesnt work and its naive to assume war criminals with geo-political goals will listen to that form of protest. But when the millions who have marched get so pissed off and realise that the ‘assemble without permission’ strategy so excellently displayed by the French is part of the answer THEN these war criminals will shake in their boots.

Imagine mass non violent blockades of strategic sites - military and economic - by tens of thousands of people who are not afraid of storming military bases to prevent landings, blockading economically sensitive sites which cost government dearly and any other ‘pressure points’ we could think of. Who were not afraid of arrest, not afraid of being beaten and ultimately not afraid of death if the guards choose to shoot us. THEN the war criminals would not have the freedom of operation they enjoy at the moment.

There are already movements gearing up for this - for one example look at:

This is the answer to our feelings of helplessness and the movement is growing.

So lets all join in


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By Ga, June 30, 2006 at 10:15 pm Link to this comment
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The American Male Mythos is dead.

As a boy I used to watch every John Wayne movie in awe. I moved on, though, not ever seeing his late file “The Green Berets” which was about Vietnam.

Then, as a man I learned real American History. And my understanding that John Wayne movies were not accurate portrayals of history, but glorified stories. But I still helf on to those base beleifs of America, Home of the Brave, Land of the Free.

Then I saw “The Green Berets” just last year. Never have I seen such a horrible propoganda film before. Oh wait. I have. Those made by Joseph Goebbels in Nazi Germany.

There are at times “just wars.” And a “just war” is defined as the repelling of an aggressor who has invaded another country, or is commiting genocide.

And even in “just wars”—precisely because “war is hell”—there is the most horrific mental suffering on both sides. Even those brave young men fighting for freedom will, under the horrors of battle, face the possibility of losing all sense of civility and normalcy and commit atrocities. War causes men to commit horrific acts. On both side. Always.

War is hell. So General Sherman said to the graduates of Michigan Military Academy in 1879. And, our politicians tell us, we are at war; that a time of war is a time of sacrifice. Over two thousand have sacrificed. Now there must be more sacrifice.

We cannot, as a country and a people, benefit from this war for it to be just. We cannot get their oil. We cannot get their money. We can only give to the Iraqi people for this war to be just.

We gave them tons of bombs for many years. We gave them economic sanctions for many years. Whatever the truths behind the impetus for our going to war, those two truths we must never forget. The Iraqi’s certainly will not.

We owe the Iraqi people more sacrifice. We owe ourselves more sacrifice too. For we have lessons to learn.

For war is hell. A dastardly thing, men killing fellow men, bullets and bombs not discriminating between those who according to the laws of war should be killed and those too who should be spared but happen to be in harm’s way. Perhaps a tiny bit of our own souls die with each death in this war.

There are those here at home who want to stop the war. Those who want that cannot be considered un-patriotic. Indeed, those who speak against the war are using their freedom as it is meant to be used, for the very reason why we are told that we went to war.

Just as there are in war those who are up front with guns, there are in war those who are in supply rooms, communication rooms, and kitchens. We cannot all be up front with guns in our hands.

As there are those who must be up front so too there must be those many more who stay at home to carry on their—our—normal lives. And so too there must be those that try to stop war. All these there must be for a country to call itself free.

History will tell us whether or not there should have been more of those who tried to prevent the war.

Three thousand of our own we say died because of our freedom. Two thousand more we say died for their freedom. Americans, we say, do not forget our own. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis we forget died from years of bombs and sanctions. Should the Iraqis forget their dead?

Are those who so vocally espouse their support for the continuation of war more patriotic than those who are up front? No.

Are those who so vocally espouse their support for the continuation of war more patriotic than those who oppose the war? So too the answer must be for a country that wants to be a beacon of freedom. No.

If any at all are to be called un-patriotic it should be those who shout loudest for war; those who shout loudest of fear; those who sacrifice nothing while asking others to sacrifice.

Now that this war has been shown to not be so easily won as was said by those of us that started this war—and we did start this war—there must be more sacrifice. More Americans must die. The “must” is not to show that men must die for freedom. The “must” is that we must know the cost of our actions. More of those up front must die. We must endure the cost of war.

As many Americans over this Christmas season grieve of hurricanes past, and mall sales present, many Iraqis grieve of hardships past, present and future that no American seems willing to endure. We must now endure some humility.

For this war to be justified, and the reasons for it to be true, those Americans that die, die not for America, but for Iraq. For us to be fighting to give Iraq freedom, we must give selflessly. For us to win, not the fighting in the streets but the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people—and of the world—we must not benefit from this war. For the American people’s sacrifice—and the Iraqi’s—to not be in vain we must set our attention not on a foreign policy based on the economy of oil, but on a foreign policy based on the economy of ideas. Only with humility can we win hearts and minds. A free Iraq, free from American control, must be the only benefit. We owe it to ourselves as well as to Iraq.

Lest anyone forget the horror that is war, let me supply General Sherman’s quote in more context. “You don’t know the horrible aspects of war,” he said to the cadets. “I’ve been through two wars and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is hell!”

We have all seen many Iraqi dead faces looking up at the skies. For our sacrifices not to be in vain, their deaths must not have been in vain.

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By R. A. Earl, June 30, 2006 at 11:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Kris in #12716, wrote, in part “They joined up because they were tired of being poor and disenfranchised in this country and the military was the only way they could afford a college education for themselves and their children.”

Kris went on… “They made that sacrifice so that I wouldn’t have to, and f*ck you for your bigotry.”

What twisted logic! So, Kris, it’s OK with you that if a person wants a “college education” and can’t afford it, it’s quite civilized and morally appropriate for him to join the military and kill people in order to get one? This certainly wasn’t “the only way” open to your relatives - it was the easy, lazy person’s way.

I make no apologies for being “bigoted” about my belief that war and killing is fundamentally STUPID and IMMORAL, and anyone who thinks otherwise - who tries to concoct excuses and rationalizations in support - is mentally ill. And yes, it is possible for an entire country or even an entire generation to be mentally ill.

It’s nice that you and your entire family are against war. How you all live with the cognitive dissonance that must be produced by your CHOICE to involve yourself in comitting war is beyond me. There’s no limit, I guess, to how many hoops the human mind will leap through to rationalize just about any behavior… principles be damned!

But we do agree… bring the troops home. Americans most certainly have NO RIGHT wandering around Iraq with guns, or any other country for that matter. (You are aware that YOUR COUNTRY has INVADED 22 other sovereign nations since the end of World War II.) If we on this planet have any country to fear and mistrust it’s the USA.

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By Kris, June 30, 2006 at 6:48 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To the commenters R. A Earl and Shellynm, your hatred gives the rest of us liberals a bad name.

I come from two generations of enlisted military on both sides (father and his father, mother and her father).  You’re right, they didn’t join up because of “God and Country” pride.

They joined up because they were tired of being poor and disenfranchised in this country and the military was the only way they could afford a college education for themselves and their children. 

They made that sacrifice so that I wouldn’t have to, and f*ck you for your bigotry.

And thank you to Nir Rosen for an honest account of what’s going on over there.  This military kid is strongly against the war, as are all the dozen+ military people I know (mostly retired).  No one who has ever lived through it (I was a kid during the first Gulf War, stationed overseas with my family, and couldn’t see my parents for days and often worried about what would happen to them) would ever want that for their families.

Support our troops.  Bring them home.

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By Tom McLoughlin, Sydney Australia, June 30, 2006 at 5:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The local Murdoch rag called the Sydney Daily Telegraph here in Australia in February 2003 or thereabouts reported ‘10 million march for peace worldwide’ or similar.

Out of 6 billion on our planet, this was a farcical headline, until you realise this pro war media group was faced with reporting 500,000 people out of say a 4 million greater metropolitan population here in Sydney (to Newcastle and Wollongong outliers), marched for peace, against war.That’s a real repudiation but our pro war PM called us “a mob” in derogatory tone.

In my 15 years as an environmental and social activist in Australia there has been NOTHING like that march and protest in Sydney duly misreported in our very own town to our face, as brazen and dishonest as the working day is long. Absolutely peaceful. Remarkable.

Only people who care to deconstruct the media even notice such distortions. Most are too busy to disbelieve. It’s such a wicked mind f*ck. In true Orwellian form the newspaper is published by News Ltd, when its fiction often.

Normally Australia is so far away and small in number it doesn’t matter, but our Prime Minister Howard has played a critical role in extra symbolic political cover for GW Bush’s war. Howard is Murdoch’s plaything too.

I got the link for this depressing reportage from a newsletter daily ezine here, whose founder Mayne, now a mere employee of the ezine having sold it on but still independent, regularly scorns Murdoch for predicting the Iraq invasion would see the price of oil halve to (I think) A$25 a barrel here. At the pump our petrol has easily doubled since about 2003, not halved, speaking as a delivery driver. That ezine guy Mayne, he used to work in the business pages for the same Murdoch’s Sydney Daily Telegraph that wrote the misleading and deceptive headline above.

The same newspaper here is also known as the Smelly Tele, or The Daily Terror (before the ‘war on terror’ term was coined) for blatant even fictional character assassinations. It sells it’s entertaining, manipulative fiction in high numbers day after day after day cooking peoples natural intelligence.

Keep rejecting such liars like Murdoch and his press I reckon.

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By Jesurgislac, June 30, 2006 at 4:10 am Link to this comment
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In Basra, seven Iraqi prisoners were beaten to death by British soldiers. A high-ranking Iraqi police official in Basra identified one of the victims as his son. It is common practice for soldiers to arrest the wives and children of suspects as “material witnesses” when the suspects are not captured in raids. In some cases the soldiers leave notes for the suspects, letting them know their families will be released should they turn themselves in. Soldiers claim this is a very effective tactic.

It’s also completely, explicitly illegal. Article 3.b of the Geneva Conventions prohibits the taking of hostages.

Not that we haven’t already known the US military was breaking the Geneva Conventions in Iraq. I just note it.

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By R. A. Earl, June 29, 2006 at 8:25 pm Link to this comment
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In #12619, Shellynm wrote, in part “My neighbor has a daughter that married a young man that joined the army as an infantryman.  I asked him why he did that since the army was a lot about killing and perhaps being killed. He said “I like that kind of stuff”.”

And that, in a nutshell, is why I have never been able to support “Remembrance Day” or “Armistice Day” or “Memorial Day” ceremonies. Not ONCE have I ever heard or read such honesty as I’ve quoted in the above paragraph. It’s been my view since I was old enough to have one that the MAJORITY of VOLUNTEERS in military service do NOT offer themselves up for God or country. They do so FOR THE BLOODY THRILL OF IT… and by the time they realize it’s not a game it’s too late - they’re either dead or maimed for life. Those who survive the ghastly horror show, appear each year to play the sympathy card… “look what I gave for my country… now, “country” honor and support me for the rest of my life.”

I mean no disrespect for those who actually thought they were doing the right thing as many were. I’m sure many were terrified and horrified. I respect their bravery in the face of such stupidity and danger. But I cannot join in “honoring” or glorifying the behavior. There is nothing glorious about engaging in war and killing. It’s a morally reprehensible and very, very stupid action. I can only wonder at what goes on in the minds of those who think otherwise.

There are those who will throw Hitler in my face and say that without the sacrifices of our brave young men Hitler would be running the world. First, you don’t know that. Secondly, don’t blame Hitler! The Hitlers of this world cannot function without the support of the rest of us one way or the other. LOOK IN THE MIRROR for the cause of your problems.

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By Sara, June 29, 2006 at 10:15 am Link to this comment
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Thank God the SCOTUS just called the administration to account.  Really, for the first time in years I found myself praying a spontaneous prayer of thanks to God.  I also thank God for honest journalists telling the truth when the rewards for telling the truth are so few and the rewards for doing sloppy/dishonest work are so many. 
It’s time to take apart their plastic fantastic happy shiny war with a wrecking ball.

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By Michelle, June 28, 2006 at 10:43 pm Link to this comment
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Ever wonder what the German people were doing while Hitler was degrading, humiliating, terrorizing and slaughtering millions of innocent people?  Look in the mirror, America.  See the shadow of swasticas on your foreheads?  I do.

Hitler killed for the ideal of purity.  Bush kills for the ideal of democracy—I mean, oil.

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By Fadel Abdallah, June 28, 2006 at 10:40 pm Link to this comment
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Nir Rosen’s report on the American callous and criminal occupying force is highly disturbing, even though it is still a limited and watered-down version of the total ugly and disturbing picture about this criminal war and its subsequent occupation results. So, let me first take my hat off for Nir Rosen’s honesty and courage in reporting the limited side of the situation he witnessed in a short period of time.
I, for one, never believed the official story, and will never believe any thing officially reported about the war and occupation in Iraq. I never believed the official story for the simple reason that the “King” of the official “Junta” -George Bush- turned out to be a pathetic chronic liar. An Arabic proverb says, “People follow the standards of their kings.” Hence, the standards of all official Americans, who have Bush as their “King” and so-called Commander-in-Chief, must all be liars.
Just imagine if we had in Iraq ten or twenty journalists of the type and caliber of Nir Rosen, each reporting honestly one angle of the ugly story in a different part of Iraq for an extended period of time, then the total picture to emerge would indeed be a very ugly and disturbing level of crimes and atrocities, not recorded even by Medieval times standards.
I, as an American citizen and tax-payer, feel that I carry some innocent blood on my hands for not being able to stop this savagery, which was done partly in my name and with my tax dollars; and yet I have failed to do anything concrete about it, besides just writing. I will go to my grave with this shame and guilt.
The only thing that would bring a measure of justice to balance the crimes in Iraq is if Bush and Junta would be brought to justice as war criminals. Any thing short of that will bring a lot of shame and disgrace to all of us who are really conscientious human beings.

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By GreginOz, June 28, 2006 at 10:06 pm Link to this comment
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BLOWBACK IS A BITCH! Can you imagine the sheer, undiluted, adamantine, -100 degree centigrade HATRED that fills the hearts of these civilians? Fuck the troops, fuck the government…we are destroying a 5000 year old culture that helped introduce WRITING to humanity, for fuck’s sake! If you were brutalised like this could you EVER forgive those that perpetrated it. Note that their culture cherishes vendetta for GENERATIONS! I am so ashamed that the Aussie Govt. is the number one lickspittle to this evil, disgusting US administration and truly believe that ALL Yanks, Brits and Aussies are complicit in these war crimes…yep, you too, fatty! Am reminded of a short story by Harlan Ellison, the title was “I have no mouth but I must scream”, that is Iraq. Regards

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By K, June 28, 2006 at 8:54 pm Link to this comment
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The only reason I’d like to see Guantanamo remain open is to see the terrorists/enemy combatants get a taste of their own medicine.  No legal counsel, a little bit of torture here and there—standard treatment for enemies of the government.

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By lori laidella, June 28, 2006 at 8:14 pm Link to this comment
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all i can do is throw up my arms and cry.thankyou for this eye witness report.i know this is what is happening.i live in new orleans and can only imagine how i would feel if on top of the horrors we have witnessed here if we had bombs and worse all around us comming from people we could not even comunicate with.i can see this will be another sleepless night for me.if i was a praying person i would be on my knees.instead i sit and continue to cry.i write letters,protest,email etc.but i feel so helpless in the face of such tragedy.

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By shellynm, June 28, 2006 at 8:03 pm Link to this comment
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These articles affected me greatly. My neighbor has a daughter that married a young man that joined the army as an infantryman.  I asked him why he did that since the army was a lot about killing and perhaps being killed. He said “I like that kind of stuff”. Why do we continually leave unchallenged the contention that the military is comprised of the best, the brightest?  We all know that’s not true. I know the military leaders are more to blame and many young people who commit violent acts in that situation would never do so in other circumstances. But let’s face it; many join the military for just such an opportunity.

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By Alan@oldeurope, June 28, 2006 at 5:59 pm Link to this comment
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I have just read “Assasins’Gate” by George Packer and it is clear from your excellent and disturbing article that the American presence in Iraq is a deeply dysfunctional and sociopathic enterprise for which the iraqis are paying in full. But they are not the only ones who will pay a price.

It does not bare thinking about the effect that these brutalised and traumatised soldiers and administrators will have on their families and communities when they finally all come home. A social calamity waiting to happen. Mind you given the White House’s(fast becoming the American Reich) fondness for the concept of continuous war that could be a long time coming. It is astonishing to many of us here in “‘ol Yurp” how Americans put up with the crap they do from pres, his cronies and fellow travelers. You can criticise the those French “cheese eating surrrender monkeys” all you like but when their leaders step too far out of line they take to the streets, like the good democrats they are, and make their “we the people” presence felt.

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By conchita, June 28, 2006 at 5:56 pm Link to this comment
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the others above have said it all.  what will it take for your writing to be published so all of the us reads it?

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By JustZisGuy, June 28, 2006 at 4:04 pm Link to this comment
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“What’s it going to take to get the APCs rolling down our streets”

Well, you’ve already had a taste of it (article dated Sep 2, 2005):

NEW ORLEANS, United States (AFP) - Iraq-tested US troops with shoot-to-kill orders were deployed in New Orleans to restore law and order after days of chaos and looting in the hurricane-devastated city.

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco said the 300 troopers from the Arkansas National Guard had been authorized to open fire on “hoodlums” who have been terrorising the flooded city in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Their deployment came amid intense criticism of the government for a tardy response to the disaster, which is feared to have killed thousands of people and left hundreds of thousands more stranded and homeless.

“These troops are fresh back from Iraq, well trained, experienced, battle tested and under my orders to restore order in the streets,” Blanco said.

“They have M-16s and they are locked and loaded.

“These troops know how to shoot and kill and they are more than willing to do so if necessary and I expect they will,” said Blanco.

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By Reg, June 28, 2006 at 3:46 pm Link to this comment
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We said it before, we’ll say it again.  We have the proof from our own FBI definition:

GW Bush is the World’s Leading Terrorist!

Free pdf download:


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By Pete, June 28, 2006 at 1:08 pm Link to this comment
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Thank you for your honesty, and certainly there is no question that our troops doing their jobs cannot avoid intrusive and insulting presence. 

There may be question in the minds of some whether this, on the balance, was or was not a justifiable war.

  But there can be no question that (the lack of) preparation, planning, and management of the war by our corrupt and incompetent administration, has truly shamed us. It has also left our young men and women at risk.

Many of these will come home bearing the scars of this horrific situation in their psyches. And Iraqis will have to be nearly super human to over come the challenges we have visited on them. 

But hey, oil, right? Hooyah.

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By hugh, June 28, 2006 at 12:35 pm Link to this comment
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Thanks for the great journalism.

I am from South Africa.  The only way I think the US can recover from this awful period will be the trials of the key individuals involved in formenting this illegal aggressive war, in US courts for breaking US law.  Hopefully Iraq can also recover in time, but the dead are the dead and there appear to have been mountains of innocent dead that must be accounted for!!

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By Hagen von Tronje, June 28, 2006 at 12:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The ghosts of Heinrich Himmler and Ernst Kaltenbrunner have surfaced.

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By McKinney, June 28, 2006 at 11:46 am Link to this comment
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At the present the U.S. can still be a land of democracy, but if this country is in a constant state of war there will be no democracy.  I was raised in post WWII and this country went to war because if we did not Hitler would be at our door step.  But we went to war with Iraq on the assumption that there were weapons against us, then it was to spread democracy, all we really established was a puppet government in Iraq, how can you have a democracy if most of the people have allready left your country?

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By r jackowski, June 28, 2006 at 11:24 am Link to this comment
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War crimes have been committed in our names. We must call for war crimes trials NOT Impeachment. Impeachment is just a slap on the wrist. Impeachment trivializes the crimes. Think Nuremberg!

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By Hilding Lindquist, June 28, 2006 at 6:51 am Link to this comment
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Haditha, Falluja, Abu Gharib are only some of the most obvious horror stories of our war in Iraq. And to our eternal shame we go about our lives as if nothing is happening ... those of us who are not directly involved ...

Is there a greater sin for a people?: To not care about what is being done in our name to innocent men, women, and children through no fault of their own, only that someone acting on our behalf has labeled them our enemy?

And we are not caring with our eyes wide open to the suffering. There is no way we can say at some future time, “We didn’t know.”

My god, where are the prophets to call us to repentance? To decipher the handwriting on the wall? We have become the Ghengis Khan of our age.

We are NOT a Christian nation in the meaning of Jesus as the Christ, the Prince of Peace. What we are is a “Joshua fought the Battle of Jericho” nation, slaughtering the men, women, and children along with the animals ... every living thing in the name of Jehovah.

God save us from ourselves! Lest we be cursed forever.

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By Beker, June 28, 2006 at 2:44 am Link to this comment
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We’re fighting them over there so they’ll be able to fight us over here. What’s it going to take to get the APCs rolling down our streets, to get our doors kicked in, to get us locked away and forgotten in detention centers? A ten percent spread between exit polls and the upcoming rigged Diebold vote in 2008? Some Americans may hopefully, finally, respond by massing in the streets and meaning it for once, and - bingo - that’ll provide the long-sought exit strategy from Iraq. The troops will be brought back so that they can fight us over here once they’re inured to fighting the way they did over there.

And then we’ll get ours. We keep allowing ourselves to be trampled on, we keep giving up our democracy to the rednecks and rapture-headed and republican gangsters - don’t worry, citizens of Planet Earth, we’ll get ours.

The sad difference will be that we’ll have earned it. Every day we consent to our criminal overlords and allow them get away with all of it, we earn it all over again.

God help us all. We Americans carry the purple ink of this terror on all our thumbs.

So far, all we hear is the occasional call for censure, a few brave people speak of impeachment. It’s time to address the treason, committed in a time of war, by Bush and his shameless gang. The treason and the time-honored remedy for it handed down by a competent court. If there will be one. By then it my just be tribunals for all of us.

The whole thing is exhausting. Thanks for the article.

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