“Perception” of occupation

The US military has dismissed calls by Reuters and other news organisations in Iraq about the arrest and incarceration of journalists. A Reuters cameraman has been held incommunicado for over two weeks and is currently at Abu Ghraib. Many reporters have been falsely accused by the US of knowing about insurgent attacks before their occur, charges strongly denied.

Reporters Without Borders said the arrests do “not reflect well on the United States, which nonetheless does not hesitate to give the rest of the world lessons on freedom of expression and democracy”.

A Washington Post article this week revealed that more than 40,000 people had been arrested since the March 2003 invasion.

“The population today at the three U.S.-run prisons – Bucca, Abu Ghraib and Camp Cropper near the Baghdad airport, where former President Saddam Hussein and his lieutenants are being held – is 10,600, double the number of a year ago. The average incarceration at Bucca is a year. The military attributes the surge in detentions to an increase in combat operations and the inability of the nascent Iraqi justice system to handle the crushing caseload.

“Many of the freed detainees express bewilderment at why they were held; even the U.S. commander who oversees Bucca, Col. Austin Schmidt, 55, of Fairfax, estimated that one in four prisoners “perhaps were just snagged in a dragnet-type operation” or were victims of personal vendettas.

“This is like Chicago in the ’30s: You don’t like somebody, you drop a dime on them,” Schmidt said. “And by the time the Iraqi court system figures it out, they go home. But it takes a while.”

Such behaviour is perfect to instil a sense of trust in the occupation.

The delusion continued this week when Major General Douglas Lute, director of operations at US Central Command, announced that a drastic reduction in troop numbers was likely in the coming 12 months.

“You have to undercut the perception of occupation in Iraq”, he said. “It’s very difficult to do that when you have 150,000-plus, largely western, foreign troops occupying the country.”

Iraqis will no doubt be pleased to read the occupation is merely a “perception”. Furthermore, when the US does eventually withdraw some of its troops, though still maintains forces on the ground within heavily-fortified bunkers, Iraqis will feel much more comfortable in the knowledge that it’s only a “mini” occupation, rather than a full-scale one.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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