Monday, October 02, 2006

Patrick Cockburn on the Occupation

Patrick Cockburn, journalist for The Independent who has been reporting the Iraq war from Baghdad since it began in March 2003, has a new book out called The Occupation, and his description of what Iraq has become under American rule is not pretty. Cockburn's is yet one more voice of experience saying that the Dante-esque hell Iraq has become is the direct result of the U.S. invasion and occupation. Not only that, but Cockburn has seen U.S. troops behave in needlessly provocative ways that make one wonder whether they are trying to start something:

When Alexander the Great swept through Asia Minor in 337BC, he came to the impregnable mountain fortress of Termessos, not far from the modern-day Turkish city of Antalya. Termessos possessed a network of huge underground reservoirs and storerooms and, realising he would not bring the city to submission in a short time, Alexander ordered that the olive groves which provided Termessos with much of its income be levelled. It was an unusually spiteful act that was remembered for centuries afterwards.

I was reminded of the story when reading Patrick Cockburn's The Occupation, a vivid account of war and resistance in Iraq which is published by Verso this week. Cockburn describes a visit to Dhuluaya, a fruit-growing region 50 miles north of Baghdad, where, early on in the occupation, the American military cut down ancient date palms and orange and lemon trees as part of a collective punishment for farmers who had failed to inform them about guerrilla attacks. This vandalism will be remembered for generations because it was senseless and to the Iraqi mind powerfully symbolises the malice of the occupiers.

'At times,' Cockburn says of the period just after the invasion, 'it seemed as if the American military was determined to provoke an uprising.' Well, now they've got it, a ferocious war that in the last three months alone has cost 10,000 lives, most of them Iraqi. There seems no end to it and as Cockburn writes in his conclusion, instead of asserting America's position as the sole superpower, the occupation has amply demonstrated the limits of US power.

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