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Iraq Iron Hammer Likely to Foster More Insurgency

From the radio newsmagazine
Between The Lines
Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release Dec. 1, 2003

Pentagon's Operation Iron Hammer in Iraq Could Foster More Support for Anti-U.S. Insurgency

- Interview with Rahul Mahajan, author of "Full Spectrum Dominance: U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond," conducted by Scott Harris

Listen in RealAudio:

For several weeks now, the U.S. military has been engaged in a counteroffensive against Iraqi insurgents code-named "Operation Iron Hammer." While the Pentagon maintains that their more aggressive tactics in Iraq have reduced the number of daily attacks targeting U.S. forces there, American soldiers continue to die in ambushes and roadside bombings.

Critics warn that the Army's use of high-tech weaponry to blow up buildings and the demolition of homes suspected of being used by insurgents and their allies could backfire by increasing the average Iraqi's resentment against the U.S. occupation while fostering support for anti-American guerrilla fighters. This claim was borne out in a recently leaked classified CIA report which concluded that Iraqis are losing faith in the U.S.-led occupation, leading to more sympathy for the insurgents.

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The White House has reacted to the deteriorating situation in Iraq with plans to speed up a transition from American rule to an Iraqi provisional government handpicked by the U.S. In a recent New York Times editorial, Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations recommends that the U.S. adopt tactics used in the Vietnam War, such as the infamous Phoenix Program, where the CIA assassinated more than 26,000 supporters of the Communist insurgency. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Rahul Mahajan, author of the book, "Full Spectrum Dominance: U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond," who takes a critical look at the tactics used by the Pentagon in confronting the growing insurgency challenging the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Rahul Mahajan: What's happened is that the United States, not content with already a pretty significant level of repression, has moved to an entirely new level of attacks on targets, not necessarily because they're clearly seen to be military targets, but also just as shows of force. In response to the numerous incidents in which large numbers of U.S. soldiers were killed recently, the United States has set out to essentially terrorize the Iraqi population -- to show them, as one officer said, that "we have teeth and claws and we're willing to use them." That 's in a nutshell what (Operation) Iron Hammer is.

It's interesting that many of these techniques being used right now by the United States in this occupation, bear a great resemblance to techniques used by the Israelis, including the use of F-16 (jet fighter) strikes and dropping 500-pound bombs on houses. What this signifies, I think, is it shows the desperation of U.S. policy and it shows very clearly that the occupation is not going well for the United States.

It's interesting that every time there's a big attack by the Iraqi resistance on the United States, you hear words from the White House to the effect that this shows the desperation of the Iraqi resistance and they realize they're losing -- which is ridiculous, of course, because what it shows actually is that they are more able and willing everyday to attack targets and to successfully execute what they're trying to do.

But the U.S. show of force is very clearly a sign of desperation and shows that the United States is losing control of the situation, because of course in situations like this, the amount of resistance that you get from the populace is directly proportional to the brutality and repression that you use on them -- and escalating it this notch that they have done with Iron Hammer is just very clearly going to lead to more resistance. The United States is getting itself caught in this spiral which is going to lead out of control.

Between The Lines: I would go on to ask you about something you said just a moment ago -- the similarities that we see in the U.S. occupation of Iraq with some of the tactics undertaken by the Israeli military and their occupation of Palestinian territories.

Rahul Mahajan: Yes, there's numerous parallels. One that was first reported on, I believe in May, was the taking of hostages. In particular, the first case that got some coverage was an Iraqi Lt. General that the United States was after, and in order to get him to turn himself in, his wife and children were taken hostage. Of course, this is a blatant violation of the laws of war or the laws governing an occupation and also of basic decency, but the United States did it in that case. And since then it's become reasonably common. If they do a raid on a house and the person they're looking for isn't there, it's quite likely that they will take someone else to get some leverage to get that person to turn himself in. So there's one similarity.

There was a stunning similarity reported in August in Dhuluaya, which is a town about 50 miles north of Baghdad, where local farmers who were supposedly, according to (U.S.) soldiers not giving information about the resistance and had their date palms and their orange and lemon trees cut down. This is a blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions and bears a stunning resemblance of course to the Israeli destruction of olive trees in Palestine.

Between The Lines: There was a recent poll conducted by the CIA, or the CIA had reported on a recent survey of Iraqis and their view of the U.S. occupation. It painted a pretty dismal picture, can you provide some details for us?

Rahul Mahajan: Basically the poll showed that a significant majority of Iraqis very clearly think that this is an occupation, not a liberation. Three-fourths of Iraqis, roughly, believe that the so-called "Governing Council" is really a puppet body controlled by the United States. And I think that these polls pretty much tell you whatever you need to know. The majority of Iraqis are firmly against the occupation; they don't like what's happening to the country under U.S. rule.

Between The Lines: There are a lot of comparisons made to the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and the long war in Indochina. It was interesting to note that in the New York Times last week, Max Boot a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, suggested using tactical operations seen in Vietnam, such as the Kit Carson Scouts and the Phoenix Program, where tens of thousands of Vietnamese were killed. What do you make of this kind of proposal in the pages of the New York Times?

Rahul Mahajan: I don't think it's surprising at all. All the talk about how this was a liberation of the Iraqi people and we were doing it for their benefit was just a thin veneer of propaganda. When the United States is hurt in some way, when it seems that the cost either in lives or in money, or in this case both, of the occupation is too high, then it's very natural for figures in the mainstream -- and Max Booth certainly is in the mainstream, he's not some far right-winger -- to start suggesting these absolutely atrocious and inhumane kinds of methods. The Phoenix program in Vietnam actually did go a significant way towards achieving the goal of liquidating the politically active groups in South Vietnam. It's imaginable that something like that, some program of torture and mass murder in Iraq might actually work the same way. It worked for Saddam, so perhaps the United States should try it too, but that would certainly make a mockery of any claims that this occupation is in any way for the good of the people of Iraq.

"Full Spectrum Dominance: U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond," is published by Seven Stories Press.

Visit Rahul Mahajan's website to see "10 Issues The Media Fell Down On."

Related links on our website at for Week Ending

Dec. 5, 2003:

- "IRAQ: US terrorizes civilians"

- "U.S. Tactics in Iraq May Backfire, Critics Say"

- "Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog From Iraq"

- "Assassins R Us"

- "US's 'Iron Hammer' Code Name 1st Used by Nazis"


Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on over 35 radio stations, including Sirius satellite radio. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines (, for the week ending Dec. 5, 2003. Between The Lines Q&A is compiled by Scott Harris and Anna Manzo.

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