"Alliance" Of Violence
By Dahr Jamail
30 March 2006
r u t h o u t
disturbing trend noticeable in Iraq for quite some time now is that
each aggressive Israeli military operation in the occupied territories
results in a corresponding increase in the number of attacks on US forces
in Iraq. One of the first instances of this was the assassination of
Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in March 2004 and the reaction it set
off across Shia and Sunni, ultimately spiraling into the siege and devastation
of Fallujah. Fallujah is but one example one may use to demonstrate
how the ongoing use of heavy handed tactics by the US-Israel alliance
is proving to be as suicidal as it is homicidal. US troops in Iraq and
Israeli civilians in their homes can bear testimony to this, as they
are the ones who bear the brunt. Not to mention the collateral damage
May 17, 2004, Washington
Cofer Black, at the time
Coordinator for Counterterrorism for the US State Department, in a talk
at the 2004 Policy Conference for the American-Israeli Public Affairs
Committee (AIPAC), said that of all the nations cooperating with the
US in the global war on terror, "none [is] more stalwart than the
state of Israel." He told the audience of the powerful lobby group
that "Our two great nations will stand together to fight terror"
and deemed the US-Israel Joint Counterterrorism Group (JCG) "an
important part of our counterterrorism partnership."
May 10, 2004, Fallujah,
The first US siege of Fallujah
ended in early May, 2004, and on May 10th US forces abandoned all control
of the city, handing it back over to the Iraqis.
April 4, 2004, Fallujah,
US military directed to
launch the first, and eventually failed, revenge assault in retaliation
for the four Blackwater USA mercenaries killed on March 31st. The siege
caused severe casualties among the people of Fallujah, killing 736 people,
over 60% of whom were women, children and the elderly, according to
the director of Fallujah General Hospital.
April 2, 2004, Iraq
Speaking on al-Manar TV,
Muqtada al-Sadr pledged, "From here I announce my solidarity with
the genuine unity announced by Hezbollah general secretary Hassan Nasrallah
with the mujahideen movement Hamas. Let them consider me their striking
hand in Iraq whenever the need arises. As the martyr Sheikh Ahmed Yassin
said, Iraq and Palestine have the same destiny."
March 31, 2004, Fallujah,
Four Blackwater USA mercenaries
killed in Fallujah in an attack avenging the assassination of Hamas
leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Nine days after the assassination, the bodies
of four mercenaries from Blackwater USA were burned, chopped into pieces,
dragged behind vehicles bearing posters of Sheikh Yassin, and finally
put on display by being hung from a bridge. Pamphlets were distributed
at the scene which declared the attack against the four men as having
been carried out in the name of Yassin. It was also reported by several
Arab media outlets at the time that a group known as the "Phalange
of Sheikh Yassin" claimed responsibility for the attack, and that
the deaths of the four men were meant as a "gift to the Palestinian
March 28, 2004, Baghdad,
The head of the CPA, Paul
Bremer, ordered the closing of the al-Hawza newspaper, the mouthpiece
of Muqtada al-Sadr. One of Sadr's spokespeople, Sheikh Mahmud Sudani,
told reporters at the time that al-Hawza had attracted censure because
of its strong critique of the killing of Sheikh Yassin by Israeli forces.
The closing of this paper was a primary factor that led to the first
violent uprising called by Sadr against the occupiers.
March 26, 2004, Iraq
Four days after the assassination
of Yassin, thousands of followers of the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr,
carrying portraits both of Yassin and Sadr, demonstrated after Friday
prayers in protest of Israel's action by burning Israeli flags, chanting
"No, no to Israel" and "No, no to occupation." In
Najaf, an Imam with the extremely powerful political party the Supreme
Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) called for demonstrations
outside the revered Imam Ali mosque. Similar demonstrations were also
held as far north as the city of Mosul.
The demonstration began
promptly after it was ordered, with protesters shouting, "Death
to Israel, death to America." Other demonstrations continued across
Iraq daily for weeks after the assassination, denouncing Israel's actions.
Even US-appointed puppets in Iraq's Interim Governing Council expressed
grave concerns that the killing of Yassin, who was highly respected
throughout the Arab world, would escalate violence in Iraq. This concern
materialized within hours, as blood began to flow throughout central
and southern Iraq.
On the same day Grand Ayatollah
Ali al-Sistani, who commands more followers than any leader in Iraq,
political or spiritual, released an unusually staunch statement of criticism,
referring to the assassination of Yassin as "an ugly crime against
the Palestinian people" with an injunction, "We call upon
the core of the Arab and Islamic nations to close ranks, unite and work
hard for the liberation of the usurped land."
March 22, 2004, Gaza
While he was being wheeled
out of his morning prayer session in his wheelchair on March 22, 2004,
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was assassinated by US-built Hellfire missiles fired
by a US-built helicopter piloted by members of the Israeli military.
The quadriplegic elder die along with two of his bodyguards and six
bystanders. The half-blind Hamas leader was replaced by his son Rantissi,
who was also murdered shortly after his father, on April 17th.
There was a clear connection
between events in Gaza and what these generated in Iraq.
This act of state-sponsored
terrorism by the Israeli government was opposed even by British Foreign
Secretary Jack Straw, who said, "It [Israel] is not entitled to
go in for this kind of unlawful killing and we condemn it. It is unacceptable,
it is unjustified and it is very unlikely to achieve its objectives."
Reaction from the United
States? The usual feeble inauthentic mumblings of "We condemn this
attack." Once again actions spoke far louder than words when the
US vetoed a UN resolution condemning Yassin's assassination.
Cofer Black later became
Vice President of Blackwater USA, the erstwhile employer of the four
mercenaries killed in Fallujah.
The ongoing alliance of
unbridled and unbalanced military aid flowing into Israel from the US
has gone unchallenged for years. "Since 1976, Israel has been the
largest annual recipient of US foreign assistance, and is the largest
cumulative recipient since World War II," according to an Issue
Brief for Congress from 2002. This US military support to Israel has
caused, especially in Iraq, an incredible backlash against US troops
and contractors. This is not helped by the fact that much of this aid
comes in the form of weapons. Israel is one of the largest importers
of weapons from the US, and in the last decade alone, Israel purchased
$7.2 billion in weapons and other military equipment. As a result, Israel
is now the proud owner of the largest fleet of F-16 fighter jets outside
of the United States.
I found it to be common
knowledge in Iraq that, during the last six years of the Clinton presidency,
the US gave Israel free weapons and ammunition, such as M-16 rifles,
grenade launchers, .50 caliber machine guns and the ammunition for all
The reputation of the US
in the region has been further demolished both by the failed occupation
of Iraq and by its perpetual support for Israeli policies, generally
viewed with contempt throughout the Arab and Muslim world. The ongoing
violations of international law by both countries don't exactly assist
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon,
who had given the "green light" for the Yassin operation,
monitored its progress in real-time video transmitted from the Israeli
military helicopters. His ecstasy was accompanied by complete dismissal
of all international criticism.
Ask any US military commanders
how they feel about the deaths of US soldiers in Iraq generated by revenge
attacks in reaction to Israeli military policy against Palestinians.
The consensus is an overwhelming thumbs down regarding the effectiveness
of the strategy.
One could ask the families
of the four Blackwater USA mercenaries who were killed in Fallujah on
March 31, 2004, as well. The four men were killed in a revenge attack
that had twofold causes - reports had been coming out of Fallujah for
months about assassinations, rape and thefts carried out by "plain
clothed" men working for the US military. But more pertinent to
this particular attack is the date on which it occurred.
I remember seeing photos
of Sheikh Yassin in several areas of Baghdad and Abu Ghraib while both
entering and exiting Fallujah on April 9 and 10, during the US attack
on the city. The photos of the slain Hamas leader were pasted on the
sides of cars, trucks, roadside food stalls and even some houses.
It would appear that Cofer
Black had left Israeli Prime Minister Sharon out of the cooperation
loop of his counterterrorism strategy, as the Israeli military was being
instructed by Sharon to carry out operations that engendered severe
repercussions in Iraq and took the form, and continue to take the form,
of dead American soldiers.
Not so coincidentally, less
than a year after the first siege of Fallujah, on February 4, 2005,
Cofer Black was named Vice-Chairman of Blackwater USA. The press release
proudly announced his arrival in the company's leadership, asserting
that during his time in the State Department Black's responsibilities
included "coordinating US Government efforts to improve counterterrorism
cooperation with foreign governments, including the policy and planning
of the Department's Antiterrorism Training Assistance Program."
Is it perhaps possible that
despite a 28-year career in the Directorate of Operations at the CIA,
Black was unaware of Sharon's plans to murder Yassin, or was unable
to stop it, or most likely, approved of this methodology?
The latter possibility seems
most likely when we consider the instances of direct Israeli involvement
with US policy on the ground in Iraq that have long since come to light.
"One step the Pentagon
took was to seek active and secret help in the war against the Iraqi
insurgency from Israel, America's closest ally in the Middle East,"
wrote Seymor Hersh in the New Yorker in December, 2003, "According
to American and Israeli military and intelligence officials, Israeli
commandos and intelligence units have been working closely with their
American counterparts at the Special Forces training base at Fort Bragg,
North Carolina, and in Israel to help them prepare for operations in
Iraq." Israeli commandos are expected to serve as ad-hoc advisers
- again, in secret - when full-field operations begin. Neither the Pentagon
nor Israeli diplomats would comment. "No one wants to talk about
this," an Israeli official told me. "It's incendiary. Both
governments have decided at the highest level that it is in their interests
to keep a low profile on US-Israeli cooperation" on Iraq.)"
Hersh also told the BBC that his sources had confirmed the presence
of Israeli intelligence personnel operating inside Iraq.
During that same month,
it was reported that Israeli counter-insurgency specialists were sent
to Fort Bragg to teach American special forces how to control an unruly
Iraqi population. Also during December 2003, it was reported that "Israeli
advisers are helping train US special forces in aggressive counter-insurgency
operations in Iraq, including the use of assassination squads against
guerrilla leaders, US intelligence and military sources said on Monday,"
and "The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has sent urban warfare specialists
to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the home of US special forces, and
according to two sources, Israeli military "consultants" have
also visited Iraq. US forces in Iraq's Sunni triangle have already begun
to use tactics that echo Israeli operations in the occupied territories,
sealing off centers of resistance with razor wire and razing buildings
from where attacks have been launched against US troops."
Iraqis are all too aware
of this, and I even saw this played out on the ground in Samarra as
far back as December 2003. I interviewed a family whose home was demolished
by military bulldozers after a roadside bomb detonated near it hit a
passing US patrol. This, coupled with collective punishment of the city
by cuts in electricity, water and medical aid, had everyone infuriated,
and continues to do so today as these policies gain in scale, frequency
These collective punishment
tactics have been imposed, to one degree or another, in other cities
in Iraq, such as Fallujah, Abu Hishma, Siniyah, Ramadi, areas of Baghdad,
Balad and Baquba, to name just a few. Iraqis see the collective punishment
meted out by Israeli military forces in Palestinian neighborhoods in
the occupied territories via Arab satellite television networks, and
are horrified to witness the very same tactics being applied on their
Another destructive link
highlighting the intertwined policies of the two countries is Abu Ghraib.
In July 2004, after the torture scandal broke, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski,
the US officer at the heart of the Abu Ghraib scandal, told BBC she
had evidence that Israelis helped interrogate Iraqis at another detention
facility in Iraq. Karpinski told the BBC she'd met a man who told her
he was from Israel while she was visiting an intelligence center with
a senior US general. "I saw an individual there that I hadn't had
the opportunity to meet before, and I asked him what did he do there,
was he an interpreter - he was clearly from the Middle East," she
said. "He said, 'Well, I do some of the interrogation here. I speak
Arabic but I'm not an Arab; I'm from Israel.'"
I've spoken with several
Iraqis who had been tortured in various military detention facilities
throughout Iraq. Several of them testified to being interrogated by
Israeli Mossad (an Israeli intelligence agency).
Another event that sent
shock-waves throughout Iraq was the news from December 2004 that detainees
in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were tortured and, according to FBI agents,
one detainee was wrapped in an Israeli flag and subjected to extremely
loud music in order to shake his resistance to his interrogation.
It is clear that the longer
the two countries continue with the use of their brute military power
as the prime strategy in their war on terrorism, the greater grows the
threat to the civilians they claim to protect.
Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist who spent over 8 months reporting
from occupied Iraq. He presented evidence of US war crimes in Iraq at
the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed
by the Bush Administration in New York City in January 2006. He writes
regularly for TruthOut, Inter Press Service, Asia Times and TomDispatch,
and maintains his own web site, dahrjamailiraq.com.