Thursday, September 10, 2009

WWB: neighbors and friends turning on each other

WHAT WAR BRINGS: neighbors and friends turning on each other in violence.

In a lot of occupations by a foreign power, the indigenous population will dissolve into a civil war. This has happened in Iraq, but has not happened (yet) in Afghanistan. The people of Iraq called it the “divide and conquer” strategy. Whatever it is called, and whatever was the cause of it, it is devastating for the people who live there. The fabric of their community is ripped to shreds.

In Iraq, neighbors slaughtered neighbors, friends slaughtered friends, and probably family members killed other family members. And it definitely was an ‘equal opportunity’ form of group insanity…… with Shia militias, Sunni insurgents, ordinary criminals, insane people, and al Qaeda supporters all joining in. Oftentimes, the victims were targeted because they were seen as working or supporting the occupiers. Sometimes, the victims were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. And a lot of this violence is very vicious indeed.

Inside Iraq: Living with the enemy

I first met Abu Wissam at the foot of his son's shallow grave. Never will he be able to erase the last image he has of his son's body. "He was cut to pieces," he said. "His hands and feet were chopped off. And he was decapitated." For a long time, Iraqis would say that it was "outsiders" that were carrying out such atrocities. The truth that is so hard to accept for many is that that often was not the case. Iraqis turned on each other, neighbors slaughtered neighbors, friends betrayed one another. It was the sheer degradation of society on a shocking and utterly petrifying scale.

.... The militia behind the kidnapping was the self proclaimed Mehdi Army, a Shia militia loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. And the militiamen were once friends and neighbors.

Many of the victims of this sectarian strife or general lawlessness and insanity were ‘disappeared’ and have not been found to this day. The CNN report continues:

Clutching photographs of their loved ones still missing. Desperate to grasp on to any thread that might lead them to those who vanished. They tell us about how they used to hear the victims' screams, how that sound still haunts them. They tell us the killers are still out there. The pain is palpable. So much sorrow and anguish, choking emotions, sheer helplessness, in just one location, one mosque in Baghdad with dried blood still streaking the walls.

The article goes on to question how, exactly, does this happen that neighbors and friends – who have know each other for years or decades – turn on one another. There really is no good answer for that, but I suspect mental illness plays a huge role in this. The diary I posted on September 8, 2009 covered suicides and mental illness from WHAT WAR BRINGS. I really think this may be a large part of why all this happened. The CNN article goes on to report what some of the victims families have to say about the murders and torture:

The families of the victims often gather at Abu Wissam's house. They don't talk of reconciliation or forgiveness. They talk of wanting justice -- and that means the killers' detention and execution. "The government has done nothing for us," one of the mothers gathered there says, her voice filled with anger and frustration. "We will take our own revenge. I say that as a woman, I don't have a man who can stand up for me, I will take revenge with my own hands. I will booby-trap myself and head towards them, towards their families."

That certainly explains were some of the suicide bombers come from….. put people in so much pain that they go crazy in their thirst for revenge. The killers are now just regular members of Iraqi society, and have not faced any justice.

How does a country heal from such extreme violence? I sure don’t know. But the ethnic cleansing has been deep in the city of Baghdad, and appears to be permanent.

UCLA Study of Satellite Imagery Casts Doubt on Surge’s Success in Baghdad

Night light in neighborhoods populated primarily by embattled Sunni residents declined dramatically just before the February 2007 surge and never returned, suggesting that ethnic cleansing by rival Shiites may have been largely responsible for the decrease in violence for which the U.S. military has claimed credit.

.... "Essentially, our interpretation is that violence has declined in Baghdad because of intercommunal violence that reached a climax as the surge was beginning," said lead author John Agnew, a UCLA professor of geography and authority on ethnic conflict. "By the launch of the surge, many of the targets of conflict had either been killed or fled the country, and they turned off the lights when they left."

In a lot of occupations, some of the local residents will support the occupier, and some will not. Add to that the fact that some of the Iraqis suffered greatly from the US invasion, in death and injuries from military action, and from the destruction of their economy. This fact (in and of itself) would have been enough to start off the sectarian strife.

But on top of that, the US authorities in Iraq in 2003 deliberately set up conditions that took note of who was a Sunni and who was a Shi’a. This was a new reality in Iraq, where they pretty much ignored these differences under the Saddam regime (for example, 40% of the names in the “Deck of Cards” from the Bush administration were Shi’a).

Last month, there were multiple bombings of the Foreign Ministry and Finance Ministry in Iraq, with scores dead and thousands injured. This article mentions how that reflected the reality of sectarian separation imposed by the US occupiers:

The three ministries targeted were each known to fall more thoroughly under the sway of Iraq's big ethnosectarian factions than under Maliki's direct control. (That was one result of the system of "apportionment" of state positions and patronage among Iraq's sects and ethnicities that was introduced by the U.S. occupation.)

AND, on top of that, various governments in the Middle East did their best to “support” the group that was best aligned with their country. This “support” often took the form of weapons and fighters. And then there was the al Qaeda knock-offs who did their very best to stir up sectarian strife in Iraq.

It is actually pretty amazing that it all took almost three years post invasion to really get going.

So far, this has not happened in Afghanistan. Neighbors have not turned on neighbors, although there is a history of the Northern warlords fighting the Pashtun people who made up the Taliban. In some parts of the country, people do support the Taliban, in other parts they most certainly do not. A recent example of that is found in this story about an ambush on US forces and the Afghans who are fighting with them. In this story, the locals did support the Taliban, and the Taliban were believed to have been tipped off by local Afghans.

We walked into a trap, a killing zone of relentless gunfire and rocket barrages from Afghan insurgents hidden in the mountainsides and in a fortress-like village where women and children were replenishing their ammunition.

.... A possible clue to what was to come occurred when the lights in Ganjgal suddenly blinked out while our vehicles were still several miles away, crashing slowly through the semi-dark along a rutted track toward the village.

.... Several U.S. officers said they suspected that the insurgents had been tipped off by sympathizers in the local Afghan security forces or by the village elders, who announced over the weekend that they were accepting the authority of the local government.

Sounds like the perfect set up to get a civil war going, where neighbors and friends turn on each other.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: neighbors and friends turning on each other in violence.

Tell me why – child singing song asking why there is violence and pain in the world

“Every day, I ask myself
what will I have to do to be a man
Do I have, to stand and fight
To prove to everybody who I am
Is that what my life is for?
To waste in a world full of war?”

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