A day after four U.S. military contractors were murdered then mutilated in the streets of Fallujah we go to Baghdad to speak with retired Iraqi engineer Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar about mercenaries in Iraq and why Fallujah has become a hotbed of the Iraqi resistance. [includes rush transcript]
On Wednesday, four U.S. contractors were murdered and then mutilated in the Iraqi city of Fallujah in one of the most graphic attacks on U.S. interests since the invasion of Iraq. And nearby five U.S. soldiers were killed in a separate attack.
In the attack on the contractors, news agencies captured photos and images of their burnt corpses being dismembered in the streets. Two of bodies were tied up under a bridge and lynched over the Euphates. The others were dragged through the streets behind cars and hacked to pieces.
The New York Times reports seeing a 10-year-old body stepping on a burnt head screaming "Where is Bush? Let him come here and see this!"
The incident came on the same day the total number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq reached 600.
The four Americans killed on Wednesday all worked for the firm Blackwater which routinely hires former soldiers often ex-Navy Seals to form essentially a private army that largely exists outside of the public eye.
It is unknown how many private U.S. contractors have been killed though it has been reported the Army is relying on private security companies more as the opposition to the occupation intensifies.
There appears to have been no US effort to save the contractors or even to collect the bodies until hours after the attack.
On Wednesday, the Coalition Provisional Authority’s Web site didn’t even mention the attacks. One of the top headlines on the website read, "Iraqi Police Equal to Task of Public Safety"
Middle East analyst Juan Cole says the degree of hatred among ordinary Iraqi toward Americans is bad news for the occupying forces.
He writes, "It helps explain why so few of the Sunni Arab guerrillas have been caught, since the locals hide and help them. It also seems a little unlikely that further US military action can do anything practical to put down this insurgency; most actions it could take would simply inflame the public against them all the more. It seems likely to me that the guerrilla violence will continue for years."
- Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar, a retired Iraqi engineer speaking from Baghdad.
AMY GOODMAN: Today we turn to Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar, a retired Iraqi engineer in Baghdad right now, recently in Fallujah. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Ghazwan.
GHAZWAN AL-MUKHTAR: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Can you describe the reaction in the streets to what took place in Fallujah?
GHAZWAN AL-MUKHTAR: This incident happened in Fallujah where two days before that, the American army shot many many people, women and children, on the streets, and —-— in a bizarre shooting incident that was unjustified, killing many people. Fallujah has been a place where the US Army has actually used brutal force to suppress the people there, including using the F-15s, and F-16s to attack villages and place where they think the resistances are, which is unjustified to use high explosives against individuals. This resulted in many, many casualties in the province. Added to it, they have detained, for 50 or 60 days, hundreds of people on and off, which alienated the people against the American forces and the American contractors or the American security contractors, which are really a private army, uncontrollable by the US. This is part of the privatization of the war. Two days ago, three days ago, there was a similar incident in Mosul, where two contractors were killed, under electricity. They were going to the electricity generating plant. The important — the thing that I know is in the media says that the contractors were involved in protecting the food supply. This is the food supply for the US Army, not to be confused with providing help to the local population or anything. It’s just a routine US convoy that may have food and may have on other occasions, armaments or anything. So, the resentments of the people of Fallujah are justified. What happens to them is — it’s a sad thing, but you know, brutality breeds brutality, and violence breeds violence, and he who started first should take the responsibility, and I think the US army has used an unjustified force against the people of Fallujah, and they have brutalized the people of Fallujah to the point where they had to respond with the same brutality.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, some of the commercial media here in the United States are claiming that Fallujah is a hotbed of resistance, that up to 70% of the people are supporting attacks or have voiced in opinion polls support for attacks on the US forces. Is there a continuing large presence of US military within — within the city itself, or have they largely pulled out to the outskirts of Fallujah?
GHAZWAN AL-MUKHTAR: They pulled out to the outskirts, but they keep intruding into the city. Ten days ago, I was passing through Fallujah, and in the middle of the city, they brought the main highway, and we saw inside the city a convoy of US military vehicles. So, they keep coming in and out. If they keep out, I don’t think they would have that many attacks on them, but don’t forget, those are an occupying force, and the people believe they have the right to resist an occupying force–a foreign occupying force. We — the closest we come to you is eight hours difference. That’s 8,000, 9,000 miles. That’s between us. You people have — you came to the east 8,000 miles to run a country you have no business in occupying.
AMY GOODMAN: Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar.
GHAZWAN AL-MUKHTAR: We have discussed — after we discovered that there was no justification for the US occupation whatsoever, because there is no weapons of mass destruction. It’s a weapon of mass deception that’s been propagated by the US administration.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us, Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar, retired Iraqi engineer speaking to us from Baghdad. Later in the program, we’ll focus specifically on the firm, Blackwater, where the four US contractors were from, who were killed in Fallujah. Thank you for being with us.