The Logic of Occupation

The deluge of coverage of the prisoner abuse scandal is rather puzzling. Everyone seems to be acting like Claude Rains in Casablanca. You might recall he was disingenuously "shocked" that gambling was taking place at Rick’s casino. Soon after declaring this shock and shutting down the casino, a croupier slipped him his winnings.

The shock over torturing Iraqi prisoners is all a show. How many people reading this BELIEVE that torturing Iraqis is new? How many people believe that this was just an isolated incident of six wayward soldiers who had not been trained properly?

There are twenty open cases of systematic torture under investigation that we know of right now. But this is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Americans are coming face-to-face with what occupation means. Succinctly put; occupation destroys the moral fiber of both the occupied and occupier.

French television got a hold of stolen footage from an American helicopter "blowing away" a few of the occupied. Using its 30 mm guns, a scrambling Iraqi holding "a tube- like implement" was severely wounded. He was crawling, apparently no threat to anyone anymore (30 mm caliber are extremely destructive to human flesh) and the helicopter circled over him.

We next hear the words, "Hit him"…and the wounded Iraqi moved no more. Occupation is a dirty business. Rules of engagement are thrown out the window, especially when the occupied have a different color skin, have a different religion, and everything about them is, well, different.

Slap a label of "terrorist" on THEM and all is permitted. Ask Ariel Sharon, Bush’s spiritual master and supreme role model.

Occupation has its own logic. Strike…counter-strike. The rubbish of winning the "hearts and minds" never changes. Initially occupiers like to think of themselves as morally superior. Why not? Having superior weaponry confers arrogance. Whoever has the bigger gun is more powerful. I think Freud said this first.

From whom did our soldiers get urban warfare training? Of course this was to be in the closet, but search Google and you find the secret is out; Israel has been training US personnel in the fine art of occupation. Here are some links, but you can do your own search.


Techniques learned at the super-secret Guantanamo Camp X-ray have just moved from this hemisphere to Iraq. Nothing new here.

Yes, occupation has its own inexorable logic. If any reading this wishes to dispute my version of the facts, let me suggest that the "facts" matter less than the perceptions of Arabs and Muslims all over the world.

Let me explain. Presently the impressions are clearly concretized in the psyche of the Arab and Muslim world. While "we" (I am an Arab-American) as a group may not be monolithic, the overwhelming majority of 1.3 billion people have made up our minds; the US occupation and Israeli occupation are two sides of the same coin.

Israeli occupation of Palestinians and US occupation of Iraq have now become inextricably linked in the psyche of Arabs and Muslims. The main point of contention in the collective Arab and Muslim psyche is a disagreement concerning which of Bush and Sharon is the puppet and which the puppet- master.

Karl Rove is one of the savviest political operatives in US politics. He prides himself on "defining the political opponent" before they can define themselves. Unfortunately for the occupier, the face of US occupation has now been defined.

It is a brutal face. It involves "shock and awe". It involves installing convicted felons in the provisional government (Ahmed Chalabi). It is further defined by rhetoric of freedom and then closures of newspapers that do not fit the editorial sensibilities of the occupier.

The face of occupation is not a friendly face, but one that is increasingly at odds with rhetoric. Speak of freedom then ignore it for Palestinians in Israel. Speak of the rule of law, and then sanction the extra-judicial assassinations Israel commits.

The Arab and Muslim psyche make linkages where Bush and his team fail to do so. Unfortunately, most of my fellow Americans also fail to make the necessary connections.

Instead, along with Tony Blair, the Bush team is still applying the age old practice of politics by division. Compartmentalize issues…compartmentalize tribes… divide and take events out of context. Condoleeza Rice speaks about a generational commitment to changing the face of the Middle East. But her proclamations don’t stand up to the domestic political imperatives of getting re-elected.

If ignorance were a virtue, we would most certainly have the most respectable policy team in the history of our country. The lap dog pundits/apologists are peculiarly resplendent in their grandiose delusions. They seem so silly that I now routinely feel sorry for them. It is as if Baghdad Bob has cloned himself into dozens of Bush-minions.

In the topsy-turvy world of the Bush administration, de-Baathification quickly becomes re-Baathification. How many of Saddam’s generals are now part of the "team?" Before the war, the UN inspectors were routinely denigrated for not finding WMDs. Now, after a year of unfettered access to Iraq, our past rhetoric of condemnation is forgotten.

The once "embedded" and compliant media knows they were taken for a ride. They enjoyed it for a time because they relished their access. They were part of the team. But now the media seems to understand that there are problems of being embedded and doing one’s job as the fourth estate.

As the media herd moves against the multitude of mistakes and dissembling, we now are seeing the logic of occupation playing out in the glare of media headlines.