Life Under Occupation

The Megastanis sent one of their Generals to govern America until a new government could be set up. He simplistically tried to solve even the most delicate problems with brute military force, and his short tenure was a month of chaos

He was soon replaced by El Boulos Barimar, a Neo-pro partisan who was chosen largely because he had served as head of the Megastani Commission on Terrorism, thus he symbolized a link between ‘terrorism’ and ‘America’ that the Neo-pros actively publicized.(64)

Very few Megastani officials or service personnel could communicate with Americans in English, and they understood next to nothing about our culture, history, or sensibilities. Inability to understand what was being said caused constant misunderstandings, much anger on both sides, and a number of American deaths.(65)

Barimar continued to make one blunder after another. In his first two weeks, he disbanded what was left of the U.S. Armed Forces. Nearly half a million trained fighting men found themselves unemployed, unwanted, broke, occupied by a foreign military who had no demonstrated interest in their welfare, and heavily-armed.(66) When the ragged, hungry, defeated soldiers returned home, they found that no one had any money. Salaries were not being paid to teachers, medical personnel, or other public servants. In any case, American dollars were no longer worth the paper they were printed on.(67)

Whole cities were without police, firefighters, sanitation workers, or doctors. Apparently, the occupation authority had simply assumed that American personnel would continue to work, although no effort was made to help them do so.(68)

With no economy or security to speak of, the only thing that mattered now were things, particularly food, which was in such short supply that starvation was a clear and present danger in the months following the Megastani invasion. Because the bombing had destroyed water treatment and sewage facilities as well as the power plants to run them, the price of bottled water – the only kind one could drink without getting sick – skyrocketed beyond the means of most families. Frantic families looted Wal-Marts and convenience stores in scenes reminiscent of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Everyone took what he needed and defended what he could.(69)

People who managed to store up rice, dried beans, and flour gathered together, often under the direction of a local pastor, to protect their families and houses. The desperate poor, driven by hunger, and criminals, driven by greed, formed gangs that prowled the streets looking for targets. The police drifted away from their stations to join either the vigilantes or the gangs.

American cities became ‘free fire zones’ with the stronger, better-armed, and more ruthless seizing control. Crime not only could not be investigated or punished; it had lost definition. Looting became a form of shopping. Industrial installations were stripped of machines, tools, copper wire, pipes, even light fixtures.(70)

Both Megastan’s inactions and its actions were often done with stunning insensitivity. Perhaps the worst was the re-opening of the Guantanamo prison.(71) Now in Megastani hands, Guantanamo served as a detention and torture center both for genuine criminals and terrorists and for many innocent and respected citizens who were caught in the wide Megastani dragnets. A scandal was kicked up when horrifying and disgusting photographs of the abuse of Americans at Guantanamo were leaked to the press. They showed American men stripped down and stacked in pyramids, terrified by attack dogs, tortured with electrical devices, and sexually humiliated. And these were the images that were tame enough to be publicized.

The Megastani provisional government of America also passed out decks of cards depicting the faces of former senators, governors, and generals they wished to capture or assassinate. They captured and shot Houston’s two sons and aired images of their bloody, mutilated faces on international television. They printed photographs of Houston looking pathetic and abused in his secret prison and wearing nothing but baggy underpants. Some Americans actually enjoyed this, especially on the West Coast. But many decent Americans also felt deeply humiliated by it.

Megastani troops caused an incalculable amount of unnecessary friction because they knew almost nothing about Americans except for the Megastani government’s dehumanizing propaganda. Many soldiers were decent young men and women who genuinely believed their government’s claim that the aim of the war was to liberate America and bring them Megastan-style democracy. But other soldiers blamed America for the terrorist attacks on Megadina. Some believed that every American they killed, innocent or not, was fair payback. Fully 85% of Megastani troops believed the Neo-pro propaganda that Houston had been responsible for 11/9,(72) even though it was a matter of public record that this was nonsense.

Worse, some Megastani troops believed all Americans were Christian religious fanatics and thus utterly beneath contempt. Many found the Christian ritual of taking Communion particularly bizarre and disgusting because it seemed cannibalistic. Megastani top officers were heard making wisecracks about heading off to “kill some whiteys and burn some cowboy hats.” Some troops kept Coke bottles on hand to bash over Americans heads as they passed by civilians in their armored Hummers.(73)

Megastani checkpoints were manned by 18-to-22-year-old Megastani recruits who almost never spoke English and were frustrated and hot and bored and bewildered and terrified of the threat from increasingly disgruntled Americans. The checkpoints could appear anywhere and without warning: An orange traffic cone on the way to the grocery store or a young man pointing his gun at a minivan on its way to the doctor or soccer practice and screaming at the occupants in an incomprehensible language. If anyone failed to understand or heed the orders, soldiers were known to pump vehicles full of high-velocity live bullets and ask questions later.

No one would ever know how many Americans were killed in this way. But it is certain that every such killing of a mother and child, father and husband gave birth to a rage and loathing that would come back to haunt Megastani troops in a terrible way.

Night raids were equally terrifying and deeply alienating. The purpose of the raids was to find suspected combatants and confiscate weapons, which was itself enough to enrage America’s hardcore Second Amendment proponents as well as anyone who believed America had a fundamental right to defend itself from foreign invasion. Many Americans took to the hills with their weapons caches before any troops had a chance to sweep in and clean them out.

In the absence of useful intelligence, Megastani troops often simply went through American neighborhoods kicking down doors and ordering families out of their beds and onto the floor. Some would scream the only English word they knew—“Terrorist? Terrorist?”—and curse, beat or even shoot people who did not understand how to respond property. (The other phrase all Megastani troops learned was “Shut up!”)

Old women in night gowns were caught on video, ashen-faced, and the screams of toddlers presaged lifetimes of nightmares. Sometimes these scenes ended badly, with a son or father dragged off to be imprisoned, tortured, and possibly killed without any chance of a charge, trial, or telephone call. Sometimes soldiers got jumpy—or felt vindictive—and killed people right in their homes.(74)

One group of Megastani troops massacred 24 innocent Americans for revenge after an American gunman killed a Megastani soldier. The slain families had had nothing to do with the killing. Neighbors heard the father of the household plead in the Megastani language, “I am a friend! I am good!” But the soldiers had killed the helpless man, his wife and daughters, and several others in cold blood.(75)

Many Americans suspected that this story, like the Guantanamo scandal, spoke of a much wider reality of abuse that was not being publicized.

CNN and the BBC ran images of Americans being abused and slaughtered, which infuriated the Megastani government. Megastan accused them of being terrorist mouthpieces. The Megastani army bombed their offices and killed a prominent journalist. Nonetheless, the stations carried on transmitting the reality of the conflict to millions of households around the globe. The one exception was Megastan, where such images, as well as images of Megastani soldiers coffins’ coming home, were carefully kept away from the public eye.

As more and more countries grew disenchanted with the war and withdrew from Megastan’s League of Volunteers, the occupation authority increasingly relied on ‘private military firms’ such as Al-Iburton,(76) which was formerly headed by Megastani Vice Premier Dik Chen Yi. Such companies shunned use of the term ‘mercenaries,’ since mercenaries are illegal under the Geneva Conventions. But the distinction was sometimes very hard to draw.(77)

They numbered at least 20,000—twice the number of troops supplied by Megastan’s largest ally. Like soldiers, they guarded senior officials, patrolled strategic American resources, and occasionally fought. Some were involved in the torture of American prisoners of war, whom the Megastanis referred to as ‘enemy combatants’ in order to avoid allowing them the basic human rights guaranteed by the Geneva Conventions, to which Megastan was a signatory. The mercenaries earned about three times the salaries of uniformed Megastani soldiers.(78)

They were unregulated by any chain of command or rule of law, and they were caught doing things like firing randomly on civilians from their armored cars, videotaping it, and posting it on the internet over a kicky soundtrack.(79)

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  1. “General Garner seemed unable to grasp what was happening and tried, simplistically, to solve political problems with military force. His brief time in office was a month of chaos. On May 7, he was replaced by L. Paul Bremer III. A retired foreign service officer, Mr. Bremer had served as ambassador-at-large for counter-terrorism and subsequently as head of the National Commission on Terrorism… Because of his former government positions and writing he symbolized a link, which the administration was actively publicizing, between terrorism and Iraq.”

      ~ Polk, p. 179

  2. “Very few [American officials or service personnel] could communicate with natives in Iraq. Inability to understand what was being said caused constant misunderstandings, much anger on both sides, and a number of deaths of Iraqis.”

      ~ Polk, p. 180

  3. “On May 12, Garner was replaced by Paul Bremer, who acting under the direction of Feith and other neocons at the Pentagon immediately moved to outlaw the Ba’ath Party and ban all of its members from serving in the new government, police, military or security forces. Eleven days later, Bremer disbanded the entire 425,000-man Iraqi Army.

    “These two actions were without a doubt the two most glaring mistakes of the entire postwar period to date, leading to increased terrorist attacks against Coalition forces and making the restoration of peace, security and order in Iraq all but impossible. Outlawing the Ba’ath Party left Sunni Iraqis unrepresented by any political party, forced its members to go underground, and caused them to move from collaboration with the new U.S.-led regime to full militant opposition. It caused them to forge an unholy alliance of convenience with Al Qaeda’s newly empowered affiliate in Iraq and the Ba’athists’ long-time enemy, Ansar-al-Islam, against the American occupiers.”

    “As we now know, disbanding the Iraqi military, leaving 400,000 troops jobless and humiliated with ready access to their old weapons, was a huge blunder – as was committing too few of our own forces in the first place (something even Bremer now acknowledges). Because Iraq had no secure borders, outside provocateurs could sow mayhem. Without an indigenous security force, the much-publicized big reconstruction projects couldn’t proceed. Stoked by a lack of air conditioning, refrigeration and staples such as medicine and gasoline, the anger of average Iraqis soon would be boiling over. Throw in a nascent insurgency by both Sunnis and Shiites, and it is easy to understand how our great, optimistic enterprise in Iraq went awry.

    “Claypole, a Briton who advised both Garner and Major Gen. Tim Cross, the top British official in Baghdad, put it this way: ‘You would have to go several times around the world to find somebody more pro-American than me, but I still squirm with embarrassment and blush with shame when I think of the failure of the USA and my country to make proper preparations for the aftermath of the war in Iraq.’

    “I left the country a year and a half ago [this article was written in November 2004], yet security is far worse now, and even electrical service remains spotty. Sewage still contaminates the drinking water in Baghdad. According to the reports of humanitarian organizations, chronic malnutrition affects some three out of 10 children in Iraq, particularly in the central and southern regions.”

  4. “At the same time, tens of thousands of soldiers deserted what was left of their units. Finally, on May 24, the newly appointed American administrator, L. Paul Bremer II, abruptly demobilized what was left of the army. Nearly half a million soldiers were told simply to go home. (Bremer’s predecessor, General Jay Garner, had planned to keep them together to be used, and paid, as labor battalions.) The ragged, hungry, defeated soldiers took their weapons with them. When they arrived home, they found that no one had any money. Salaries were not being paid even to hospital staffs, but having no money made little difference since, in the runaway inflation, money was literally not worth the paper it was printed on.”

      ~ Polk, p. 171

  5. “No provisions had been made to train administrators; only one senior [American] official was proficient in Arabic. Whole cities were without police, firefighters, sanitation workers, or doctors. Apparently, the occupation authority administration had simply assumed that existing Iraqi personnel would continue to work, although no effort was made to help them do so.”

      ~ Polk, p. 173

  6. “What mattered were things. Above all, food. Food was in such short supply that in April, May, and June of 2003, starvation was a clear and present danger. Because the bombing had destroyed purification and sewage facilities and the electricity to run them, even bottled water, the only kind that one could drink without getting sick, was too expensive for most people. Since everyone was frantic, looting became so common as almost to seem normal. Everyone took what he needed and defended what he could.”

      ~ Polk, p. 171-2

  7. “Neighbors who had managed to store up rice, dried beans, and flour gathered together, often under the direction of religious authorities, to protect their families and houses. The desperate poor, driven by hunger, and criminals, driven by greed, formed gangs that prowled the streets looking for targets. The police had drifted away from their stations to join either the vigilantes or the gangs. Iraqi cities became ‘free fire zones’ with the stronger, better-armed, and more ruthless seizing control. Crime not only could not be investigated or punished but had lost even definition. Looting became a form of shopping. Industrial installations were stripped of machines, tools, copper wire, pipes, even light fixtures.”

      ~ Polk, p. 172

  8. “Such actions as were taken showed a stunning lack of sensitivity. Perhaps the worst was the reopening of the Abu Ghuraib prison, made notorious by Saddam’s torturers and execution squads. Even the warden who had overseen the ‘disappearance’ of thousands of Saddam’s victims was reappointed by the American administration.”

      ~ Polk, p. 173

  9. “The wide-ranging poll also shows that… while 85% [of American troops serving in Iraq] said the U.S. mission is mainly ‘to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,’ 77% said they also believe the main or a major reason for the war was ‘to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq.’”

  10. “Even before [Delgado’s, an American soldier] unit left the states, a top officer made wisecracks about the soldiers heading off to Iraq to kill some ragheads and burn some turbans.

    “‘He laughed,’ Mr. Delgado said, ‘and everybody in the unit laughed with him.’

    “The officer’s comment was a harbinger of the gratuitous violence that, according to Mr. Delgado, is routinely inflicted by American soldiers on ordinary Iraqis. He said: ‘Guys in my unit, particularly the younger guys, would drive by in their Humvee and shatter bottles over the heads of Iraqi civilians passing by. They’d keep a bunch of empty Coke bottles in the Humvee to break over people’s heads.’

    “‘I said to them: “What the hell are you doing? Like, what does this accomplish?” And they responded just completely openly. They said: “Look, I hate being in Iraq. I hate being stuck here. And I hate being surrounded by hajis.”’

    “‘Haji’ [an honorific title in Arabic, indicating a person who has made a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca] is the troops’ term of choice for an Iraqi. It’s used the way ‘gook’ or ‘Charlie’ was used in Vietnam.”

  11. “Mohammed, an engineering student at the University of Technology in Baghdad, was visiting his family in the village of Al-Shaikh Hadid when the [U.S] Marines knocked on the door, the ambassador [Samir Sumaidaie, Iraq’s ambassador to the UN] said.

    “The young man [who was Sumaidaie’s cousin] rushed to open the door and greeted the group of about 10 Marines and an interpreter who appeared to be Egyptian pleasantly, ‘happy to exercise some of his English,’ he said.

    “The Marines asked if there were any weapons, and Mohammed said there was a rifle, which only had blanks, the letter said. He then led some of the Marines into his father’s bedroom where it was kept, Sumaidaie wrote. His father, the local headmaster, was at school.

    “A short time later, his mother, brothers and sisters who were kept in the living room heard a thud but they were generally relaxed because they had nothing to hide, and ‘they thought, nothing to fear,’ he said.

    “But later a younger brother, Ali, was dragged by the hair into the corridor by a Marine and was beaten. The mother started sobbing. A Marine then went out and returned with a camera and went into the bedroom. After a while, the family went outside and waited on the porch as they were ordered, the ambassador said.

    “More than an hour later, as the soldiers were leaving, the interpreter asked the mother in Arabic if that was her son inside. When she replied ‘yes,’ the interpreter said, ‘They killed him!’ Sumaidaie said.

    “‘The mother let off a deafening cry of anguish, but the Marines were smiling at each other as they were leaving,’ he said. ‘In the bedroom, Mohammed was found dead and laying in a clotted pool of his blood. A single bullet had penetrated his neck,’ the ambassador said.”

  12. “Witnesses to the slaying of 24 Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines in the western town of Haditha say the Americans shot men, women and children at close range in retaliation for the death of a Marine lance corporal in a roadside bombing.

    “Aws Fahmi, a Haditha resident who said he watched and listened from his home as Marines went from house to house killing members of three families, recalled hearing his neighbor across the street, Younis Salim Khafif, plead in English for his life and the lives of his family members. ‘I heard Younis speaking to the Americans, saying: “I am a friend. I am good,”’ Fahmi said. ‘But they killed him, and his wife and daughters.’

    “The 24 Iraqi civilians killed on Nov. 19 included children and the women who were trying to shield them, witnesses told a Washington Post special correspondent in Haditha this week and U.S. investigators said in Washington. The girls killed inside Khafif’s house were ages 14, 10, 5, 3 and 1, according to death certificates.”

  13. Reference to “Al-Iburton” (parody of Halliburton) credited to Jon Stewart of The Daily Show.

  14. “To supplement or replace them [Coalition members who withdrew or refused to send troops in large numbers], about four hundred of what are known as ‘private military firms’ have flocked into the country so that much of the ‘security’ tasks have become privatized. The largest provider is Halliburton, the company formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney and from which he still draws a substantial yearly payment. Growth in the number of mercenaries has been rapid. Blackwater USA, which was founded only in 1998, already has revenues of more than $1 billion. These companies are anxious not to be termed suppliers of mercenaries since mercenaries are illegal under the Geneva Conventions, but the distinction is difficult to draw.”

      ~ Polk, p. 176

  15. “The numbers are huge: one firm claims to have more than ten thousand highly trained former soldiers on its rosters and another has about five hundred Gurkhas and the same number of Fijians now in Iraq. In total, these ‘troops’ in Iraq number roughly twenty thousand or double the size of the British expeditionary force. They guard senior officials, patrol pipelines, and occasionally fight. Some have also been involved in the interrogation and torture of ‘enemy combatants’—a new term coined by the Bush administration to avoid having to accord the prisoners the status of prisoner of war as defined by the Geneva Conventions—at Abu Ghuraib and other prisons. They earn roughly three times the salaries of uniformed soldiers, but they are not subject to either military or civil jurisdiction and work only under the control of their employers. Under them as ‘shadow soldiers,’ the guerrilla war in Iraq has been partly outsourced.”

      ~ Polk, p. 176

  16. See: Sean Rayment, “‘Trophy’ video exposes private security contractors shooting up Iraqi drivers,” Telegraph (UK), 27 November 2005.