[News] 'The liberation of Baghdad is not far away'

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Tue Jun 29 14:42:21 EDT 2004


'The liberation of Baghdad is not far away'

By Alix de la Grange

06/24/04 "Asia Times " - BAGHDAD - On the eve of the so-called transfer of 
sovereignty to the new Iraqi caretaker government on June 30, former Saddam 
Hussein generals turned members of the elite of the Iraqi resistance 
movement have abandoned their clandestine positions for a while to explain 
their version of events and talk about their plans. According to these 
Ba'ath officials, "the big battle" in Iraq is yet to take place.

"The Americans have prepared the war, we have prepared the post-war. And 
the transfer of power on June 30 will not change anything regarding our 
objectives. This new provisional government appointed by the Americans has 
no legitimacy in our eyes. They are nothing but puppets."

Why have these former officers waited so long to come out of their closets? 
"Because today we are sure we're going to win."

Secret rendezvous

Palestine Hotel, Tuesday, 3pm. One week after a formal request, the 
prospect of talking with the resistance is getting slimmer. We reach a 
series of dead ends - until a man we have never met before discreetly 
approaches our table. "You still want to meet members of the resistance?" 
He speaks to my associate, a female Arab journalist who has been to Iraq 
many times. Talk is brief. "We meet tomorrow morning at the Babel Hotel," 
the man says before disappearing. Against all expectations, this contact 
seems to be more reliable than the ones we have previously tried.

Hotel Babel, Wednesday, 9am. At the entrance of the cybercafe, mobbed by 
foreign mercenaries, the man we saw the day before lays it down: "Tomorrow, 
10 o'clock, al-Saadoun Street, in front of the Palestine. Come without your 

We arrive at the meeting place on Thursday morning by taxi. The contact is 
there. After a brief "Salam Alekum" we get into his car. "Where are we 
going?" No reply.

We drive for more than two hours. In Baghdad, even when traffic is not 
totally blocked by military checkpoints, traffic jams are permanent. In one 
year, more than 300,000 vehicles have been smuggled into the country. Every 
other car has no license plate and most drivers don't even know what 
"driver's license" means.

"We'll be there soon. Do you know Baghdad?", asks our man. The answer is 
clearly no. To get oriented in the sprawling city, one must circulate 
freely, and on foot. With criminal behavior spreading like a virus, a wave 
of kidnappings, the 50 or 60 daily attacks against the occupation forces 
and the indiscriminate response of the American military, there's hardly 
any incentive to do any walking.

The car stops in an alley, near a minibus with tinted windows. One of its 
doors opens. On board, there are three men and a driver carefully 
scrutinizing all the streets and houses around us. If we don't know at all 
what we are confronted with, our interlocutors seem to know very well who 
they're talking to. "Before any discussions, we don't want any doubts on 
your part about our identities," they say, while extracting some papers 
from inside a dusty plastic bag: identity cards, military IDs and several 
photos showing them in uniform beside Saddam Hussein. They are two generals 
and a colonel of the disbanded Iraqi army, now on the run for many months, 
chased by the coalition's intelligence services.

"We would like to rectify some information now circulating in the Western 
media, that's why we took the initiative of meeting you." Our discussion 
lasts for more than three hours.

Back to the fall of Baghdad

"We knew that if the United States decided to attack Iraq, we would have no 
chance faced with their technological and military power. The war was lost 
in advance, so we prepared the post-war. In other words: the resistance. 
Contrary to what has been largely said, we did not desert after American 
troops entered the center of Baghdad on April 5, 2003. We fought a few days 
for the honor of Iraq - not Saddam Hussein - then we received orders to 
disperse." Baghdad fell on April 9: Saddam and his army where nowhere to be 

"As we have foreseen, strategic zones fell quickly under control of the 
Americans and their allies. For our part, it was time to execute our plan. 
Opposition movements to the occupation were already organized. Our strategy 
was not improvised after the regime fell." This plan B, which seems to have 
totally eluded the Americans, was carefully organized, according to these 
officers, for months if not years before March 20, 2003, the beginning of 
Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The objective was "to liberate Iraq and expel the coalition. To recover our 
sovereignty and install a secular democracy, but not the one imposed by the 
Americans. Iraq has always been a progressive country, we don't want to go 
back to the past, we want to move forward. We have very competent people," 
say the three tacticians. There will be of course no names as well as no 
precise numbers concerning the clandestine network. "We have sufficient 
numbers, one thing we don't lack is volunteers."


The lethal offensive of the American troops in Fallujah in March has been 
the turning point as far as the resistance is concerned. The indiscriminate 
pillage by American soldiers during their search missions (according to 
many witnesses) and the sexual humiliation inflicted to prisoners, 
including Abu Ghraib in Baghdad, have only served to magnify the anger felt 
by most Iraqis. "There's no more trust, it will be hard to regain it." 
According to these resistance leaders, "We have reached the point of no 

This is exactly the point of view of a Shi'ite woman we had met two days 
earlier - a former undercover opposition militant against Saddam: "The 
biggest mistake of the occupation forces was to despise our traditions and 
our culture. They are not satisfied with having bombed our infrastructure, 
they tried to destroy our social system and our dignity. And this we cannot 
allow. The wounds are deep and the healing will take long. We prefer to 
live under the terror of one of our own than under the humiliation of a 
foreign occupation."

According to Saddam's generals, "more than a year after the beginning of 
the war, insecurity and anarchy still dominate the country. Because of 
their incapacity to control the situation and to maintain their promises, 
the Americans have antagonized the population as a whole. The resistance is 
not limited to a few thousand activists. Seventy-five percent of the 
population supports us and helps us, directly and indirectly, volunteering 
information, hiding combatants or weapons. And all this despite the fact 
that many civilians are caught as collateral damage in operations against 
the coalition and collaborators."

Who do they regard as "collaborators"? "Every Iraqi or foreigner who works 
with the coalition is a target. Ministries, mercenaries, translators, 
businessmen, cooks or maids, it doesn't matter the degree of collaboration. 
To sign a contract with the occupier is to sign your death certificate. 
Iraqi or not, these are traitors. Don't forget that we are at war."

The resistance's means of dissuasion led to an ever-shrinking list of 
candidates to key government posts proposed by the coalition, and this in a 
country ravaged by 13 years of embargo and two wars where unemployment has 
been a crucial problem. The ambient chaos is not the only reason preventing 
people from resuming professional activity. If the Americans, quickly 
overwhelmed by the whole situation, had to take the decision to reinstate 
former Ba'athists (policemen, secret service agents, military, officials at 
the oil ministry), this does not apply to everybody. The majority of 
victims of administrator L Paul Bremer's decree of May 16, 2003 applying 
the de-Ba'athification of Iraq is still clandestine.

The network

Essentially composed by Ba'athists (Sunni and Shi'ite), the resistance 
currently regroups "all movements of national struggle against the 
occupation, without confessional, ethnic or political distinction. Contrary 
to what you imagine in the West, there is no fratricide war in Iraq. We 
have a united front against the enemy. From Fallujah to Ramadi, and 
including Najaf, Karbala and the Shi'ite suburbs of Baghdad, combatants 
speak with a single voice. As to the young Shi'ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, 
he is, like ourselves, in favor of the unity of the Iraqi people, 
multiconfessional and Arab. We support him from a tactical and logistical 

Every Iraqi region has its own combatants and each faction is free to 
choose its targets and its modus operandi. But as time goes by, their 
actions are increasingly coordinated. Saddam's generals insist there is no 
rivalry among these different organizations, except on one point: which one 
will eliminate the largest number of Americans.

Weapons of choice

"The attacks are meticulously prepared. They must not last longer than 20 
minutes and we operate preferably at night or very early in the morning to 
limit the risks of hitting Iraqi civilians." They anticipate our next 
question: "No, we don't have weapons of mass destruction. On the other 
hand, we have more than 50 million conventional weapons." By the initiative 
of Saddam, a real arsenal was concealed all over Iraq way before the 
beginning of the war. No heavy artillery, no tanks, no helicopters, but 
Katyushas, mortars (which the Iraqis call haoun), anti-tank mines, 
rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other Russian-made rocket launchers, 
missiles, AK 47s and substantial reserves of all sorts of ammunition. And 
the list is far from being extensive.

But the most efficient weapon remains the Kamikazes. A special unit, 
composed of 90% Iraqis and 10% foreign fighters, with more than 5,000 
solidly-trained men and women, they need no more than a verbal order to 
drive a vehicle loaded with explosives.

What if the weapons' reserves dwindle? "No worries, for some time we have 
been making our own weapons." That's all they are willing to disclose.

Claiming responsibility "Yes, we have executed the four American 
mercenaries in Fallujah last March. On the other hand, the Americans 
soldiers waited for four hours before removing the bodies, while they 
usually do it in less than 20 minutes. Two days earlier, a young married 
woman had been arbitrarily arrested. For the population of Fallujah, this 
was the last straw, so they expressed their full rage against the four 
cadavers. The Americans, they did much worse to living Iraqi prisoners."

The suicide attack which provoked the death of Akila al-Hashimi, a diplomat 
and member of the Iraqi Governing Council on September 22, 2003, was also 
perpetrated by the resistance, as well as the car bomb which killed the 
president of the Iraqi executive body Ezzedin Salim in May 17 this year at 
the entrance of the Green Zone (which Iraqis call the Red Zone, due to the 
number of resistance offensives).

They are also responsible for the kidnapping of foreigners. "We are aware 
that the kidnapping of foreign nationals blemishes our image, but try to 
understand the situation. We are forced to control the identity of people 
circulating in our territory. If we have proof that they are humanitarians 
or journalists we release them. If they are spies, mercenaries or 
collaborators we execute them. On this matter, let's be clear, we are not 
responsible for the death of Nick Berg, the American who was beheaded."

As to the attack against the UN headquarters in Baghdad on August 20, 2003: 
"We have never issued an order to attack the UN and we had a lot of esteem 
towards the Brazilian Sergio Vieira de Mello [special UN representative who 
died in the attack], but it's not impossible that the authors of this 
suicide attack come from another resistance group. As we have explained, we 
don't control everything. And we must not forget that the UN is responsible 
for the 13 years of embargo we have endured."

What about the October 27, 2003 attack against the Red Cross in Baghdad? 
"This had nothing to do with us, we always had a lot of respect for this 
organization and the people who work for them. What would be our interest 
to attack one of the few institutions which has been helping the Iraq 
population for years? We know that people from Fallujah have claimed this 
attack, but we can assure you they are not part of the resistance. And we 
also add: for political and economic reasons, there are many who have an 
interest in discrediting us."

After June 30

"Resolution 1546 adopted on June 8 is nothing but one more web of lies to 
the eyes of many Iraqis. First, because it officially ends the occupation 
by foreign troops while authorizing the presence of a multinational force 
under American command, without stipulating the date of their removal. 
Second, because the Iraqi right to veto important military operations, 
demanded by France, Russia and China, was rejected. Washington has conceded 
only a vague notion of partnership with the Iraqi authority and did not 
think of anything in case of disagreement. Iraqis are not fools, the 
maintenance of American troops in Iraq after June 30 and the aid money they 
will get from the American Congress leave no doubt over the identity of who 
will really rule the country."

What about a possible role for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization 
(NATO)? "If NATO intervenes, it's not to help our people, but to help the 
Americans leave this quagmire. If they wanted our well-being, they would 
have made a move before," say the three officers while looking at their 
watches. It's late and we have largely exceeded our allotted time.

"What American troops cannot do today, NATO troops won't be able to do 
later on. Everyone must know: Western troops will be regarded by Iraqis as 
occupiers. This is something that George W Bush and his faithful ally Tony 
Blair will do well to think about. If they have won a battle, they have not 
won the war yet. The great battle is still to begin. The liberation of 
Baghdad is not far away."

Copyright 2004 Asia Times

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