Bruno Philip | 'Pax Americana' Challenged in Iraq
In Saddam's Fief, the "Pax Americana" is Universally Challenged
Saturday 19 July 2003
Saddam Hussein's former fief, a big suburb with no grace and with wide avenues emptied by the heat, seems to reject to a man the "Pax Americana". In this city that the dictator particularly pampered - he was born a little further away at Al-Oja - no one hesitates to express their nostalgia for the former regime, nor to demand the rejection of the occupier.
Supposed to collaborate with coalition forces, the police find nothing good about the transatlantic military: "We have no reason to like them" explains one, who, among others, is bored to tears in a disaffected police station. "The other day," he adds, "the soldiers came here, broke all the windows to enter the premises for a search and then left, accusing us of firing on them!"
"The Americans are rude with the Iraqis," fills in one of his comrades. "Here we live like Palestinians under the Israeli yoke. We'd prefer Saddam's patriotic government to this occupying army."
It's this same occupier, however, who has paid their salary the last two months: "I earn $60 a month," says one of them. "Officers get between $120 and $160. Sure, we're paid, but we're not free. I think the attacks against American soldiers are going to increase."
The occupying forces have installed their general quarters in Saddam's immense palace complex. Friday July 18 they exploded the last statue of the former Iraqi president. In what was the hall of the main building, covered by a cupola destroyed by the war's bombardments, dozens of soldiers keep watch in a penumbra where computer screens glow. This is the operations room.
"Several times a week, shells are fired in our direction, but they never reach their target", asserts Commander Josslyn Aberle, of the Fourth Infantry Division which occupies the sector up to Kirkuk in the north and towards the Iranian frontier in the east. "That happened again last night, but in a general way, things are improving. Compared to the situation in Falluja" - near Baghdad, site of permanent anti-American attacks - "Tikrit is rather calm."
The young officer maintains that the population better accepts the American presence all the time: "The other day, one of our soldiers was fatally wounded by a shot. Well, the policemen with whom he went on patrols came to his funeral."
They Don't Keep Their Word
Since the fall of Baghdad and the arrival of the Americans, the notables of Tikrit have constituted a sort of municipal council. The mayor, Hussein Al-Joubouri, was nevertheless chosen by coalition officers. "One day," he recounts, "the soldiers came to my house. I thought they came to fight or to arrest me. My body guard got ready to fire. In fact, they came to propose that I head the government of the Salahadine province, of which Tikrit is the main city... I accepted."
This sixty-year-old, one of the chiefs of the important Al-Joubour tribe, is a former general of the Republican Guard, Saddam Hussein's elite corps. But in 1991, after the end of the war, he was mixed up in an aborted coup d' tat attempt fomented by the officers of his tribe. He did eight months in prison, was released, and came back home "to study the Koran and books on the French revolution" before being reintegrated into a golden "closet" in the army just before the American war.
"Iraq needs tolerance because its identity, originating from an old civilization, was tarnished by the power cult preached by Saddam Hussein. The Americans are unable to understand the consequences of this wounded identity. They behave brutally with us", he said, adding:" I trust them all the same. I hope their promises to establish a democracy are sincere. If not, we cannot answer for anything any more..."
One of the members of the same council, the highly respected Sheik Thayer Al-Boubazoun of another important tribe in Tikrit, does not mince words:" if this continues, I won't go to the council meetings any more. It's nothing but blah blah. There are always American officers whom we ask for things and who never keep their word." he asserts.
In the immense reception room of his home, the old Sheik does not calm down: "A few days after their arrival in Tikrit, the Americans came to my house in the middle of the night. In the confusion, one of my nephews came out of the bathroom precipitously and they killed him. Later an officer came to apologize... Me, I tell you, I'd rather be managed by Jews."
Translation: TruthOut French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.
All republished content that appears on Truthout has been obtained by permission or license.