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Bodyguard of Lies: The Truth Behind the 'Surge's' Smokescreen

by Chris Floyd
Monday, 28 July 2008
The slaughter of the Iraqi bank workers is not "an extremely unfortunate and tragic incident," as Col. Allen Batschelet told the Times. It is the inevitable consequence of an illegal act of military aggression, and the perpetuation of that act year after year after year.

For months, we have heard glowing reports about the success of the "surge" in Iraq. This "success" has quickly become conventional wisdom, and can be referred to without controversy in any news piece about Iraq, even if it is not the main point of the story. It goes without saying that America's bipartisan foreign policy establishment -- including the Terror War Democrat and Terror War Republican candidates for president -- has avidly embraced these reports, which now define the terms of the debate on what the United States should do next in Iraq.

Yet the remarkable story that appeared in the New York Times on Monday about the slaughter of three innocent Iraqi bank clerks underscores what should be one of the most glaringly self-evident truths of our day: the Terror Warriors lie all the time, about everything. They tell big lies and small lies, lies of omission and great big fabricated fairy tales, lies to cover up specific acts of crime in the conquered land and lies designed to obscure the big picture of the overarching war crime of the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. The first instinct of the propaganda mouthpieces of the Pentagon is, always, to lie, to distort, obfuscate, confuse, exaggerate or diminish -- whatever is required in their relentless campaign to make the foulest of crimes -- mass murder -- look like a noble deed.

As the Times reports, the Pentagon was forced by a storm of angry protest from the American-installed Iraqi government to do a genuine investigation of a June 25 incident in which a platoon of American soldiers shot the holy hell out of a car that had just passed through one of the most thorough and draconian checkpoints in Baghdad, killing three bank employees on their way to work. The Pentagon immediately claimed that the dead Iraqis -- two women and a man -- were terrorist insurgents who had fired on the troops. The Pentagon claimed that a weapon had been found in the burning hulk of the bank employees' car. The Pentagon claimed there were bullet holes in the American vehicles from the terrorists' gunfire. The Pentagon claimed that the car had hit a wall and "exploded," clearly implying that it was loaded with bombs.

All of these claims were outrageous lies, with no basis in fact whatsoever. They were apparently made up out of whole cloth somewhere in the Terror War propaganda mills, because the soldiers' own reports didn't support the claims.

In fact, the innocent bank workers were killed by soldiers from a convoy that had taken a wrong turn and ended up on a road used for Iraqi civilians. The soldiers were not supposed to be in that area. One of the vehicles in the convoy had a problem, and the convoy had stopped on the side of the road to deal with it. The civilian car -- having just passed a security checkpoint -- went on its way toward the bank on the civilian road as it had done countless times before.

One of the soldiers in the misplaced convoy began firing warning shots at the car. We don't know how many shots he fired, or how long he gave the car to stop, but it didn't stop quickly enough for the panicked soldiers. And so nine of the 18 men in the convoy lit up the car, shooting it -- and its occupants -- to pieces. The car never "exploded"; its engine was set on fire by the fusillade from the convoy and the flames spread through the car. The security-cleared civilians died a needless and horrific death trying to drive to work in their native land.

Needless to say, no one will be punished for the deaths. The Pentagon said the soldiers -- some of whom had already been involved in "escalation of force incidents involving civilians" -- followed proper procedure in the case. When you see an Iraqi car coming, you make it stop. When it doesn't stop quickly enough, you shoot it full of holes. That's because the "surge" has worked so well, you see: the liberated Iraqis are so happy with the invaders of their country that every single Iraqi vehicle must still be regarded as a potential deadly threat -- even after five years of happy liberation, and even after it has passed through stringent security checkpoints.

Naturally, soldiers of an occupying army are in constant danger of reprisals for the war crime their leaders have plunged them into. Naturally, they are jumpy and quick on the trigger, and naturally, "force protection" is their overwhelming priority. But the slaughter of the Iraqi bank workers is not "an extremely unfortunate and tragic incident," as Col. Allen Batschelet told the Times. It is the inevitable consequence of an illegal act of military aggression, and the perpetuation of that act year after year after year. American forces have already directly killed tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis, and unleashed (and in many cases abetted) the forces that have killed hundreds of thousands more.

[As we saw yesterday with yet another murderous attack on religious pilgrims -- the kind of mass terror that had never occured in Iraq before the American invasion.]

There is only one way to achieve genuine "force protection" for the American soldiers in Iraq: withdraw them, all of them, and end the war crime they have been sent to perpetrate. Neither Barack Obama nor John McCain will do this. The Democratic-controlled Congress will not do it. The bipartisan foreign policy establishment will not do it. All of them are happy to swallow - and repeat -- the lies they are told about the war.

So we must try to do it ourselves: piecemeal, little by little, in whatever way we can. One way is supporting organizations like Iraq Veterans Against the War, which works for and with active duty and formers soldiers toward these goals:

  1. Immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces in Iraq.
  2. Reparations for the human and structural damages Iraq has suffered, and stopping the corporate pillaging of Iraq so that their people can control their own lives and future.
  3. Full benefits, adequate healthcare (including mental health), and other supports for returning servicemen and women.

Now there's a platform for you. The politicians -- those devourers and regurgitators of lies -- won't offer us anything like it, so we will have to cobble it together ourselves. The IVAW is an excellent place to start.

photo of Chris FloydChris Floyd has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years, working in the United States, Great Britain and Russia for various newspapers, magazines, the U.S. government and Oxford University. Floyd co-founded the blog Empire Burlesque, and is also chief editor of Atlantic Free Press. He can be reached at

This column is republished here with the permission of the author.

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This story was published on July 29, 2008.