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Tuesday, November 18, 2003

This Seems Like a Very Bad Idea

There's a very disturbing story from the Knight Ridder Washington Bureau yesterday, "In Tikrit, U.S. destroys homes of suspected guerrillas." The US is borrowing dubious counter-insurgency tactics from Israel:
In a tactic reminiscent of Israeli crackdowns in the West Bank and Gaza, the U.S. military has begun destroying the homes of suspected guerrilla fighters in Iraq's Sunni Triangle, evacuating women and children, then leveling their houses with heavy weaponry.

At least 15 homes have been destroyed in Tikrit as part of what has been dubbed Operation Ivy Cyclone II, including four leveled on Sunday by tanks and Apache helicopters that allegedly belonged to suspects in the Nov. 7 downing of a Black Hawk helicopter that killed six Americans.

Family members at one of the houses, in the village of al Haweda, said they were given five minutes to evacuate before soldiers opened fire.
Why is this a bad idea? Well, as the Palestinian experience suggests, it motivates new insurgents:
On Monday, angry residents of al Haweda, where three of the destroyed homes were, said the tactic will spawn more guerrilla fighters and perhaps spark an Iraqi uprising similar to the Palestinian intifada in the West Bank and Gaza.

"This is something Sharon would do," said 41-year-old farmer Jamel Shahab, referring to the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon. "What's happening in Iraq is just like Palestine."
Even the US State Department has criticized Israel's past actions:
The State Department's 2002 human rights report, released in March, said such policies "left hundreds of Palestinians not involved in terror attacks homeless." In September, department spokesman Richard Boucher criticized Israel for destroying a seven-story apartment building in Gaza during a raid on a suspected Hamas militant.

There was no official reaction in Washington.

A State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested Monday that the tactic was not sanctioned in Washington.
This is the US military's justification on the ground in Iraq:
The operation is expected to continue through Wednesday, said Col. James Hickey, commander of the 1st Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division.

Hickey said the four homes were destroyed on Sunday because enemy fighters lived and met there. Leveling the homes will force the fighters to find other meeting places, he said.

"Those four people used those houses as sanctuary, and we're not allowing them to have sanctuary," Hickey said.

"We're going to turn the heat up and complicate their battlefield," driving them into the desert, he said. "There they will be exposed and we will have them."
In the article, White House's Scott McClellan refers to the fighters as terrorists, but that is inaccurate so long as they are attacking US forces. It's an occupied country and they are attacking their occupiers. Given the questionable legality of the US attack in the first place, the insurgency might even be legal under international law.

I'm certainly not condoning the violence on either side. The US needs a non-violent approach to Iraq. Soon, I'm going to blog about exactly that.

Hint: Several years ago I participated in a project directed by Christian Ethicist scholar Glen Stassen on just-peacemaking.

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