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Was it 'fragging'?
GI casualties increase in Iraq

Greg Butterfield, Workers World

Jun 15, 2005 - First Lt. Louis Allen and Capt. Philip Esposito, two officers assigned to a New York National Guard unit in Tikrit, Iraq, were killed in their sleep on June 7. The Pentagon is investigating their deaths as a possible "fragging"—an act of retaliation by a rank-and-file soldier or soldiers.

Four explosions destroyed the room where Esposito, a company commander and Wall Street broker, and Allen, the company operations officer and son of a New York City cop, were sleeping in a presidential residence commandeered by the U.S. military. The cause of death was initially reported as "indirect fire" from a mortar attack. But by June 11, the New York Daily News reported, the Pentagon was investigating "suspicious circumstances."

"We don’t believe their deaths were caused by an enemy combat attack," an unnamed military source told the Daily News. "We believe there was a crime here."

Such a "crime," if it occurred, would mark a qualitative change in the morale of G.I.s in Iraq and the level of resistance within the U.S. military itself.

Fragging of brutal officers was a common form of resistance by soldiers during the Vietnam War. The term came from tossing a fragmentation grenade into a sleeping officer’s tent.

There have been hints and rumors of fraggings in the Iraq War, but only one officially confirmed case. On March 23, 2003, as the 101st Airborne Division was preparing to invade Iraq, Army Sgt. Hasan Akbar carried out a grenade and rifle attack against the 1st Brigade’s senior command staff at Camp Pennsylvania in central Kuwait. Two were killed and 14 wounded.

Akbar, who is Muslim, said he wanted to stop the United States from killing other Muslims. In April of this year, he was convicted by a military jury and sentenced to death.

Acts of resistance

There have been many acts of resistance to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. These range from refusal to ship out or return to combat to the 343rd Quarter master Company’s en-masse rejection of an October 2004 order to undertake a "suicide mission" with a convoy of fuel trucks.

On June 11, the Pentagon reported that the death toll of U.S. military personnel in Iraq had passed 1,700, including both combat deaths and other causes. At least 25 U.S. soldiers died in the second week of June alone.

This may be just the tip of the iceberg, however. Many independent reports have questioned the U.S. casualty figures, charging that the number of deaths is actually much higher.

Most recently El Diario/La Prensa, a mainstream Spanish-language daily newspaper in New York, reported that its analysis of documents provided to the Puerto Rican government showed that more than 4,000 U.S. troops had been killed by the end of May.

In Iraq, rank-and-file G.I.s and reservists—largely working-class youths and people of color ensnared by the economic draft—are faced with a popular, militant resistance movement that shows every sign of stepping up its actions in the weeks and months to come. They know they are unwelcome and unwanted by the Iraqi masses.

Popular anger and resistance will only grow as the Pentagon continues to carry out acts of terror against the population, like "Operation Lightning." This operation has rounded up more than 1,300 men between the ages of 15 and 55 in the Baghdad region as "suspected insurgents."

On June 12, U.S. forces carried out air strikes against supposed resistance targets in Karabilah. The Pentagon claimed to have killed 40 guerrillas. But residents told Reuters that civilian homes and buildings were the only targets.

Hamdi al-Alusi, chief of Qaim hospital, said he had treated three civilians wounded in the attack—including a 12-year-old boy who later died.

Even senior U.S. military brass like Maj. Gen. Joseph Taluto are now going on record to say that "good and honest" Iraqis are fighting the occupation, as he recently told Gulf News. Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, the chief U.S. military spokesperson in Iraq, admitted that "there is no long-term military solution to an insurgency." (Knight Ridder, June 12)

Of course, these statements are aimed at luring some sectors of the resistance to abandon the armed struggle and join the U.S.-dominated "political process." But they can’t help but have an effect on the rank-and-file troops, who were told the exact opposite for the last two-plus years.

By now all G.I.s are aware of the unpopularity of the occupation around the globe and at home. A USA Today/Gallup poll published June 13 showed that 59 percent of U.S. respondents want the troops withdrawn—a record high.

No military censorship can stop the snowballing revelations of Washington’s wrongdoing from reaching their ears: how the Bush administration and its allies deliberately lied about "weapons of mass destruction" and carried out illegal activities to justify the brutal invasion of a sovereign country.

The revelations keep on coming. On June 12, the Sunday Times of London reported on a leaked briefing paper from Prime Minister Tony Blair’s cabinet. Dated July 23, 2002, the briefing paper stated that Britain was committed to backing U.S. military action against Iraq. Since regime change was illegal under international law, the paper noted, it was "necessary to create the conditions" to make it legal by backing Baghdad into a corner using the pretext of United Nations weapons inspections.

Even the likes of right-wing Rep. Walter Jones—infamous for his bid to rename French fries as "freedom fries"—are calling on the Bush administration to set a timetable for withdrawing the troops. The White House pooh-poohed this latest call. (French Press Agency, June 13)

In the midst of this hated occupation, it’s conceivable that more acts of resistance of all kinds by G.I.s are going unreported or underreported.

For example, few in the United States will have heard that another mysterious non-combat death—of Staff Sgt. Mark O. Edwards of Tennessee on June 9—is under investigation. (Big News Network, June 11)



This article is copyright under a Creative Commons License.
Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Email: ww@workers.org
Subscribe wwnews-subscribe@workersworld.net
Support independent news http://www.workers.org/orders/donate.php



:: Article nr. 12630 sent on 16-jun-2005 16:28 ECT

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Link: www.workers.org/2005/world/iraq-0623/



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