DAMASCUS – No British soccer players, Czech supermodels or Chinese infotainment moguls have been lining up to get a piece of the new exclusive gated territory in the global market – courtesy of Pentagon real-estate developers and lavishly promoted as The Great Wall of Adhamiyah.
But then, who wants to live behind a 5-kilometer-long, 3.7-meter-high concrete wall, being erected in haste by the 407th Brigade support battalion of the famed 82nd Airborne Division, currently based in sprawling Camp Taji, north of Baghdad.
It’s being built, Dubai-style, by semi-slave labor – underpaid Iraqi crews, although the engineers and the cranes are all-American. And when it’s ready, by the end of April, what’s inside – the Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiyah – will look exactly its same sorry self: no cappuccino al fresco Starbucks style, no Versace outlets, no fit blondes on in-line skates.
No wonder Pentagon “engineers” – imperiously impervious to irony – have been mumbling about how the local population will react to their new development.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has already expressed his concern, calling on Sunday for construction to be halted. The US military did not say whether it would comply.
Call it the first instalment of The Baghdad gulag (Asia Times Online, April 14), apartheid in Mesopotamia, or Balkanization with Arabic subtitles.
“Suicide bombers” and/or “death squads” – whose life, according to the Pentagon, will be “more difficult” with the arrival of the gated community, have already celebrated by lobbying a few Katyusha rockets inside the walled-off area. Similarities with the wall of shame being built by Israel in the Palestinian West Bank are also to the point: no concrete wall peppered with checkpoints will be able to block the main fact that every hour in Iraq, day in, day out, there are at least seven or eight bloody bombings or attacks, 75% of them against the US occupation, 17% of them against the so-called Iraqi security forces.
The US cannot cut off the head of the (resistance) snake in Iraq – simply because there is no head: a Buddhist monk would say the snake now is one with the river itself, and it flows nonstop. Walls are irrelevant – either to the resistance or to the militias or death squads.
The surge promoted by US President George W. Bush is no more – its metaphorical wall already smashed by almost 100 car and truck bombings since February, perpetrated either by strands of the Sunni Arab resistance, some more nationalistic, some more Islamic, or by al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers.
If walls were such a brilliant idea – as Pentagon “engineers” don’t seem to remember one in Berlin – then why don’t neo-cons of the French presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy variety propose walling inner Paris from the suburban Islamic throngs that invade it every weekend? Oops, maybe because recent Europol research on Islamic terrorism in the European Union detected only one Islamic terror attack in the EU in 2006 among 498 incidents.
I want my nation back
Nine leading Sunni Arab resistance groups, including the Jaysh Ansar al-Sunna, the 1920 Revolution Brigades and the Islamic Front for the Iraqi Resistance – all with no “foreign” connections, meaning basically al-Qaeda – have recently united all their know-how against very clear enemies: the US occupiers, the inefficient, corrupt Maliki government and al-Qaeda.
According to all recent polls, 80% of Iraqis are against the occupation: this includes virtually all the Sunnis – including those in the Adhamiyah gated area – and more than 70% of Shi’ites. Sixty percent of all Iraqis think the US controls everything in Iraq – no wonder, when gated areas are erected without consulting the local population, or when the key security agency – the dreaded Iraqi National Intelligence Service – is basically a phenomenally expensive Central Intelligence Agency asset (US$3 billion already consumed in less than three years).
Instead of building gated areas, the leading Sunni Arab resistance groups want to talk real business. They have laid out their conditions for – among other things – not bombing any future Pentagon real-estate projects.
They want direct negotiations with General David Petraeus, the Pentagon supremo in Iraq, and the US Embassy in the (walled, but breachable) Green Zone. They want Washington to drop the Maliki government (that’s more or less on the way). And they want two things they know they will never get: financial compensation for all the horrors inflicted on Iraq since the 2003 invasion (maybe they should request a meeting with Iraq liberator-in-chief Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank); and the smashing of all L Paul Bremer’s neo-liberal laws, especially making sure that Iraq’s oil wealth will not be sold out to Anglo-American Big Oil.
The Bush administration will obviously say no to most, if not all, of these conditions. What’s left couldn’t be anything other than building exclusive gated areas.