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The National Security Archive at George Washington University

CONSORTIUM NEWS - Edited by Robert Parry


December 08, 2003

Colonel: 'Fear and Violence' Will Convince Iraqis the US is 'Here to Help'

Tough New Tactics by U.S. Tighten Grip on Iraq Towns (12/7/03 - NY Times)

The NY Times quotes battalion commander Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman as saying, "With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them."

The colonel's statement is an obvious echo of an infamous statement from the Vietnam War. In 1968, US forces levelled the village of Ben Tre. A US officer was quoted as saying, "It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it."

Today in Iraq, Col. Sassaman commands US forces engaged in pacification efforts in an area about 50 miles north of Baghdad. This includes the town of Abu Hishma, which is completely surrounded with a 5-mile razor wire fence leaving only one way in or out of town. Signs in front of the fence read, "This fence is here for your protection. Do not approach or try to cross, or you will be shot."

The tactic is strikingly similar to the "strategic hamlets" strategy employed by the US during the Vietnam War.

Sassaman's forces also have Abu Hishma under complete lockdown for 15 hours a day, which means its citizens are unable to go to the mosque for morning or evening prayers. All men aged 18 to 65 are required to carry special identity cards issued by the US military. There are regular search raids throughout the town, and buildings and homes have been destroyed by US forces.

The "internment" of Abu Hishma was imposed immediately after a Nov. 17 rocket-propelled grenade attack killed Staff Sergeant Dale Panchot. Col. Sassaman told the NY Times that the town will remain under seige until its citizens turn over the guerillas who staged the attack, even though he "acknowledged they may have slipped far away" long ago.

[Read the source...]


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