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Iraq Preparing for ‘Street Fighting’
Filed October 7, 2002 By Jeremy Scahill

BAGHDAD—Last night, Iraq’s war cabinet met in a meeting chaired by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, focusing on the preparations for a US attack. At the center of this meeting was the technical and logistical planning for resisting a US ground invasion. Among the topics discussed were “street fighting” and urban warfare. With the Bush administration threatening Iraq on a daily basis, it is certainly not rare that Iraq’s war cabinet is convened. But what analysts here say is significant was the presence of both of Saddam Hussein’s sons at the meeting. Qusay is generally at these meetings in his capacity as the head of the elite Republican Guard. But last night, he was joined by his brother Uday, who is coordinating the “Fedayin (‘guerrillas willing to die’) Saddam.”

Also known as “Saddam’s Militia,” the Fedayin is estimated to have some 2 million men in its ranks, dedicated to fighting any US invasion of the country. In an interview with, British MP George Galloway, who is in Baghdad mobilizing against the war and meeting with Iraqi officials, called the group the “suicide bombers of tomorrow.” Galloway predicted “severe losses” for an occupying force, especially in Baghdad, a crowded city of 5 million.

Despite comments from the Bush administration to the contrary, the sentiment here (and it does seem uncoerced and sincere) is that a significant number of fighting age men would take up arms against any occupying force, irrespective of their opinion of the current government. It truly does seem highly inconceivable that there would be any “rejoicing in the streets” if US forces invade. What is more likely is that in addition to urban and guerrilla warfare against an occupying force, the country could very rapidly descend into a state of civil war, turning Iraq into one big Sarajevo. The settling of scores, retribution violence, as well as religious, ethnic, communal and tribal micro-wars could well lead to a disintegration of the country into several para-states. Some analysts here believe that is Washington’s ultimate intention.

The US is also pumping radio broadcasts into Iraq via Radio Sawa-the Middle East version of Radio Marti. This is a US government owned and operated Arabic language propaganda station that mixes Arab and American pop music with “news.” In several broadcasts, the station has said that President Bush promises to rebuild the country after a US attack, to bring a more just leader into power. And in what could be called a grotesque irony, the station has told “the Iraqi people” that they will be the main benefactors of US “action” against Iraq. This “news” is very cleverly woven into the pop cast, which includes the likes of Britney Spears. The station not only broadcasts into Iraq, but most countries in the region. The Pentagon is also dropping leaflets on areas in southern Iraq warning Iraqi Army soldiers “they could be next.”
Meanwhile, ordinary Iraqis are very much on edge. People say that the government has recently begun giving people their food rations for 2 months, rather than one, fearing that the US would strike the food warehouses as it did in Afghanistan. Some people say they are talking with their children about the possibility of a US attack, but others say they do not want to frighten them. As one father of four said, “I think if the US attacks, they will bomb everything, including houses and schools. But sometimes, you have to lie to your children so they can stay children.”

View leaflets dropped on southern Iraq.

Jeremy Scahill is an independent journalist, who reports for the nationally syndicated Radio and TV show Democracy Now! He is currently based in Baghdad, Iraq, where he and filmmaker Jacquie Soohen are coordinating, the only website providing regular independent reporting from the ground in Baghdad.

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