ABC Middle East Brief facts prior current conflic
ISRAEL or "palestine" Which is it?
History & Meaning palestine, "palestinians"
Interesting that when America is faced with the reality of terror, instead of
criticizing Israeli tactics, they use them to save the lives of their soldiers.
I bless the U.S. armed forces in Iraq, and hope Israel's hard-earned knowledge
about terrorists will help save American lives. The message is simple:
Terrorism will continue as long as it can; it will stop when it can't. No "good
will gestures" no territorial concessions will budge it. It's total defeat, or
US Tactics In Iraq Begin To Mirror Israel In West Bank
Tough New Tactics by U.S. Tighten Grip on Iraq Towns
December 7, 2003
By DEXTER FILKINS
ABU HISHMA, Iraq, Dec. 6 - As the guerrilla war against
Iraqi insurgents intensifies, American soldiers have begun
wrapping entire villages in barbed wire.
In selective cases, American soldiers are demolishing
buildings thought to be used by Iraqi attackers. They have
begun imprisoning the relatives of suspected guerrillas, in
hopes of pressing the insurgents to turn themselves in.
The Americans embarked on their get-tough strategy in early
November, goaded by what proved to be the deadliest month
yet for American forces in Iraq, with 81 soldiers killed by
hostile fire. The response they chose is beginning to echo
the Israeli counterinsurgency campaign in the occupied
So far, the new approach appears to be succeeding in
diminishing the threat to American soldiers. But it appears
to be coming at the cost of alienating many of the people
the Americans are trying to win over. Abu Hishma is quiet
now, but it is angry, too.
In Abu Hishma, encased in a razor-wire fence after repeated
attacks on American troops, Iraqi civilians line up to go
in and out, filing through an American-guarded checkpoint,
each carrying an identification card printed in English
"If you have one of these cards, you can come and go,"
coaxed Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman, the battalion commander
whose men oversee the village, about 50 miles north of
Baghdad. "If you don't have one of these cards, you can't."
The Iraqis nodded and edged their cars through the line.
Over to one side, an Iraqi man named Tariq muttered in
"I see no difference between us and the Palestinians," he
said. "We didn't expect anything like this after Saddam
The practice of destroying buildings where Iraqi insurgents
are suspected of planning or mounting attacks has been used
for decades by Israeli soldiers in Gaza and the West Bank.
The Israeli Army has also imprisoned the relatives of
suspected terrorists, in the hopes of pressing the suspects
The Israeli military has also cordoned off villages and
towns thought to be hotbeds of guerrilla activity, in an
effort to control the flow of people moving in and out.
American officials say they are not purposefully mimicking
Israeli tactics, but they acknowledge that they have
studied closely the Israeli experience in urban fighting.
Ahead of the war, Israeli defense experts briefed American
commanders on their experience in guerrilla and urban
warfare. The Americans say there are no Israeli military
advisers helping the Americans in Iraq.
Writing in the July issue of Army magazine, an American
brigadier general said American officers had recently
traveled to Israel to hear about lessons learned from
recent fighting there.
"Experience continues to teach us many lessons, and we
continue to evaluate and address those lessons, embedding
and incorporating them appropriately into our concepts,
doctrine and training," Brig. Gen. Michael A. Vane wrote.
"For example, we recently traveled to Israel to glean
lessons learned from their counterterrorist operations in
urban areas." General Vane is deputy chief of staff for
doctrine concepts and strategy, at the United States Army
Training and Doctrine Command.
American officers here say their new hard-nosed approach
reflects a more realistic appreciation of the military and
political realities faced by soldiers in the so-called
Sunni triangle, the area north and west of Baghdad that is
generating the most violence against the Americans.
Underlying the new strategy, the Americans say, is the
conviction that only a tougher approach will quell the
insurgency and that the new strategy must punish not only
the guerrillas but also make clear to ordinary Iraqis the
cost of not cooperating.
"You have to understand the Arab mind," Capt. Todd Brown, a
company commander with the Fourth Infantry Division, said
as he stood outside the gates of Abu Hishma. "The only
thing they understand is force - force, pride and saving
Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top military commander in
Iraq, announced the get-tough strategy in early November.
After the announcement, some American officers warned that
the scenes that would follow would not be pretty.
Speaking today in Baghdad, General Sanchez said attacks on
allied forces or gunfights with adversaries across Iraq had
dropped to under 20 a day from 40 a day two weeks ago.
"We've considerably pushed back the numbers of engagements
against coalition forces," he said. "We've been hitting
back pretty hard. We've forced them to slow down the pace
of their operations."
In that way, the new American approach seems to share the
successes of the Israeli military, at least in the short
term; Israeli officers contend that their strategy
regularly stops catastrophes like suicide bombings from
"If you do nothing, they will just get stronger," said
Martin van Creveld, professor of military history and
strategy at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He briefed
American marines on Israeli tactics in urban warfare in
The problems in Abu Hishma, a town of 7,000, began in
October, when the American military across the Sunni
triangle decided to ease off on their military operations
to coincide with the onset of the Islamic holy month of
In Abu Hishma, as in other towns, the backing off by the
Americans was not reciprocated by the insurgents. American
troops regularly came under mortar fire, often traced to
the surrounding orchards.
Meanwhile, the number of bombs planted on nearby roads rose
sharply. Army convoys regularly took fire from a house a
few miles away from the village.
The last straw for the Americans came on Nov. 17, when a
group of guerrillas fired a rocket-propelled grenade into
the front of a Bradley armored personnel carrier. The
grenade, with an armored piercing tip, punched through the
Bradley's shell and killed Staff Sgt. Dale Panchot, one of
The grenade went straight into the sergeant's chest. With
the Bradley still smoldering, the soldiers of the First
Battalion, Eighth Infantry, part of the Fourth Infantry
Division, surrounded Abu Hishma and searched for the
guerrillas. Soldiers began encasing the town in razor wire.
The next day, an American jet dropped a 500-bomb on the
house that had been used to attack them. The Americans
arrested eight sheiks, the mayor, the police chief and most
members of the city council. "We really hammered the
place," Maj. Darron Wright said.
Two and a half weeks later, the town of Abu Hishma is
enclosed in a barbed-wire fence that stretches for five
miles. Men ages 18 to 65 have been ordered to get
identification cards. There is only way into the town and
one way out.
"This fence is here for your protection," reads the sign
posted in front of the barbed-wire fence. "Do not approach
or try to cross, or you will be shot."
American forces have used the tactic in other cities,
including Awja, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein. American
forces also sealed off three towns in western Iraq for
"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," Colonel Sassaman said.
The bombing of the house, about a mile outside the barbed
wire, is another tactic that echoes those of the Israeli
Army. In Iraq, the Americans have bulldozed, bombed or
otherwise rendered useless a number of buildings which they
determined were harboring guerrillas.
In Tikrit, residents pointed out a home they said had been
bulldozed by American tanks. The occupants had already
left, they said.
"I watched the Americans flatten that house," said Abdullah
al-Ajili, who lives down the road.
American officers acknowledge that they have destroyed
buildings around Tikrit. In a recent news conference,
General Sanchez explained the strategy but ignored a
question about parallels to the Israeli experience.
"Well, I guess what we need to do is go back to the laws of
war and the Geneva Convention and all of those issues that
define when a structure ceases to be what it is claimed to
be and becomes a military target," General Sanchez said.
"We've got to remember that we're in a low-intensity
conflict where the laws of war still apply."
In Abu Hishma, residents complain that the village is
locked down for 15 hours a day, meaning that they are
unable to go to the mosque for morning and evening prayers.
They say the curfew does not allow them time to stand in
the daylong lines for gasoline and get home before the gate
closes for the night.
But mostly, it is a loss of dignity that the villagers talk
about. For each identification card, every Iraqi man is
assigned a number, which he must hold up when he poses for
his mug shot. The card identifies his age and type of car.
It is all in English.
"This is absolutely humiliating," said Yasin Mustafa, a
39-year-old primary school teacher. "We are like birds in a
Colonel Sassaman said he would maintain the wire enclosure
until the villagers turned over the six men who killed
Sergeant Panchot, though he acknowledged they may have
slipped far away.
Colonel Sassaman is feared by many of Abu Hishma's
villagers, who hold him responsible for the searches and
razor wire around the town. But some said they understood
what a difficult job he had, trying to pick out a few bad
men from a village of 7,000 people.
"Colonel Sassaman, you should come and live in this village
and be a sheik," Hassan Ali al-Tai told the colonel outside
The colonel smiled, and Mr. Tai turned to another visitor.
"Colonel Sassaman is a very good man," he said. "If he got
rid of the barbed wire and the checkpoint, everyone would