The most outrageous Iraq war story since Abu Ghraib
The last remaining public justification for the U.S./U.K. occupation of Iraq
is terrorism: The foreign forces cannot leave until Iraq is somewhat peaceful
and the terrorists have been defeated.
That threadbare reasoning was ripped apart on Monday as the world -- other
than the United States, where broadcast media avoided the story -- was shown
two agents provocateurs
employed by the British government. Their exact mission will never be proven.
The evidence, however, is damning.
The two commandoes -- alternately identified as members of Britian's notorious
SAS or a newer
offshoot, the SRR -- were driving around a demonstration in Basra when their
suspicious behavior attracted the attention of Basra police.
The Scotsman now
reports that the men are members of the SRR, or Special Reconnaissance
Regiment. The insignia shows a Greek helmet with a sword thrust through the
mouth and up through the back of the skull.
The police attempted to stop the men, who were disguised as Arabs in
local garb over their T-shirts and trousers. The men wore black-hair wigs and,
according to some reports, typical headresses.
And they also
carried a whole lot of weapons, including explosives and other bomb-making materials.
They began firing at the police and passers-by.
At least one Basra policeman was shot dead. At least one person in the crowd
was shot dead. An undetermined number of others were injured in the gunfight.
The British pair was jailed. Arab television showed the beaten men with bandages
on their heads, and their huge
collection of weaponry. Basra -- a relatively peaceful city compared to
the rest of bloodsoaked Iraq -- had suddenly
lost patience with the British occupiers, caught red-handed with
all the tools necessary to launch "suicide bombs" against the people.
And then the British
tanks rolled in ... and destroyed the jail, releasing 150 "terrorists"
in the process. Whether the British commandoes were inside the jail is now
disputed, as are most parts of the story, with Britian in damage-control mode
officials universally condeming the "barbaric" destruction of the
jail and the suspected terrorist goals of the captured duo.
The city rioted against the tanks and troops, setting
fire to at least one of the tanks.
U.K. media is now desperately backpedaling from the version of events reported
by at least a dozen independent reporters working in Iraq, after reporting the
same general events as other world media on Monday.
* * *
A spokesman for rebel Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said
the British commandoes were trying to pass themselves off as members of Sadr's
Sheikh Hassan told Socialist Worker that the two undercover soldiers seized
by Iraqi police last Monday were armed with explosives and a remote control
detonator. The soldiers were disguised as members of Sadr's militia, the Mehdi
The trouble started when a senior Sadr official was arrested on Sunday.
"We called a protest outside the mayor’s office on Monday demanding
the Sheikh be released," Sheikh Hassan said. "This protest was peaceful."
"But events in our city took a sinister turn when the police tried
to stop two men dressed as members of the Mehdi Army driving near the protest.
The men opened fire on the police and passers-by. After a car chase they were
"What our police found in their car was very disturbing — weapons,
explosives and a remote control detonator," Sheikh Hassan said. "These
are the weapons of terrorists. We believe these soldiers were planning an attack
on a market or other civilian targets, and thanks be to God they were stopped
and countless lives were saved."
There are about 8,500 British troops in and around Basra. Four Iraqis died
in the riots against the jailbreak mission. Also, a
local reporter who wrote for the New York Times and The Guardian was found murdered
after being abducted by mysterious gunmen.
Following the lead of its American partners, the British Ministry of Defense
all wrongdoing, called the destruction of the jail "absolutely right,"
and blamed everything on a "civil war" developing (or
Iran, depending on the mouthpiece) in southern Iraq.