In the Ghetto: Bush Begins Forced Ethnic Partition of Baghdad

Taking a cue from Cold War Soviet policy in Berlin – not to mention the enlightened approach of the Israeli government in the West Bank – the Bush Regime has begun walling off a Sunni enclave in Baghdad, driving a stake into the heart of the flickering reconciliation efforts among the Iraqi grassroots and solidifying the nation's deadly sectarian divisions  -- thus abetting the aims of the violent extremists operating both within and outside the Bush-backed Iraqi government.

The Sunnis of Adhamiya are being sealed into a ghetto by three miles of concrete, 12 feet high, made up of giant 14,000-pound slabs being installed by monstrous cranes and heavy machinery in the dead of night, the Los Angeles Times reports. When the enclosure is finished, Adhamiya will be an open-air prison, with access into and out of the ghetto controlled by U.S. and, presumably, Iraqi government forces. Already the wall is destroying fragile personal and commercial ties between the area's Sunni population and the surrounding Shiite areas, say residents. It will also draw even more violence to the area, they add:

"Are they trying to divide us into different sectarian cantons?" said a Sunni drugstore owner in Adhamiya, who would identify himself only as Abu Ahmed, 44. "This will deepen the sectarian strife and only serve to abort efforts aimed at reconciliation."

Some of Ahmed's customers come from Shiite or mixed neighborhoods that are now cut off by large barriers along a main highway. Customers and others seeking to cross into the Sunni district must park their cars outside Adhamiya, walk through a narrow passage in the wall and take taxis on the other side.

Several residents interviewed likened the project to the massive barriers built by Israel around some Palestinian zones. "Are we in the West Bank?" asked Abu Qusay, 48, a pharmacist who said that he wouldn't be able to get to his favorite kebab restaurant in Adhamiya.

Residents complained that Baghdad already has been dissected by hundreds of barriers that cause daily traffic snarls. Some predicted the new wall would become a target of militants on both sides. Last week, construction crews came under small-arms fire, military officials said.

"I feel this is the beginning of a pattern of what the whole of Iraq is going to look like, divided by sectarian and racial criteria," Abu Marwan, 50, a Shiite pharmacist, said.

U.S. officials told the Times that the imprisonment of Adhamiya was a unique expedient, and not part of the "surge" strategy. "Dividing up the entire city with barriers is not part of the plan," Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said.

But of course, Lt. Col. Christopher Garver was lying -- either knowingly or perhaps unknowingly, as he was doubtless simply parroting what he was told by his superiors. But as we noted here last week (Green Zone Down), dividing Baghdad into sealed-off ghettos controlled by the military is very much an integral part of Bush's escalation of the war. As Robert Fisk noted in the Independent:

Faced with an ever-more ruthless insurgency in Baghdad - despite President George Bush's "surge" in troops - US forces in the city are now planning a massive and highly controversial counter-insurgency operation that will seal off vast areas of the city, enclosing whole neighbourhoods with barricades and allowing only Iraqis with newly issued ID cards to enter.  The campaign of "gated communities" - whose genesis was in the Vietnam War - will involve up to 30 of the city's 89 official districts and will be the most ambitious counter-insurgency programme yet mounted by the US in Iraq...

So far, the Baghdad campaign has involved only the creation of a few US positions within several civilian areas of the city but the new project will involve joint American and Iraqi "support bases" in nine of the 30 districts to be "gated" off. From these bases - in fortified buildings - US-Iraqi forces will supposedly clear militias from civilian streets which will then be walled off and the occupants issued with ID cards. Only the occupants will be allowed into these "gated communities" and there will be continuous patrolling by US-Iraqi forces. There are likely to be pass systems, "visitor" registration and restrictions on movement outside the "gated communities". Civilians may find themselves inside a "controlled population" prison.

The Adhamiya ghetto is one of the first fruits of this sinister and doomed-to-failure plan. Even the most savage pre-war critics of the Bush Faction's aggression against Iraq -- and I was one of them -- did not foresee that it would come to this: the Iraqis literally being imprisoned in their own cities, walled up behind tons of concrete and bristling concertina wire, forced to run a gauntlet of armed guards and proffer ID cards simply to reach their own homes. Any sentient being knew that Bush's bullshit about "liberation" was a transparent hoax to cover a brutal rape of Iraq; but I never thought he would actually herd the survivors into walled camps and set up ethnic ghettos in the heart of the ancient capital, like the Nazis partitioning Warsaw or Cracow. But that's precisely what's happening now -- to the deafening silence of the American Establishment and the Democratic "opposition."