Public Comment

Commentary: U.S. Uses Walls to Divide and Conquer in Iraq

By Kenneth Thiesen
Tuesday May 01, 2007

As we all know, the Bush administration is asking for more time from the American people to “win” in Iraq. First there was the “surge” of at least 30,000 more troops as the solution to defeating insurgents in Iraq. Now along with the surge, the U.S. military has come up with another tactic that will help “win” the war. “Building security walls” is the latest strategy. But what is the United States really constructing in Iraq? 

Last week U.S. military officials announced the building of a “security” wall to allegedly separate the Sunni Iraqis in Adhamiya (an area of Baghdad) from the Shiites who are east of the area. In the statement by the military, the Adhamiya wall was “one of the centerpieces of a new strategy.” But almost immediately controversy erupted around the erection of the wall. Protests against the barrier began and leaflets were distributed that said the wall would “turn the city into a big prison.” 

On Sunday, April 22, Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki announced he was ordering a halt to construction. In Maliki’s statement he said that the wall reminded people of “other walls,” no doubt a reference to Israel’s infamous apartheid wall in the West Bank. It may have also reminded people of earthern walls erected as a strategy used by Mussolini to defeat the Arab insurgency in Libya in the first half of the 20th century. After the Italians invaded the country, Mussolini’s fascist army built walls throughout Libya to restrict movement. He also erected massive concentration camps throughout the country for the Libyan people. Of course other notorious walls were those erected by the Nazis around Jewish ghettoes and the infamous Berlin Wall. 

As the Iraqi government made its announcement, U.S. military spokesman Major General William Caldwell, quickly issued a statement that the United States does not have a new strategy of creating “gated communities.” He claimed that it is a tactic being used in only a few neighborhoods. Gated communities? How quaint? One can almost imagine a small gated community in a quiet peaceful neighborhood in the East Bay. But make no mistake, walls are part of the U.S. war of aggression in Iraq.  

This was not the first wall erected in order to restrict the movements of Iraqis. In fact, the U.S. military has repeatedly utilized such walls as a military tactic. Remember Haditha where U.S. forces massacred two dozen civilians in 2005? Beginning in December 2006 and continuing in January 2007, U.S. Marines dug a ditch and erected a 12-foot wall, topped by concertina wire and armed sentries, around the town in al-Anbar province. Dirt berms or walls stretching 20 kilometers are outside the city limits. There is only one road in and one road out of town. All travelers must past military checkpoints where they are searched. Anyone who wishes to leave town must get written permission from the Marines. A census was conducted and all residents of the town are now known to the military in order to keep track of their movements. 

All vehicle traffic in Haditha is banned. But believe or not, in a press release the military tried to put a positive spin on this by saying “more people are walking around in the streets” than ever before. As if they have any choice? I am surprised that they did not also claim it was an effort to fight global warming or to encourage exercise. 

Colonel W. Blake Crowe, the U.S. commander for western al-Anbar province does actually refer to these areas as “gated communities” contrary to the statement of General Caldwell. In a press release, he claimed, “We are establishing a gated community, where good people can come in to the city, and bad people can’t.” For the 80,000 residents of the Haditha district, I am sure they are under no illusion of residing in a gated community. The words “concentration camp” more accurately describe the situation. In addition to Haditha, other areas including Haglaniyah, Barwanah, Rutbah, and Anah have been “bermed” in the province. 

Lt. Colonel Jim Donnellan, the battalion commander in charge of the Haditha area, admits that it resembles a police state. He says, “That’s what it is, that’s what it needs to be.” The U.S. military refers to all this as part of a “clear, hold and build” operation called “al Majid.”  

But the al Majid operation in al-Anbar, like the Adhamiya wall, is only a means to control the Iraqi people and the country. After Nazi Germany was defeated, many Germans claimed they did not know that Hitler was exterminating people by the millions in the concentration camps. Hitler claimed he was acting in the interest of the German people as he committed war crimes and other crimes against humanity.  

So too, the Bush regime claims to act in our name. In Iraq tens of thousands have died as a direct result of the U.S. invasion. If left unchecked the Bush regime will turn the entire country of Iraq into one giant concentration camp. We cannot claim not to know. The question is what will you do about it?  


Oakland resident Kenneth J. Theisen is an organizer with World Can’t Wait! Drive Out the Bush Regime. For more information see