If the US troops in Iraq wish to avoid at least some attacks by the resistance, their Commanders would do well to read up on a little history of the region. Just as firing on the crowd at Falluja in April was guaranteed to spark the beginning of a country-wide revolt against the invaders, Samarra was a place to keep well away from.
In Falluja they know about invaders, Britain's General Maude stood there in March 1917, on another ill fated colonial adventure and said: "We come as liberators, not as invaders" as a prelude to the country and entire structure of government being taken over. Later the battle for oil began (with the Iraqis blowing up the
pipelines.) Sound familiar?
Samarra is in Salahuddin Governorate, called after the great Muslim leader born in Saddam's home town Tikrit, nearby, in 1137 AD (known in the West as
Saladin.) He became King and ruled over Egypt, Syria and Palestine. He was ruthless in defeat of invaders into Arab lands and won against the Crusaders in Arab Palestine in 1187 AD. Mr Bush's new "crusade" was never going to catch on in this region.
The great golden domes of Samarra's Mosque (the town was founded in 836 AD) built sixteen years later, can be seen glinting in the sun from nearly thirty miles away, reminiscent of the golden domes of Samarkand. The remains of the Caliphs' residence -the ancient rulers - still stand as reminder of a system of justice where citizens came to the gate to ask for audience to air their complaints or suggestions. Arab Caliphs always took a personal interest in their citizens affairs.
Samarra, thus has a deep sense of fighting for justice, of its great, historic legacy and of defeating centuries of invaders (and "crusaders") ancient and modern. No doubt the US did a "recce" into Samarra before attempting to move in this week end. They would have seen a huge black slogan written on the great arch to the Mosque. It is unthinkable to deface any part of a Mosque, but this one has remained there for many years and the Imams allowed it to stay. It reads: "Down with the U.S.A." The troops would have done well to heed it and keep away. As it is they have, in the words of President Mubarak of Egypt: recruited the equivalent of "a thousand Bin Ladens" for every death and injury - and a few thousand more for every home destroyed and every child terrified.
troops: go buy a history book.
Felicity Arbuthnot has written and broadcast widely on Iraq and with Denis Halliday was senior researcher for John Pilger's Award winning documentary: 'Paying the Price - Killing the Children of Iraq.'