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Monday, November 28, 2011

Hearts and minds with Snickers bars

You kill my son then offer me a tree
Occupying troops in Kirkuk
Northeastern Iraq
Excerpt, editing, re-reporting by Carolyn Bennett

There were several ways to make friends, most of them slow and difficult— among them is to “build relationships … based on trust earned and respect freely given.”

Instead the U.S. Army in Iraq chose million-dollar Humanitarian Assistance (HA) ‘drop’ drives — tree seedlings, dried beans, Snickers bars, says Peter Van Buren in We meant well: How I helped lose the battle for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.

The [U.S.] Army drove around looking for places to conduct Humanitarian Assistance (HA) ‘drops,’ Van Buren writes. The soldiers would pull up to a chosen village and hand out “HA bags to whoever showed up to take them”— usually children attracted by bright colored items or Snickers bars.

Today's bombing in Iraq
U.S. Army media and PR people showed up too and captured the HA handout events, making “terrific photos of a soldier holding a kid in his arms, a soldier smiling at a hijab-clad woman.… PR fired off hundreds of frames of the same shot of a smiling Joe handing a Transformer toy to a beaming Iraqi child.”


An ancient people recognize insult

Among Iraqi adults, the handout scenes were decidedly different from those with children. A mother accepted “a blanket without making eye contact”; Iraqi men rarely accepted these giveaways, says Van Buren. “If they showed up at all, they usually stood toward the back of the crowd smoking, their faces hard and blank.”

On a handout occasion involving “fruit tree seedlings,” a local farmer “spat on the ground and demanded, “‘You killed my son and now you are giving me a tree?’…”

“Each repeat of handouts caused loss of respect from a proud people — forced into an uneven relationship,” the author comments.

“Resorting to gifts to seem popular was quick and easy but like most quick solutions really didn’t help. Once you started down the path of easy answers, your methods tended to sabotage later efforts to try the harder way. In a counterinsurgency campaign, there were several ways to make friends, most of them slow and difficult, like building relationships within the local community based on trust earned and respect freely given.”

In Iraq, Van Buren says, “Violence did not taper off. No jobs were created. The rich sheikhs who controlled the territory stayed rich and in control. Giving away free stuff reminded folks of Saddam’s [assassinated former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s] own clumsy attempts to buy love.”

 Today in U.S. occupied Iraq
Today's blast in occupied Iraq
Daily bomb attacks, roadside bombs and shootings widespread since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. 

In October, more than 250 people died in Iraq.

Today, at least two people died and seven others including a lawmaker suffered injuries in an explosion near the Iraqi parliament in Baghdad.

On Thursday, Thanksgiving USA, 20 people (est.) died and dozens more were injured when multiple bombs exploded in Iraq’s southern port city of Basra.

On Saturday, at least 16 people died and 41 others suffered wounds when a series of bombs exploded in and around the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

Early Saturday in the village of al-Zaidan, west of Baghdad, 8 people died and 13 others were wounded when two bombs exploded. In Bab al-Sharqi, Baghdad’s central market district, another three bombs exploded killing eight and injuring 28 people.

Sources and notes

We meant well: How I helped lose the battle for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, Peter Van Buren. New York: Metropolitan Books Henry Holt and Company, 2011, Chapter: “Humanitarian Assistance” (HA), pages 114-116

“Multiple blasts kills 16 Iraqis, injure 41” (PM/JR/HGH), November 26, 2011,

"Iraqi MP injured in mortar attack, 2 dead," November 28, 2011, http://www.presstv.ir/detail/212688.html

Also today "Explosion at Iraqi prison gate kills 19-- At least 19 people have been killed and 22 others injured in a car bomb explosion outside an Iraqi prison near the capital, Baghdad, officials say," November 28, 2011 

Photo captions

Foreign soldiers in Kirkuk, city in northeastern Iraq: 145 miles (233 km) north of Baghdad, the national capital, with which it is linked by road and railway.

Website for this imageCANADIAN ANTI-WAR DEMONSTRATION - 2006. Canadian anti-war demonstrators ... efootage.com
Canadian anti-war demonstrators demand the return of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
March 18, 2006 - COLOR
Source: Video: DV

Website for this image
By Tania Cervantes The Guardsman. Jess Ghamman from the Free Palestine ...
theguardsman.com, http://theguardsman.com/author/writer-tancer/

Website for this image, Anti-war demonstrators march through downtown Detroit protesting the fifth flickr.com

Massive Protest in Iraq Against U.S. Occupation

Out of Afghanistan - RAWA


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