Dahr Jamail on the occupation and “Search and Avoid” missions

Photo of Dahr Jamail I took with my phoneOn Friday we went to see independent journalist Dahr Jamail speak at Powell’s downtown. He attracted a standing-room only crowd to talk about his time in Iraq reporting on our invasion, the siege of Fallujah, and the current situation there under our occupation.

He read some from his new book, Beyond the Green Zone, which is why he’s out making the rounds to bookstores. It’s surprising that he wasn’t at a bigger venue, given Portland’s general interest in independent news and information about the occupation of Iraq.

I’ve read his material on and off over the years, and I’ve found myself catching up on articles at his website, including this one, based on interviews with U.S. soldiers that have returned from Iraq. More than one soldier described to him “Search and Avoid” missions, in which soldiers avoid contact with Iraqi insurgents rather than risk killing people and being killed. One soldier he has spoken to…

…said he participated in roughly 300 patrols. “We were hit by so many roadside bombs we became incredibly demoralised, so we decided the only way we wouldn’t be blown up was to avoid driving around all the time.”

“So we would go find an open field and park, and call our base every hour to tell them we were searching for weapons caches in the fields and doing weapons patrols and everything was going fine,” he said, adding, “All our enlisted people became very disenchanted with our chain of command.”

Hard to say how widespread this practice is, although Jamail talked to soldiers who were in Iraq in different places and at different times. There are certainly other examples of soldiers finding ways to avoid meaningless deaths on the battlefield… such as the World War I Christmas Truce (adapted for the screen in Joyeux Noel), which involved a small number of soldiers, or the widespread GI resistance movement to the invasion of Viet Nam, which is documented in Sir, No Sir!. Here’s a great background piece on American military resistance from Znet.

Visit Dahr Jamail’s site when you get a chance.

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