Liberating Fallujah

Submitted by ross on Mon, 05/16/2011 - 11:52

 *This was a blog entry posted by Dahr Jamail, November 16th, 2004*

 A look at major US coverage of its most recent military campaign.

The past several days posed a characteristic difficulty for the US Department of Defense: how to wage war upon a population while doing so on behalf of that population. But it has been fortunate not to face this difficulty alone. Both public and private sectors have developed and deployed a vast literature in order to adequately answer this question. With the arrival US advisors of Vietnam, “counterinsurgency doctrine” developed original ways of keeping like states independent where local populations threatened to determine the character of their governments. When counterinsurgency began to bear an unfortunate association with the deaths of millions against whom it had been mobilized, discussion has increasingly become of “foreign internal defense” and in recent years, measures of “internal security and stability.”

In Iraq, where security and stability have thus far been insufficient to describe the US occupation, the language of counterinsurgency has been redeployed. Throughout the ongoing bombardment and invasion of Fallujah, the major US media have proved able to frame the parameters of discussion accordingly. Despite that as recently defined by a US government funded agency, “insurgency”—“a small, ideological armed group which gradually encroaches on a state to win over its people and take its territory”1—might have been mistaken for those that bombed and invaded the city rather than Iraqis within it, and that Mr. Rumsfeld’s statement while US soldiers sieged Fallujah that “no government can allow terrorists and foreign fighters to use its soil to attack its people and to attack its government, and to intimidate the Iraqi people”2 might have been mistaken for irony, any such slips were avoided. Rather, our major media have been unanimous in explaining the invasion of Fallujah as the New York Times did: “With only three months to go until the country’s first democratic elections, American and Iraqi officials are grasping for any tool at their command to bring the insurgency under control.”3 No matter that a mass boycott of elections appears likely as a response, and has even been widely reported—this stated objective of the invasion remains totally unquestioned. With the exception of a single news article, moreover, an offer for peace contingent on the “ambitious demand” that US soldiers remain on base during an Iraqi election day went entirely unreported.4

Neither has discussion entered the unspeakable territory of previous US interventions in Fallujah. No mention that armed resistance in Fallujah developed only after the US military opened fire on crowd of civilians, killing seventeen and injuring some seventy more,5 in what the former described as “appropriate action”6—perhaps because the “collateral damage estimate was within permissible limits,” a justification given for a later bombardment of the city that killed twenty.7 Similarly absent from the current military campaign has been any discussion of the precedent set by the most recent US attacks on Fallujah in April. A New York Times article devoted to the US takeover of the Fallujah General Hospital8 (which like all major US coverage, was uninterested in the leveling of another Fallujah hospital two days prior9), for instance, said only that the hospital has been “considered a refuge for insurgents and a center of propaganda against allied forces” without bringing to light the kernel of such propaganda: doctor’s reports of US military use of cluster bombs, shooting of ambulances and civilians, and related war crimes.10 Absent also is the possibility that a US military takeover of an Iraqi hospital may itself be troubling to Sadiq Zoman and others disappointed by declining standards in US healthcare.11 On the current invasion, Dahr Jamail reported to Amy Goodman today that “doctors from inside the city, one in particular actually, spoke of the initial raid on Fallujah General Hospital at the beginning of the siege. He said that he was instructed by U.S. and Iraqi forces as they entered the hospital, that they told him that the Iraqi health minister said that if anyone disclosed information about this raid, they would be arrested or fired from their jobs. He went on to describe the scene where the soldiers and the Iraqi forces as well came in, pulled wounded people out of their beds, interrupted operations that were in progress, tied doctors’ hands behind their backs and then basically said, ‘okay, you will not be in control of this hospital,’ and then detained several of the patients from the hospital, neglecting their medical care.”12

Attention instead has been directed to more promising aspects of the invasion. As a New York Times caption to a photo of a soldier poised to open fire noted on November 9, “Protecting the Islamic cultural center in Falluja was one the marines’ objectives today.”13 In the same article, in what has been typical of major US coverage, emphasis was given to the Iraqi contributions to the assault: “‘For cultural reasons, we think it is much better for the Iraqis to search the mosques,’ General Metz said in Iraq, adding that Iraqi forces had found a large number of weapons inside a mosque in the city.” Indeed, such contributions—in the form of local military and paramilitary groups created and sustained by the US government—have been vital to US military objectives overseas. Much as Iraqi soldiers have been deployed by the US military, Iraqi voices been deployed by the US media as implicit support of the invasion. The same article from the New York Times describes what would seem, even, to be an Iraqi-led action: “In Baghdad on Monday, Dr. Allawi announced that he had given the go-ahead for the operation. ‘I have given my authority to the multinational forces,’ he said at a news conference inside the fortified compound housing the headquarters of the interim Iraqi government. ‘We are determined to clean Falluja of terrorists.’” Another New York Times article discusses the ambivalence of Iraqi response to the siege of Fallujah within a frame that opens with apparent dissent (“the country’s most prominent Sunni political party said today that it was withdrawing from the interim Iraqi government”) and closes with an Iraqi answer (“‘Nobody is in favor of using force, but the problem is you need sovereignty over all the parts of Iraq,’ [Mr. Hassani] said. ‘I haven’t heard any party come up with a single suggestion that we can solve the problems in these places without using force’”).14

Dahr Jamail’s reports, in contrast, have shown the recalcitrance of Iraqi citizens in the face of the American military campaign, apparently yet unable to understand that freedom comes with necessary sacrifice—such as that of Artica Salim, seven months pregnant, killed at 3:30am on November 1 while she slept when two rockets from US warplanes struck her home.15 “‘The people of Falluja have the right to fight for their city, because if the Americans are invading their city, they have to defend it,’ stated Nisan al-Samarra’i, a 55 year-old merchant in the Karrada district of Baghdad.” Mahmoud Shakir, 80, former commander of the Iraqi police in Baghdad said “Fallujans should fight for their city. They are not terrorists, and there has been no proof of foreign fighters in Fallujah. And if there are Arabs there, they are more accepted than the Americans and coalition forces. In the name of liberty, they must fight.” Hamad Abdulla Raziz, an unemployed electrician doing odd jobs at a hotel in central Baghdad, said the U.S.-led coalition fails to see that “we are having now to fight for our liberation against them.”16

Of freedom in Fallujah, Dahr writes of reports that “US troops have sprayed chemical and nerve gases on resistance fighters,” and from the Golan District that “residents have been further burnt beyond treatment by poisonous gases.” “Adding credibility to the claims,” he notes, “the US admitted last August of having used napalm in Iraq during the initial invasion of the country, which is an internationally-banned weapon.”17 Eyewitness Ahmed Abdulla, a 21 year-old student whose father has been denied exit from Fallujah by the US army like all other civilian men of “fighting age,” described that “shops had even been bombed; bodies with arms and legs lying near them were tossed about on the sidewalks in places just after the bombs fell”—to which he added, “I still can’t get the smell of dead bodies to leave me.”18

The top marine commander in Iraq said yesterday, perhaps in response, that “we’re sweeping through the city now. We’re clearing out pockets of resistance.”19 He further remarked to the New York Times, newspaper of record, that “it ought to go down in the history books.” History, it seems, is today impeded by little more than the bodies of liberated Iraqis at its feet.

(1) “Humanitarian Agencies and Coalition Counter-Insurgency,” Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, Hugo Slim, July 2004.

(2) U.S. Department of Defense Press Briefing, Monday, November 8, 2004, 2:02 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

(3) “U.S. Forces Begin Moving Into Falluja,” Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Robert Worth, November 7, 2004.

(4) “Battle Near, Iraqi Sunnis Make Offer,” Washington Post, Karl Vick, November 6, 2004.

(5) A Human Rights Watch ballistics report conducted thereafter could find “no compelling evidence” that any guns had been fired upon US soldiers.

(6) San Francisco Gate, November 24, 2003.

(7) “US Strike in Fallujah Kills 20,” Washington Post, Edward Cody, June 20, 2004.

(8) ”Early Target of Offensive Is a Hospital,” New York Times, Richard Oppel Jr., November 8, 2004.

(9) “US strikes raze Falluja hospital,” BBC News, November 6, 2004.

(10) See Dahr’s “Atrocities Continue to Emerge from the rubble of Fallujah,” May 11, 2004.

(11) “Detained, Bludgeoned and Electrocuted into a Coma,” January 7, 2004.

(12) “Fallujah Devastated: Witnesses Describe Humanitarian Crisis and Civilian Death Toll,” Democracy Now! November 15th, 2004.

(13) “American Forces Reach Center of Falluja Amid Fierce Fighting,” New York Times, Dexter Filkins and James Glanza, November 9, 2004.

(14) “Falluja Assault Roils Iraqi Politics,” New York Times, Edward Wong, November 9, 2004.

(15) “As Slaughter Continues in Fallujah, Anger Swells in Baghdad,” Open Democracy, Dahr Jamail, November 11.

(16) “Condemnation of Falluja Siege in Baghdad as Violence Escalates across Iraq,” Inter Press Service, Dahr Jamail, November 7.

(17) “As Slaughter Continues in Fallujah, Anger Swells in Baghdad,” Open Democracy, Dahr Jamail, November 11.

(18) “The Ghosts of Fallujah Emerge,” Sunday Herald, Dahr Jamail, November 12.

(19) “Insurgents Routed in Falluja; Smaller Bands Still Resist,” New York Times, Dexter Filkins and Robert F. Worth, November 14, 2004.

© 2010 The Justice for Fallujah Project . Drupal theme by Kiwi Themes.