Fallujah, the Guernica of Our Times Part 5: Cruel November Approaches By Mac McKinney
The Fallujah Brigade, created to resolve the brutal conflict between the American military and the city of Fallujah by the May Truce, was a political solution, not a military one. The Brigade's overall mission was to pacify the city as an American proxy force through both persuasion and police powers, and to arrest the killers of the Blackwater Four, a goal that was beginning to look like a ludicrous obsession in a country where scores of people were being murdered daily. The thousand-plus (1600 by some accounts) Fallujah Brigade was hastily created out of, largely, whichever local Iraqis were available with past military experience. Ironically, this included enlisting both members of Saddam Hussein's old Baathist army and, by tactfully looking the other way, insurgents that the Marines had just been fighting against. Consequently, if the Brigade was meant to confront and defang insurgent forces inside Fallujah, it was compromised from the start. And one can imagine Marine Officers knew this. As journalist W. Thomas Smith, former Marine, writing in National Review Online, points out, "Officially, Marine commanders support the Fallujah Brigade. They may not have a choice", as if this was an odious decision. He goes on to emphasize that "Decisions on how to destroy the enemy should be left to the professionals", and then begins a lengthy discourse on the teachings of Sun Tzu, the Chinese author of the hoary Art of War, pointing out in particular the evils of allowing civilians to interfere with the generals. (http://www.nationalreview.com/smitht/smith200405030845.asp ) In early May, the Fallujah Brigade began taking over some of the Marines' responsibilities, although still under the direct control of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. But the Brigade was staring at a transformed city, one that was now militarized and radicalized by recent events. The traditional political structure that had run the city was in chaos, thanks first to the US Army's destabilizing "regency" for months, followed by the Marines' just-aborted siege, so that now the most obvious authorities in Fallujah beyond the Marine Corps perimeter were the ones with all the guns, the insurgents or mujaheddin. And these tended to be God-fearing Sunni Muslims who undoubtedly felt they owed their survival thus far to the grace of Allah, and Allah's intermediaries, the imams, or clerics.
Strident martial law, Sharia-style, now began to take effect within the formerly secular-ruled city, a move that was an organic development under siege conditions, but one which would also alienate some Fallujans. A "Mujaheddin Advisory Council or Shura" became a loose umbrella organization to run the very city the Fallujah Brigade was now supposed to take control of, and it included such imposing, hard-line clerics as Abdallah Janabi. The Shura was soon issuing strict Islamist decrees that would have never passed muster during the secular Saddam era. Some have described what was taking place as the "Talibanization of Fallujah." Pepe Escobar, the well-known journalist who writes the Roving Eye column for Asia Times Online, had this to say in 2004 regarding the new order in Fallujah: "Writers and professors in Baghdad with close family and tribal ties to Fallujah have explained to Asia Times Online the new order. In today's Fallujah, every military commander is an emir. They may be strident, conservative Salafis, philosophical Sufis, al-Qaeda admirers, former Ba'ath Party army officials, former secret-service agents, or even the average neighbor, a father of six. "If you qualify as an emir, you are a leading member of what is popularly described as 'the Iraqi resistance' in control of 'liberated Fallujah', a region off-limits to US troops ever since the United States handed over control of the city in May after a month-long siege. "Along with local imams and tribal chiefs, all emirs are also part of a Shura, a mujahideen council, created last winter and directed by two imams, Abdallah Janabi and Dhafer al-Ubeidi. "These imams may be considered the spiritual leaders of the resistance in Fallujah. Janabi, from the Saad bin Abi Wakkas Mosque, is a true radical: he is the leader of the takfiris - the fiercest warriors, some Iraqi, some from other Arab countries, some voluntary, some linked to Arab groups. Janabi was the first imam in 2003 to call for armed resistance against the occupation of Iraq, and for the summary execution of spies. Dhafer, from the al-Hadra al-Muhammadiya mosque, is a senior to Janabi in the Shura. His fatwas (religious edicts) carry enormous influence........The mujahideen paint a picture of a city where Sharia law may be the norm, but the air hangs heavy with paranoia - just as it did in Taliban Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The city may now be free of marines, but is under an informal siege by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's new secret-service agents and Central Intelligence Agency operatives. These spies are executed the minute any of the emirs identify them. The emirs parade around town in luxury Western cars with tinted windows, just like the Taliban with their Toyota Land Cruisers did in Afghanistan. "An undeclared 'foreigner-hunting season' is in effect. It has claimed, among other victims, a Lebanese businessman, the South Korean national Kim Sun-il, and six Shi'ite truck drivers. Janabi justifies all the executions. During the past three months, the mujahideen have also executed more than 30 Fallujah residents, all of them denounced as spies for the Americans..." (Pepe Escobar) (http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/FG15Ak01.html ) The reference to Minister Allawi above refers to the fact that on June 28, 2004, the American supervised Iraqi Interim Government morphed into the Iraqi Transitional Government, led by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a secular Shiite with a dual Iraqi-British background who lived in exile in England for years and who was instrumental in helping the Blair Government craft its case for war against Iraq. Allawi quickly took a very hostile position toward the Fallujan insurgency and continuously granted US forces carte-blanche for ongoing military actions against the city, including, for example, sporadically blasting Fallujah with one-ton bombs. Against this evolving insurgent dynamic in Fallujah, the Fallujah Brigade had to accomplish several key demands of the Marines: 1) apprehend the men responsible for killing the Blackwater Four; 2) broker the handing in of the insurgents' heavy weapons; 3) root out and arrest foreign terrorists (another American obsession); and 4) patrol the city. It soon became apparent that the Brigade was having difficulty on all counts, although they were manning various checkpoints. I return to Escobar's account: "Every entrance to the city is controlled by the mujahideen, who also control the US-trained Iraqi policemen. Most men now are mujahideen, either in the Iraqi National Guard (the former US-trained Iraqi Civil Defense Corps); the Iraqi police; and in the population as a whole. The real Ba'ath military power in Fallujah is in the hands of two people with very close ties to the emirs: Jassem Mohammed Saleh - the first commander of the Fallujah Brigade - and Abdullah Hamed. "The Fallujah-connected sources tell Asia Times Online that the new US-Allawi-appointed Iraqi secret services hoped the Ba'ath military in Fallujah would circumscribe the influence of the mujahideen. The exact opposite has happened. In Fallujah, Ba'athists now answer to the emirs in control of the resistance." (Pepe Escobar) (http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/FG15Ak01.html )
By June, 2004, the Marines were already expressing public disenchantment with the Brigade, many of whose members saw themselves as peacemakers, not proxy enforcers, and by August, the Marines were openly suggesting that it was a failure. By early September, tensions grew dramatically between the two forces when several Brigade members allegedly fired at Marines near the city limits and the latter returned fire, killing four Iraqis. This incident was the last straw, and on Sept 9th the Corps informed the Brigade they would be dissolved. To quote Colonel Jerry Durant, "The whole Fallujah Brigade was a fiasco. Initially it worked OK, but it wasn't a good idea for very long." (http://www.truthout.org/docs_04/091204B.shtml ) Brigade members were offered positions with the Iraqi police or national guard. An LA Times article reported, however, that Brigade members were upset and much more likely to join the insurgency. A Major Abed Abaas of the Brigade said, "This was a great violation to the members of the Brigade by the American forces and the Iraqi interim government. Dissolving the Fallujah Brigade, they broke the truce agreed upon last April when the Americans besieged Fallujah." (http://www.truthout.org/docs_04/091204B.shtml ) Since the Marines never put much stock in the Brigade to begin with, they had never completely ceased military operations against Fallujah. Air strikes continued throughout the summer and fall, often on residential areas, with the rationale that these were legitimate insurgent targets. As a Sept 12, 2004 article by Brian Dominick of the New Standard reports: "American pilots have struck the city of 300,000 more than a dozen times since ground forces pulled out last spring, however. In fact, they have bombed the city nightly for the better part of the past week, each time striking what US military officials say are terrorist 'safehouses.' On nearly every such occasion, hospital officials have said the strikes killed or wounded women, children and others presumed to be noncombatants. "New doubt was recently cast on the validity of US targets by an unusual source: In a video the UK Guardian says is being distributed in markets all over Fallujah, unidentified captors reportedly execute an Egyptian man who says his name is Muhammad Fauzi Abdul Aíal Mutwali. Before he is beheaded, Mutwali confesses to having been offered $150 apiece to plant homing devices in the houses of suspected insurgents around the city, to be used to help US pilots hit specific targets in the city. "In the past, the tactic of using paid informants to determine targets has received criticism for its arbitrary nature and its potential for abuse by competing parties on the ground. This is especially applicable in cases where damage cannot be assessed by the military, and thus informants cannot be held accountable for providing invalid targets. "While the US military enjoys unbridled control of the skies above Fallujah, the streets appear to belong exclusively to a cabal (the Shura) of some twenty militias whose leaders have begun to meet and coordinate defense of the brazen city, the Guardian reports." (http://newstandardnews.net/content/?action=show_item&itemid=977 ) The military also claimed to be attacking the safehouses of "al-Qaeda in Iraq" led by the mysterious Jordanian, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whom, some declared, had established Fallujah as his operational base. But sightings of Zarqawi proved as reliable as sightings of the Loch Ness monster, complicated by charges that he didn't even exist, at least not on the increasingly mythic level his media persona was attaining. The Pentagon has added to this cynicism by recently admitting that they have been purposely hyping Zarqawi as a propaganda strategy to influence the Iraqi people (and, indirectly, the American people.) So, where does the reality end and the PSYOP begin regarding Zarqawi? (For more on the Pentagon PSYOP Zarqawi Program, see: http://www.propagandamatrix.com/articles/april2006/220406_b_Zarqawi.htm ) But as October arrived, one thing was proving increasingly reliable - the growing rumors and reports that the Americans were preparing to launch a second major offensive against the city.
Next issue, Part 6: Cruel November Arrives