Fallujah, the Guernica of Our Times Part 7: Fallujah Becomes Guernica By Mac McKinney
"The soldier, be he friend or foe, is charged with the protection of the weak and unarmed. It is the very essence and reason for his being. When he violates this sacred trust, he not only profanes his entire cult but threatens the very fabric of international society. The traditions of fighting men are long and honorable. They are based upon the noblest of human traits - sacrifice." -General of the Army, Douglas MacArthur, 1946, confirming the death by hanging sentence imposed by a United States military commission on General Tomayuki Yamashita, convicted of failing to prevent Japanese Imperial troops under his command from committing massacres and outrages against prisoners of war and civilians in the last stages of the Japanese occupation of the Philippines.
After "capturing" Fallujah General Hospital and isolating its staff from the outside world, American forces continued to sweep into the city, pounding targeted areas with artillery and air power to soften them up, as well as cutting all electrical power by late Tuesday, 09 November 2004. Insurgent resistance varied from neighborhood to neighborhood, in some instances light, in others heavy, but fluid enough to reinforce some areas under attack that were hard-pressed. Even so, the best the Mujaheddin, playing David to the U.S. Goliath, could hope to do was to delay the inevitable against overwhelmingly superior firepower, logistics and technology. By November 10, after two days of fighting, CENTCOM announced that they had taken about 70% of the city. The northwestern Jolan district was occupied with little resistance, as well as the main east-west highway. However, to the southwest, the Resala and Nazal neighborhoods were putting up a better fight. Coalition forces, generally going house to house, continued to target for assault or destruction all buildings that were deemed to be sheltering insurgents, whom we must recall are usually difficult to differentiate from civilians. Unfortunately, targets included many mosques, such as Al Tawfiq and Muhammadia , which were alleged to either be housing wounded fighters or serving as command centers and bunkers. On November 12, Coalition forces continued to force the Mujaheddin into the southeast corner of the city while the Iraqi Red Crescent, the Muslim version of the Red Cross, declaring the situation in Fallujah a "big disaster", requested permission to enter the city, but received no official reply. By the following day, officials stated they had achieved control of most of the city and were beginning house-to-house clearing operations, claiming that a thousand or so insurgents had been slain and 200 captured. By November 15, ground troops were still plodding on, house-to-house, aided by ongoing air strikes, artillery, tanks, and explosives experts. The Red Crescent was still not allowed into the city, so they turned their trucks toward the outlying villages where tens of thousands of Fallujans were encamped in tents in very desperate straits. The following day CENTCOM declared victory in Fallujah, other than for isolated pockets of resistance, which would linger on with nagging persistence. According to GlobalSecurity.org: "As of 15 November 2004, 38 U.S. troops, six Iraqi soldiers and an estimated 1200 insurgents had been killed. Three of the U.S. fatalities were non-battle related injuries. Approximately 275 U.S. troops were wounded as well." (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/oif-phantom-fury-fallujah.htm ) Several senior military officers now began to predict that the insurgency in Iraq would soon collapse. This, in a nutshell, was the sanitized version of events that was flowing from the corporate media in November. The Pentagon's embedded reporters were, as usual, kept on a tight leash regarding physical access to the city and were briefed regularly by military spokesmen on the "liberation of Fallujah". Moreover, there were no independent, live-reporting media crews within Fallujah during major hostilities, unlike the April siege. Still, the universe itself has eyes and ears, so to speak, and so the unvarnished, other side of the story, with powerful allegations, eventually began to surface, a tiny portion of which I am recounting here. Some of what follows has been corroborated, some of it not, so the reader must decide for himself the veracity of each eye-witness account.
Let us begin with information provided in this year's Project Censored book, "Censored 2006", that lists civilian suffering in Fallujah as the second biggest story ignored by the Establishment media in 2005. The following is recounted from the book's report, Media Coverage Fails on Iraq: Fallujah and the Civilian Death Toll, and addresses, among other things, American house-to house searches: "Burhan Fasa'a, an Iraqi journalist, said Americans grew easily frustrated with Iraqis who could not speak English. 'Americans did not have interpreters with them, so they entered houses and killed people because they didn't speak English. They entered the house where I was with 26 people, and shot people because [the people] didn't obey [the soldiers'] orders, even just because the people couldn't understand a word of English.' "Abu Hammad, a resident of Fallujah, told the Inter Press Service that he saw people attempt to swim across the Euphrates to escape the siege. 'The Americans shot them with rifles from the shore. Even if some of them were holding a white flag or white clothes over their head to show they are not fighters, they were all shot.' Furthermore, 'even the wound[ed] people were killed. The Americans made announcements for people to come to one mosque if they wanted to leave Fallujah, and even the people who went there carrying white flags were killed.' Former residents of Fallujah recall other tragic methods of killing the wounded. 'I watched them [US Forces] roll over wounded people in the street with tanks ... This happened so many times.' "Preliminary estimates as of December of 2004 revealed that at least 6,000 Iraqi citizens in Fallujah had been killed.....The illegal, heavy handed tactics practiced by the US military in Iraq evident in these news stories have become what appears to be their standard operating procedure in occupied Iraq. Countless violations of international law and crimes against humanity occurred in Fallujah during the November massacre...... According to Iraqis inside the city, at least 60 percent of Fallujah went on to be totally destroyed in the siege, and eight months after the siege entire districts of the city remained without electricity or water. Israeli style checkpoints were set up in the city, prohibiting anyone from entering who did not live inside the city. Of course non-embedded media were not allowed in the city." (http://www.projectcensored.org/censored_2006/index.htm#2 ) The above Project Censored report of American troops wantonly gunning down civilians in the Euphrates River is so ghastly that corroboration is demanded. Revolutionary Worker Online Article #1260, November 28, 2004, does just that with the story of Bilal Hussein: "Bilal Hussein is an Iraqi photographer for the Associated Press. He stayed inside Fallujah during the invasion, and planned to photograph the advance of U.S. troops from that side. "But once the bombing and artillery started to flatten his Jolan neighborhood, Hussein realized he was facing death. 'U.S. soldiers began to open fire on the houses... Destruction was everywhere. I saw people lying dead in the streets, wounded were bleeding and there was no one to come and help them,' he said. 'There was no medicine, water, no electricity nor food for days.' "As the U.S. forces entered his neighborhood, Hussein fled in total panic. He decided to escape by crossing the Euphrates River along the western side of Fallujah. Hussein stuck to the shadows, dodging the gunfire, moving house to house, toward the river. He says, 'I decided to swim... but I changed my mind after seeing U.S. helicopters firing on and killing people who tried to cross the river.' In shock, he watched a family of five shot dead in the water. He helped bury a man by the river bank, digging with his hands. 'I kept walking along the river for two hours and I could still see some U.S. snipers ready to shoot anyone who might swim. I quit the idea of crossing the river and walked for about five hours through orchards.' A peasant family gave him shelter in their house, so he survived to tell what he had seen." (http://rwor.org/a/1260/fallujah-razing.htm ) This same article also describes the physical carnage: "Observers who dare to enter Fallujah now use words like 'wasteland' and 'utter ruin.' The once crowded city lies empty and broken. Most of its population was forced out-first by a tightening military blockade, then the cutting off of water and food, then by the mounting threats of invasion, and finally by the assault itself. Where are the people of this ghost town? About 200,000 people fled the city before and during the fighting-and are scattered throughout central Iraq, often in sprawling, unplanned tent cities where there are already outbreaks of diseases like typhoid. "Inside the city, many are dead. Reporters describe desperate dogs and cats feeding on corpses in the streets...... Much of the city is impassable: Crushed cars fill the streets and intersections. Sewage pipes broken and spewing lakes of filth. Power and telephone lines snarl into spaghetti-like tangles. "Everything lies covered in layers of soot and debris. This makes the ruins look ancient-as if they had been abandoned and untouched for years. But the heavy dust is only days old, dropped from a fiery sky filled by explosions and the thick smoke of a burning city. The northern neighborhoods were flattened in the fury and flames of the opening attack. The southern industrial districts were leveled in the fierce fighting of the attack's last days. The city's huge northern rail station-once a major transfer point for all of Iraq-was obliterated forever by a single earth-shaking 2000-pound bomb." (http://rwor.org/a/1260/fallujah-razing.htm )
Tolls and Ironies
What was the overall toll of destruction? Moscow Times columnist Chris Floyd writes: "By the end of operations, the city lay in ruins. Falluja's compensation commissioner has reported that 36,000 of the city's 50,000 homes were destroyed, along with 60 schools and 65 mosques and shrines. The US claims that 2,000 died, most of them fighters. Other sources disagree. When medical teams arrived in January they collected more than 700 bodies in only one third of the city. Iraqi NGOs and medical workers estimate between 4,000 and 6,000 dead, mostly civilians....." (Chris Floyd from his article, The White Death of Fallujah) (http://www.counterpunch.org/floyd12172005.html ) Asia Times' Roving Eye reporter, Pepe Escobar, has had penetrating reports on the November assault. The military has acknowledged that resistance was lighter in Fallujah than anticipated. Escobar, writing during the first days of the attack, offers a reason why: 'Asia Times Online sources close to the resistance say the talk in the streets in Baghdad is that the bulk of the estimated 2,500 mujahideen in Fallujah have already left to Baghdad, Ramadi, Samarra, Haditha, Khaldiya, and even Mosul in the north. Even before the assault on Fallujah, there were more than 100 resistance attacks a day all over the country'. (Pepe Escobar from his article, Satan Hides in a Hospital) (http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/FK11Ak03.html ) Indeed, during the middle of the American attack on Fallujah, insurgents suddenly poured into Mosul on November 10, attacking police stations and causing most of the several thousands-strong police ranks to abruptly flee or resign en masse. Furthermore, Dr Ali Fadhil, the Iraqi physician turned journalist, who snuck into Fallujah after the main assault and shot enough footage to eventually broadcast a video-report for Channel Four News in England, actually managed to interview Abu Shaiba, the commander of the 'Army of Mohammad' based in south Fallujah's al-Shuhada'a district: "With his face covered, Shaiba relates what had happened to the insurgents under his command: 'The fighters withdrew from the town following an order from our senior leadership. We pulled out, but not because we had lost the fight with the Americans. It was a tactical decision to re-group.' "Finally, Fadhil speculates on the results of the US military offensive against the city. 'If so many of the insurgents escaped, what did the American forces really achieve in Fallujah? The violence has simply spread to other parts of the country; over 300,000 people have lost their homes and now bitterly resent the Americans. 'The City of Mosques' has become the 'City of Rubble.' " (http://www.rense.com/general62/rubb.htm ) So if many or most of the Mujaheddin had followed the old ditty of "he who fights and runs away will live to fight another day", then who were all the bodies lying buried underneath rubble or being gnawed on by starving, rabid dogs in the streets? Civilians, many of them women and children, or what was left of them, because many had been horribly shredded by ordnance. Again, Pepe Escobar writes: "Terrified Fallujans calling Baghdad tell of A-10 jets raining cluster bombs on the city's streets. Iraqi (very) black humor qualifies unexploded cluster bombs as the Iraqi version of Toys 'R' Us: children get injured or killed because they think cluster bombs are toys. Everyone is talking of 'scores of bodies' in streets destroyed by US bombing. There is no power, no water, shops are closed, food is scarce and practically no medical supplies remain, according to Dr Sami al-Jumaili, speaking to al-Jazeera. No more clinics are open throughout the city - and there is no possible way to estimate how many civilians are dead, blown up, burned or injured, although al-Jumaili tells of 'scores of injured civilians'. A brand-new clinic funded by a Saudi Islamic relief non-governmental agency was bombed by the Americans during the weekend, as well as a medical dispensary in the city center: this was apparently the last place where anybody could get any medical attention." (http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/FK11Ak03.html ) The use of cluster bombs in populated cities is illegal, but then again, so are military assaults against civilian populations. But our commanders were used to ignoring ethics by now, so why not throw in some white phosphorus to boot. But that is in the next chapter.
Next Chapter, Part 8: Willie Pete Does Fallujah