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William Kulin: The American Way of War

US Marines Told That Fallujah Was The House Of Satan

By William Kulin

Marine commanders said on the record that Fallujah was the house of Satan. Fallujah has been reduced to rubble, and thousands of civilians have died. Reporters in Baghdad have confirmed that according to residents, the southern - and larger - part of Fallujah is still controlled by the resistance; the Americans control only the north and some eastern spots. Small groups made up of five to 20 mujahideen still conduct hit-and-run attacks. More than 15,000 refugee families may be living in sordid makeshift shelters around Fallujah - not to mention the upwards of 250,000 residents who escaped the city before it was leveled.

The defining image of Fallujah - for Iraqis, for the Arab world, for 1.3 billion Muslims - is the summary execution of a wounded, defenseless Iraqi man inside a mosque by a marine. This execution, caught on tape, suggests "special" rules of engagement were applying. Marine commanders have been on the record telling their soldiers to "shoot everything that moves and everything that doesn't move"; to fire "two bullets in every body"; in case of seeing any military-aged men in the streets of Fallujah, to "drop 'em"; and to spray every home with machine-gun and tank fire before entering them. These "rules" are all confirmed by residents of Fallujah who managed to escape.

By any standards, the whole mission was a political disaster. Fallujah's population was not protected: it was bombed out of the city and turned into a mass of thousands of refugees. Political institutions were already in place: the Fallujah Shura was running the city. No local government can possibly run a pile of rubble to be recovered by seething citizens, not to mention be "reinforced". "Insurgent capabilities" were not eliminated; the resistance dispersed around the 22 other cities out of control by the occupation, and spread up north to Mosul; and the Americans remain without intelligence "from local sources" because they antagonized every possible heart and mind. Whole sectors of Baghdad - for the first time since April 2003 - are totally out of the Americans' control. Many in the Sunni triangle have said they were at the tipping point of joining the armed resistance. They've now crossed the line.

The Iraqis know this has always been a US-only war; they have been "alienated" for a long time now, if not downright hostile. The American way of war has been to substitute firepower for manpower. As a result, US forces have frequently resorted to firepower in the form of artillery or air any time they make contact. This creates two negatives in a counterinsurgency. First, massive firepower causes collateral damage, thereby frequently driving the locals into the arms of the insurgents. Second, it allows insurgents to break contact after having inflicted casualties on friendly forces. The resistance is reorganized all over the Sunni triangle, as well as in Mosul, and still controls at least 60% of destroyed Fallujah itself.

The "success" of US counterinsurgency efforts can also effectively be measured against the occupation record so far. Dead Iraqi civilians are estimated to be anything from 20,000 to 100,000 (the British Lancet report). Johns Hopkins University is 90% certain there are more than 40,000 dead civilians. The resistance was around 5,000 strong in late 2003. Now it is at least 20,000 strong. Some British generals put them at 50,000 strong - and counting. Baghdad has degenerated into a giant, hyper-violent slum, getting worse by the day. There's 25% less electricity now compared with Saddam times in early 2003 - 66% less in Baghdad. Sixty percent of rural Iraqis and 20% of urban Iraqis are forced to drink contaminated water. According to a Gallup poll only 33% of respondents thought their lives were better than before the war. Ninety-four percent said Baghdad was more dangerous. Sixty-six percent believed the occupation could degenerate into a civil war. And 80% wanted the occupation over right after the January 30 elections.

The not-so-hidden neo-conservative agenda for the Middle East is balkanization of the Arab world. The neo-cons want the Middle East to fracture along ethnic and tribal lines. They want Sunni against Shi'ite. In this scenario, a major counterinsurgency operation like Fallujah, certainly won't be the last.


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