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GLW: US Launches Mass Slaughter In Fallujah Iraq

Iraq: US Launches Mass Slaughter In Fallujah

By Doug Lorimer
Green Left Weekly

On November 8, the US military launched its long-anticipated second attempt to recapture the rebel Iraqi city of Fallujah, located 55 kilometres west of Baghdad.

The assault — conducted by some 10,000 US troops and 500 Iraqi troops under their command, using tanks, artillery and attack helicopters — was preceded by weeks of nightly air strikes on residential buildings, restaurants and mosques. The strikes were designed to terrorise the city's population of 340,000, causing up to 200,000 of them to flee to Baghdad.

Two days before the full-scale US assault began, US warplanes reduced the Nazzal Emergency Hospital in the centre of the city to rubble. BBC News reported that witnesses said only the hospital's facade remained.

The deliberate destruction of this hospital was a clear indication that the US military wants to ensure that dead or injured Fallujah residents are not brought to the city's hospitals — so as to conceal the scale of civilian casualties.

During the US military's previous attempt to recapture Fallujah — in April — Iraqi doctors at the city's hospitals reported that hundreds of residents, most of them women, children and elderly men, were being killed by US air strikes, artillery shelling and sniper attacks.

Outrage from Iraqis at this casualty toll led to mass protests in Baghdad, including a three-day general strike. The mass protests forced Washington to call off its troops' siege of Fallujah at the end of April.

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Significantly, the first operation in the new US offensive to recapture the city was the storming and seizure of the Fallujah General Hospital by US troops in the early hours of November 8. This hospital is located on the western edge of the Euphrates River, separating it from the rest of the city.

During their assault on the city in April, the US marines prevented ambulances and other vehicles from transporting dead or injured residents to what was at that time — and after the destruction of Nazzal Emergency Hospital, is once again — the city’s only trauma-capable medical facility.

The day after the US military's seizure of Fallujah General, Dr Salih al Issawi, the director of the hospital, told the South African Press Association that US marines were again preventing ambulances from delivering patients to emergency care.

Free-fire zone

That the intention of the US military is to turn Fallujah into a “free-fire” zone was indicated by the rules of engagement given to the invading US troops. On November 7, the puppet government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi declared that all Iraq except the Kurdish-run areas in the country's north was under martial law, banning all protest rallies and street demonstrations. He also announced that a 24-hour curfew applied in Fallujah, to be observed by everyone in the city except the invading US and puppet Iraqi troops, thus making any Fallujan who is not in a residential building a free-fire target.

On the eve of their offensive against Fallujah, US commanders were openly making it clear to their troops that they were expected to shoot unarmed civilians. Agence France Presse (AFP) reported that on November 7 US Marine Corps Colonel Michael Shupp told his troops to shoot any Iraqi civilian who approached them with raised hands because he or she might be a “suicide bomber”.

The homicidal mentality that US marine commanders have drummed into their soldiers was illustrated by the comments made by 20-year-old Lance Corporal Joseph Bowman on November 7. “I want to go and kill people, so we can go home” he told an Associated Press reporter. “Kill them and go home — that’s all we can do now.”

The US invasion of Fallujah began with intense air strikes and artillery attacks on civilian targets. The November 9 New York Times reported: “Just before the marines began to push south into Falluja, the American bombardment intensified, and heavy artillery could be heard pounding positions in or near the city every few minutes. An entire apartment complex was ground to rubble. A train station was obliterated in a hail of 2000-pound bombs.”

The NYT report quoted Marine Colonel Craig Tucker saying that Fallujah's defenders would “win if it's bloody; we'll win if we minimise civilian casualties”. Bombarding an “entire apartment complex” with artillery shells and reducing it to rubble is how the US military “minimises” civilian casualties!

An Agence France Presse reporter in the city told the Qatar-based Aljazeera satellite TV station on November 9 that in the northwestern Jolan district, one building in every 10 had been flattened by US air strikes.

Associated Press reported that same day that Fallujah residents said intense street clashes between US troops and armed Fallujah residents were raging in the northern sectors of the city. Witnesses reported seeing two US tanks engulfed in flames.

Iraqi journalist Abu Bakr al Dulaimi told Aljazeera on November 9 that almost half Fallujah's 120 mosques had been destroyed by US air strikes and tank attacks. “Violent clashes are now going on in the western areas of the city”, he added. “Clashes have also erupted in Jolan neighbourhood. Resistance in these areas is fierce. The city's defenders are responding to the US attacks with everything at their disposal.”

On November 10, the US Knight Ridders Newspapers chain reported that US commanders claimed they had taken control of most of Fallujah and were encountering only “light” and “unco-ordinated” resistance. However, it also reported that “insurgents showed no sign of surrendering. Rebels attacked sporadically throughout the day, using rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and mortar strikes, said a Knight Ridder reporter embedded with the [US] Army's 1st Infantry Division”.

Intense fighting

The November 10 London Evening Standard reported that, “Fresh fighting erupted today in areas of Fallujah declared ‘cleared' by US forces”, adding: “After battling to the centre of the city yesterday, American commanders had thought they controlled at least its northern third — with rebel fighters fleeing to southern districts to regroup. But at first light intense machinegun, mortar and rocket exchanges opened up in the north-western district of Jolan.”

The US military responded with air strikes “at a rate of six every 15 minutes. Explosions again rocked an area already said to have had half its buildings flattened in two days of solid shelling.”

The Reuters news agency reported on November 10 that “American tanks pushing into central Fallujah are meeting fierce resistance from well-organised insurgents who show no signs of giving up”.

Marine tank platoon commander Lieutenant Joe Cash told the Reuters reporter the city's resistance fighters were unleashing coordinated attacks on the US invaders. “They hit us from one area and then another right afterwards. There is in-depth organisation.”

“There are lots of them. We took heavy fire”, Gunnery Sergeant Ishmail Castillo told the Reuters reporter. “They don't look like they are going to cave in.”

On November 8, Time magazine reported that in a “a pep talk to US troops ahead their invasion of Fallujah on Sunday, the senior enlisted marine in Iraq, Sgt. Major Carlton Kent drew inspiration from great Marine triumphs of the past. ‘You're all in the process of making history', he told them. ‘This is another Hue city in the making.'

“Kent's analogy to the 25-day battle in 1968 to wrest control of the old Vietnamese colonial capital from guerrilla insurgents may be somewhat unfortunate, however... To be sure, the enemy the Marines are facing in the fierce fighting for Fallujah that began overnight Monday may be not dissimilar from the one they encountered at Hue. Both are fiercely determined guerrilla fighters motivated by a combination of nationalism and ideology, capable of great cruelty and dug in so deep in the urban landscape that they had to be rooted out building by building. But while Hue was an heroic triumph, at the cost of some 580 fatalities for the Marines and other US and South Vietnamese units who went in to recapture a city audaciously seized by insurgents, winning the battle did not help the American side win the war. And it's far from clear that victory in Fallujah, rendered somewhat inevitable by the massive advantage in men and firepower of the US-led operation, will prove more successful than Hue in turning the tide of the conflict.”

Political blow

US officials claim that the capture of Fallujah is necessary to establish “order” in Iraq so that they can proceed with their plans to legitimise Allawi's US-appointed government through national elections next January. However, the US invasion of Fallujah may already have dealt a fatal political blow to these plans, with prominent Sunni Muslim clerics and politicians condemning the invasion and urging Sunnis — who make up 40% of Iraq's population of 25 million — to boycott the elections.

On November 8, the Iraqi Islamic Party, described by the Western news media as “Iraq's most influential Sunni political party”, announced its withdrawal from Allawi's government. “From today, we have nothing to do with this government”, said Iyad al Samurraie, the party's deputy secretary general. “We don't want to take the responsibility of shedding Iraqi blood without any legal excuse.”

The next day, the Association of Muslim Scholars, a group of leading Sunni clerics that claims to represent 3000 mosques, called for Iraqis to boycott the January elections which they described as being held “over the corpses of those killed in Fallujah”.

“The scholars of Iraq place full legal responsibility on Iyad Allawi for the genocide Fallujah is exposed to at the hands of occupation forces and a bunch of Iraqi National Guardsmen who cooperate with them”, association director Sheik Hareth al Dhari said in a statement broadcast throughout the Arab world on satellite television.


From Green Left Weekly, November 17, 2004.
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page http://www.greenleft.org.au/.

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