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GLW: Political Blowback From Fallujah Begins

Iraq: Political Blowback From Fallujah Begins

By Rohan Pearce
Green Left Weekly

The NBC TV footage of a US marine executing a wounded and unarmed Iraqi resistance fighter in a Fallujah mosque was a rare crack in the facade that Washington, with the complicity of most of the corporate media, has tried to present to the world of its brutal assault on the rebel Iraqi city.

Despite press reports of whole apartment complexes being reduced to rubble within minutes by US artillery, of 1000-kilogram bombs being dropped by US warplanes on residential houses, little of what the US assault has meant for Fallujah's population — tens of thousands forced into squalid refugee camps and unknown numbers torn limb from limb by the air strikes of the occupation forces or crushed under the rubble of bombed-out buildings — has been reported by the US TV networks.

The banal exchanges between US newsreaders and their “embedded” reporters touched only on the tragedies that Western, especially US, viewers were allowed to mourn — the death of some 35 members of the US-led occupation forces during the assault on Fallujah.

According to Washington's sock puppet Iyad Allawi, the CIA “asset” installed as Iraq's interim prime minister, no civilians died in the US assault on Fallujah, a city previously inhabited by 340,000 people located 55 kilometres west of Baghdad. Yet, according to a November 16 report by Dahr Jamail, an independent journalist whose dispatches from Iraq are published on the Electronic Iraq website, a Red Cross official told him that “at least 800 civilians” had been killed by the US assault.

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“Several of our Red Cross workers have just returned from Fallujah since the Americans won't let them into the city”, said the official, who requested anonymity because of possible reprisals by the US military. “And they said the people they are tending to in the refugee camps set up in the desert outside the city are telling horrible stories of suffering and death inside Fallujah.”

According to the official, the US occupation forces refused to take Red Cross and Red Crescent medical supplies into the city. “The Americans close their ears, and that is it”, he told Jamail. “They won't even let us take supplies into Fallujah General Hospital”, located on the city's outskirts, and seized by US Special Forces troops on November 9.

The callous attitude of the invaders toward Fallujah's residents should come as no surprise given that one of the opening acts of the US assault was the reduction by aerial bombing of Nazzal Emergency Hospital, in the city centre, to rubble.

The level of brutality that the NBC footage offered a glimpse of isn't coincidental: The attack on Fallujah is intended by Washington to be a message to other Iraqis that the US military will not tolerate resistance to its occupation. But while the US Central Command will no doubt chalk up the Fallujah operation as a “heroic victory” like its 1968 reconquest of Vietnam's Hue city, its aftermath has already shown that the US military has been unable to crush or demoralise the Iraqi national liberation movement.

Even while the levelling of Fallujah was continuing, the Pentagon had to send 1200 troops, accompanied as usual by punishing air strikes, into the northern city of Mosul. The objective was to recapture up to 22 police stations that resistance fighters had taken over. On November 17 in Ramadi, 50km west of Fallujah, US troops and resistance fighters fought fierce street battles.

Scott Ritter, the former UN weapons inspector who was vilified by the US corporate media for opposing the invasion of Iraq and and declaring US President George Bush's “coalition of the willing” was lying about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction, described the US military's assault on Fallujah in a November 13 article on the ZNet website as akin to “squeezing jello”.

“Far from facing off in a decisive battle against the resistance fighters”, argued Ritter, “it seems the more Americans squeeze Falluja, the more the violence explodes elsewhere. It is exercises in futility, akin to squeezing jello. The more you try to get a grasp on the problem, the more it slips through your fingers.”

Similarly, in a November 16 interview on MSNBC's Hardball program, the show's host, Chris Matthews, asked Time magazine Iraq reporter Michael Ware whether the US was winning the war in Iraq. “Well, I wouldn't say that we're losing this war at this stage, but I'm certainly not of the view that we're winning”, replied Ware.

In a later reference to the US invasion of Fallujah, Ware explained: “It is a significant event. And it cannot be underrated. In military terms, this was a sweeping victory. We have reseized the rebel stronghold of Fallujah. We're now denying them sanctuary from which they could launch their suicide car bombs and other attacks on Iraqi and coalition targets. We've denied them meeting and recruiting and training grounds.

“We've also removed a political eyesore, upon which there was an imperative to rid it from the landscape of Iraq before the elections. But have we beaten the insurgency? No. No, I suspect we're far from that. They will now be more decentralised.” (“We have reseized” Fallujah — it goes without saying that Ware, an Australian, was “embedded” in a US Army unit.)

While Iraqi resistance fighters are unable to militarily defeat the US military's massive firepower, as long as the occupation continues and Washington is unable to terrorise the Iraqi population into submission, resistance will continue.

The political blowback from the Fallujah atrocity has already begun. On November 17, representatives of 47 Sunni, Shiite, Turkoman and Christian political groups who attended a Baghdad conference hosted by the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars announced that they would boycott the January elections.

Parties to the statement, reported Islam Online, included the “AMS, Sheikh Jawad Al Khalsi, the secular National Arab Current, the Iraqi-Turkoman Front, the Democratic Christian Party and the communist People's Union party”. According to Islam Online, the organisations condemned the attack on Fallujah and “further said that the outcome of the election is settled in advance for the ‘collaborators' with the US occupation troops”.

The destruction of Fallujah has been accompanied by the disintegration of any pretence that Allawi and the Interim Government of Iraq are anything other than US stooges, making it more likely that Washington will increasingly rely on the Pentagon's iron fist to eliminate opposition to the occupation.

The antecedent of the kind of devastation unleashed on Fallujah is the Vietnam War's CORDS (Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support), which involved US forces unleashing terror on sections of south Vietnam's population suspected of being sympathetic towards the National Liberation Front guerrillas, combined with “rewards” — such as the rebuilding of infrastructure the US had destroyed — for villages and cities that proved their loyalty to the US. As long as the occupation regime is confident the political price of Fallujah-scale destruction is not too high, other Iraqi cities that resist will suffer similar treatment to that meted out to Fallujah.

As in Vietnam, the resistance offensive in Mosul, Iraq's third largest city with at least 1.8 million residents, has proved that the US is unable to crush a guerrilla force that enjoys the support of most of the population. At Matthews' prompting, Ware drew a comparison between the Iraqi insurgency and the US experience of trying to crush Vietnam's national liberation movement. “It was once said that [in Vietnam] the only ground the US soldier could control is that beneath his feet”, Ware said. “Well, in many regards, so it is in Iraq. We do not control this country. We may have territory, but we do not have the substance of the people, nor of the land...

“We're certainly encountering very similar insurgency practices, methods, techniques, tactics, a mind-set that we did see in Indochina. And indeed, something that resonates with me to this day is interviews I've done with senior insurgent leaders, the upper echelons. And they talk to me about reading Vo Nguyen Giap, the Vietnamese general. They talk to me about reading Che Guevara, Mao Zedong. They're bringing it straight from the Vietnam and the broader insurgency playbook.”

From Green Left Weekly, November 24, 2004.
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