"Return" To "Iraqi" Values

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“Return” To “Iraqi” Values: Fallujah Has Been “Reconstructed” As “A Big Jail”

Monday, March 24, 2008

According to Baghdad Bureau Chief Sudarsan Raghavan of the Washington Post:

Fallujah today is sealed off with blast walls and checkpoints. Residents are given permits to enter the city. All visitors and their weapons are registered, and police check every car. The U.S. military has divided the city into nine gated communities, each with its own joint security station staffed by U.S. troops and Iraqi police. It also has been buying the loyalties of former Sunni insurgents, paying them $180 a month to join a neighborhood force that works with the police.

Shops stay open longer, streets are clogged with traffic, and soccer fields brim with children and young men. But for many residents, Fallujah remains a shadow of its former self. “The city is like a big jail,” said Abu Ahmed, a well-known doctor who asked that his nickname be used because he has treated people who were brutalized by [police].

The police headquarters, built with U.S. funds, sits inside a large compound ringed by layers of blast walls in the heart of Fallujah.

What [police chief Col. Faisal Ismail al-Zobaie] wants is for the U.S. military to hand over full control of Fallujah. He believes Iraq’s current leaders are not strong enough. Asked whether democracy could ever bloom here, he replied: “No democracy in Iraq. Ever.”

“When the Americans leave the city,” he said, “I’ll be tougher with the people.”

What is happening here? Fallujah has been turned into a prison; isolated from the rest of Iraq, and divided into nine walled-off security zones called “gated communities”. Just to travel across the city, people have to go through choke-points where mercenaries — former insurgents now making $180 a month each for work with the Iraqi-American “security services” — check every car and register every visitor.

Their boss says things like: “No democracy in Iraq. Ever.”

How did we come to this?

According to the Washington Post, it’s “Peace Through Brute Strength”.

The “Iraqi City’s Fragile Security Flows From Hussein-Era Tactics”.

No kidding. It’s a return to the past. Or so Sudarsan Raghavan tells us [same article; alternate link]:

The story of Zobaie and his police force opens a window onto the Iraq that is emerging after five years of war.

American ideals that were among the justifications for the 2003 invasion, such as promoting democracy and human rights, are giving way to values drawn from Iraq’s traditions and tribal culture, such as respect, fear and brutality.

Oh!! So that’s what’s happening!! I should have known all along, I suppose. How could I have forgotten?

American Ideals such as Promoting Democracy and Human Rights

The trouble in Fallujah started back in 2003, as described by Chris Hughes in the UK’s Daily Mirror [original link broken, archived here]

IT started when a young boy hurled a sandal at a US jeep – it ended with two Iraqis dead and 16 seriously injured.

I watched in horror as American troops opened fire on a crowd of 1,000 unarmed people here yesterday.

Many, including children, were cut down by a 20-second burst of automatic gunfire during a demonstration against the killing of 13 protesters at the Al-Kaahd school on Monday.

They had been whipped into a frenzy by religious leaders. The crowd were facing down a military compound of tanks and machine-gun posts.

The youngster had apparently lobbed his shoe at the jeep – with a M2 heavy machine gun post on the back – as it drove past in a convoy of other vehicles.

A soldier operating the weapon suddenly ducked, raised it on its pivot then pressed his thumb on the trigger.

Mirror photographer Julian Andrews and I were standing about six feet from the vehicle when the first shots rang out, without warning.

We dived for cover under the compound wall as troops within the crowd opened fire. The convoy accelerated away from the scene.

Iraqis in the line of fire dived for cover, hugging the dust to escape being hit.

We could hear the bullets screaming over our heads. Explosions of sand erupted from the ground – if the rounds failed to hit a demonstrator first. Seconds later the shooting stopped and the screaming and wailing began.

One of the dead, a young man, lay face up, half his head missing, first black blood, then red spilling into the dirt.

His friends screamed at us in anger, then looked at the grim sight in disbelief.

A boy of 11 lay shouting in agony before being carted off in a car to a hospital already jam-packed with Iraqis hurt in Monday’s incident.

Cars pulled up like taxis to take the dead and injured to hospital, as if they had been waiting for this to happen.

A man dressed like a sheik took off his headcloth to wave and direct traffic around the injured. The sickening scenes of death and pain were the culmination of a day of tension in Al-Fallujah sparked by Monday’s killings.

The baying crowd had marched 500 yards from the school to a local Ba’ath party HQ. We joined them, asking questions and taking pictures, as Apache helicopters circled above.

The crowd waved their fists at the gunships angrily and shouted: “Go home America, go home America.”

But America was not about to go home. And the events of the day were not over.

Values drawn from Iraq’s Traditions and Tribal Culture

We rounded a corner and saw edgy-looking soldiers lined up along the street in between a dozen armoured vehicles. All of them had automatic weapons pointing in the firing position.

As the crowd – 10 deep and about 100 yards long – marched towards the US positions, chanting “Allah is great, go home Americans”, the troops reversed into the compound.

On the roof of the two-storey fortress, ringed by a seven-foot high brick wall, razor wire and with several tanks inside, around 20 soldiers ran to the edge and took up positions.

A machine gun post at one of the corners swivelled round, taking aim at the crowd which pulled to a halt.

We heard no warning to disperse and saw no guns or knives among the Iraqis whose religious and tribal leaders kept shouting through loud hailers to remain peaceful. In the baking heat and with the deafening noise of helicopters the tension reached breaking point.

Julian and I ran towards the compound to get away from the crowd as dozens of troops started taking aim at them, others peering at them through binoculars.

Tribal leaders struggled to contain the mob which was reaching a frenzy.

A dozen ran through the cordon of elders, several hurling what appeared to be rocks at troops.

Some of the stones just reached the compound walls. Many threw sandals – a popular Iraqi insult.

A convoy of Bradley military jeeps passed by, the Iraqis hurling insults at them, slapping the sides of the vehicles with their sandals, tribal leaders begging them to retreat.

The main body of demonstrators jeered the passing US troops pointing their thumbs down to mock them.

Then came the gunfire – and the death and the agony.

After the shootings the American soldiers looked at the appalling scene through their binoculars and set up new positions, still training their guns at us.

An angry mob battered an Arab TV crew van, pulling out recording equipment and hurling it at the compound. Those left standing – now apparently insane with anger – ran at the fortress battering its walls with their fists. Many had tears pouring down their faces.

Still no shots from the Iraqis and still no sign of the man with the AK47 who the US later claimed had let off a shot at the convoy.

I counted at least four or five soldiers with binoculars staring at the crowd for weapons but we saw no guns amongst the injured or dropped on the ground.

A local told us the crowd would turn on foreigners so we left and went to the hospital.

There, half an hour later, another chanting mob was carrying an open coffin of one of the dead, chanting “Islam, Islam, Islam, death to the Americans”.

All this trash-talk!

“Islam, Islam, Islam”?? Isn’t that just a bit old?

“Death to the Americans”?? How dare they?

Respect, Fear and Brutality

We sacrificed to liberate these ungrateful wretches, and now they speak like this to us?

Nobody who heard those words could possibly bear it.

The retribution came in November of 2004.

Maps of War dot com: The Recapture of Fallujah

After the fall of Baghdad in April of 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom transformed from a conventional war into a murky struggle against a multi-faceted insurgency. Nothing was more emblematic of this new phase than the city of Fallujah.

In November of 2004, American forces launched Operation Phantom Fury to recapture Fallujah, a heroic and harrowing story which is best told in Bing West’s book No True Glory. Military officials recounted the battle as “some of the heaviest urban combat Marines and Army infantry soldiers have been involved in since Vietnam.” All told, it was one of the most decisive moments in the history of the war.

The Fallujah invasion was a classic ‘hammer and anvil’ strategy. The bridges, highways, and other periphery choke-points were captured first in order to corner the enemy (anvil), then the secondary force moved in with a direct frontal assault (hammer). The weakness of this tactic is that it encourages the enemy to fight more fiercely since escape is made impossible.

American Ideals such as Promoting Democracy and Human Rights

Another “weakness” of this “tactic” became apparent shortly after the “heroic and harrowing” battle, when it turned out that — because the long-rumored destruction of Fallujah had been delayed until after the so-called Presidential election — the insurgents had already escaped!

Chris Floyd for the Moscow Times [see original for copious links]:

Eight weeks of relentless bombing was followed by a cut-off of the city’s water, electricity and food supplies. More than two-thirds of the residents fled the coming inferno; those who remained were considered fair game in the house-by-house ravaging that followed. Among the Americans’ first targets were the city’s medical centers, as U.S. officers freely admitted to The New York Times. They were destroyed or shut down, with medical staff killed or imprisoned, to prevent bad publicity about civilian casualties from reaching the outside world, the officers said. Later, an investigation by the U.S.-backed Iraqi government found strong evidence of the use of chemical weapons against the city. Up to 6,000 people were killed in the attack, most of them civilians.

The few hundred Fallujah-based insurgents who had been the ostensible target of the assault had escaped long before the onslaught began. Thus there was no real military purpose to the city’s destruction, which had been ordered by the White House; it was instead an act of reprisal, a collective punishment against the Iraqi people as a whole, noncombatants included, for the armed resistance to the coalition conquest.

Values drawn from Iraq’s Traditions and Tribal Culture

Chris Floyd again, from Empire Burlesque 1.0 [and again, the original is heavily annotated]:

“There are more and more dead bodies on the streets and the stench is unbearable. Smoke is everywhere. It’s hard to know how much people outside Fallujah are aware of what is going on here. There are dead women and children lying on the streets. People are getting weaker from hunger. Many are dying are from their injuries because there is no medical help left in the city whatsoever. Some families have started burying their dead in their gardens.”

This was a voice from the depths of the inferno: Fadhil Badrani, reporter for the BBC and Reuters, trapped in the iron encirclement along with tens of thousands of civilians. It was a rare breath of truth. The reality of a major city being ground into rubble was meant to be obscured by the Infoglomerate’s wall of noise: murder trials, state visits, Cabinet shuffles, celebrity weddings – and, above all, the reports of “embedded” journalists shaping the “narrative” into its proper form: a magnificent feat of arms carried out with surgical precision against an enemy openly identified by American commanders as “Satan,” the Associated Press reports.

One of the first moves in this magnificent feat was the destruction and capture of medical centers. Twenty doctors – and their patients, including women and children – were killed in an airstrike on one major clinic, the UN Information Service reports, while the city’s main hospital was seized in the early hours of the ground assault. Why? Because these places of healing could be used as “propaganda centers,” the Pentagon’s “information warfare” specialists told the NY Times. Unlike the first attack on Fallujah last spring, there was to be no unseemly footage of gutted children bleeding to death on hospital beds. This time – except for NBC’s brief, heavily-edited, quickly-buried clip of the usual lone “bad apple” shooting a wounded Iraqi prisoner – the visuals were rigorously scrubbed.

So while Americans saw stories of rugged “Marlboro Men” winning the day against Satan, they were spared shots of engineers cutting off water and electricity to the city – a flagrant war crime under the Geneva Conventions, as CounterPunch notes, but standard practice throughout the occupation. Nor did pictures of attack helicopters gunning down civilians trying to escape across the Euphrates River – including a family of five – make the TV news, despite the eyewitness account of an AP journalist. Nor were tender American sensibilities subjected to the sight of phosphorous shells bathing enemy fighters – and nearby civilians – with unquenchable chemical fire, literally melting their skin, as the Washington Post reports. Nor did they see the fetus being blown out of the body of Artica Salim when her home was bombed during the “softening-up attacks” that raged relentlessly – and unnoticed – in the closing days of George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, the Scotland Sunday Herald reports.

Respect, Fear and Brutality

Trevor Royle, Diplomatic Editor of “The Herald” at Information Clearinghouse:

Soldiers call them bogey weapons — nasty pieces of military hardware which kill or maim as efficiently as any other type of armament but in so doing push the victim into a vortex of agony and suffering. White phosphorus, or Whiskey Pete, comes into that category. On one level it’s a legal military weapon. Provided that it is used against enemy soldiers as a smokescreen or battlefield illuminator, it is a useful addition to an arsenal one reason why it is available to British and US forces in Iraq. On another level, deployed as an offensive weapon and usually in secret, it causes severe blistering of the skin and mucous membranes, and if inhaled can do dreadful damage to internal organs. When US forces fired WP shells in the battle to break into the Iraqi city of Fallujah last November they knew exactly what they were doing. Combat outside daylight hours always causes problems for the attacking side. Darkness brings the kind of confusion which favours the defenders. Fired as an artillery shell, WP explodes in the air creating a bright artificial light and providing a useful smokescreen for the attacking infantry soldiers. After the battle for Fallujah the Bush administration admitted [sic] that WP had been used sparingly and had only been fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions, not at enemy fighters.

Like so much that has happened in this long, drawn-out and increasingly dirty counter-insurgency war, the use of WP was not what it seemed. Last week an Italian television documentary, Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre sounded the first blast on the whistle when it claimed that WP had been used in a massive and indiscriminate way not only against the insurgents but also against civilians. Some Iraqi doctors claimed that the victims had melted skin or that white phosphorus had burned through body tissue to leave bones exposed.

Jeff Englehart, an experienced US marine interviewed in the documentary gave a chilling account of what happens when WP is unleashed It doesn’t necessarily burn clothes, but it will burn the skin underneath clothes. And this is why protective masks do not help, because it will burn right through the mask . It will manage to get inside your face. If you breathe it, it will blister your throat and your lungs until you suffocate, and then it will burn you from the inside. It basically reacts to skin, oxygen and water. The only way to stop the burning is with wet mud. But at that point, it’s just impossible to stop.

Denials came thick and fast from Washington but these were given short shrift when a semi-official US army publication, Field Artillery Magazine, published a damning article claiming the exact opposite. What gave the article substance was that it was based on an official army account which has been seen by the Sunday Herald: a Memorandum for Record prepared on December 1, 2004 by the FSE (fire support element) of the US Task Force’s 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. In the paper the US artillery commanders, two officers and a sergeant, admitted that WP had been used in an offensive capacity against Iraqi positions: We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes. We fired “shake and bake” missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE [high explosive] to take them out.

American Ideals such as Promoting Democracy and Human Rights

Graphic video from the Italian news service RAI: Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre

Values drawn from Iraq’s Traditions and Tribal Culture

Iraqi blogger Riverbend at Baghdad Burning:

People in Falloojeh are being murdered. The stories coming back are horrifying. People being shot in cold blood in the streets and being buried under tons of concrete and iron… where is the world? Bury Arafat and hurry up and pay attention to what’s happening in Iraq.

They say the people have nothing to eat. No produce is going into the city and the water has been cut off for days and days. Do you know what it’s like to have no clean water??? People are drinking contaminated water and coming down with diarrhoea and other diseases. There are corpses in the street because no one can risk leaving their home to bury people. Families are burying children and parents in the gardens of their homes. WHERE IS EVERYONE???

Iraqis will never forgive this — never. It’s outrageous — it’s genocide and America, with the help and support of Allawi, is responsible. May whoever contributes to this see the sorrow, terror and misery of the people suffering in Falloojeh.

Respect, Fear and Brutality

Fadhil Badrani, “an Iraqi journalist and resident of Falluja who reports regularly for Reuters and the BBC World Service in Arabic”, in English, via the BBC:

A row of palm trees used to run along the street outside my house – now only the trunks are left.

The upper half of each tree has vanished, blown away by mortar fire.

From my window, I can also make out that the minarets of several mosques have been toppled.

There are more and more dead bodies on the streets and the stench is unbearable.

Smoke is everywhere.

A house some doors from mine was hit during the bombardment on Wednesday night. A 13-year-old boy was killed. His name was Ghazi.

I tried to flee the city last night but I could not get very far. It was too dangerous.

I am getting used to the bombardment. I have learnt to sleep through the noise – the smaller bombs no longer bother me.

Without water and electricity, we feel completely cut off from everyone else.

I want them to know about conditions inside this city – there are dead women and children lying on the streets.

People are getting weaker from hunger. Many are dying from their injuries because there is no medical help left in the city whatsoever.

Some families have started burying their dead in their gardens.

Reprise

Baghdad Bureau Chief Sudarsan Raghavan of the Washington Post:

Fallujah today is sealed off with blast walls and checkpoints. Residents are given permits to enter the city. All visitors and their weapons are registered, and police check every car. The U.S. military has divided the city into nine gated communities, each with its own joint security station staffed by U.S. troops and Iraqi police. It also has been buying the loyalties of former Sunni insurgents, paying them $180 a month to join a neighborhood force that works with the police.

Shops stay open longer, streets are clogged with traffic, and soccer fields brim with children and young men. But for many residents, Fallujah remains a shadow of its former self. “The city is like a big jail,” said Abu Ahmed, a well-known doctor who asked that his nickname be used because he has treated people who were brutalized by [police].

What Zobaie wants is for the U.S. military to hand over full control of Fallujah. He believes Iraq’s current leaders are not strong enough. Asked whether democracy could ever bloom here, he replied: “No democracy in Iraq. Ever.”

“When the Americans leave the city,” he said, “I’ll be tougher with the people.”

It was done in our name but without our consent. So there! You see how well the system works!

It was paid for with our money — and our blood. We are suffering because of it; we will suffer much more before we’re finished.

But our suffering is nothing compared to what we have inflicted on the people of Iraq — innocent victims of “American ideals such as promoting democracy and human rights”.
http://winterpatriot.blogspot.com/

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