Falluja: voices against the new Killing Fields

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“I am … watching tragedy engulf my city… After two days of bombing … large portions of it have been destroyed… I broke my Ramadan fast yesterday with the last of our food… My neighbours … asked me to tell the world what is happening here. I look at the devastation around me and ask — why?” The words are those of Fadhil Badrani, a journalist in Falluja for the BBC.

From the British news agency Reuters: “Muhammad Abbud said he watched his nine-year-old son bleed to death at their Falluja home, unable to take him to hospital as fighting raged in the streets and bombs rained down on the Iraqi city. ‘My son got shrapnel in his stomach when our house was hit at dawn, but we couldn’t take him for treatment. We buried him in the garden because it was too dangerous to go out.”

Reports like these are available only from the internet or foreign press as the U.S. corporate media continues to function as an arm of the administration. And as commentator Madeleine Bunting said in the British Guardian, “We don’t know, and won’t know, anything about what happens [in Falluja] except what the US military authorities choose to let us know. It’s long since been too dangerous for journalists … unless they are embedded with the US forces.”

One such reporter, with the Associated Press, quoted the top enlisted Marine in Iraq crowing that his troops would “kick some butt” in Falluja, a city the size of Miami or St. Louis. The assault needed to be like the destruction of the ancient city of Hue during the Vietnam war, the Marine said.

A reporter with the British Telegraph noted banter between a Marine officer and infantrymen gloating over long-distance kills with sophisticated weaponry. “You guys get to do all the fun stuff,” the Marine said. “It’s like a video game.”

Withholding damning information is a military objective. The only explanation for targeting hospitals and clinics, a recognized war crime, is to keep civilian casualties from being counted. Occupation forces have destroyed medical facilities including a clinic where 20 medics and dozens of patients were killed. The first capture of the ground assault was Falluja General Hospital.

The U.S. claimed that the offensive was necessary to make the country safe for elections in January 2005. Yet the interim government peremptorily dismissed a stunning peace initiative by the resistance before the massacre began. Prominent Sunni organizations that previously supported the insurgency had offered to back elections and call for a ceasefire if the attack was called off.

Instead, the U.S. sealed off the city and started bombing.

In the wake of the attack, insurgency exploded across Iraq. The Association of Muslim Scholars, which represents 3,000 Sunni Muslim mosques, called for a boycott of elections. Shiite resistance cleric Moktada al-Sadr called on Iraqi National Guard forces not to fight, and mass desertions did occur. In one force of 500, only 170 were left.

Courageous railway workers announced they would boycott supplies to troops of the U.S. or the puppet government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, and threatened a national strike.

The Industry Minister, who represented the largest Sunni Muslim party in the government, quit in protest. Even President Ghazi Yawar condemned the onslaught.

International opponents ranged from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Stephen Wall, a longtime British senior diplomatic advisor, to U.S. ally Turkey and the Bahrain parliament.

British popular opposition to the war has now risen to 57 percent. Demonstrations protesting the Falluja offensive have been held in 30 British and five Australian cities, Hong Kong, the Philippines and around the USA. Antiwar marches will protest George W. Bush’s inauguration on January 20 and a global day of action is set for March 20.

The carnage in Iraq can be stopped, and Washington can be made to withdraw. The antiwar and resistance movements, above all in the U.S. and Iraq, are the forces with the potential to do it.

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