Friday, April 2, 2004

The story behind the recent events at Fallujah

iraq > politics > bestial
A version of this story, fuelled by that utterly shocking video, suggested that the people lynched were civilian conractors. Apparently this isn't true. The manner of their deaths was atrocious but these people were pretty much foreign troops, stationed in an occupied country. Troops, furthermore, involved in recent atrocities against Iraqis - and I must remind people, it seems, that the vast majority of civilian casualties in Iraq are indeed Iraqis.

What amazed me about the attack was the blazing blind hatred against those (not incorrectly it seems) perceived as US spies. For a random crowd (including children for chrissake) to reach this state of frenzied, unstoppable murderous violence... this doesn't happen because of the "evilness" of the people or their "backwardness"... it happens because they themselves have been brutaly killed, violently hacked down in their own homes by foreign occupation forces. The story reminds me of the tales I've heard of popular lynchings of nazi collaborators after the war. The people who lynched the collaborators (responsible for an untold number of deaths) were treated like heroes (at first - then the quislings took over again - but that's another story...). And killing German soldiers was a badge of honour that one wore proudly for the rest of his life... I expect that local attitudes in Fallujah are quite similar.

I'm including a large excerpt of the UN Observer report because it provides an important piece of the story that might help to understand what is happenning and what happenned in Fallujah...

"The US government and military have stated that the four Americans were contractors working for the private security firm, Blackwater Security, and employed to protect food deliveries in the Fallujah area. No explanation has been given as to why they were so far inside the city. AP cameras filmed a US Department of Defence identification card among the wreckage, giving rise to suspicions that the men may have been American intelligence operatives.

The passions of the crowd reflect the hostility toward the US invasion and ongoing occupation of Iraq. In the last week, the American military has intensified the repression of the 500,000 residents of Fallujah. On March 24, the California-based First Marine Division took over control of the area, which has been one of the centres of opposition and armed resistance to the US. The newly arrived troops have been attempting to assert their control using brutal tactics.

Last Friday morning, hundreds of marines with tanks and armoured vehicles deployed into the city in force - the first time American troops have done so for months. Exchanges of mortar and gunfire flared throughout the day, especially in the working class suburb of al-Askari where the marines fought battles with local resistance fighters. Most of the 15 Iraqis killed and many of the wounded were non-combatants gunned down by the Americans.

A farmer, Jamal Mahesem, told the Washington Post he was shot in the leg while he was walking down a road. "I didn't even see the American soldiers," he said. "I don't know why they started shooting. I didn't hear anyone shooting at them."

Another wounded man, Ahmed Yusuf, who claimed he was shot as he turned his car into a side street, told the Post: "They think that they're going to control the city by doing this? They're wrong. They will never be able to control the city like this. They will turn the situation here to a war situation.” The man in the car behind him was shot in the head.

Among those killed by American bullets was Mohammed Mazhour, a freelance cameraman working for US ABC News. Hospitals reported treating at least 25 wounded, including five children.

The marines’ offensive continued over the following days. The major roads in and out of Fallujah were blockaded by US tanks and troops until Tuesday, with hundreds of people being subjected to vehicle searches. On Monday and Tuesday, marines carried out house-to-house searches for insurgents in three suburbs, including al-Askari. An unknown number of men were detained. A local, Khaled Jamaili, told AP: “If they find more than one adult male in any house, they arrest one of them. Those marines are destroying us. They are leaning very hard on Fallujah.”

As they rampaged through the city, the marines tossed Arabic leaflets into the streets that provocatively read: “You can’t escape and you can’t hide.”
The offensive has inflamed what was already a population fiercely opposed to the US occupation. Fallujah was a centre of support for the former Baathist regime and fighting has not stopped since the US-led invasion. As a result, the city has suffered considerably at the hands of the USA military. In April 2003, unarmed demonstrations were fired on by American killing and wounding scores of civilians. In the months since, resistance fighters have killed and wounded dozens of Americans."

See also this relevant BBC article:

Although several Marines have been killed, the Iraqi casualty figure [in Fallujah] has been much higher.

Some 30 are thought to have been killed in the last two weeks of March alone.

Many were simply caught in crossfire, and inevitably, that continues to fuel the tensions.

Update April 2: According to the Washington Post the slain Americans were "among the most elite commandos working in Iraq to guard employees of U.S. corporations and were hired by the U.S. government to protect bureaucrats, soldiers and intelligence officers."


"U.S. government officials said yesterday that they suspect that the men were not victims of a random ambush but were set up as targets, which one defense official said suggested "a higher degree of organization and sophistication" among insurgents."

So much for the "random slaughter" scenario... Also, from Newsweek, a highly recommended article by Rod Nordland, adding some perspective, "Open Season": "It is tempting to argue that the brutality in Fallujah is not typical of the rest of Iraq. But it would be wrong"... the article states, and goes on:

...Wednesday's attack itself was hardly the worst thing we've seen; in fact, since the victims had been armed, attacking them was arguably within the rules of war. Many of the attacks we've seen in just the past 10 days were clearly not; the victims often were attacked merely because they were civilians, many of them not even from Coalition countries. They included two Finnish businessmen, a German and a Dutchman, four missionaries working on a water project and a Time magazine translator. It's become increasingly clear that any foreigner, and anyone working even remotely with foreigners, has become what the opposition regards as fair game, armed, or not. Attacks on Iraqis have been—if possible—even more savage, and divorced from any possible justification. Suicide bombs and ambushes of Iraqi policemen, who have now lost more men than the occupation forces, are one thing; the Americans chose and trained them. But the Shia who were slaughtered by teams of suicide bombers during the Ashoura festival in Karbala last month were doing nothing more than peacefully exercising their religious beliefs—something denied them under Saddam's Sunni rule...

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