Latest: search and destroy
Al Jazeera reports (19 November): On Friday the US military shelled the southern outskirts of the town.
US marines may be broadly in control of Fallujah but are getting bogged down in risky house-to-house searches. The response from the US forces has been to use tanks to blast buildings where they suspect fighters may still be holed up rather than face booby traps and sniper fire as they comb through the rubble and narrow alleyways of Fallujah.
“Searching every house is taking a long time and it is still dangerous because we never know what is in these homes,” Captain Robert Bodisch said in the town.
BBC reports: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had said that the city was without running water or electricity, and that the wounded were still unable to reach medical care because of the fighting. It called for an independent assessment of the situation facing those still living in the city...
The BBC’s Jennifer Glasse, with US marines in Falluja, says tough battles are still being fought in the city’s southern neighbourhoods... Marines are calling in aerial bombing raids to hit houses where insurgents are taking shelter.
The total US death toll in the offensive, which began on 7 November, stands at 51. About 425 American troops were wounded in action. Eight Iraqi soldiers have died. Lt Gen Sattler said reports of 1,200 fighters killed was “probably a safe number”. The number of civilians killed is unknown.
Fadhil Badrani, a journalist and resident of Fallujah, told the BBC: “The city is calmer now – but the fear is still there and some fighting.
“I have seen some strange things recently, such as stray dogs snatching bites out of bodies lying on the streets. Meanwhile, people forage in their gardens looking for something to eat. Those that have survived this far are looking gaunt. The opposite is happening to the dead – left where they fell, they are now bloated and rotting.
“Many of the fighters have escaped or been killed. A few have stayed on to fight. US forces control most of the city now, except for some areas in the south.
“We keep hearing that aid has arrived at the hospital on the outskirts of the city, which is now in the hands of the Americans. But most people in this area are too weak or too scared to make the journey, or even to leave their homes...
“Looking at Falluja now, the only comparisons I can think of are cities like Beirut and Sarajevo.”
800 Civilians Feared Dead
Dahr Jamail reports for IPS (16 November): “Speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of US military reprisal, a high-ranking official with the Red Cross in Baghdad told IPS that ‘at least 800 civilians’ have been killed in Fallujah so far. His estimate is based on reports from Red Crescent aid workers stationed around the embattled city, from residents within the city and from refugees, he said.
“‘Several of our Red Cross workers have just returned from Fallujah since the Americans won’t let them into the city,’ he said. ‘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.’...
“The official estimated that at least 50,000 residents remain trapped within the city. They were too poor to leave, lacked friends or family outside the city and therefore had nowhere to go, or they simply had not had enough time to escape before the siege began, he said.
“Aid workers in his organisation have reported that houses of civilians in Kharma, a small city near Fallujah, had been bombed by U.S. warplanes. In one instance a family of five was killed just two days ago.”
IRIN reports (17 November): “‘Please tell them to come back, we don’t have another person to help us, we need food and my children are sick, they have to try again,’ Rasha Omar, a mother of five in Fallujah, told IRIN after finding out that the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) couldn’t deliver food to the city...
“The IRCS has appealed to the UN for help to reach residents left in Fallujah who are desperate for humanitarian aid. ‘The UN is our last chance,’ al-Abadi said. Families still inside the city are asking for help to flee. ‘I want to leave here, I cannot stand this situation anymore, I am tired and we need food and water, I cannot bear sounds of bullets anymore,’ local resident Abbas al-Sabri told IRIN.
“Colonel John Ballard, the officer in charge of the US marines humanitarian effort, told IRIN that he was sceptical about the humanitarian crisis announced by the IRCS and had come to the city to see for himself. ‘The US troops are able to deliver any supplies to the people here and haven’t seen civilians in trouble,’ he added.”Others disagree. “‘Whoever is inside [the city] can see what a disaster Fallujah is, death and bleeding everywhere, human beings killed on the streets everywhere you look, my father of 85 years old is one of them. Is it what they call democracy?’ said Ahmed Haj, a resident who managed to escape from the fighting on Tuesday morning.”
Fallujah survivors speak
Dahr Jamail reports from Baghdad (November 17): “This afternoon at a small, but busy supply center set up in Baghdad to distribute goods to refugees from Fallujah, the stories the haggard survivors are telling are nearly unimaginable.
“Kassem Mohammed Ahmed, who just escaped from Fallujah three days ago, [said:] ‘The first thing they did is they bombed the hospitals because that is where the wounded have to go. Now we see that wounded people are in the street and the soldiers are rolling over them with tanks. This happened so many times. What you see on the TV is nothing-that is just one camera. What you cannot see is so much.’...;
“Another man, Abdul Razaq Ismail arrived from Fallujah last week. While distributing supplies to other refugees he says, ‘There are dead bodies on the ground and nobody can bury them. The Americans are dropping some of the bodies into the Euphrates River near Fallujah. They are pulling the bodies with tanks and leaving them at the soccer stadium.’
“Nearby is another man in tears as he listens, nodding his head. He can’t stop crying, but after a little while says he wants to talk to us. ‘They bombed my neighborhood and we used car jacks to raise the blocks of concrete to get dead children out from under them.’
“Another refugee, Abu Sabah, an older man wearing a torn shirt and dusty pants tells of how he escaped with his family while soldiers shot bullets over their heads, but killed his cousin. ‘They used these weird bombs that put up smoke like a mushroom cloud,’ he said, having just arrived yesterday, ‘Then small pieces fell from the air with long tails of smoke behind them. These exploded on the ground with large fires that burnt for half an hour. They used these near the train tracks. You could hear these dropped from a large airplane and the bombs were the size of a tank. When anyone touched those fires, their body burned for hours.’”
‘Foreign fighters’ few in number
“Of the more than 1000 men between the ages of 15 and 55 who were captured in intense fighting in Fallujah last week, just 15 are confirmed foreign fighters, General George Casey, the top US ground commander in Iraq, said on Monday.” (See Al Jazeera)
The Associated Press reports (18 November): “The recapture of Fallujah has not broken the insurgents’ will to fight and may not pay the big dividend US planners had hoped, according to US and Iraqi assessments. Instead, the battle for control of the Sunni city 40 miles west of Baghdad has fueled anti-American sentiment and stoked the 18-month-old Sunni insurgency.
“Those grim assessments, expressed privately by some US military officials and by some private experts on Iraq, raise doubts as to whether the January election will produce a government with sufficient legitimacy, especially in the eyes of the country’s powerful Sunni Muslim minority...
“[A] low voter turnout, especially in Sunni strongholds now plagued by insurgency, would be worse than having no election at all, according to Peter Khalil, a national security research fellow at the Saban Center of the Brookings Institution. ‘You need at least 70 percent of the voters to take place to accord legitimacy to the next government. If not, it will fuel the insurgency and give it a new political dimension,’ said Khalil, who served for nearly a year with the U.S.-led occupation authorities in Iraq.”
Popular support for Fallujah
Haifa Zangana writes in The Guardian (17 November): “... thousands of Iraqis demonstrated in Baghdad, Basra and Heet in support of the people of Fallujah. Many were arrested, some were beaten. The US-appointed Allawi regime responded by imposing new curfews...
“On the fourth day of the ground attack on Fallujah, last Friday, joint Shia-Sunni prayers were held in the four mosques in Baghdad, and were massively well attended. Inter-communal prayers were the hallmark of the 1920 revolution, revived early this year by the Iraqi National Foundation Congress, a loose umbrella organisation of academics, cross-sectarian clerics and veteran political leaders...
“Most fighters in Iraq are Iraqis who are outraged to see their country’s resources robbed while they live in slums, drink water mixed with sewage and have no say in the political process. Nineteen months after ‘liberation’ they can see how little the liberators have done to ease their suffering.”
Baghdad mosque stormed
MSNBC News reports (19 November): Iraqi national guards, backed by US soldiers, stormed one of the major Sunni Muslim mosques in Baghdad after Friday prayers, opening fire and killing at least three people, witnesses said. About 40 people were arrested at the Abu Hanifa mosque. Another five were wounded...
U.S. troops were seen securing the outer perimeter of the mosque area and sealing it off. Some American soldiers also were seen inside the compound. Witnesses heard explosions coming from inside the mosque, apparently from stun grenades. Inside the office of the imam, books and a computer were found scattered on the floor, and the furniture was turned upside down. At least 10 US armored vehicles were parked in front of the mosque, along with two vehicles carrying about 40 Iraqi National Guards, witnesses said.
Bajji, a city north of Baghdad, has seen a sharp increase in violence over the past week. Fifteen Iraqis died there on Wednesday when a car bomber rammed into a US patrol and troops retaliated by opening fire. Clashes between US-led troops and Iraqi fighters later erupted in several parts of Bajji, prompting troops to seal off the oil refinery in the north of the city to protect it from attack.
Iraqi fighters attacked the provincial governor’s office in Iraq’s third largest city, Mosul, killing one of the governor’s bodyguards and wounding four more. The fighters also fired six mortar rounds at a US military base in Mosul. where 1200 US troops launched an operation this week to reclaim police stations abandoned after insurgent raids. Officials say only 20 percent of the city’s 5,000 police had returned to duty as of Wednesday.
In the last twenty-four hours car bombs took lives in western Baghdad, outside Samarra and near a recruitment centre in the northern city of Kirkuk.
Election boycott call
Statement by the Iraqi National Foundation Congress on the elections, issued 15th November:
“With reference to the 27th October 2004 statement by the Iraqi National Foundation Congress on the ‘elections’ intended for next year, in which were listed the necessary requirements for it to be free and fair; and due the absence of any positive response from the relevant bodies regarding those objective requirements:
“We declare our boycott of these elections, since it will not express the will of our people and its just demands for independence and sovereignty, through it being conducted on the bases dictated by the order governing the administration of the state in the transition phase, which has been rejected by all political, religious and independent authorities for the grave dangers it implies to the future of Iraq, its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“This and the attacks on Iraqi cities, especially the savage massacres in Falluja, categorically preclude sound participation in the political process under occupation and denial of sovereignty. How can a national dialogue and a political process proceed while crimes are being routinely committed against the people?
“We in the Iraqi National Foundation Congress declare our commitment to the route of free and fair elections when requirements for its realisation are present. Therefore we call on all our people to boycott it and to turn their back on the disinformation aimed at forcing the process, and to defraud the will of our people in Iraq, through legitimating the plans of the occupation authorities and the unelected government.”
Issued by: Members of the General Secretariat INFC, General Secretary Sheikh Muhammed Jawad Al-Khalisi, Official Spokesman Dr Wamidh Jamal Nadhmi, Organisation of Muslim Clerics, The Arab Nationalist Current, Imam Khalisi University, Democratic Reform Party, United Patriotic Movement, Iraqi Turkomen Front, Iraqi Christian Democratic Party, The Islamic Block in Iraq, Office of Sayid Ayatullah Ahmad Al-Hasani, Office of Ayatullah Qasim Al-Tai, Union of Iraqi Jurists, High Commission on Human Rights, Iraqi Woman Society
Al Jazeera reports (18 November): “A group of national, political and religious groups in Iraq, including the Association of Muslim Scholars, have decided to boycott the elections due to be held early next year. The association said in a statement that the elections posed grave risks to the future of Iraq as it would undermine Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The signatories of the statement include Imam Khalesi University, Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS); the National Trend Movement; Iraqi National Foundation Conference; Iraqi Turkomen Front; and the Christian Democratic Party.
“Ahmad Abd al-Ghafur al-Samarrai, a member of the AMS, told Aljazeera: ‘The AMS, the Iraqi National Foundational Conference and other groups describe the forthcoming elections under US occupation as a farce and that it will not be truly representative neither will it express the ambitions of the Iraqi people.’ The announcement was made because of the ‘massacre of the people of Falluja and the collective punishment with wanton destruction meted out by the US,’ he said.”
Partners deserting US-UK occupation mission
Hungarian MPs vote to withdraw troops
AFP reports: The Hungarian parliament voted Monday (15 November) to withdraw the country’s 300 troops from Iraq by the end of the year, rejecting a government initiative that would have prolonged the deployment until March 2005. Some 54 percent of Hungarians want the soldiers to return home before year-end, while only 19 percent are in favour of them staying through the Iraqi elections, according to the results of a poll published on Monday. Hungarian soldiers, charged with carrying out logistics work, are based at Hilla, 100 kilometers south of Baghdad, under Polish command. So far the contingent has suffered one fatality.
Hungary is one of some 30 countries that contributed troops to the US-led force in Iraq in March 2003. Several allies have since withdrawn, including Spain, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, the Philippines and Thailand. Other coalition members, such as Poland, Italy, Ukraine and Latvia have announced they would begin to scale back their deployment or withdraw in early 2005. Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot on Monday confirmed his country’s decision to withdraw its troops from Iraq next March, despite a call by Washington for the troops to remain involved in the strife-torn country. The Netherlands has 1,300 soldiers serving under British command in southern Iraq.
US blamed for reporters’ deaths
The global managing editor of British news provider Reuters has said the US military is entirely to blame for the deaths of three of its employees in Iraq. “All of them were killed by the American army,” Reuters chief David Schlesinger told reporters on Thursday on the sidelines of a media conference in the southern Portuguese resort of Vilamoura, national news agency Lusa reported.
“There is no understanding on the part of the US military regarding the exercise of journalism,” he added. “We can’t run the risk that journalists will become targets (in Iraq). We must learn the lessons from these tragic cases.”
Two Reuters photographers and a cameraman are among the more than 60 war-related deaths of media workers recorded in Iraq. The most recent death occurred in the Iraqi city of Ramadi on 1 November.
Remebering Margaret Hassan
Kirsten Zaat, BBC News (17 November 2004): “Margaret Hassan was a human rights defender of unequalled vigour. Her vitality, her verve and her uncompromising stand on protecting the innocent was unparalleled in Iraq... Her humanitarian career spanned three decades and was carried out in far-off destinations, from the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon to the slums of Baghdad...
“Margaret’s murder constitutes a crime against humanity for which there can be no excuses. The international rule of law exists to protect all civilians, including humanitarian workers.”
‘Iraq’s provisional authority is determined to put Saddam Hussein on trial for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. But the United States has curtailed the scope of the court and its judges. The dictator’s foreign accomplices will be immune from prosecution and nothing will be said about those western governments who allowed the Ba’athist regime to crush all opposition.” An article in Le Monde Diplomatique by Michel Despraix and Barry Lando chronicles decades of western collusion with Saddam and the background to the proposed trial.
The US Department of State played a key role in setting up the tribunal. In advance it consulted a US legal expert, Charif Bassiouni, who said: “All efforts are being made to have a tribunal whose judiciary is not independent but controlled, and by controlled I mean that the political manipulators of the tribunal have to make sure the US and other western powers are not brought in cause. This makes it look like victor’s vengeance: it makes it seem targeted, selected, unfair. It’s a subterfuge.”
Naomi Klein speaks in London
Making A Killing: The Corporate Invasion of Iraq
Friends House, Euston Road
Wednesday 24th November
Doors open 6:30pm
£5 waged/ £3 unwaged
Sponsored by: War on Want, Iraq Occupation Focus, Jubilee Iraq, Voices in the Wilderness UK
For more information go to: www.waronwant.org/naomiklein