Fallujah horror: the costs and consequences

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.”

Humanitarian emergency

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)

Turning point?

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.

Violence spreads

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.”

Saddam’s collaborators

‘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
Central London
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:

Turkey: welcome to Europe

By Ignacio Ramonet

THE debate about Turkey’s impending membership of the European Union - planned for 2015 - has been characterised by overblown rhetoric and lack of finesse. Framed in terms of the "clash of civilisations", it testifies to the identity crisis of western societies when faced with Islam. It also reveals the anti-Islamic sentiment lurking in almost every sector of the political classes.

Some have advanced "technical" arguments against Turkish entry, reckoning that Europe will instinctively reject the membership of a large country with a Muslim majority. They argue that Turkey should be disqualified because of its geography, since much of the country is in Asia Minor. This is absurd. French Guyana in Latin America and Réunion in the middle of the Indian Ocean are both part of the European Union.

We should remember that the Aegean coast of Turkey, the location of ancient Troy, was the east wing of ancient Greece, the cradle of European civilisation. (We wonder what "technical" arguments will be put forward to prevent the membership of two other countries with Muslim majorities, Bosnia and Albania, whose geographic place in Europe is undeniable.)

Others invoke history. The European commissioner Frits Bolkestein recently went so far as to say that if Turkey is admitted to the EU "the liberation of Vienna [after the siege by the Turks] in 1683 will have been in vain" (1). (During that siege the Viennese, known for their excellent bakeries, had to ration flour; they made small bread rolls shaped like the crescent moon symbol of the Ottoman empire. Most people think of these familiar pastries - croissants - as typically French.)

The Ottoman empire, as successor to the Byzantine empire, had ambitions to dominate the Mediterranean and Europe, a project that was shattered several times, especially at the Battle of Lepanto in 1521. But such ambitions do not mean that Turkey is anti-European by nature. Other countries - notably Spain, France and Germany - also cherished projects for subjugating the continent, and nobody would suggest that they are not truly European.

Like the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires, which vanished from history, and the colonial empires, which were all dismembered, overextended military campaigns wore out the Ottoman empire by the beginning of the 20th century (which is why it was called "the sick man of Europe"). Having lost its possessions in the Balkans and the Arab world, the new Turkey founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk embarked resolutely on Europeanisation.

No country has ever agreed to sacrifice so many fundamental aspects of its culture in order to affirm its European identity. Modern Turkey went so far as to abandon its old Arabic alphabet, replacing it with Roman letters; Turks were obliged to abandon traditional dress and wear western clothing; and, in the name of an official secularism inspired by a law passed in France in 1905, Islam ceased to be the state religion.

Throughout the 20th century Turkey continually consolidated its European character. In the early 1950s it joined Nato and later the Council of Europe. By 1963 General de Gaulle and Chancellor Adenauer had recognised its suitability as a candidate for membership of Europe. A customs treaty was signed in 1995. Once the European Council meetings in Helsinki (1999) and Copenhagen (2002) had confirmed that Turkey could apply for membership (2), Ankara embarked on silent revolution to fulfil the necessary criteria.

Turkey has made progress in enacting democratic reforms. The state security courts are about to be dismantled; the death penalty has been abolished; juridical tolerance of crimes of honour against women is no longer allowed; a proposed law for criminalising adultery has been abandoned. In Kurdish territories the state of emergency has been lifted; teaching in the Kurdish language is now permitted; a Kurdish-language TV channel has been set up; and four former MPs imprisoned for political activity have been released.

There is still much to be done on civil liberties and basic human rights. Turkey also needs to recognise formally the genocide of the Armenians in 1915. And an amnesty will be required for ex-fighters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) to release more than 3,000 of its imprisoned activists, including its leader, Abdullah Öcalan.

But the prospect of EU membership has already reinforced Turkey’s democratisation, secularism and respect for human rights. For the other major countries of the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey’s membership will provide a concrete message of hope, peace, prosperity and democracy.

(1) Financial Times, 8 September 2004.

(2) Under the proposed timetable,
negotiations will begin in 2006 and conclude in 2015.

English language editorial director: Wendy Kristianasen
© 1997-2004 Le Monde diplomatique.

mosaic dao


Tiles of carnelian, lapis, and jade,

The muralist sees his picture
One centimeter at a time.
Every piece alone is precious;
Together they make a priceless whole.

Not far from where I grew up, there was a muralist whose specialty was mosaic. He accepted commissions from all over the world and also collaborated with a number of famous artists on their murals and sculptures. He had bins and buckets full of all sorts of fascinating tiles. Some were red, blue, and yellow glass. Others were elaborately glazed ceramic. A few were tones like lapis, turquoise, malachite, and obsidian. Some were even mirrored with god and silver, and these would shine out first whenever he would wash away the grout.

God may be in the details, but it is also important to know the big picture.

That is where the muralist is such a great example. He knew what the big picture had to be, and yet he had enough concentration to piece together enormous tableaus out of tiny square centimeters. That is knowing both the small and the big. Follow his example and you will never be petty; yet you will not lose sight of the relationship between the microcosmic and the macrocosmic.

365 Tao
Deng Ming-Dao
Daily Meditation
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**Suggested reading of daoist texts ancient poetry and contemporary Chinese literature is available at the site.

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US troops 'finds Zarqawi's Fallujah hideout'

US troops in Fallujah have found the suspected headquarters of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qa'eda-linked terrorist believed to be behind a wave of car bombs and kidnappings in Iraq.
A US marine arrests a suspected Iraqi rebel
The American broadcaster CNN showed footage of an imposing building in which there was a large sign in Arabic reading "al-Qa'eda organisation".

US soldiers found computers, photographs and notebooks inside the building, including a letter apparently from Zarqawi to his lieutenants and another from a supporter asking for help from the terrorist leader.

Several bodies were also discovered, while the footage also showed bomb-making equipment being found in a nearby workshop in south-eastern Fallujah.

The workshop included a four-wheel drive vehicle which was being rigged up as a car bomb and had a Texas registration sticker.

The CNN film also showed a makeshift classroom where instructions on how to shoot down planes were found.

US commanders said they could not confirm that the house and workshop belonged to Zarqawi's Tawid and Jihad and group, whose attacks include the murder of the British hostage Kenneth Bigley.

But they said they had found enough evidence in Fallujah to help them track down insurgents who fled the former rebel-stronghold before a US-led offensive began last week.

The discovery of Zarqawi's suspected headquarters came as US troops continued to fight gun battles with rebels still hiding in Fallujah.

One US marine and an Iraqi soldier were killed, officials said, taking the number of American casualties in the offensive to 51 dead and more than 400 wounded.

The military says it has killed around 1,200 militants and has captured a further 1,000 suspects. Iraqi officials also said they have captured 104 suspected insurgents in Baghdad, including nine who had fled Fallujah.

However, rebels have struck back in other Sunni areas, including bombing the mayor's office and police headquarters in Haditha, north-west of Fallujah.

At least four people were killed in car bombs in Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk, while the governor of the Diyala province, north-east of Baghdad, escaped an assassination attempt when a bomb exploded near his convoy.

the photo gallery

A US marine handcuffs an Iraqi detainee following his
arrest in the war-torn city of Fallujah. The US led force
now has virtual control over the city after almost two
weeks of fighting

A US marine handcuffs an Iraqi detainee following his
arrest in the war-torn city of Fallujah. The US led force
now has virtual control over the city after almost two
weeks of fighting.

( '? duck of note (don't these captions just sound so damned .... disneyesque???) note of duck ( '?
thank ya, rooderz, for bein there at that koduck moment
koduck! flim fer ducks!

more mahem and madness discovered at the following location, but not captioned so sweetly of that I am certain
yeeeea haaaaw
we is all cowboys cuz we wear the same outfit

and if you get an outfit
yew kin be a coowwwwwboyyy

19 November 2004:
Rebels 'will revive after Fallujah if troops cut'

friday friday oh friday comes so late in the week, doncha think, uhm?????????????????????????????????????

Taking refuge from reality : Alaska wilderness on hit list

A Republican-dominated Senate means drilling in the Arctic wilderness will probably go ahead, but not because of the oil reserves, writes Mark Tran

November 19, 2004

The battle over oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a remote corner of Alaska, has raged for over a decade.

Last year, the Bush administration narrowly failed to push through a plan that would allow drilling in this wilderness. But as a result of the November 2 elections, the White House probably has enough votes in the Senate, the last obstacle to drilling, to get its way. A vote could come as soon as February.

A vote for drilling would mean a huge blow to environmentalists who have fought tooth and nail to keep oil companies out of the refuge, a 19-million acre landscape of savage beauty and home to an impressive array of wildlife such as caribou and musk oxen.

Environmentalists fear that oil exploration would ruin the refuge despite claims from the oil companies that modern techniques would keep environmental damage to a minimum.

Ironically, the oil companies have not been pushing for drilling. It is the Bush administration, backed by local politicians in Alaska, that has kept up the pressure. For the Republicans, a decision in their favour is the chance to give the environmental movement a real bruising.

As Tom DeLay, the Republican leader of the House of Representatives, said three years ago, a pro-drilling vote would "crack the backs of radical environmentalists." As for Alaska's politicians, the arrival of oil companies in the refuge would bring in more revenues.

Of course, the Republicans do not describe the issue as the chance to put those pesky environmentalists in their place. The administration's position is that the US needs to develop more domestic energy sources, including the proven oil reserves in Alaska, to lessen America's dependence on foreign oil.

But not by much. Americans use 19 million barrels of oil each day, or 7 billion barrels of oil annually. The US interior department estimates that the refuge could have anywhere from 5.7 billion barrels to 16 billion barrels. Even erring on the generous side, the area would yield at most two years' worth of oil, although most estimates put the supply at no more than six months.

That seems precious little oil for the high level of effort expended and the inevitable environmental damage that would ensue. Experts predict that oil production from the refuge could not begin for at least 10 years and the Congressional Research Service, the nonpartisan congressional thinktank, estimates it would take at least 15 years.

So why are Republicans so keen to open up Alaska for more drilling when the prospects are so meagre? Environmentalists suspect that the real motive is to set down a marker. If the White House gets its way on such a contentious issue, there will be no holding back oil companies from other wilderness areas, such as the Rocky Mountains region and parts of New Mexico.

But even if the administration wins its battle in the Arctic, much is happening at the state level that runs counter to the administration's thinking.

In California, where there are more cars per head than anywhere else in the world, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Republican governor, is limiting the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. Elsewhere, attorneys general from eight states have filed suit to force major utilities to cut emissions of carbon dioxide.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of companies are working on plans to reduce emissions of carbon, mercury, and other pollutants - in order to meet international standards, regardless of whether the Bush White House supports those standards.

After so many years trying to prise open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Republicans will no doubt feel triumphant, should things go as expected. But it will be a triumph for short-sightedness. Fortunately, some states and businesses are taking a more responsible attitude to energy and climate change.

Troops raid Mosul hospital

Troops raid Mosul hospital
· Two Iraqi troops 'beheaded'
· Raid on Baghdad mosque leaves two dead
· Black Watch base attacked by mortars

Iraqi government forces were today continuing their campaign to quell a rebel uprising in Mosul, as reports emerged that two of their soldiers have been beheaded by militants in the northern city.

Meanwhile, two Iraqis died as Iraqi forces and US troops tried to storm a Sunni Muslim mosque in Baghdad after Friday prayers, Reuters reported.

US armour had surrounded the mosque and the raiding force opened fire when hundreds of furious worshippers tried to beat them back by pelting them with their shoes, Reuters said.
Iraqi and US forces left after detaining dozens of men. It was not immediately clear if the fatalities were Iraqi troops or worshippers at the mosque but reports suggested they were worshippers.

In Mosul, Iraqi commandos, again backed by US forces, focused on the city's al-Zaharawi hospital, which they cordoned off after receiving information that insurgents were using it to treat their wounded.

They stormed the building overnight and arrested three suspects, according to the US military. A US military spokesman said: "You can call it an insurgent hospital from what we found there. They probably just went in and took it over. There are a lot of things to be answered. The three detained will hopefully provide intelligence how all this worked."

He said operations were continuing throughout Mosul, Iraq's third largest city.

The insurgents apparently struck back, however, claiming to have killed a major and a lieutenant in the Iraqi national guard.

A statement posted on an Islamist website said: "Just when the enemies of God thought they would crush us with their tyrannical military campaign in Falluja ... the al-Qaida organisation in Iraq slaughtered two national guards on Thursday afternoon. They were both slaughtered in Mosul in front of a large group of people."

The statement was attributed to "al-Qaida Organisation of Holy War in Iraq" - one of the names used by Musab Abu al-Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad militia.

US and Iraqi troops this month launched a campaign to crush insurgents, including Zarqawi's group, in the rebel stronghold of Falluja, west of Baghdad. The US military says it has taken control of the city, but the offensive has fuelled fresh violence across Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland, especially in Mosul.

Meanwhile, Black Watch troops today came under one of the most sustained attacks since they arrived in central Iraq three weeks ago.

Their base at Camp Dogwood, 25 miles south-west of Baghdad, was targeted by five missiles in a few hours. Four of the missiles blew up on impact but one failed to detonate. It was later set off in a controlled explosion. There were no casualties.

Staff and agencies Friday November 19, 2004
US soldiers fire shells as they back up Iraqi commandos in Mosul.

Photograph: Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images

Burma frees senior NLD members

Leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest.
Releases may be linked to Khin Nyunt's fall from power

Burma has released from jail several senior members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD).

Those freed include Kyaw San, Toe Bo, Ohn Maung and Aung Zin, the NLD said.

There have been unconfirmed reports that Win Tin, one of the NLD's founders who has been imprisoned since 1989, has also been released.

The surprise move appears to be related to the purging last month of former prime minister Khin Nyunt, who headed the National Intelligence Bureau.

Burma's state media said earlier that 4,000 prisoners would be released because their detentions, by the NIB, were "improper".

The BBC's South East Asia correspondent, Kylie Morris, says that according to sources, 600 prisoners have been released so far, and 30 of those were political prisoners.

But she adds that observers are sceptical that political prisoners will make up a big proportion of the overall total.

"It was a pleasant surprise for all of us," said 77-year-old Ohn Maung, an official in the NLD, whose leader Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest.

"I did not have to sign any undertaking and I expect most of the NLD members will also be released like me," he said.

He had been incarcerated for more than six years.

State media said on Thursday the Burmese military junta "had detected improper deeds among the acts carried out by the National Intelligence Bureau" (NIB), and would begin releasing the prisoners immediately.

Since Khin Nyunt was sacked last month, the NIB has been disbanded and dozens of army intelligence officers are thought to have been imprisoned.

Internal tensions

Analysts believe the recent releases point to internal tensions within the Burmese administration, and signal the junta's attempts to distance itself from the past actions of the NIB.

The move also comes ahead of a regional Asean summit in Laos, where Burma will be under pressure from the international community to produce evidence that it is improving human rights inside the country.

Khin Nyunt, who is under house arrest, was ousted on 19 October by Than Shwe, head of the junta, in what was seen as a consolidation of his power.

Within days, the intelligence bureau, which gave officers loyal to Khin Nyunt widespread powers and benefits, was abolished.

Amnesty International estimates that there were 1,350 political detainees in 2004, many associated with Aung Sang Suu Kyi's NLD.

The junta has never admitted to holding political prisoners.

However, under pressure from the international community, it freed some detainees in small groups in 2002 and 2003, citing "humanitarian" reasons.

FCC Crackdown Could Spread

With support from both Republicans and Democrats, the Federal Communications Commission is poised to get even more aggressive about enforcing moral values throughout broadcasting, even putting cable television in its cross hairs and taking aim at Howard Stern's right to talk dirty on satellite radio.

It looks like only the courts will stand in the way of the FCC now. But a funny thing could happen on the way to washing Eric Cartman's mouth out with soap: Conservative judges might just say no. After all, not too long ago the Supreme Court rejected efforts to censor the internet.
<>"As soon as those regulations go forward, they'll get challenged legally, and I think they'll fail," predicted Adam Thierer, who studies the media at the libertarian Cato Institute think tank. "But I'm not 100 percent certain."

After rejecting 83 percent of indecency complaints received in 2002, the FCC burst out of its cocoon in January after singer Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" on national television. CBS eventually got socked with a $550,000 fine, and a slew of other radio and TV stations found themselves under fire. Even PBS began leaning heavily on the bleep button, and last week, several ABC stations refused to air an uncut broadcast of Saving Private Ryan for fear that the FCC would issue fines for indecency. ("War is heck," said one newspaper headline.)

Currently, the stakes are fairly low for major media companies. The top fine is $27,500 per incident, although stations can be fined separately. After Jackson's exposure at the Super Bowl, the House tried to raise the maximum fine to $500,000, but the move was part of a larger bill -- the Defense Authorization Act -- and it foundered.

The FCC guidelines remain vague, making it unclear exactly what is allowed. "The FCC has been trying to hide behind ambiguity, but that ambiguity has problems," said attorney Andrew Jay Schwartzman, president of the Media Access Project watchdog organization.

The FCC could spell out the rules: This word is allowed, this word isn't; this is when you can show a bare breast or butt. Indeed, the FCC reversed itself over U2 singer Bono's exclamation at the Golden Globe Awards show and declared that the F-word is verboten even when it's not used in a sexual context. But while clearer rules sound good in principle, Schwartzman said they're unlikely to pass constitutional muster. "The various pending appeals are going to force the FCC to clarify, but once clarified I'm not sure things will stick up in court."

Some critics say the FCC has a death wish. By cleaning up network TV, they'll only send viewers to cable. "As more people (move) away from broadcast television, the FCC loses control," said Richard Hanley, graduate program director at Quinnipiac University's school of communications. "If anything, the FCC is acting to kill broadcast television, and in the process kill any chance it has of regulating content. It's committing, in effect, suicide."

But the FCC bureaucracy may try to survive by expanding its jurisdiction to encompass the alternatives -- cable TV, satellite TV and radio, maybe even the internet. Earlier this year, a Senate committee barely rejected a plan by Louisiana Sen. John Breaux, a Democrat, to allow the FCC to oversee some cable programming.

<>Breaux is retiring, but he's being replaced by a Republican, and the November election sent several new conservatives to the Senate. The House remains firmly in Republican hands, and the president is hardly a friend of shock jock Stern.

The Cato Institute's Thierer expects the new Congress to tackle the cable issue once again, and no one should expect the Democrats to put up resistance. "Speech controls are now more of a bipartisan issue, apparently," he said. "It's clear to me that a lot of people in Congress have few problems regulating speech in the media today."
<>Thierer thinks indecency-obsessed politicians will be careful, though. He predicts that while they would target cable television -- home to raunchy shows like South Park, which used the S-word 162 times in a single 2001 episode -- they will stay away from premium channels like HBO. When it comes to basic cable, he said, it's easier to use the argument that it's "pervasive" like broadcast television -- in other words, difficult for children to avoid.

There is a difference, of course. Broadcast television and radio are free and come uninvited into homes. Courts won't fail to notice that Americans shell out billions of dollars a year on cable, satellite TV and now satellite radio.
<>There's another potential stumbling block for the censors. The Supreme Court has balked at whittling away free-speech rights. "I wouldn't say that the courts have been all that conservative on this stuff," Schwartzman said. "The courts have been pretty good on these speech issues."

In several cases, including the one that killed off the landmark Communications Decency Act, the court said "we're not going to impose ... old sorts of rules on these new technologies in town," Thierer said. The court even stood by the Playboy Channel in a 2000 case in which it said citizens had the right to view sexually explicit material on a premium channel outside late-night hours.

The Supreme Court might be friendlier to the FCC on the issue of media consolidation, but the agency failed to push its proposed new rules into effect this year. Along with the usual Democrats, plenty of Republicans -- including powerful Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott -- balked at allowing media companies to consolidate even more. Meanwhile, a federal court sent the FCC back to the drawing board on several issues regarding rules about ownership of multiple stations.

At issue is whether the big media companies will be able to get even larger. "We might be able to hold things steady for the short term, but how long that will last we don't know," said Mitchell Szczepanczyk, president of Chicago Media Action, a watchdog group. "What's encouraging is that a lot more people know about these issues than had just two years ago. That gives me hope more than anything."

Sudanese rivals sign peace pledge

The Sudanese government and rebel leaders signed an agreement today promising to end the country's 21-year internal conflict by the end of the year.

The signing took place before the UN security council, which was holding a special session in Nairobi. During the meeting, the security council also passed its latest resolution on Sudan, offering to support peace processes in the country aimed at ending two civil wars that have left millions dead and many more homeless.

The security council passed resolution number 157 - its third on Sudan - unanimously in a meeting intended to focus world attention on the conflicts in Africa's largest country.

Aid organisations immediately criticised the UN body for failing to take a tougher line over the embattled western region of Darfur.

"From New York to Nairobi a trail of weak resolutions on Darfur has led nowhere," said Caroline Nursey of Oxfam. "Yesterday Oxfam was unable to get vital aid to 200,000 people in Darfur who are cut off by renewed violence ... We needed the council to take action now, not yet more diplomatic dithering."

Ahead of the meeting, human rights groups had called for an arms embargo or the threat of sanctions against Khartoum.

The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, acknowledged the gravity of the situation.

"I regret to report that the security situation in Darfur continued to deteriorate despite the ceasefire agreement signed earlier," he told council members at the headquarters of the UN's environment and human settlements agencies.

Sudanese vice president Ali Osman Taha and rebel leader John Garang, the main peace negotiators, pledged to end the conflict in southern Sudan by the end of last year, but they missed the 2003 deadline and two more deadlines after that. This is the first time, however, that the warring parties have put a deadline in writing before the security council.

The new security council resolution is intended to push for the rapid conclusion of a two-year peace process to end the 21-year conflict in southern Sudan, while also highlighting the need to end 21 months of fighting in Darfur.

Britain's UN ambassador, Emyr Jones Parry, said the security council expected all sides in the conflicts to comply with the call for an end to violence and that it "needs to be ready to take tougher action".

The Nairobi meeting is only the fourth time the security council has met outside its New York headquarters since 1952. In a rare address by a rebel leader to the council, Mr Garang said the only way to avert tragedy was "to install a broad-based coalition government of national unity". He told members that only four issues remained to be resolved before a comprehensive agreement ending the southern war could be signed.

Mr Taha said that his country was committed to peace and that he agreed a new government would be able to resolve the country's problems swiftly.

Sudan's Islamic government against has been fighting rebels seeking greater autonomy and a greater share of the country's wealth for the largely Christian and animist south since 1983. The conflict has left more than two million people dead, largely through war-induced hunger and disease.

Another conflict in the western Darfur region started in February 2003, when the government attempted to crush two non-Arab African rebel groups who took up arms to fight for more power and resources, and backed Arab militias who are accused of targeting civilians in a campaign of murder, rape and arson.

Washington believes the militias have committed genocide, the US ambassador to the UN, John Danforth, said. At least 70,000 people, mostly civilians, have died since March in the region because of disease, hunger and hardships from being uprooted. At least 1.8 million people have been driven from their homes.

Many more have been killed in fighting since the conflict started, but no firm estimate exists.

Tomgram: Schell, The Battle for Minds (Forget the Hearts)

Reality TV votes with its feet on Bush foreign policy:

"[Bernard van Munster, the Dutch-born co-creator and executive producer of the reality TV show, ‘The Amazing Race'] continues to scout locations for the seventh season, more than ever convinced that the world is a far less dangerous place than it sometimes seems. ‘Everybody everywhere has been helpful to us from the beginning,' he said, ‘because I tell them: "I'm not here to criticize your country or your culture. I'm here to bring Americans to learn from you and to have a good time." Right now, the only places I wouldn't consider going are Iraq and Afghanistan. Everything else is on the board.'" (Joe Rhodes, An Audience Finally Catches Up to 'The Amazing Race,' the New York Times)

The Carthaginian Solution

What follows is a collage put together from the eyewitness accounts of reporters with major newspapers and news services, most of them embedded with U.S. troops. It is meant to be a portrait of Falluja… well, you can't quite say "after the battle" since -- as in the Chechen capital Grozny after the Russians flattened it in 1999 -- the fighting goes on and on. I'm sorry to say that I suspect the following only begins to catch the scale of the destruction in Falluja:

"Even the dogs have started to die, their corpses strewn among twisted metal and shattered concrete in a city that looks like it forgot to breathe. The aluminum shutters of shops on the main highway through town have been transformed by the force of war into mangled accordion shapes, flat, sharp, jarring slices of metal that no longer obscure the stacks of silver pots, the plastic-wrapped office furniture, the rolls of carpet… [T]he insurgents were putting up their most tenacious resistance as US and Iraqi forces pursued them through a bleak landscape of bombed-out cinder block factories and houses reminiscent of the movie ‘Blade Runner'… It is still far from clear when civilian residents will be allowed back in [to Falluja] -- or what they will think of this post-apocalyptic wasteland when they are… Driving down Highway 10, the main street running east to west through the heart of Falluja, is like entering a film that is set sometime on the other side of Armageddon. Cars sit on the roofs of buildings. Lamp posts lie at odd angles on the street. Just south of the highway, a minaret has been snapped off near the base like a pretzel stick, and another minaret is missing a huge chunk. Fire has blackened the facade of building after building… As he trudged through the desolate, rubble-filled streets, [Marine Sgt Aristotel] Barbosa said he remembered thinking how bad the city looked, worse than he had imagined. ‘Basically every house has a hole through it,' he said…

"A drive through the city revealed a picture of utter destruction, with concrete houses flattened, mosques in ruins, telegraph poles down, power and phone lines hanging slack and rubble and human remains littering the empty streets. The north-west Jolan district, once an insurgent stronghold, looked like a ghost town, the only sound the rumbling of tank tracks… Restaurant signs were covered in soot. Pavements were crushed by 70-ton Abrams tanks, and rows of crumbling buildings stood on both sides of deserted streets. Upmarket homes with garages looked as if they had been abandoned for years. Cars lay crushed in the middle of streets… The reaction of US troops to attacks, say residents, have been out of all proportion; shots by snipers have been answered by rounds from Abrams tanks, devastating buildings and, it is claimed, injuring and killing civilians. This is firmly denied by the American military. About 200,000 refugees fled the fighting, and there have been outbreaks of typhoid and other diseases… The city's Haj Hussein mosque was destroyed in one overnight air raid, [residents] said. The U.S. military says it considers mosques legitimate targets if insurgents use them for military purposes…

"Rasoul Ibrahim, a father of three, fled Falluja on foot on Thursday morning and arrived with his wife and children in Habbaniya, about 12 miles to the west, at night. He said families left in the city were in desperate need. ‘There's no water. People are drinking dirty water. Children are dying. People are eating flour because there's no proper food,' he told aid workers in Habbaniya, which has become a refugee camp, with around 2,000 families sheltering there… Cowering in their house with nothing to eat or drink as bombardments and firefights shook their neighborhood, Iyad al-Mashadani and his family dug a 3-foot hole in their yard and drank the brackish water. ‘We were sure that we would die,' said Mashadani, 32, a car mechanic…

"The brutal assault has crushed homes and mosques and ground much of the southern neighborhoods into rubble. Survivors are hungry and aid convoys have been unable to reach them. Reports of civilian suffering, expected to spread after the Americans loosen [their] grip on the city, could transform Fallujah into a shrine to Muslim warriors killed in the fighting… The town's main east-west drag, a key objective of U.S. troops, is a tangle of rubble-filled lots and shot-up storefronts. Shattered water and sewage pipes have left pools of sewage-filled water, sometimes knee-deep. Scorched and potholed streets are filled with debris; power lines droop in tangles or lie on the ground. Many mosques, the city's pride and joy, are a shambles after insurgents used them as shelter and firing positions, drawing return fire from the Marines… The entire municipal government complex must be rebuilt and secured. The police station, City Hall and other government buildings have been seriously damaged, heavily looted and are occupied by Marines… Despite the clear military gains, the city remains insecure enough that major civil affairs units that will oversee reconstruction have yet to arrive. But more than $50 million in contracts has already been let, and people are standing by, ready to start work as soon as it is safe enough… In the works is some kind of ‘Welcome Back to Fallouja' campaign, directing residents to military civil affairs offices where people can find reconstruction help… Though a weeklong American offensive smashed the insurgents' haven of Falluja, snipers continued Tuesday to shoot at American troops roaming the debris-covered streets. Residents began to warily step out of their homes, emerging into a wasteland devastated by American bombs and bullets."

[The sources for the quotes above are in order: the Washington Post's Jackie Spinner, "Fallujah Battered And Mostly Quiet After the Battle"; the Boston Globe's Anne Barnard, "In hidden spots, a tenacious foe"; the New York Times' Robert F. Worth, "Battleground: As Fire Crackles in Falluja, G.I.'s Look to Rebuild a Wasteland"; Spinner, "In Fallujah, Marines Feel Shock of War"; the British Independent's Michael Georgy in Fallujah and Kim Sengupta, "A city lies in ruins, along with the lives of the wretched survivors"; Reuters' Michael Georgy and Fadel al-Badrani, "U.S. Forces Say Rebels Trapped in Southern Falluja"; Barnard, "Fallujah refugees describe ordeal of life in crossfire"; the Associated Press's Jim Krane, "U.S. racing insurgents for influence in Fallujah as battle winds down"; the Los Angeles Times' Patrick J. McDonnell, "Iraqi City Lies in Ruins"; the New York Times' Edward Wong, "U.S. Troops Move to Rein In Rebels in North of Iraq."]
( '? visit the site for the specific links in this article ( '? end duck note

And the latest reports indicate that American troops are still mortaring parts of Falluja, that insurgents are attempting to slip back into the city, and that at least one of the leaders of the homegrown Fallujan rebels remains there, and defiantly so. ("'The Americans have opened the gates of hell,' Abdullah Janabi said Monday in Fallujah…The battle of Fallujah is the beginning of other battles.' Iraqi officials had said they believed Janabi, a 53-year-old Sunni cleric, had fled the city before U.S. troops pushed into the insurgent stronghold. But he spoke from the city's southern section, at times boasting of losses inflicted on U.S. troops and at other times insisting that other insurgent leaders remained in Fallujah with him.")

All of this provides a context for Jonathan Schell's discussion below of the battle for "hearts and minds" in Iraq (which the editors of the Nation magazine have kindly allowed Tomdispatch to publish on-line). From his experience covering the Vietnam War long ago for the New Yorker Magazine (see his classic book The Real War), Schell knows a good deal about that "battle" and the escalating levels of destruction that tend to go with it. His most recent book The Unconquerable World offers an unparalleled three-century-long perspective on imperial attempts to nail down hearts and conquer minds, almost invariably in the long run without success but at a horrific cost in life and limb. Tom


What Happened to Hearts?

By Jonathan Schell

For some time now, American political discussion has seemed to revolve around little stock phrases, such as "defining moment" (at the time of the first Gulf War), "the end of history" (at the end of the Cold War), "the economy, stupid" (in the early Clinton years), "shock and awe" (as the second Gulf War began). Sometimes there's a revival of one or another. One of these is "winning hearts and minds." It became popular during the Vietnam War and is enjoying a vogue in the context of the war in Iraq.

However, the phrase has undergone an interesting evolution. This is reflected in two recent columns, one by Jim Hoagland in the Washington Post, the other by Mark Bowden in the Los Angeles Times. You might suppose that any reflection on hearts and minds would revolve around the elections that are planned for January in Iraq. How, someone might ask, can the United States, now hugely disliked in Iraq, make itself so appealing that Iraqis would vote for a government cut to our specifications? Yet the principal occasion for the two writers' reflections is instead the military campaign -- specifically, the Marines' assault on Falluja.

Back in the days of Vietnam, the phrase acquired a definite meaning: In a war of pacification, winning battles was not enough; you also had to win the population's hearts and minds. If you did not, each victory in battle would only be the prelude to further battles, and at the end, when you left, all your work would be washed away by the contrary will of the local people, as happened in Vietnam. It was possible to rule by the sword, as empires have done through the ages, but then you had to be ready to occupy the country indefinitely. Winning hearts and minds, therefore, was not a frill of policy but its foundation, the sine qua non of victory.

In his discussion of the invasion of Falluja, Hoagland begins with a seeming acknowledgment of the Vietnam lesson. He recognizes that the measurements of success cannot merely be the "numbers of insurgents killed or captured, or bomb factories seized or obliterated." For "as Americans learned to their grief in Vietnam," such measurements are "elusive and illusory." We expect to hear at this point that winning hearts and minds is necessary, and Hoagland does not disappoint. But he introduces a variant of the old phrase. Falluja, he says "is part of a battle for minds rather than 'hearts and minds.'" (The title of the article is "Fighting for Minds in Fallujah.") What can he mean? What happened to hearts?

The answer is that the "immediate objective is to dissuade Sunni townspeople from joining, supporting or tolerating the insurrection," and "the price they will pay for doing so is being illustrated graphically in the streets of Fallujah." This isn't a lesson for the heart -- the organ of love, enthusiasm, positive approval. The reaction of the heart -- whether Iraqi or American -- could only be pity, disgust and indignation. Thus, only the "minds" of "the townspeople" could draw the necessary conclusions, as they survey the corpse-strewn wreckage of their city. In short, the people of Iraq will be stricken with fear, or, to use another word that's very popular these days, terror. Then they'll be ready to vote.

Bowden takes up the same theme. "Guerrilla war is always about hearts and minds," he notes. He acknowledges that most of the guerrillas would have escaped in the long buildup to the attack. Still, he argues, the attack was important. True, it will not influence the "boldest" souls, who are motivated by "nationalism, religion, kinship or ideology." (All these things were applauded in the recent American election, but they apparently are to have no place in the life of Iraqis.) But "ordinary people" can still be won over. How? He arrives at the same conclusion as Hoagland. "I suspect fear has more to do with influencing them than anything else." Most Iraqis, "like sensible people everywhere, are looking to see which side is most likely to prevail." The stake for them is "survival" -- depending on which side is more likely to kill them. Bowden wants it to be the United States. The payoff is not any concrete achievement of the attack; it is the spectacle of the subjugated city, which "works as a demonstration of will and power."

Certainly, the assault on Falluja has given the Iraqi people a lot to look at, and a lot to think about. Some 200,000 people -- the great majority of Falluja's population of some 300,000 -- were driven out of their city by news of the imminent attack and the US bombardment. No agency of government, US or Iraqi, which turned off the city's water and electricity in preparation for the assault, offered assistance. Nor did the United Nations Refugee Agency or any other representative of the international community appear. And where are the people now? And what stories are the expelled 200,000 telling the millions of Iraqis among whom they are now mixing? We don't know. No one seems to be interested.

When the attack came, the first target was Falluja General Hospital. The New York Times explained why: "The offensive also shut down what officers said was a propaganda weapon for the militants: Falluja General Hospital, with its stream of reports of civilian casualties." If there were no hospital, there would be no visible casualties; if there were no visible casualties, there would be no international outrage, and all would be well. What of those civilians who remained? No men of military age were permitted to leave during the attack. Remaining civilians were trapped in their apartments with no electricity or water. No one knows how many of them have been killed, and no official group has any plans to find out. The city itself is a ruin. "A drive through the city revealed a picture of utter destruction," the Independent of Britain reports, "with concrete houses flattened, mosques in ruins, telegraph poles down, power and phone lines hanging slack and rubble and human remains littering the empty streets."

Both columnists do mention the elections. Bowden says the best hope for Iraq is "for elections to take place," and Hoagland believes the attack on Falluja will "clear the way" for them. Ballot boxes are to spring up in the tracks of the tanks. Some commentators even refer to "the Sunni heartland." (As far as I can tell, no one has yet asked how Iraqi "security moms" will vote.) Meanwhile, the insurgency, failing so far to learn its lesson, has opened fronts in other cities, which may soon get the same treatment as Falluja. "They made a wasteland and called it peace," Tacitus famously said. It was left to the United States, champion of freedom, to update the formula: They made a wasteland and called it democracy.

Jonathan Schell is the Harold Willens Peace Fellow at the Nation Institute. His most recent book is The Unconquerable World.

This article will appear in the December 6 issue of The Nation magazine.

© 2004 Jonathan Schell

Angry rites as Falluja buries its dead

The urban battlefield of Falluja is disgorging its dead.


Another truckload of bodies reached the outskirts of the city for burial on Friday in a ceremony marked by anger at U.S. troops, who say they killed 1,200 Iraqi and foreign fighters.

With Marines scouring the largely deserted city house by house and occasionally clashing with remnants of the insurgent force, travel in or out is limited but the Americans have allowed local voluntary organisations to retrieve some bodies.

Two dozen arrived on a truck at the dusty outlying village of Saqlawiya on Friday, greeted by a crowd of about 150 men who removed the corpses from military body bags to try to identify them and to bury them in shrouds, according to Muslim custom.

Amid the flies and stench of the blackened and bloated bodies, apparently dead for many days, identification was next to impossible but most appeared to be of men of fighting age and at least one wore an ammunition vest.

U.S. commanders say they do not believe civilians were killed during the offensive begun 11 days ago.

Some pits had been dug in expectation alongside several other freshly covered graves bearing simple headstones on a barren stretch of waste ground among electricity pylons.

As onlookers stood in line to hear the traditional prayers for the dead, the preacher also called for revenge on Americans and their Iraqi allies, who believe the assault on Falluja has "broken the back" of the Sunni Muslim insurgency.

"We ask you God to be merciful," the preacher chanted.

"Shake the earth beneath the feet of the Americans, shake the earth beneath the feet of the Crusaders, shake the earth beneath the feet of the hypocrites that help them.

"God grant victory to Iraq."

Falluja, most of whose population of 300,000 fled before the assault, has been a bastion of revolt against the U.S.-backed Iraqi interim government. Some in the city, just west of Baghdad, fear that planned elections will lead to them being dominated by the long-oppressed Shi'ite Muslim majority.

<> Fri 19 November, 2004 10:09

FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters)

Less safe, less free

John Ashcroft's war on terrorism has done enormous damage to our liberties -- and he has few tangible results to show for it.

Being John Ashcroft apparently means never having to say you're sorry. On Nov. 10, the attorney general congratulated himself in a farewell letter "to the American people" with this assessment: "I am blessed to leave public office in a nation that is safer and stronger than the one I found; a nation in which the flame of freedom illuminates every American and burns a signal fire to a watching world." In fact, there is little reason to believe Ashcroft's claim that the nation is safer and stronger; file boxes of evidence to demonstrate that if the "flame of freedom" still burns, it is despite Ashcroft's efforts, not because of them; and every indication that the "signal fire" America is sending to the "watching world" is not one of freedom.

Whether Alberto Gonzales, nominated to be Ashcroft's replacement, can set us on the road to recovery is now a critical question. Unfortunately, the damage is already so deep that there is little reason for optimism.

Consider first the state of freedom at home. With the possible exception of the right to bear arms, it is difficult to name a constitutional guarantee that Ashcroft did not trample upon.

The right to liberty itself has given way to mass preventive detention, effected through pretextual law enforcement, abuse of the material-witness authority and designation of detainees as "enemy combatants." Ashcroft oversaw the preventive detention of more than 5,000 foreign nationals in anti-terrorism initiatives in the United States after Sept. 11, 2001, mostly on immigration charges. Many were arrested in secret, without charges, held without any evidence that they were dangerous or a flight risk, denied access to lawyers and the courts, tried in secret immigration hearings, physically beaten by guards, and held for months even after their immigration cases were fully resolved.

Privacy has become an endangered species with the passage of Ashcroft's USA PATRIOT Act. That law allows the government to obtain records from any business, school or library on U.S. citizens, without showing that they are suspected of criminal activity, and frees the government in many criminal investigations from the bedrock constitutional protection for privacy -- namely, the requirement that it establish probable cause of criminal activity before it searches a home or taps a phone.

The right of assembly must now be exercised knowing that the attorney general has unleashed the FBI to spy on political and religious gatherings even where there is no reason to believe that any criminal conduct is being planned or advocated. And just as Ashcroft famously equated criticism of his efforts with treason, his FBI equated antiwar rallies with terrorism. In October 2003 it issued a "terrorism" bulletin alerting local law enforcement agencies to "be alert to ... indicators of protest activity" by antiwar demonstrators -- including such subversive tactics as the use of the Internet to raise funds and organize.

Political freedom has fallen prey to prosecutions for "material support" to proscribed "terrorist organizations," the modern-day version of the McCarthy-era tactic of guilt by association. Virtually all the cases in which the Justice Department has actually brought a "terrorism" charge allege not terrorist activity as such, but support to a proscribed group. Under this statute, the department prosecuted Saudi student Sami Al-Hussayen for doing nothing more than running a Web site that had links to other Web sites that in turn included incendiary speeches by Muslim clerics. A jury in Idaho, where notions of free speech apparently still hold sway, unanimously acquitted Al-Hussayen on all terrorism charges.

The right to a lawyer, critical to the protection of all other rights, has been denied outright to enemy combatants, intentionally obstructed for immigration detainees and interfered with in unprecedented fashion by Ashcroft's order authorizing agents to listen in on attorney-client conversations of suspected terrorists in prison without judicial approval, and without probable cause to believe the conversation is furthering any criminal activity.

Finally, and perhaps most disturbing, Ashcroft launched the most extensive campaign of ethnic profiling this country has seen since World War II. He did not intern 110,000 people for their ethnicity, as we did then, but he did call in 80,000 for registration, fingerprinting and interviews simply because they came from Arab and Muslim countries, and sought out 8,000 more for FBI interviews on the same basis. Virtually all the 5,000 detained foreign nationals were Arab or Muslim, and according to Ashcroft's own inspector general, some were picked up for little more than their ethnicity, as when the FBI arrested individuals based solely on a tip that there were "too many Middle Eastern men" working in a convenience store.

But, Ashcroft supporters will respond, there have been no terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since Sept. 11. In his letter to the American people, Ashcroft thanks the Lord -- "the Builder of our city and the Author of our freedom" -- for this fact. There's certainly more reason to thank him than Ashcroft.

Of the more than 5,000 foreign nationals detained in anti-terrorism measures, not a single one stands convicted of any terrorist offense. On preventive detention, Ashcroft's record is zero for 5,000. Nor did he find a single terrorist among the 80,000 Arabs and Muslims called in for registration, or the 8,000 sought out for FBI interviews.

Ashcroft boasts that he deported more than 500 people in connection with these efforts. But his policy was not to deport individuals until they were cleared of any connection to terrorism. So these are misses, not hits, in finding actual terrorists.

He also claims that his terrorism investigations led to 368 criminal indictments and 194 convictions. What he doesn't say is that all but a handful of the convictions were for petty offenses, not terrorism charges. A Syracuse University study found that the median sentence actually handed down in cases labeled "terrorist" by the Justice Department in the first two years after 9/11 was 14 days -- not the kind of sentence you'd expect for a terrorist.

And where are the al-Qaida sleeper cells that prompted the aggressive sweeps in the first place? The closest thing Ashcroft can point to are six young men from Lackawanna, N.Y., who followed a charismatic religious leader to an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan, but returned to the United States showing no interest in terrorism and undertook no activity whatsoever in furtherance of even a petty crime, much less a terrorist plot.

The only criminal conviction involving an actual terrorist incident that Ashcroft can cite is that of shoe bomber Richard Reid, and he was captured not by anything the government did but simply because an alert flight attendant noticed a strange-looking man trying to light his shoe.

So Ashcroft can point to few tangible results from his war on terrorism. Whether attackers have been deterred is unknowable, but if Ashcroft's efforts had actually identified real terrorists, one would expect to see them prosecuted, and we don't. While the Justice Department implemented many sensible reforms -- including increased border and airport security, more resources and attention directed at terrorism, and better information sharing -- those reforms would have been adopted by anyone in office on Sept. 12, 2001.

Of most concern from a security perspective, Ashcroft's sledgehammer tactics have sparked a backlash of resentment, here and abroad, which has in turn made us substantially less safe. Anti-Americanism is at an all-time high, and one of the central complaints that fuels it is bitterness at how the rule of law has been abused in the war on terrorism, especially when it comes to foreign nationals. That unprecedented worldwide animus poses the greatest threat to our national security in the years to come. And for that, we have Ashcroft, not the Lord, to thank.

Ashcroft's legacy has been to make us both less safe and less free, fulfilling Ben Franklin's prophecy that those who sacrifice essential liberty for security deserve neither. Yet the attorney general's attitude in the face of all this is perhaps best captured in the Justice Department's immediate response to its own inspector general's findings, in June 2002, that the department had brutally abused the rights of hundreds of immigrants in the sweeps that followed Sept. 11, and that none of the individuals rounded up had turned out to be terrorists: "We make no apologies."

As for Gonzales, there is little reason to think he'll change course. After all, he made Ashcroft look like a moderate in the administration's internal debates over military tribunals, and dismissed the Geneva Conventions as "quaint" and "obsolete" in a memo to President Bush urging him to deny prisoner-of-war protections to those detained at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Gonzales requested the infamous Justice Department memo of August 2002, a detailed guide to how to torture and get away with it, and only repudiated it nearly two years later, after the Abu Ghraib scandal, and after the memo was leaked.

As my colleague and former Bush administration insider Viet Dinh said, Gonzales will "differ in tone but not in substance" from his predecessor. Unfortunately, we need much more than a change in key.

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About the writer
David Cole is a law professor at Georgetown University and author of "Enemy Aliens: Double Standards and Constitutional Freedoms in the War on Terrorism" (New Press, 2003).

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