Fallujah: Occupation Crisis and Brutality

Revolutionary Worker #1239, May 9, 2004, posted at http://rwor.org

"It was when I saw little Ali's ruined body that I stopped being just a reporter. . The scene was a makeshift field hospital in Fallujah. A missile fired at the hospital has left the walls of the room Ali lies in pockmarked with shrapnel. Glass crunches underfoot. Four-year-old Ali is lying in a cot, the mattress matted with dried blood. He is bleeding from a horrific groin wound and his left leg has been amputated above the knee. His left arm is bandaged and bleeding, his face badly cut. His father brushes away the flies buzzing around Ali's wounds. It is a scene of almost utter hopelessness. Ali is one of the only survivors of an extended family, bombed the day before by a jet, probably an F-16. He might live, but only if he is evacuated to a Baghdad hospital within hours. Ambulances have tried to evacuate him and other seriously wounded casualties. They were turned back at U.S. checkpoints by troops carrying out orders: no one in and no one out."

Lee Gordon in Fallujah, Guardian, April 29

"I can't believe what we have gone through. No one is in the streets. Even the dogs in the city were hunting us because they had no food."

Hassan al-Halbousi, 60, in Fallujah

"The big problem now is that friendlies, civilians and bad guys are all mixed together."

Brig. Gen. Jack Egginton, bombing commander,379th Air Expeditionary Wing New York Times , April 30

"We're killing loads of those folks. Well, they're killing us too. I like Fallujah. I killed a bunch of them motherfuckers."

Sergeant Tratner, First Armored Division,at Marine check point outside Fallujah:

"It's hell. The Americans have violated the ceasefire. They are attacking us with jet fighters, tanks and artillery. The U.S. snipers are on every roof and minaret. They don't care who they shoot. They are shooting old people, women and children."

Fadhil Ahmed, refugee from Fallujah, British Guardian , April 30

"When liberty's in jeopardy I will always do what's right,
I'm out here on the front lines, sleep in peace tonight...
I'm an American. An American soldier."

Toby Keith's "American Soldier" Current radio-promoted war anthem


For over a month, the U.S. forces have brutalized this small city of almost 300,000 people--using the massive weapons of their armies and air force. They have invaded and bombed--and threatened to unleash even more. There are now football fields filled with the mass graves of the city's dead. There are refugee camps in the surrounding areas, filled with people who fled the attacks.

If you want to understand the U.S. occupation, if you want to understand the anger and rising determination of Iraq's people -- look to Fallujah.

But we must do more than look on in horror. We cannot, must not, allow the events of Fallujah to be buried or explained away by the U.S. government and the mainstream media.


After an intense month of brutality, the U.S. high command has now admitted that they are unable to break the resistance of the people.

In March, Marines choked off entry points with armored roadblocks. They sent waves of soldiers into the city, kicking in doors, taking away men they captured for brutal interrogations.

After a week of this, on March 31, the resistance forces ambushed a convoy of heavily armed U.S. mercenaries (deceptively called "civilian contract workers" in most U.S. media). Videos of the dead invaders and the street celebration that followed were seen all over the world.

President Bush swore that "heads must roll" in the beleaguered city. The U.S. military literally unleashed war. Bombs and missiles have rained down from above. Repeated assaults by U.S. Marines have tried, unsuccessfully, to fight their way into the city from Fallujah's suburbs.

Then the U.S. forces pulled back again to their encirclement--and (under cover of a so-called "cease- fire") demanded that the people of Fallujah surrender to occupation, turn in all their weapons, and hand over resistance fighters for punishment. The city was cut off from food, water and electricity. And if the people didn't give in, the U.S. swore, it would launch a full, final military assault.

By April 28, the bombings and artillery built over three days to a high point. It was full-scale aerial attack. Predator drones provided "live feeds" straight to the pilots. Electronic spy planes tried to pinpoint cell phones to direct the bombs. U.S. warplanes made about 60 bombing runs a day--dropping 500, 1,000 and even 2,000 pound bombs in at least three different parts of Fallujah. Super Cobra helicopters unleashed Hellfire missiles at any suspected centers of resistance. At night, AC-130 gunships blasted 105-millimeter howitzers on any vehicle they saw. One reporter counted the pulse of attack--the ground shook with at least ten explosions a minute from bombs, missiles and artillery. And always, there was the relentless sniping--dropping people as they darted from house to house.

The U.S. command openly deployed new heavily armed units at the edge of town-- including dozens of heavy Abrams tanks-- for a final assault on the city.

The Crisis and Failures of an Invincible Superpower

"Now U.S. imperialism is quite powerful, but in reality it isn't. It is very weak politically because it is divorced from the masses of the people and is disliked by everybody and by the American people too. In appearance it is very powerful but in reality it is nothing to be afraid of. It is a paper tiger. Outwardly a tiger, it is made of paper, unable to withstand the wind and the rain. The day will come when the paper tigers will be wiped out. But they won't become extinct of their own accord, they need to be battered by the wind and the rain."

Mao Tsetung, "U.S. Imperialism Is A Paper Tiger," 1956

A year ago, George Bush dressed like a killer pilot to parade around on an aircraft carrier--in front of a banner saying "Mission Accomplished." The U.S. war machine had conquered Afghanistan, occupied Iraq, and was threatening its next possible victims--Syria, Iran, and North Korea.

Now, after a year of occupation, the U.S. still has not accomplished its "mission" in Iraq. Their occupation is sinking into deeper crisis. The plans for "transfer of power" and reducing their invasion force are falling apart. Their "coalition of the willing" is scattering--allies like Spain have pulled out, and others refuse to fight.

How could history's most heavily armed superpower be confronting possible failure in Iraq--even after they shattered Iraq's previous reactionary government and army?

The answer can be seen in Fallujah. The people saw that U.S. domination was against their desires and interests-- and they resisted.

The U.S. government claims they are offering a "better future" for the people--but those people, with all their diversity and desperation, increasingly reject the raw foreign domination that is being put in place.

In Fallujah, the people defied U.S. threats. No weapons were turned in. No resistance fighters were surrendered. Instead, thousands more joined the resistance. Support and supplies poured in from all over Iraq-- including young men slipping through U.S. lines. And there has been a new unity building among Iraq's people: Shiite people in Baghdad and southern Iraq gathered food and emergency blood for the Fallujah resistance in the heart of the "Sunni Triangle." Massive anti-U.S. actions bought Sunni and Shia together in protest.

The confrontation in Fallujah helped trigger a wave of armed resistance throughout the Shia majority region of southern Iraq--focused on the towns of Kufa and Najaf. U.S. authorities completely lost control of those cities too, and their armies are outside the cities, threatening to invade.

The U.S. occupation plan, a year ago, had been to "restore stability" quickly by conquering Iraq, then building a new puppet Iraqi army and police to control Iraq's cities. Meanwhile, they hoped to announce a new pro-U.S. Iraqi government on June 30. And they increasingly depended on the UN to help make that government look less like a U.S. colonial puppet clique, by giving it a fig leaf of international "legitimacy." But all of that is in trouble.

Their first "combat ready" Iraqi troops simply mutinied when ordered to enter Fallujah and fight alongside U.S. Marines. The police forces they had hired simply ran away when resistance swept through many cities.

And as the U.S. plans to "hand over power" on June 30--legitimacy is nowhere in sight. After all, U.S. authorities insist that this new (supposedly "sovereign") government will (a) not be allowed to pass any laws, (b) not be allowed to ask the U.S. force to leave and (c) will not even be allowed to command the "new Iraqi army," and certainly not the occupying U.S. forces. (It gives a new Orwellian definition to the word "sovereign," which usually means an independent government in full control of its own country.)

And the otherwise-eager UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has announced that the U.S. suppression of Fallujah and other cities may make it impossible to convince any Iraqi forces to join a future puppet government. Brahimi infuriated the U.S. war-makers by saying: "The collective punishments are not acceptable, cannot be acceptable, and to cordon off and besiege a city is not acceptable.The use of force, especially of excessive use of force, makes matters worse."

And on top of all that, the Bush government faces the problem of mounting U.S. casualties. As April ended, over 130 U.S. soldiers had died in that month alone, more than died from the first day of invasion to the taking of Baghdad.

So, suddenly, on April 29, after days of heavy bombing and constant invasion threats, the U.S. authorities backed down in Fallujah--and said they had a hastily improvised plan to try out.

Next Plan: Hiring the Old Government and Army

The U.S. announced that their Marines would "pull back" from Fallujah (for now) and send a so-called "Fallujah Protection Army" to take over the city, under the command of Lieutenant- General Saleh Abboud al-Jabbouri. The central detail of this plan: General Saleh was formerly Saddam Hussein's governor for Anbar, the province that contains Fallujah. Top Marine General Conway emailed the New York Times and said that Saleh's army would be mostly made of "former Iraqi Army officers and men."

This newly formed "army," which has only a thousand soldiers, can't militarily take over Fallujah-- which has a defiant population of almost 300,000. So really what is this plan?

All during the last month, there have been demands within the U.S. military command for bringing back deposed Baathist military and political forces. Their theory is that only the former commanders and administrators of Sadaam Hussein can rebuild a reliable Iraqi armed force to serve the U.S.

This new Fallujah plan appears to be an experiment by the U.S. authorities--to see if former Baathist government and army forces, under the command of former governor Saleh, can divide, coopt and possibly neutralize the resistance.

Marine Commander Conway says he will be giving Saleh's army their "mission, taskings and timings"--starting with assignments running the checkpoints into Fallujah.

What a jaw-dropping switcheroo!

For weeks the U.S. and British governments have explained that their reason for conquering Iraq was to remove the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein. They claimed that deposing this government was a gift to Iraq's people that promised a brighter future. They have charged that the resistance within Fallujah is led by underground Baathist forces. Their brutalization of Fallujah has been done in the name of "finally defeating diehard regime elements."

"We cannot allow Fallujah to be a safe haven for Baathist militants," one Pentagon official told the New York Times on April 30.

But at that very moment it was the U.S. occupation authorities who were preparing to hand over Fallujah (and other parts of Iraq) to the former rulers of the Baathist Party! Starting with former Baathist Governor Saleh Abboud al- Jabbouri!

What is this, but proof that a U.S. occupation really can't "liberate" anyone? To suppress the people, the U.S. needs to recruit Iraqis willing to suppress the people--and from the earliest war planning for this occupation, the most likely candidates for this were expected to be the brutal, war-tested generals of Iraq's previous army. The an- nouncement of Saleh's new assignment immediately produced mass outpourings of protest in Shia regions--where many people had been murdered by the former Iraqi army.


The U.S. first said they were invading Iraq because of weapons of mass destruction. But there weren't any there.

Then they claimed they were "liberating Iraq" by overthrowing Saddam Hussein and his supporters. Now the U.S. is arming the Baathists and putting them back in power.

What public explanation is left for this continuing U.S. occupation?

The Brutal Logic of "We Must Not Lose"

"We have to give the deal a chance to work. If it doesn't, then we may well have to use force."

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., leading Democrat on Senate Foreign Relations Committee, supporting the war

The justification for this war increasingly boils down to the gangster logic of imperialism: The dominant consensus among the U.S. ruling class is that they simply cannot afford to abandon such a strategic patch of their empire plus any necessary brutality is preferable to even the appearance of retreat and weakness.

The dominant voices of the ruling class--from Bush to Kerry, who has said that the U.S. must "stay the course" in Iraq--say that victory in Iraq is crucial for their control over the Middle East--and in order to be able to "credibly" threaten and dominate the rest of the world as well. And this "victory" (ultimately and fundamentally) means crushing the will of Iraq's people to control their own affairs and resources.

At the same time, the possibility that this invasion will turn into a huge problem for the U.S. imperialists is sharpening up longstanding divisions within the ruling class over power and policy, and unleashing harsh criticism of the Bush regime from many directions.

Already there are complaints that a pullback from Fallujah could be interpreted as a "victory for the insurgents."

So there is the quandary of the U.S. warmakers: they fear that a bloody urban war for Iraq's cities will poison Iraq's people against them and will inflame opposition all over the world. They fear that millions and millions more people, including within the U.S., will wake up and ask: "What exactly is this war and global crusade really about?"

And yet they are already worried that even hesitating for a moment will also encourage those who oppose their domination.

While they seem to be rearming a Baathist army for Fallujah--they prepare their own forces for battles to come. The U.S. military is rushing dozens of new Abrams tanks to Iraq, which are intended for possible invasions of Iraq's cities. And there is a debate in Washington over exactly how many more U.S. soldiers will be sent--including some open talk of 100,000 more troops and possibly a domestic military draft.

The U.S. ruling class may have pulled back from Fallujah for the moment, but they (including the Democrats) are openly trying to prepare for more bloody crimes to come.



We must not wait for some future histories to sum up the criminal nature of the U.S. assault. Massive atrocities are being prepared and carried out now--day after day--in the name of "freedom and democracy," and (above all) in the name of "keeping the American people safe."

We cannot allow this to go down unopposed or unexposed.