The Killing of Fallujah

Revolutionary Worker #1258, November 14, 2004, posted at

As we go to press, between 10,000 to 15,000 U.S. and Iraqi puppet forces are surrounding the city of Fallujah in central Iraq, with another 10,000 in the surrounding area, preparing for what is likely to be one of the most savage assaults on the Iraqi people since the U.S. imperialists invaded their country in March 2003.

President Bush falsely claims that the bourgeois elections in this country have given him a "mandate" to ruthlessly pursue his agenda, including "fighting and winning the war on terror," a war which is in reality an ongoing and unbounded war for greater empire that has absolutely nothing to do with liberating anyone. Now the people of Fallujah, a city of 250,000 to 300,000 in the Sunni center of Iraq, some 35 miles west of Baghdad will experience the horrors of this so-called "mandate."

These are nothing less than massive new war crimes in the making—crimes which could lead to the deaths of thousands of Iraqis and perhaps even the destruction of much of the city itself. Anyone who opposes the the war and the unjust, immoral and illegal invasion of Iraq needs to find ways to speak out and resist these coming atrocities!

Fallujah is one stronghold of a growing Iraqi resistance to the U.S. occupation, a resistance which the Christian Science Monitor (10/29) describes as the "spreading footprint and increasing sophistication of guerrilla cells across Iraq." It is estimated that there are several thousand resistance fighters now in the city. Fallujah has also become a symbol in Iraq—and across the Middle East—of the Iraqi people’s refusal to bow down to the American invaders.

In Iraq there has been mass anger, distrust, and a growing armed opposition to the U.S occupation. This resistance has created enormous problems for the U.S. imperialists not only in Iraq, but across the region and globally. It has thrown a very serious monkey wrench into plans to turn Iraq into a U.S. neocolony and a platform for strengthening the U.S. grip on the entire region. And it also threatens to disrupt the whole U.S. war on the world—a war aimed at restructuring global political, economic and military relations to deepen and extend U.S. hegemony.

So the U.S. rulers hope that conquering Fallujah will deal a decisive defeat to the Iraqi insurgency and begin a process of finally crushing the anti-occupation resistance. This is seen as crucial to prepare for the Iraqi elections in January 2005, which are in turn a crucial step for the U.S. in attempting to stabilize its occupation of Iraq by forming a new Iraqi government and the semblance of Iraqi rule (even as the U.S. remains fully in charge).

Fallujah has been in the U.S. crosshairs since last March, when the killing of four U.S. military contractors provoked a fierce three-week battle for control of the city. At that time, after at least 600, and probably closer to 1,000 Iraqis, along with 100 American forces, were killed, the U.S. backed off a full-scale assault and basically ceded control of Fallujah to insurgent forces.

As the anti-occupation insurgency has spread across Iraq and gained momentum, powerful voices in the U.S. establishment have summed up that it was a big mistake not to wage an all-out battle for Fallujah last April. One reason that the U.S. did not wage such a battle at the time was that it was election season in the U.S. and the Bush administration did not want to launch a bloody assault and call attention to the fact that their unjust occupation was being rejected by many thousands of Iraqis who were willing to die rather than submit.

One article headlined, "Election win unties Bush’s hands in Iraq," quoted a senior Iraqi Defense Ministry official who requested anonymity who said: "We had to stop some operations until the (U.S.) elections were over. The Iraqi government requested support from the American side in the past, but the Americans were reluctant to launch military operations because they were worried about American public opinion. Now, their hands are free." (Knight Ridder, 11/4)

Fallujah is already being pounded from the air and by artillery, including on the central city market. U.S. officials admit they have very little intelligence on the insurgency, meaning many bombs are falling indiscriminately and there will be many civilian casualties.

U.S. planes reportedly dropped leaflets urging women and children to leave Fallujah —another indication that much of the town may be bombed—or leveled. By some estimates, 80 percent of the residents of the city have fled, but this is unclear. For one, U.S. forces are moving to cut off access to the city, so it is far from clear whether people are being allowed to leave. And even if 80 percent have left, there would still be 50,000 to 60,000 people left in Fallujah.

Meanwhile, a call by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to avoid a military confrontation was angrily dismissed by U.S. officials, and an offer of negotiations by a number of Sunni Muslim leaders with ties to the resistance has been ignored.

One White House official told liberal New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd that Bush will "be a lot more aggressive in Iraq now. He’ll raze Fallujah if he has to. He feels that the election results endorsed his version of the war."

One Iraq analyst at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London told the Christian Science Monitor (10/29): "The logic is: You flatten Fallujah, hold up the head of Fallujah, and say, `Do our bidding, or you’re next.’"

A former Army officer declared on the Lehrer News Hour (11/5) that it had been a huge mistake not to take Fallujah in April because it had turned resisters into folk heroes, not only in Iraq but across the region. So now, he argued, "is not the time to tiptoe through Fallujah," and that any who resisted U.S. forces would be "gone," that any men remaining in the city would be rounded up, and that he would rather raze the city than expose U.S. forces to heavy casualties. This, he argued, would provide an "object lesson" for the whole region—it was a "question of U.S. resolve."

The Brigadier General in charge of the Marine forces near Fallujah talked like a global Tony Soprano: "When we’s going to be decisive, and we’re going to go in there and whack them." ( Financial Times , 11/2)

But whether the assault on Fallujah turns out to be a decisive U.S. victory is another question. Many even within the foreign policy establishment fear that the military value of conquering Fallujah will be far outweighed by the political damage that could result in terms of arousing even deeper anger in Iraq and the region against the U.S. occupiers, and further fueling the resistance.

For instance, an Iraqi group called the Factions of the Islamic Resistance Movement issued a videotaped warning that if the U.S. invaded Fallujah, "all military and civilian targets of the occupation" would be targeted and that "We will attack them with weapons and military tactics they have not experienced before and in the ways and forms of our choosing."

Many Sunni leaders have also threatened to boycott the coming January election if Fallujah is attacked, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has warned U.S., British and Iraqi authorities that a military campaign and "increased insurgent violence" could put elections at risk.

One remarkable sign of problems the U.S. may face: The New York Times reported (Nov. 7) that an Iraqi captain was fully briefed by the U.S. military on the plans for the coming attack on Fallujah—and this captain immediately departed, fleeing toward Kurdistan with notes on the plans. Other reports claim that massive desertions have taken place among Iraqi forces gathering to help the U.S. take Fallujah.


A survey by the School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University and the Department of Community Medicine at Al-Mustansiriya in Baghdad was published by the respected British journal Lancet which found that the risk of death for Iraqis had been increased two-and-one-half times following the U.S.’s March 2003 invasion, an invasion justified by one lie after another, and that some 100,000 Iraqis had died as a result. Taking the relative size of the populations into account, this is comparable to 1.2 million Americans being killed. Neither candidate nor the media saw fit to make this a campaign issue.

Thousands of Iraqis have been directly killed by U.S. forces over the past month, including an estimated 2,000 in Najaf in August. Now more mass killings are in the offing in Fallujah.

It is urgent that many thousands in the U.S. find the ways to resists and speak out against these atrocities.

A recent posting from online Empire Notes by Rahul Mahajan describes previous atrocities by the U.S. in Fallujah in April 2004:

The main hospital in Fallujah is across the Euphrates from the bulk of the town. Right at the beginning, the Americans shut down the main bridge, cutting off the hospital from the town. Doctors who wanted to treat patients had to leave the hospital, with only the equipment they could carry, and set up in makeshift clinics all over the city; the one I stayed at had been a neighborhood clinic with one room that had four beds, and no operating theater; doctors refrigerated blood in a soft-drink vending machine. Another clinic, I’m told, had been an auto repair shop. This hospital closing (not the only such that I documented in Iraq) also violates the Geneva Convention.

In addition to the artillery and the warplanes dropping 500, 1000, and 2000-pound bombs, and the murderous AC-130 Spectre gunships that can demolish a whole city block in less than a minute, the Marines had snipers criss-crossing the whole town. For weeks, Fallujah was a series of sometimes mutually inaccessible pockets, divided by the no-man’s-lands of sniper fire paths. Snipers fired indiscriminately, usually at whatever moved. Of 20 people I saw come into the clinic I observed in a few hours, only five were "military-age males." I saw old women, old men, a child of 10 shot through the head; terminal, the doctors told me, although in Baghdad they might have been able to save him.