Fallujah Eyewitness: U.S. Crimes and Iraqi Resistance

Revolutionary Worker #1265, January 23, 2005, posted at rwor.org

George W. Bush’s way of following up his election victory last November was to launch a long-planned frontal military attack on Fallujah—a city where over 300,000 people lived, and a place that had become a worldwide symbol of resistance to the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

U.S. forces unleashed a brutal bombing and artillery campaign in November that gutted and burned large parts of the town. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee, filling refugee camps.

The U.S. military announced that they had "broken the back" of the resistance. However, it is increasingly clear that even with the massive invasion by its armored units, the U.S. high command never fully succeeded in "pacifying" Fallujah.

The following article is based on a piece by the A World to Win News Service and on reports that appeared on electroniciraq.net and dahrjamailiraq.com/weblog/


Most of the city’s residents have not been allowed to return. Thousands are spending the cold winter in tent cities at the Baghdad international fairgrounds, the university, and other sites in the capital.

U.S. commanders stated their intention to make occupied Fallujah a "model city," announcing that as the first residents returned to their homes on Christmas eve, American troops would take their fingerprints and DNA samples and scan their retinas. Residents were to be issued a badge with their home address, and it would be an offense not to wear it at all times. They would be forbidden to drive motor vehicles in the city, for fear, the occupiers said, of car bombs. U.S. authorities warned returning families not to eat any of the provisions they had left behind, leading to speculation that U.S. troops had used chemicals against resistance fighters or poisoned the food.

The first group of inhabitants allowed to return, about 2,000, were from the Andalus neighborhood, said to have suffered less damage than elsewhere. On December 24, Dr. Saleh Hussein Isawi, acting director of Fallujah General Hospital, gave BBC news this description:

"At about 0800 on Friday, the U.S. checkpoint in the west of Fallujah agreed that people from the city, especially those who live in the Andalus sector, be allowed inside to see their homes. I was there, inside the city —about 60% to 70% of the homes and buildings are completely crushed and damaged, and not ready to inhabit at the moment. Of the 30% still left standing, I don’t think there is a single one that has not been exposed to some damage. One of my colleagues...went to his neighbors’ home, he found a relative of his was dead and a dog had eaten the meat off him."

Several thousand refugees demonstrated in front of the main entrance to the rubble-filled city on December 31, demanding the end of the checkpoint control measures, the restoration of basic services and the departure of U.S. military forces. Within the next few weeks, tens of thousands of Fallujahns were reportedly back in their occupied city despite a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

Killing Whatever Moved

The same doctor was interviewed again on January 4. He said that the hospital’s emergency team had recovered more than 700 bodies from the rubble. More than 550 of these dead were women and children, and most of the men were elderly. His team had only been able to enter nine of the city’s 27 neighborhoods so far.

The U.S. military claimed to have killed some 2,000 resistance fighters. Since the armed guerrillas are fighting a foreign invasion, even their deaths are unjust.

But beyond that, the invaders made no distinctions between fighters and anyone else. In fact, they feared everyone. They destroyed whole neighborhoods to "soften up" the fighters before their assault. Even their commanders admitted in the media that they killed everything that moved, every human being they found and even animals. Before entering buildings, they threw in grenades or explosives. They used heat detectors to find signs of life in the ruins, and then pounded them with heavy fire.

A cameraman from the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, Burhan Fasa’a , told journalist Dahr Jamail what he had seen during November.

" ‘I entered Fallujah near the Julan Quarter, which is near the General Hospital,’ he said during an interview in Baghdad. ‘There were American snipers on top of the hospital shooting everyone.’ He nervously smoked cigarettes throughout the interview, still visibly shaken by what he saw. On 8 November, the military was allowing women and children to leave the city, but none of the men. He was not allowed to enter the city through one of the main checkpoints, so he circumnavigated Fallujah and managed to enter, precariously, by walking through a rural area near the main hospital, then taking a small boat across the river in order to film from inside the city. ‘Before I found the boat, I was 50 meters from the hospital where the American snipers were shooting everyone in sight,’ he said, ‘But I managed to get in.’
"He told of bombing so heavy and constant by U.S. warplanes that rarely a minute passed without the ground shaking from the bombing campaign. ‘The Americans used very heavy bombs to break the spirit of the fighters in Fallujah,’ he explained, then holding out his arms added, ‘They bombed everything! I mean everything!’
"This went on for the first two days, he said, then on the third day, columns of tanks and other armored vehicles made their move. ‘Huge numbers of tanks and armored vehicles and troops attempted to enter the north side of Fallujah,’ he said, ‘But I filmed at least 12 U.S. vehicles that were destroyed.’
"The military wasn’t yet able to push into Fallujah, and the bombing resumed. ‘I saw at least 200 families who had their homes collapsed on their heads by American bombs,’ Burhan said while looking at the ground, a long ash dangling from his cigarette... ‘The dead were buried in gardens because people couldn’t leave their homes. There were so many people wounded, and with no medical supplies, people died from their wounds. Everyone in the street was a target for the Americans; even I saw so many civilians shot by them.’...
"The military called over loudspeakers for families to surrender and come out of their houses, but Burhan said everyone was too afraid to leave their homes, so soldiers began blasting open the gates to houses and conducting searches. ‘Americans did not have interpreters with them, so they entered houses and killed people because they didn’t speak English! They entered the house where I was with 26 people, and shot people because they didn’t obey their orders, even just because the people couldn’t understand a word of English.... Soldiers thought the people were rejecting their orders, so they shot them. But the people just couldn’t understand them!’
"He also witnessed something which many refugees from Fallujah have reported. ‘I saw civilians trying to swim the Euphrates to escape, and they were all shot by American snipers on the other side of the river.’...He personally witnessed another horrible event reported by many of the refugees who reached Baghdad. ‘On Tuesday, 16 November, I saw tanks roll over the wounded in the streets of the Jumariyah quarter. There is a public clinic there, so we call that the clinic street. There had been a heavy battle in this street, so there were 20 bodies of dead fighters and some wounded civilians in front of this clinic. I was there at the clinic, and at 11 a.m. on the 16th I watched tanks roll over the wounded and dead there.’"

Relentless Resistance

Yet through all this, the resistance continued. On December 13, skirmishes with U.S. forces took place on the town’s eastern districts. Iraqi journalist Fadil al-Badrani told Al Jazeera that this was the fiercest fighting in two weeks. U.S. airplanes bombed the city, and thick columns of smoke rose from the Askari, Shuhadan Sinair and Jubail quarters.

As recently as January 7, U.S. military authorities reported that Marines were continuing to wage battles in the city and calling in air strikes.

Meanwhile, far from "breaking the back" of the resistance, the American assault on Fallujah has been followed by the most widespread and intense fighting since the occupation began. Mosul, Iraq’s third- largest city, was briefly taken over by guerrillas and is still hotly contested, even after some of the U.S. troops from Fallujah were shifted there. The same is true of some neighborhoods in Baghdad. U.S. authorities have admitted that four of the country’s 18 provinces, comprising about half of the country’s area (all of the country west and north of Baghdad, Iraq except Kurdistan) and much of its population, are to a large extent out of their control.