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U.S. attack turns Falluja into...
Hell on earth

November 19, 2004 | Page 5

"IT OUGHT to go down in the history books." Those were the words of Major Gen. Richard Natonski, a senior Marine commander in Iraq, as he described the U.S. onslaught on Falluja to the New York Times.

But if the invasion of Falluja is remembered in history books, it should be for the brutality unleashed by U.S. forces against Iraqi rebels and civilians alike. Sgt. James Anyett was just one U.S. soldier to proudly exclaim to the media: "I got my kills...I just love my job." According to press reports, most of the city has been reduced to piles of smoking rubble. Falluja's large civilian population was forced to flee or face death.

NICOLE COLSON looks at background to Washington's barbaric assault on Falluja.

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AFTER DAYS of relentless bombardment and house-to-house combat, Falluja looks like a hell on earth to ordinary Iraqis. With an offensive in the works for months, Washington's war makers finally unleashed a massive assault on the city--formerly home to more than 250,000 civilians.

Almost none of the reality of devastation and destruction appeared in the U.S. media--and even accounts in the international press can't do justice to what has taken place.

For those who were hit by U.S. bombs or bullets, there was no way to get help. Mohammed Abboud watched his 9-year-old son bleed to death at home on one of the first days of the U.S. assault--because the bombing outside was too heavy to go outside for help. "My son got shrapnel in his stomach when our house was hit at dawn, but we couldn't take him for treatment," Abboud told Reuters. "We buried him in the garden because it was too dangerous to go out."

Meanwhile, daily life has become almost unendurable for the survivors left in Falluja. The city has no electricity and no heat, and clean water is scarce--all a result of the U.S. turning off utilities to "soften up" its target.

Fardous al-Ubaidi, head of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, said her organization had asked permission from the Iraqi government to deliver aid supplies to people in the city--but the request was turned down. Now, tens of thousands of former residents are refugees, with disastrous health consequences likely to follow.

"There's no water," Rasoul Ibrahim, who fled the city on foot with his wife and three children, told the aid workers in Habbaniya, a makeshift refugee camp west of Falluja where 2,000 families are crowded. "People are drinking dirty water. Children are dying. People are eating flour because there's no proper food."

Despite what the U.S. military will try to claim, the horror in Falluja has nothing to do with "saving" the city from "insurgents"--or making it "safe" for January elections to proceed as planned. As its code name--Operation Phantom Fury--makes clear, the assault is about one thing: sending a message to Iraqis that anyone opposing U.S. rule will be crushed.

"Whenever a neocolonial power--or a puppet politician like interim Iraqi Premier Iyad Allawi--orders the widespread bombing of civilian areas, as in Falluja, the rationale invoked is 'regrettable necessity,'" wrote Asia Times commentator Pepe Escobar. "What is never mentioned is the real objective: collective punishment."

Collective punishment--in the most horrific form imaginable--is exactly what the U.S. is carrying out in Falluja. That's why the Pentagon has been using nightmare weapons like phosphorous rounds--which create a wall of fire that can't be extinguished with water, and which literally melts the skin of anyone who comes in contact with it.

Of course, for ordinary Iraqis--whether they live in Falluja or elsewhere--the leveling of the city will fuel hatred of the U.S. occupation. That's why the assault on Falluja may ultimately prove not to be a U.S. victory, but an element in its defeat--because it will strengthen the resistance many times over.

As Socialist Worker went to press, U.S. officials were claiming that the fighting in Falluja was winding down--with only "small, isolated pockets" of rebels to be rounded up. This contradicted reports in the international media of intense fighting still taking place.

And at the same time, the Iraqi resistance went on the offensive in the northern city of Mosul, taking control of large parts of the city from occupation forces. "The U.S. response was predictable: air strikes over parts of Mosul. And an army of snipers 'shooting anything that moves,' according to an Iraqi journalist," commented Escobar. "As expected, Mosul is the new Falluja: as early as Monday, the day when Operation Phantom Fury was launched on Falluja, Iraq's current defense minister, Hazim Shaalan, explicitly said that Mosul would be next...[S]treets on fire in Mosul are part of the coordinated Iraqi resistance strategy of widespread counterattacking."

Some military analysts claim that the fighting in Mosul and elsewhere is the result of Falluja rebels escaping to other locations. But it's just as likely that anger at the U.S. attacks has sparked a dramatic increase in the number of Iraqis willing to take up arms against their occupiers.

The U.S. assault on Falluja caused problems within the Iraqi puppet government itself, when the Iraqi Islamic Party--the one Sunni group that had cooperated with U.S. plans--withdrew last week in response to growing outrage. Additionally, several prominent Sunni clerics have called for a boycott of the January elections--which, according to Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, might not happen in January after all, because of the increased chaos.

What Salih and his U.S. handlers won't admit, however, is that as long as the U.S. remains in Iraq, the uprisings will continue. There can be no democracy when ordinary Iraqis are living under the iron heel of U.S. occupation.

Solidarity from Iraqi railworkers

AS THE U.S. tried to claim that it was protecting Iraq from "terrorists" by destroying Falluja, ordinary Iraqis across the country were outraged by the U.S. assault--and began showing their solidarity.

In one of the most inspiring examples, workers at the Iraqi Railways Co. reportedly boycotted the delivery of supplies to U.S. troops or forces belonging to the U.S.-appointed government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. They also have said that they will only carry food supplies to the Iraqi people as part of the United Nations food program--and threatened a national strike if the government or occupation authorities try to force them to do otherwise.

This is despite the fact that Allawi has declared a 60-day period of martial law, which prohibits strikes and civil disobedience--and could lead to imprisonment for workers who continue their action.

Would Kerry have been any different?

THE BUSH administration's arrogance as its carries out the assault on Falluja will be infuriating to opponents of the war. But anyone who thinks that John Kerry represented a kinder, gentler policy on Iraq needs to go back and look at what the Democratic presidential candidate actually said.

During the first presidential debate at the end of September, Kerry was asked to state his position on Iraq. After gassing on about the importance of involving other countries in the occupation, Kerry vowed to get tough militarily. "What I want to do is change the dynamics on the ground," he said. "And you have to do that by beginning to not back off of the Fallujas and other places, and send the wrong message to the terrorists."

Now we're seeing Kerry's promised policy carried out--and the Iraqi people are paying the price.

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