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The terrible toll of Bush's occupation
U.S. attack left Falluja "unfit for animals"

By Eric Ruder | Janury 7, 2005 | Page 12

AFTER NEARLY two months of a savage U.S. offensive, the people of Falluja are returning to their city--to find heaps of rubble and whole neighborhoods demolished.

Operation Phantom Fury, as the U.S. called its assault, destroyed between 25 and 40 percent of the city's 50,000 homes, according to one report. The number of civilian dead will likely exceed 10,000.

But hard facts are still difficult to come by, because although Falluja was declared "pacified" more than a month ago, the U.S. continues to carry out nightly bombing runs and hasn't allowed the Red Cross to mount a major humanitarian operation.

For returning residents, nothing is the same. With winter nights plunging the temperature below freezing, Falluja is without running water or electricity. "Even animals, who have no human sense and feelings, cannot live here," said Yasser Satar, with tears streaming down his cheeks, as he surveyed his destroyed home. "What do they want from Falluja? This is the crime of the century. They want to destroy Islam and Muslims. But our anger and resistance will increase."

Meanwhile, the U.S. is organizing a massive "Big Brother" operation with the aim of controlling all movement into and out of the city.

Only five roads into Falluja will stay open, and each will have a heavily reinforced checkpoint. All all residents will be photographed, fingerprinted and subjected to retina scans before they are issued ID cards--which they must wear in plain sight at all times.

"Though [Lt. Gen. John] Sattler reassured American reporters that the process would only take 10 minutes, the implication is that entry and exit from the city will depend solely on valid ID cards properly proffered, a system akin to the pass-card system used during the apartheid era in South Africa," wrote Michael Schwartz, a professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Because the international media reported on the U.S. assault on Fallujah, there's some consciousness of the scale of the carnage there. But the truth is that the U.S. war has caused misery and hardship across Iraq--with little hope for future improvements.

"Over the past year, there has been evidence enough that our whole project in Iraq is hopelessly flawed, that our Western armies--when they are not torturing prisoners, killing innocents and destroying one of the largest cities in Iraq--are being vanquished by a ferocious guerrilla army, the likes of which we have not seen before in the Middle East," wrote veteran journalist Robert Fisk.

"It is difficult, over the past year, to think of anything that has not gone wrong or grown worse in Iraq. The electrical grid is collapsing again, the [lines for gas] are greater than they were in the days following the illegal invasion in 2003, and security is nonexistent in all but the Kurdish north of the country. The proposal to put Saddam's minions on trial looks more and more like an attempt to justify the invasion and distract attention from the horrors to come. Even the forthcoming elections are beginning to look more and more like a diversion. For if the Sunnis cannot--or will not--vote, what will this election be worth?"

Under conditions like these, it's not surprising that more and more Iraqis have joined the growing ranks of the armed rebels fighting the occupation.

But there's now a shocking new estimate of its size--from the director of the Iraqi intelligence agency, Gen. Mohamed Abdullah Shahwani. "I think the resistance is bigger than the U.S. military in Iraq," Shahwani told Agence France Presse. "I think the resistance is more than 200,000 people."

Not only is this number 10 times larger than any previous estimate given by U.S. officials, but American experts aren't even disputing it. "I believe General Shahwani's estimation, given that he is referring predominantly to active sympathizers and supporters and to part-time as well as full-time active insurgents, may not be completely out of the ballpark," said defense analyst Bruce Hoffman, who was as an adviser to U.S. occupation forces in Iraq and before returning to the U.S. to work for the Rand Corporation.

Anthony Cordesman, a well-known analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who recently issued his own scathing criticisms of U.S. war planners, agreed. "The Iraqi figures do...recognize the reality that the insurgency in Iraq has broad support in Sunni areas while the U.S. figures downplay this to the point of denial," said Cordesman.

With Sunni Iraq in open and widespread rebellion, the only way the U.S. can cling to some semblance of control is by relying on its supporters among the Shia. But the more the U.S. tilts towards the Sunnis, the more the whole country tilts toward civil war--and the elections aren't likely to settle anything.

"Iraq is still some way from civil war, but it is becoming more polarized by the month," wrote Patrick Cockburn, Iraq correspondent for Britain's Independent newspaper. "The election will let the three communities [Sunnis, Shias and Kurds] in Iraq assess their strength, but will decide nothing else. The U.S. can stand up to the uprising so long as it is confined to the Sunni, though they do not have the strength to crush it. But the moment the Shia turn against them, their army will have to leave Iraq."

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