This is a flash gallery of Fallujah photos from March for Justice. Sobering, even to me.
A few little things I picked up at a simple online encyclopedia while I was trying to find out the meaning of “Fallujah” – follow God? If anyone knows, please comment.
Fallujah (also Fallouja, Falluja, or Al Fallujah; in Arabic: فلوجة) is a city of some 285,000 inhabitants in the Iraqi province of Al Anbar (Umbar). Within Iraq, it is known as the “city of mosques” for the more than 200 mosques found in the city and surrounding villages. It has long been one of the most important places to Sunni Islam in the region. Fallujah is located roughly 69 km (43 miles) west of Baghdad on the Euphrates River and is on the main road connecting Baghdad to Jordan. The region has been inhabited for many millennia and there is evidence that it was inhabited in Babylonian times. The city grew after Iraqi independence with the influx of oil wealth into the country.
During the First Gulf War, Fallujah was one of the cities in Iraq with the most civilian casualties. Two separate failed bombing attempts on the city’s bridge across the river hit crowded markets, killing an estimated 200 civilians and greatly angering the population. Fallujah was one of the most peaceful areas of the country just after the fall of Saddam. There was very little looting and the new mayor of the city — Taha Bidaywi, selected by local tribal leaders — was staunchly pro-US. When the US Army entered the town in April 2003, they located themselves at the vacated Ba’ath Party headquarters — an action that erased some goodwill, especially when many in the city had been hoping the US Army would stay outside of the relatively calm city.
On the evening of April 28, 2003, a crowd of 200 people celebrating the birthday of Saddam Hussein defied the Coalition curfew and gathered outside a school building to protest against the US-led coalition forces who had occupied the school. During the protest, it is alleged stones were thrown at US troops. Fifteen unarmed Iraqi civilians died from US gunfire. There were no coalition casualties.
Approximately one year after the invasion, the city’s Iraqi police and civil defense forces were unable to establish law and order. Armed gangs, foreign fighters, and Iraqi insurgents staged spectacular attacks on police stations in the city. This situation enabled a highly publicised attack on March 31, 2004, in which four “security contractors” from the U.S. company BlackwaterUSA were dragged from their vehicle and lynched. Independent journalist Tara Sutton, in a report into US atrocities notes that the killing of the American contractors happened in the context of a long-simmering exchange of hostilities, most notably by the shooting by American troops of seventeen Fallujah residents at an “anti-America” demonstration in April of 2003. “This was the context of the March 31 lynching. The impact of the images upon American public opinion was huge,” Sutton said, while the previous history was ignored.
In response to the killing of the four Americans, the coalition military surrounded the city in the following days, attempting to round up the individuals responsible and any others in the region who may be involved in insurgency or terrorist activities. The attempt by coalition forces to regain control of Fallujah, Operation Vigilant Resolve, and led to about 40 US Marine deaths and 600-800 Iraqi deaths in April alone.
Rahul Mahajan reported, “To Americans, ‘Fallujah’ may still mean four mercenaries killed, with their corpses then mutilated and abused; to Iraqis, ‘Fallujah’ means the savage collective punishment for that attack…”
The occupying force on April 9 allowed about 70,000 women, children and elderly residents to leave the besieged city, but forced all males of military age to remain. Days after entering the city US marines discovered a suicide bomb vest source. (http://news.ninemsn.com.au/World/story_55978.asp) What was reported was the use of suicide vests by the resistance forces. Once this was reported to the media, it was changed to a suicide vest factory.
On April 10, the US military declared a unilateral truce to allow for humanitarian supplies to enter Fallujah and pulled back to the outskirts of the city; local leaders reciprocated the ceasefire, although lower-level sporadic fighting on both sides continued. One of the American terms of the ceasefire was that an Al-Jazeera journalist, who had filmed tens of civilian corpses reported to have been killed in US bombing raids, leave the city. An Iraqi mediation team entered the city in an attempt to set up negotiations between the US and local leaders.
Military commanders said their goal in the siege was to capture those responsible for the March 31 murders of Kellogg, Brown and Root security personnel. US forces were unable to determine in early April whether those shown in news images attacking the company’s elite security team had remained in the city or fled. As the siege continued, even though US Marines were under a unilateral ceasefire, insurgents continued to conduct hit-and-run attacks on US Marine positions. The siege was briefly lifted to allow food and medicine to be delivered to Fallujah. However, US marines soon discovered ambulances and food trucks smuggling weapons and fighters into the city. (http://www.boston.com/) Some have reported that foreign troops are involved in the insurgency. According to Rowan Scarborough of the Washington Times: “The bloody fighting in Fallujah is inspired, in part, by well-armed foreign jihadists who crossed the Syrian border and have committed some of the most gruesome attacks against Americans and their allies. Officials said Syrian help includes facilitating their border crossing, arming them and allowing them to return for fresh supplies. (http://www.washtimes.com/) However, no evidence to back that assertion has been produced.
On the British news programme Channel 4 News (made by ITN) in May 2004 a segment by independent film-maker Tara Sutton claimed to show evidence that US snipers had targeted civilians emerging from their homes. This information was also reported by reporter Dahr Jamail, writer of the Iraq Dispatches
At the beginning of May, US troops announced a ceasefire. The US was handing control of the city over to a former Iraqi general with an Iraqi brigade; it acknowledged that many of the people under control of the general were insurgents themselves. The general – Maj. Gen. Muhammed Latif – replaced an earlier pick, Gen. Muhammed Saleh, who was discovered to have been involved in the earlier attacks on the Kurds during the Iran-Iraq war. Latif’s militia brought back the old Iraqi military uniforms from Saddam Hussein’s era for the forces under his control, and has stated that the United States army needs to leave the country.
Inside the city, mosques proclaimed the victory of the insurgents over the United States. Celebratory banners appeared around the city, and the fighters paraded through the town on trucks. Iraqi governing council member Ahmed Chalabi, after a bombing that killed fellow IGC member Izzadine Saleem, blamed the US military’s decisions in Fallujah for the attack.
(Mike Whitney at Counterpunch – I think he’s right:
If terrorism is not recorded on video, it doesn’t exist. This is the “great lesson” that the Dept of Defense gleaned from our involvement in Vietnam. Nothing was learned about the moral depravity of killing 3 million people and poisoning their land in a blatant act of aggression. No, the lesson of Vietnam was simply to keep the killing and maiming off American TVs. As a result, Iraq has become a war on information every bit as much as a war for vital resources. The reporting has been so meticulously sanitized that it bears no resemblance to the real horror we are unleashing against a defenseless civilian population.