Wednesday, 3 December 2014
Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre
By Florian Zollmann
As journalist Nermeen Al-Mufti observed in 2004, “Fallujah was once called the city of minarets. It once echoed the Euphrates in its beauty and calm. It had plentiful water and lush greenery. It was a summer resort for Iraqis. People went there for leisure, for a swim at the nearby Habbaniya lake, for a kebab meal.”
At that time, Fallujah was a centre of resistance. Fallujah was the symbol of a whole region in defiance of an occupation. That is why Fallujah was destroyed – now 10 years ago. In Fallujah, the largest high-tech army in history applied its fire-power on one of the most densely populated areas in Iraq.
Fallujah was largely treated as a “free-fire zone”. Before ground forces searched houses for “terrorists”, homes were flattened with bulldozers – regardless of the consequences. Fallujah is Guernica, Fallujah is Grozny. Fallujah is the Srebrenica of the USA. But the Fallujah massacre has been kept in silence.
During the US/Coalition-occupation of Fallujah, which started after the Iraq War of 2003, aggressive street patrols, house raids, intimidations, detentions into Abu-Ghraib prison and killings of Fallujah’s citizens provoked resistance against the Coalition. The people of Fallujah were consequently labelled as “insurgents” and “terrorists”. That was a distortion. Essentially, the uprising in Fallujah was a legitimate resistance that struggled against an illegitimate foreign occupation.
In 2004, the US/Coalition army set up a “counterinsurgency operation” in Fallujah to crush the resistance. In reality, the “operation” resembled collective punishment. This was indicated by the “operation’s” designs and outcomes, “Eight weeks of heavy bombardments expelled about two thirds of Fallujah’s 300,000 inhabitants. Many people stranded in “squatters’ camps without basic facilities” and tens of thousands have remained refugees for years to come.”
In early November, Fallujah was sealed off, while males between the age of 15-55 where prevented from leaving the city. The military “cut off the city’s water, power and food supplies”.
In his book Failed States, Noam Chomsky commented as follows, “The plans resembled the preliminary stage of the Srebrenica massacre, though the Serb attackers trucked women and children out of the city instead of bombing them out.”
US/Coalition forces conducted a full-scale military attack. The US/Coalition used heavy weapons and ordnance such as AC-130 gunships with automatic cannons, Cobra gunships firing anti-tank missiles, F-18s, Abrams tanks firing 120mm rounds, Bradley tanks firing 25mm rounds, explosive coils to clear minefields containing 1,800 pounds of explosives, 500 and 2,000 pound bombs, rocket assisted shells with a 55 yard killing range, 155-millimeter artillery shells, howitzer shells, mortar rounds, heavy cannons, and high velocity machine guns.
On 10 November, the German Süddeutsche Zeitung published a report by Reuterswhich cited Lt Col. John Morris stating that US troops would slog through Fallujah “like a fist” (US-Truppen Erreichen Zentrum Falludschas,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, 10 November, p. 1., 2004).
How the military hit through Fallujah can be read from exemplary descriptions in newspaper coverage. In the Independent, Kim Sengupta and Justin Huggler reflected on early operational tactics, “An AC-130 gunship raked the city all night long with cannon fire as heavy explosions from US artillery continued well into the morning. The city was pounded all day with air strikes, artillery and mortar fire. War planes carried out some two dozen sorties against the city, and four 500-pound bombs were dropped over Fallujah before dawn.” (Battle for Fallujah Rages,” The Independent, 9 November, pp. 1, 4, 2004)
The New York Times’ Dexter Filkins, who was embedded with the US military in Fallujah, depicted the soldiers’ “firing a 200-yard cord containing 1,800 pounds of explosive southward from the berm, toward downtown Fallujah” (Urban Warfare Deals Harsh Challenge to Troops,” New York Times, 9 November, p. 1, 2004). This was a mine clearing-system called Miclic that had firstly been used on D Day to sweep the beaches of the Normandy. The Times’s defence editor Michael Evans commented:
“The Miclic is normally designed for open spaces because it generates tremendous pressure, setting off mines over a large area. […] It is highly effective but also indiscriminate, and not normally considered suitable for an urban environment.” (Deadly Rockets Blast Way Through,” The Times, 10 November, p. 9, 2004)
Robert F. Worth, of the New York Times cited a website journal by NBC journalist Kevin Sites, who was embedded with Marines in Fallujah and who wrote that the military had operated “with liberal rules of engagement”. According to Worth, the writing went “on to quote a marine saying everything to the west of his position in Falluja was ‘weapons free.’ It continues, ‘Weapons free means the marines can shoot whatever they see – it’s all considered hostile.’” (Newsman Who Taped Marine Shooting Captive Keeps Silent,” New York Times, 18 November, p. 15, 2004)
Consequently, and as Jacqui Spinner wrote in the Washington Post, civilians in Fallujah had stated “they had simply been caught up in a sweep for insurgents that unfairly targeted all military-age males” (Fallujans Staying at Mosque Get Grim Task: Grave Digging,” Washington Post, 20 November, p. A 12, 2004).
In fact, there is evidence that US/Coalition forces may have indiscriminately killed civilians. For example, US-American independent journalist Dahr Jamail reported at the time in the New Standard online newspaper, “Men now seeking refuge in the Baghdad area are telling horrific stories of indiscriminate killings by US forces during the peak of fighting last month in the largely annihilated city of Fallujah.”
In an interview with The New Standard, Burhan Fasaâ a, an Iraqi journalist who works for the popular Lebanese satellite TV station, LBC, said he witnessed US crimes up close. Burhan Fasaâ, who was in Fallujah for nine days during the most intense combat, said Americans grew easily frustrated with Iraqis who could not speak English. “Americans did not have interpreters with them,” Fasaâ a said, “so they entered houses and killed people because they didn’t speak English. They entered the house where I was with 26 people, and [they] shot people because [the people] didn’t obey [the soldiers’] orders, even just because the people couldn’t understand a word of English.”
Consider that according to official estimates by The Emergency Working Group which comprised of the UN, the Red Cross/Crescent and various ministries of the Iraqi Interim Government, about 50,000 civilians were expected to hide in Fallujah, a dense city with the size of about 3 x 3,5 kilometers in square. Consequently, the “operation” destroyed about 70% of the city and killed up to an estimate of 6,000people.
In a documentary for the RAI broadcasting channel, Italian Journalists Sigfrido Ranucci and Maurizio Torrealta called this event The Hidden Massacre.
Yet, until today, Fallujah has largely not been described as a massacre in Western intellectual and media culture. Without any legal investigation, the Fallujah massacre has been kept in silence.