The Mayor of Kabul condemns the US boneheads again. I can think of at least a dozen similar condemnations in the last six months alone. He will still be doing it next year - if he survives. There's always another stooge waiting to take the place of puppet rulers.
The Mayor of Kabul condemns the US boneheads again. I can think of at least a dozen similar condemnations in the last six months alone. He will still be doing it next year - if he survives. There's always another stooge waiting to take the place of puppet rulers.
Posted by TONY on 23.6.07
What's an Iraqi life worth? How about an Iraqi car?
For the U.S. military in Iraq, it may be roughly the same.
A report released late last month by the Government Accountability Office examines the practices and rules guiding condolence payments that the U.S. military can distribute to families of Iraqi civilians killed "as a result of U.S. and coalition forces' actions during combat." These voluntary payments - known as "solatia" payments - can also cover injuries and loss or damage to property. They constitute "expressions of sympathy or remorse based on local culture and customs, but not an admission of legal liability or fault," according to the report.
The Pentagon has set $2,500 as the highest individual sum that can be paid. Most death payments remain at that level, with a rough sliding scale of $1,000 for serious injury and $500 for property damage.
Despite Iraqi civilian deaths reaching tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, throughout the war, we are not talking big condolence payouts thus far. In 2005, the sums distributed in Iraq reached $21.5 million and - with violence on the upswing - dropped to $7.3 million last year, the GAO reported.
Payments were initially financed with money seized from Saddam Hussein and his associates. Now the payments come from the Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP).
The report, titled "The Department of Defense's Use of Solatia and Condolence Payments in Iraq and Afghanistan," offers a particularly coldblooded example of how payments are estimated, drawn from CERP's operating procedures: "Two members of the same family are killed in a car hit by U.S. forces. The family could receive a maximum of $7,500 in CERP condolence payments ($2,500 for each death and up to $2,500 for vehicle damage)."
"Each sector in Iraq contains unique challenges that influence the actual execution of the payment," said Col. Steven Boylan, spokesman for the Multi-National Force-Iraq, in response to questions from The Washington Post. He listed locations, terrorist activities, local politics and risk to recipients as factors.
The GAO found that wide discretion is given to commanders. A military unit provides a claim card to a victim or family member after an incident. That card is given to an advocate who determines if the incident occurred and whether it resulted from combat actions.
But if a noncombat accident takes place, such as a U.S. Army vehicle hitting and killing an Iraqi civilian as he crosses the street in Baghdad, the next of kin can file under the Foreign Claims Act. Payments awarded by Foreign Claims Commission generally reach up to $100,000, according to the GAO.
A former Army judge advocate who served in Iraq from May 2003 to July 2004 has written that every Iraqi he spoke with on the issue expressed shock about this situation. Under the Foreign Claims Act, he wrote, "the full market value may be paid for a Toyota run over by a tank in the course of a non-combat related accident, but only $2,500 may be paid for the death of a child shot in the crossfire."
A group representing 94 foreign and Afghan aid agencies said that international and Afghan forces have killed at least 230 civilians this year, including 60 women and children.
''Excessive use of force and abusive raids and searches are undermining support not just for foreign and Afghan militaries but those involved in humanitarian and development work,'' the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief said.
In eastern Paktika province on Sunday, U.S.-led coalition warplanes targeted a compound that also contained a mosque and an Islamic school, resulting in the deaths of seven boys aged 10 to 16, the provincial governor said.
Karzai has been issuing lame condemnation of these atrocities for years now.
By Chris Hedges
All troops, when they occupy and battle insurgent forces, as in Iraq, or Gaza or Vietnam, are swiftly placed in what the psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton terms “atrocity-producing situations.” In this environment, surrounded by a hostile population, simple acts such as going to a store to buy a can of Coke or driving down a street means you can be killed. This constant fear and stress leads troops to view everyone around them as the enemy. The hostility is compounded when the enemy, as in Iraq, is elusive, shadowy and hard to find. The rage that soldiers feel after a roadside bomb explodes, killing or maiming their comrades, is one that is easily directed over time to innocent civilians who are seen as supporting the insurgents. It is a short psychological leap, but a massive moral one. It is a leap from killing—the shooting of someone who has the capacity to do you harm—to murder—the deadly assault against someone who cannot harm you. The war in Iraq is now primarily about murder. There is very little killing. American Marines and soldiers have become, after four years of war, acclimated to atrocity.
The American killing project is not described in these terms to the distant public. The politicians still speak in the abstract of glory, honor and heroism, of the necessity of improving the world, in lofty phrases of political and spiritual renewal. The press, as in most wars, is slavishly compliant. The reality of the war—the fact that the occupation forces have become, along with the rampaging militias, a source of terror to most Iraqis—is not transmitted to the American public. The press chronicles the physical and emotional wounds visited on those who kill in our name. The Iraqis, those we kill, are largely nameless, faceless dead. Those who kill large numbers of people always claim it as a regrettable but necessary virtue.
The reality and the mythic narrative of war collide when embittered combat veterans return home. They find themselves estranged from the world around them, a world that still believes in the myth of war and the virtues of the nation.
Tina Susman in a June 12 article in the Los Angeles Times gave readers a rare glimpse into this side of the war. She wrote about a 17-year-old Iraqi boy killed by the wild, random fire unleashed by American soldiers in a Baghdad neighborhood following a bomb blast. These killings, which Iraqis say occur daily, are seldom confirmed, but in this case the boy was the son of a local Los Angeles Times employee.
Iraqi physicians, overseen by epidemiologists at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, published a study last year in the British medical journal The Lancet. The study estimated that 655,000 more people than normal have died in Iraq since coalition forces invaded the country in March 2003. This is more than 20 times the estimate of 30,000 civilian deaths that President Bush gave in a speech last December.
Of the total 655,000 estimated “excess deaths,” 601,000 resulted from violence. The remaining deaths occurred from disease and other causes, according to the study. This is about 500 additional violent deaths per day throughout the country.
Lt. Col. Andrew J. Bacevich, a Vietnam veteran who is a professor of international relations at Boston University, estimated last year that U.S. troops had killed “tens of thousands” of innocent Iraqis through accidents or reckless fire.
Official figures have ceased to exist. The Iraqi government no longer releases the number of civilian casualties and the U.S. military does not usually give reports about civilians killed or wounded by U.S. forces.
“It’s a psychological thing. When one U.S. soldier gets killed or injured, they shoot in vengeance,” Alaa Safi told the Los Angeles Times. He said his brother, Ahmed, was killed April 4 when U.S. troops riddled the streets of their southwestern Baghdad neighborhood with bullets after a sniper attack.
War is the pornography of violence. It has a dark beauty, filled with the monstrous and the grotesque. The Bible calls it “the lust of the eye” and warns believers against it. War allows us to engage in primal impulses we keep hidden in the deepest, most private interiors of our fantasy life. It allows us to destroy not only things but human beings. In that moment of wholesale destruction, we wield the power of the divine, the power to give or annihilate life. Armed units become crazed by the frenzy of destruction. All things, including human beings, become objects—objects to either gratify or destroy or both. Almost no one is immune. The contagion of the crowd sees to that.
Human beings are machine-gunned and bombed from the air, automatic grenade launchers pepper hovels and neighborhoods with high-powered explosives, and convoys tear through Iraq, speeding freight trains of death. These soldiers and Marines have at their fingertips the heady ability to call in firepower that obliterates landscapes and villages. The moral universe is turned upside down. No one walks away uninfected. War thrusts us into a vortex of barbarity, pain and fleeting ecstasy. It thrusts us into a world where law is of little consequence.
It takes little in wartime to turn ordinary men and women into killers. Most give themselves willingly to the seduction of unlimited power to destroy. All feel the peer pressure to conform. Few, once in battle, find the strength to resist gratuitous slaughter. Physical courage is common on a battlefield. Moral courage is not.
Military machines and state bureaucracies, which seek to make us obey, seek also to silence those who return from war and speak the truth. Besides, the public has little desire to puncture the mythic, heroic narrative. The essence of war, which is death, is carefully masked from view. The few lone journalists who attempt to speak the truth about war, to describe the experience of constantly being on the receiving end of American firepower, soon become pariahs, no longer able to embed with the military, dine out with officials in the Green Zone or get press credentials. And so the vast majority of the press lies to us, although not overtly; it is the lie of omission, but it is a lie nonetheless.
The veterans who return, even if they do not speak about the atrocities they have committed or witnessed in Iraq, will spend the rest of their lives coping with what they have done. They will suffer delayed reactions to stress. They will endure, as have those who returned from Vietnam, a crisis of faith. The God they knew, or thought they knew, failed them. The high priests of our civic religion, from politicians to preachers to television pundits, who promised them glory and honor through war betrayed them.
War is always about betrayal, betrayal of the young by the old, of idealists by cynics and of troops by politicians. This bitter knowledge of betrayal is seeping into the ranks of the American military. It is bringing us a new wave of enraged and disenfranchised veterans who will never again trust the country that sent them to war.
We make our heroes out of clay. We laud their gallant deeds. We give them uniforms with colored ribbons for the acts of violence they committed or endured. They are our false repositories of glory and honor, of power, of self-righteousness, of patriotism and self-worship, all that we want to believe about ourselves. They are our plaster saints, the icons we cheer to defend us and make us and our nation great. They are the props of our demented civic religion, our love of power and force, our belief in our right as a chosen nation to wield this force against the weak. This is our nation’s idolatry of itself.
Prophets are not those who speak of piety and duty from pulpits—there are few people in pulpits worth listening to. The prophets are the battered wrecks of men and women who return from Iraq and find the courage to speak the halting words we do not want to hear, words that we must hear and digest in order to know ourselves. These veterans, the ones who dare to tell the truth, have seen and tasted how war plunges us into barbarity, perversion, pain and an unchecked orgy of death. And it is their testimonies, if we take the time to listen, which alone can save us.
- June 18, 2007: U.S.-led coalition jets bombed a compound suspected of housing al-Qaida militants in eastern Afghanistan, killing seven boys and several militants, a provincial governor said.
- June 16-18, 2007: More than 100 people, including militants, civilians and police, died in three days of fierce clashes between NATO and the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, according to Afghan officials.
- June 16, 2007: A U.S. soldier fired into civilians in Kabul, killing one and wounding two after a suicide bombing claimed by the Taliban killed four Afghan civilians. Kabul's deputy police chief and U.S. officials called the shooting an accident.
- May 28, 2007: Taliban militants ambushed U.S.-led coalition forces in southern Afghanistan, sparking a 10-hour battle and airstrikes that killed two dozen militants. Villagers said seven civilians were among the dead.
- May 8, 2007: Airstrikes called in by U.S. Special Forces fighting 200 Taliban militants in Helmand province killed 21 civilians, government officials said, but villagers said nearly 40 civilians died. The coalition confirmed that there were civilian casualties, including at least one child killed.
- April 27-29, 2007: Military operations by U.S. and Afghan forces in Herat province killed 136 suspected Taliban. Regional officials said the dead included 51 civilians, including women and children.
- April 17, 2007: A U.S.-led coalition convoy in Kabul hit a boy who stepped into the road from behind a truck, a coalition statement said. The boy was evacuated for medical care, but died of his injuries.
- March 10, 2007: A NATO attack in Chinar mistakenly killed three boys. The 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment launched the attack after intelligence indicated Taliban fighters had gathered.
- March 5, 2007: An American convoy in the southern city of Kandahar opened fire on a vehicle, killing the driver, according to Kandahar police. NATO issued a statement saying the vehicle was trying to hit the convoy.
- March 4, 2007: A U.S.-led coalition airstrike destroyed a mud-brick home, killing nine people from four generations of an Afghan family during a clash between Western troops and militants, Afghan officials and relatives said. The U.S. military said two men with automatic rifles were seen heading into a compound of five homes after a rocket attack on a U.S. base.
- March 4, 2007: U.S. Marines fleeing a suicide bombing and militant ambush opened fire on a highway in eastern Afghanistan, witnesses said. Officials said 10 to 19 civilians were killed and 35 to 50 injured. A U.S. military commander later determined the Marines used excessive force and referred the case for possible criminal inquiry.
- Feb. 27, 2007: NATO-led troops in Kandahar shot and killed a civilian who drove too close to their convoy, police said.
- Oct. 26, 2006: Between 30 and 80 civilians were killed during NATO airstrikes in Panjwayi, a district in southern Afghanistan, according to the Afghan government and villagers. NATO reported 12 civilian deaths.
- Oct. 18, 2006: Airstrikes by NATO helicopters hunting Taliban fighters destroyed three homes in Ashogho, in southern Afghanistan, as villagers slept, killing 13 people, police said.
- July 10, 2006: The U.S. military said more than 40 Taliban were killed in an airstrike in Tirin Kot. Residents said at least four civilians died.
- May 21, 2006: U.S. warplanes hunting Taliban fighters bombed a religious school and homes in the village of Azizi in southern Afghanistan, killing at least 16 civilians, according to local officials.
- April 15, 2006: A U.S. airstrike aimed at militants in eastern Kunar province killed seven civilians, the military said.
- April 30, 2005: Three civilians died in airstrikes on Taliban targets, the U.S. military said.
- July 1, 2005: A U.S. airstrike on a house in eastern Afghanistan killed as many as 17 people, including women and children, provincial officials said. The U.S. military confirmed some civilians died.
- Jan. 17, 2004: An American airstrike on a village in Uruzgan province killed 10 civilians, including women and children, according to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
- Dec. 6, 2003: The U.S. military said an airstrike targeting a Taliban commander killed nine children in a mountain village in eastern Ghazni province. The attack occurred the day after a strike on a suspected militant's compound in eastern Paktia province set off secondary explosions that killed six children.
- April 9, 2003: A U.S. warplane, called in to support allied Afghans under fire near the Pakistani border, mistakenly bombarded a home instead, killing 11 civilians.
- July 1, 2002: A U.S. airstrike killed 48 people during a wedding in attacks on five villages in Uruzgan province, Afghan officials said. A U.S. investigation confirmed 34 dead.
Records from AP
British and American collusion in the pillaging of Iraq's heritage is a scandal that will outlive any passing conflict
Friday June 8, 2007
Fly into the American air base of Tallil outside Nasiriya in central Iraq and the flight path is over the great ziggurat of Ur, reputedly the earliest city on earth. Seen from the base in the desert haze or the sand-filled gloom of dusk, the structure is indistinguishable from the mounds of fuel dumps, stores and hangars. Ur is safe within the base compound. But its walls are pockmarked with wartime shrapnel and a blockhouse is being built over an adjacent archaeological site. When the head of Iraq's supposedly sovereign board of antiquities and heritage, Abbas al-Hussaini, tried to inspect the site recently, the Americans refused him access to his own most important monument.
Yesterday Hussaini reported to the British Museum on his struggles to protect his work in a state of anarchy. It was a heart breaking presentation. Under Saddam you were likely to be tortured and shot if you let someone steal an antiquity; in today's Iraq you are likely to be tortured and shot if you don't. The tragic fate of the national museum in Baghdad in April 2003 was as if federal troops had invaded New York city, sacked the police and told the criminal community that the Metropolitan was at their disposal. The local tank commander was told specifically not to protect the museum for a full two weeks after the invasion. Even the Nazis protected the Louvre.
When I visited the museum six months later, its then director, Donny George, proudly showed me the best he was making of a bad job. He was about to reopen, albeit with half his most important objects stolen. The pro-war lobby had stopped pretending that the looting was nothing to do with the Americans, who were shamefacedly helping retrieve stolen objects under the dynamic US colonel, Michael Bogdanos (author of a book on the subject). The vigorous Italian cultural envoy to the coalition, Mario Bondioli-Osio, was giving generously for restoration.
The beautiful Warka vase, carved in 3000BC, was recovered though smashed into 14 pieces. The exquisite Lyre of Ur, the world's most ancient musical instrument, was found badly damaged. Clerics in Sadr City were ingeniously asked to tell wives to refuse to sleep with their husbands if looted objects were not returned, with some success. Nothing could be done about the fire-gutted national library and the loss of five centuries of Ottoman records (and works by Piccasso and Miro). But the message of winning hearts and minds seemed to have got through.
Today the picture is transformed. Donny George fled for his life last August after death threats. The national museum is not open but shut. Nor is it just shut. Its doors are bricked up, it is surrounded by concrete walls and its exhibits are sandbagged. Even the staff cannot get inside. There is no prospect of reopening.
Hussaini confirmed a report two years ago by John Curtis, of the British Museum, on America's conversion of Nebuchadnezzar's great city of Babylon into the hanging gardens of Halliburton. This meant a 150-hectare camp for 2,000 troops. In the process the 2,500-year-old brick pavement to the Ishtar Gate was smashed by tanks and the gate itself damaged. The archaeology-rich subsoil was bulldozed to fill sandbags, and large areas covered in compacted gravel for helipads and car parks. Babylon is being rendered archaeologically barren.
Meanwhile the courtyard of the 10th-century caravanserai of Khan al-Raba was used by the Americans for exploding captured insurgent weapons. One blast demolished the ancient roofs and felled many of the walls. The place is now a ruin.
Outside the capital some 10,000 sites of incomparable importance to the history of western civilisation, barely 20% yet excavated, are being looted as systematically as was the museum in 2003. When George tried to remove vulnerable carvings from the ancient city of Umma to Baghdad, he found gangs of looters already in place with bulldozers, dump trucks and AK47s.
Hussaini showed one site after another lost to archaeology in a four-year "looting frenzy". The remains of the 2000BC cities of Isin and Shurnpak appear to have vanished: pictures show them replaced by a desert of badger holes created by an army of some 300 looters. Castles, ziggurats, deserted cities, ancient minarets and mosques have gone or are going. Hussaini has 11 teams combing the country engaged in rescue work, mostly collecting detritus left by looters. His small force of site guards is no match for heavily armed looters, able to shift objects to eager European and American dealers in days.
Most ominous is a message reputedly put out from Moqtada al-Sadr's office, that while Muslim heritage should be respected, pre-Muslim relics were up for grabs. As George said before his flight, his successors might be "only interested in Islamic sites and not Iraq's earlier heritage". While Hussaini is clearly devoted to all Iraq's history, the Taliban's destruction of Afghanistan's pre-Muslim Bamiyan Buddhas is in every mind.
Despite Sadr's apparent preference, sectarian militias are pursuing an orgy of destruction of Muslim sites. Apart from the high-profile bombings of some of the loveliest surviving mosques in the Arab world, radical groups opposed to all shrines have begun blasting 10th- and 11th-century structures, irrespective of Sunni or Shia origin. Eighteen ancient shrines have been lost, 10 in Kirkuk and the south in the past month alone. The great monument and souk at Kifel, north of Najaf - reputedly the tomb of Ezekiel and once guarded by Iraqi Jews (mostly driven into exile by the occupation) - have been all but destroyed.
It is abundantly clear that the Americans and British are not protecting Iraq's historic sites. All foreign archaeologists have had to leave. Troops are doing nothing to prevent the "farming" of known antiquities. This is in direct contravention of the Geneva Convention that an occupying army should "use all means within its power" to guard the cultural heritage of a defeated state.
Shortly after the invasion, the British minister Tessa Jowell won plaudits for "pledging" £5m to protect Iraq's antiquities. I can find no one who can tell me where, how or whether this money has been spent. It appears to have been pure spin. Only the British Museum and the British School of Archaeology in Iraq have kept the flag flying. The latter's grant has just been cut, presumably to pay for the Olympics binge.
As long as Britain and America remain in denial over the anarchy they have created in Iraq, they clearly feel they must deny its devastating side-effects. Two million refugees now camping in Jordan and Syria are ignored, since life in Iraq is supposed to be "better than before". Likewise dozens of Iraqis working for the British and thus facing death threats are denied asylum. To grant it would mean the former defence and now home secretary, the bullish John Reid, admitting he was wrong. They will die before he does that.
Though I opposed the invasion I assumed that its outcome would at least be a more civilised environment. Yet Iraq's people are being murdered in droves for want of order. Authority has collapsed. That western civilisation should have been born in so benighted a country as Iraq may seem bad luck. But only now is that birth being refused all guardianship, in defiance of international law. If this is Tony Blair's "values war", then language has lost all meaning. British collusion in such destruction is a scandal that will outlive any passing conflict. And we had the cheek to call the Taliban vandals.
Posted by TONY on 11.6.07
Bush mantra: Be afraid, be very afraid
By JOSEPH L. GALLOWAY
The Democrats in Congress wring their hands, gnash their teeth and wail that there was nothing they could do but cave in and vote to continue funding the war in Iraq. After all, that crafty George W. Bush had maneuvered them into a corner and they didn't have the votes to override his veto.
All they had to do was keep passing a war funding bill with a hard-and-fast timetable for beginning - and ending - the complete withdrawal of the more than 150,000 American troops fighting in that far-away place. Over and over and over, throwing it back into the face of a president who mistakes stubborn and hardheaded for principled resolve.
If that president continued to veto all the bills Congress sent to him, the money eventually would run out, although with a Defense Department budget of half a trillion dollars a year the administration could and probably would keep robbing Peter to pay Paul until both Peter and Paul were broke.
By which time it should be apparent to all who the real problem was and where the blame properly rested for failing to provide the money for an orderly end to the war that George W. Bush started and is determined will not end in his lifetime or ours.
Texas friends of the president told columnist Georgie Ann Geyer that it's the president's intention to arrange things so that his successors for half a century will never be able to pull out of Iraq. That George W. Bush intends that his blighted and bloody legacy of an unnecessary war that's hurt us more than it's hurt our enemies will continue, just as America's more rational and less costly commitment in Korea has continued.
Throwing a wrench into such misguided machinery isn't all that hard when you have check-writing authority. All it takes is courage and integrity and an absence of fear. Alas, that was lacking on Capitol Hill when the Democratic leadership, or what passes for such, cratered and caved.
Their eye is on the 2008 presidential elections, and their fear is that the White House spinmeister Karl Rove will portray the Democratic nominee and all Democrats as soft on terror; will accuse them of stabbing the American troops in the back.
The operative word here is "FEAR" and fear is the true legacy that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and their neo-conservative chickenhawk corps will leave behind them.
They've instilled fear in the American people, beginning the day after 9/11, and they've played it like a Wurlitzer organ every day since then. Every time bad news looms on their horizon, up goes the red flag. Or the orange flag. Or the yellow flag. The national terror threat alert system became a 24/7 traffic light, except that it never turns green.
Whenever the truth threatens to intrude on the White House pipe dreams, suddenly the Federal Bureau of Investigation seems to uncover another huge and scary terrorist plot. A dirty bomb to be planted in the heart of an American city. A plot to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch. Another plot to blow up Chicago's premier skyscraper. A plan for steely eyed killers disguised as pizza delivery boys to attack Fort Dix, N.J., and kill American soldiers.
The latest: A plot to blow up the jet fuel pipeline to John F. Kennedy Airport.
Dangerous enemies are out there, but at the heart of all these journeys into darkness were bumbling fools without money, weapons or even a mastermind. Without everything but an FBI informant keeping them talking for a year or so.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in the darkest days of the Depression, declared that the American people had nothing to fear but fear itself. The only thing George W. Bush apparently fears is the absence of fear.
Just as they believe that a lie repeated often enough will somehow become the truth (ask Vice President Cheney about Iraq's non-existent alliance with al-Qaeda for example), so also do they apparently believe that if they cry "wolf" often enough most Americans will willingly trade their freedoms for the illusion of security. That such a deal usually results in the victims ending up with neither freedom nor security seems lost in this transaction.
This administration has injected fear into the American people; into much of the media, whose duty it is to speak truth to power, not cower before the powerful; into a mighty nation's foreign policy; and now even into the Democratic majority in Congress.
Fear saps the will and decision-making power of humans. Fear blurs all that is good and decent, and blinds us to evil being done in our name.
Enough is enough. We have lived for more than six years in fear of our neighbors, fear of a world turned hostile by the words and actions of our own leaders, fear of a future that once was a bright and shining dream.
What we must do is give up fear for the 600-odd days that remain in this president's lease on the White House. As those old bumper stickers declared: NO FEAR! We can be, we must be, alert, on guard and observant because there are evildoers in this world. We need not be foolhardy - but we must be clear-eyed and clear-headed and determined that never again will we be manipulated by a crew of cynical politicians who know only how to hate, not how to love.
Posted by TONY on 8.6.07
By Ali al-Fadhily
FALLUJAH, Iraq - The city that was mostly destroyed by the US military operation Phantom Fury in November 2004 has been under curfew for more than two weeks, with no signs of relief.
Located 70 kilometers west of Baghdad, the city made headlines when four Blackwater security mercenaries were killed and their bodies horrifically mutilated on March 31, 2004.
That April the city was attacked by the US military, but resistance
fighters repelled occupation forces. That set the stage for the November siege that left about 70% of the city destroyed and turned a quarter of a million residents into refugees.
A recent spike in attacks against Iraqi and US forces in and around the city has prompted harsh measures by the US military, including imposing curfews, limiting movement in and out of Fallujah, and setting up more checkpoints throughout the city - moves which have greatly angered residents.
On May 19, most of these measures, perceived by many people here as a form of collective punishment, began to be more strictly enforced.
"Americans and their Iraqi collaborators are blaming us for their failure in controlling the city and the whole country," Ahmed Alwan of a Sunni religious group, the Muslim Scholars Association, told Inter Press Service (IPS). "This kind of collective punishment only means slow death to the people of the city and is adding to their agonies that have continued since April 2003."
As the US occupation continues with no end in sight and the level of violence and chaos increases daily, more and more people believe that violence against the occupation is the solution.
"Day by day we find more people believe in violence as a best solution to face American war crimes," said a human-rights activist in Fallujah, speaking on condition of anonymity. "To impose a curfew in a city that was already destroyed more than once is indeed a major crime against humanity."
Many people in Fallujah believe the harsh tactics are revenge by US troops and the George W Bush administration for the city's attitude against the occupation.
"We know what they are doing and why they are doing it," said a local community leader, also speaking on condition of anonymity because he feared US reprisals. "They hate this sacred city because it was the first to stand against their dirty occupation since it started."
On a side street of Fallujah, a man with his face covered by a kefiyeh , commonly worn by resistance fighters to hide their identity, stopped an IPS reporter and said he wanted to ”deliver a message to the sleeping world”.
"Fallujah City has become a symbol for all Iraqis and all good people in the world who decided to fight this monstrous American occupation, and no siege will stop the great victorious resistance that represents the voice of all Iraqis who believe in Allah and in the dignity of Iraq," he said. "We can see the world is sleeping while America is conducting a dirty plan to enslave all the human beings on earth."
Residents told IPS how their lives are being affected by the ongoing US-Iraqi government crackdown.
"They [Iraqi security forces] are dividing the city into sections in a way that does not allow people to move and make their living," said Jabbar Amir, a shopkeeper in the main market area. "It takes me four checkpoints to reach my shop, and most of the week I cannot make it there. This new security force is worse than the Americans - who give them full support regardless of what they do to people."
The US military brought in members of the Shi'ite Badr militia and the Kurdish Peshmerga militia to run patrols and checkpoints throughout the city after the devastating November 2004 siege. Many residents believe that this was an act of provocation and an attempt to foment sectarian conflict.
Concrete walls have been set up by the US military to partition the city into small areas, possibly in advance of a new wave of raids by occupation forces.
The US military is now supported by an Iraqi security force known as the "Anbar revolutionary force", which is accused of carrying out dozens of executions during the past months, as well as detaining hundreds of young men for no obvious reason.
"Human life is worth nothing in Fallujah these days," said Jameel Nassir, a 21-year-old university student. "The government soldiers executed so many young men, just like what happened in Haditha, and the new security force conducted massive killings against us while Americans pay both armies millions of dollars to do the dirty work for them."
This sentiment is common now in Fallujah.
”All army and security forces in Fallujah are monsters,” Bilal Ibrahim, a journalist in training in Fallujah, told IPS. "I watched one of their inhuman acts today and realized how brutal they really are. A young man jumped in the river for a swim near the hospital, but he was swept by the current and he was screaming for help. We were ready to save his life, but soldiers started shooting at us and they were laughing at the drowning guy until he died.”
IPS learned that the young man's name was Mohammed Hikmet and he was a member of a well-known family in the city.
"They know this will fail in stopping armed attacks against them just like all their failures, but they want to plant the seed of division among people in the city and Anbar province,” said a city councilman, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Now our sons are killing each other in vain while Americans dream of moments of peace that they will never get as long as they do not show clear signs of intentions to leave the country for its people.”
The man was referring to the numerous attacks against US and Iraqi forces during the curfew. Many US and Iraqi soldiers have been killed by car bombs, suicide bombers and mortars that appear to underscore the failure of imposing more drastic security measures.
Last Thursday, a suicide bomber attacked a police recruiting center in Fallujah, killing at least 25 people and wounding 50.
As has become the norm in Fallujah, civilians continue to pay the highest price despite the security measures that are supposed to be protecting them.
Ali al-Fadhily, the IPS correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, IPS's US-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region.
(Inter Press Service)
Posted by TONY on 6.6.07