[News] US media applauds Fallujah war crimes

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Thu Nov 18 11:36:39 EST 2004


News & Analysis: Middle East: Iraq
By David Walsh

Not a single major voice has been raised in the American media against the
ongoing destruction of Fallujah. While much of the world recognizes
something horrifying has occurred, the US press does not bat an eye over
the systematic leveling of a city of 300,000 people.

A journalist for the Times (London) described the scene the night the US
onslaught began: "The districts comprising Fallujah's perimeter--where most
of the insurgents are concentrated--were already largely in ruins. The
crumbling remains of houses and shell-pocked walls reminded me of my home
town Beirut in the 1980s at the height of Lebanon's civil war.... I began
to count out loud as the bombs tumbled to the ground with increasingly
monotonous regularity. There were 38 in the first half-hour alone. The
bombing continued in waves until 5:15 a.m. as the American forces softened
up their targets."

And now? Buildings have been destroyed by the hundreds, corpses buried
under many of them. A Christian Science Monitor reporter observes: "Some
districts reeked from the sickening odor of rotting flesh, a stench too
powerful to be swept away by a brisk breeze coming in from the sandy plain
surrounding the city 40 miles west of Baghdad.

"A week of ground combat by Marines and some Iraqi troops, supported by
tanks and attack helicopters, added to the destruction in a city where the
homes and businesses for about 300,000 people are packed into an area a
little less than 2 miles wide and a little more than 2 miles long. ... Cats
and dogs scamper along streets littered with bricks, broken glass, toppled
light poles, downed power lines, twisted traffic barriers and spent
cartridges. Walls are full of bullet holes. Marines have blown holes in
walls and knocked down doors to search homes and shops. Dead Iraqis still
lay out in the open Monday."

For all intents and purposes, the US military declared any male in Fallujah
and any family unlucky enough to be caught in the hail of deadly fire
legitimate targets for death. We will perhaps never know how many civilians
have been slaughtered by US forces.

The chief United Nations human rights official, Louise Arbour, has called
for an investigation of abuses, including the disproportionate use of force
and the targeting of civilians. Arbour claimed that all violations of
international humanitarian and human rights laws should be investigated,
including "the deliberate targeting of civilians, indiscriminate and
disproportionate attacks, the killing of injured persons and the use of
human shields." The American media either ignores or brushes this aside.

In none of the US media commentaries is there a single expression of
concern about not merely the moral, but the legal issues involved in the
attack on Fallujah. The American military operation in the city is an
illegal act of aggression in an illegal, aggressive war.

As Marjorie Cohn, professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, executive
vice president of the National Lawyers Guild and the US representative to
the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists, has noted,
the attack began with an act contravening international law: "They [US
forces] stormed and occupied the Fallujah General Hospital, and have not
agreed to allow doctors and ambulances to go inside the main part of the
city to help the wounded, in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions."

Cohn continues: "Torture, inhuman treatment, and willful killing are grave
breaches of the Geneva Conventions, treaties ratified by the United States.
Grave breaches of Geneva are considered war crimes under our federal War
Crimes Act of 1996. American nationals who commit war crimes abroad can
receive life in prison, or even the death penalty if the victim dies. Under
the doctrine of command responsibility, a commander can be held liable if
he knew or should have known his inferiors were committing war crimes and
he failed to prevent or stop them. ... Bush's aggressive war against the
people of Iraq promises to kill many more American soldiers and untold
numbers of Iraqis. Nuremberg prosecutor Justice [Robert] Jackson labeled
the crime of aggression 'the greatest menace of our times.' More than 50
years later, his words still ring true."

There has been nothing like the attack on Fallujah since the Nazi invasion
and occupation of much of the European continent--the shelling and bombing
of Warsaw in September 1939, the terror bombing of Rotterdam in May 1940.
All the talk about precision bombing in Iraq is dust thrown in the public's
eyes. The purpose of the devastation in Fallujah is to terrorize the Iraqi
people and the entire population of the Middle East. Large numbers of
people have been killed in the assault on the city.

Nowhere in the American media do you find a word of protest. No one asks
for verification that the city is being held "hostage" by criminals and
"foreign terrorists." No one questions an operation to "root out" a
relative handful of terrorists that requires razing a city to the ground.

It is necessary to put this on record. In the future, people will ask: what
did you do and say while Fallujah was being destroyed? If readers can find
major newspaper or television editorials denouncing the murderous attack,
by all means, send them in to the WSWS. We have searched in vain.

This is what we found.

The New York Times editors complain that the onslaught in Fallujah "is not
the textbook way to conduct a counterinsurgency campaign" and worry that
the city's decimation may be a "very costly victory," because of the
hostility it will breed in the Sunni population, but never question the
morality or legality of the attack.

The Times' real concern is for the fraudulent elections scheduled for
January, designed to give the occupation a pseudo-democratic veneer.
"Insurgents have now stepped up their attacks in the larger city of Ramadi,
30 miles west of Falluja," the editors write, "and have established a new
base in the northern Iraq metropolis of Mosul. It is critical to keep these
armed fighters from disrupting the Iraqi elections planned for January."

The editors of the Washington Post too are nervous about the long-term
prospects in Iraq, but assert that "the prospective restoration of
government rule and the elimination of an open haven for terrorists [in
Fallujah] is a significant step forward, provided that rule can be
sustained and bolstered with reconstruction and participation in upcoming
national elections." The Post transmits to its readers, without any proof
whatsoever, the claim that "reported casualties so far have been relatively

Along the same lines, the Boston Globe criticizes Bush administration
policy for making the attack on Fallujah necessary, but signs on to the
operation: "Given everything that has gone wrong in the intervening
period--after all the mistakes of omission and commission made by President
Bush and his advisers--Fallujah could not be left as a sanctuary and
spawning ground for thousands of insurgents who aspire either to restore a
Saddamist police state or to impose a harsh Islamist theocracy."

After its initial hesitation, the Globe warms to the task: "For the taking
of Fallujah to be successful, there must be enough well-trained and
reliable Iraqi security forces to keep the dispersed insurgent bands from
filtering back in. Then other cities in the Sunni area will have to be
cleared one at a time of Ba'athist and Islamist reactionaries."

The cynical position of these "liberal" newspapers was summed up in the
stance of the Los Angeles Times, whose editors comment: "Iraqi insurgents
based in Fallouja presented U.S. military forces with two choices, one bad
and the other worse. Marines opted for the bad one Monday, assaulting the
city with the understanding that civilians as well as fighters would be
killed and Arab passions would be inflamed far outside Fallouja and Iraq.
The worse option was to do nothing, cede the town to the guerrillas and
make it a model for other cities in Iraq."

For whom is this a "worse option"? The Iraqi people, the American
people--or the US ruling elite and its military? While carping about this
or that tactical issue, the liberal media establishment makes clear that it
easily prefers the colonial-style occupation of Iraq--and all that goes
with it, including the destruction of Fallujah--to its alternative, the
defeat and forced withdrawal of American forces.

We feel obliged to ask: is there a limit beyond which the editors of the
Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Boston
Globe would not find halting US military operations in Iraq the "worse
option"? The razing of two major urban centers, five, a dozen? Two hundred
thousand dead Iraqis, half a million, one million? We would seriously like
to know.

The majority of the American press does not bother to go through the ritual
of expressing reservations about the political costs of the Fallujah
attack. They smell blood and seem to like the scent.

The San Francisco Chronicle, published in an area where antiwar sentiment
is widespread, makes no bones about its bloodlust: "The success of the
present operation will be gauged in part by how well U. S. commanders hold
down their own casualties and those of Iraqi counterparts--and of Iraqi
civilians sheltering in Fallujah--while crushing any insurgents who stay to
fight. ... The anti-guerrilla crackdown that is supposed to accompany the
emergency decree needs to be more successful than what the U.S. military
and interim Iraqi leaders have been able to accomplish thus far."

USA Today is forthright, declaring in an editorial, "The battle must be
fought. The training of Iraqi forces delayed it. But as the U.S. and others
have learned the hard way, guerrilla wars are about more than taking
territory. Capturing Fallujah will open a new period that could determine
whether the insurgents will be protected by the populace, or rejected in
favor of peace."

The Good Samaritans at the Christian Science Monitor, spiritual heirs to
Mary Baker Eddy, whose Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures was
"the culmination of her own life-long search for a spiritual system of
healing," bare their fangs in a particularly vile manner:

"The battle for Fallujah will go down in history as a textbook example of
urban warfare. The US military used the most advanced technology and the
best street-fighting tactics to hunt down the entrenched insurgents while
keeping civilian casualties to a minimum.

"But the message of Fallujah isn't the prowess of the United States but its

"Having failed last April to retake that small Sunni city, the US could not
again afford to appear weak to the would-be voters of Iraq. With elections
planned for late January, Iraqis had to be shown that the US military,
along with the fledgling Iraqi Army, will keep eliminating safe sanctuaries
for hostage-taking terrorists and bombmaking insurgents."

The argument that the retaking of Fallujah represents a vital step in the
"democratization" of Iraq is a common theme in the American press.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorializes: "Despite its fearsome
costs--through Friday, some 18 U.S. troops and five Iraqi soldiers were
killed, along with 600 insurgent fighters--there is little doubt that
Fallujah had to be retaken. The city is the headquarters for Iraq's Sunni
Muslim minority, and without Sunni participation January's elections could
be considered illegitimate."

The Toledo [Ohio] Blade: "Fallujah had to be taken away from the resistance
if the scheduled January elections are to have any credibility. An
important population center like Fallujah simply cannot be allowed to
remain outside the control of the interim government and U.S. forces."

The Modesto [California] Bee: "As the elections of a national assembly
near, U.S. and Iraqi forces confront a rebel movement that is determined to
disrupt the voting and, more broadly, to make Iraq ungovernable. Thus
Washington has only one realistic option: Beat back the rebel offensive
wherever it surfaces, despite the risk of increasing alienation among Iraqi

The Oregonian [Portland, Oregon]: "Fallujah is the center, or at least a
center, of the armed opposition to Iraq's efforts to establish a democratic
regime. That probably means this week's attack is a necessary condition for
any kind of election to go forward. The new government, even with the help
of the United Nations, cannot conduct free, fair elections if rebels can
control whole cities and launch murderous, intimidating attacks from them."

None of these newspapers' editors question the logic of a nationwide
election and an entire "democratic" process supposedly made possible by the
extermination of a city and the massacre of the national popular resistance

Certain editors go out of their way to pay tribute to the American military.

Comments the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "In the annals of war, there has never
been a fighting force as capable as the Americans of waging urban warfare
with weaponry and tactics more attuned to the need to avoid innocent loss
of life. Fallujah was a citywide safe house for all manner of bad guys,
beheaders and insurgents. It was an open taunt that prevented political
progress and future amity among the ethnic and religious groups in Iraq. It
had to be shut down."

The editors of the Des Moines Register echo this sentiment, "America's
magnificently trained and equipped fighting forces are again on display in
the long-awaited offensive to retake Fallujah from the Iraqi insurgents.
There's little doubt the troops can prevail militarily. Let us also pray
that their bravery and sacrifice will be rewarded in the larger sense of
bringing enough stability to Iraq to hold elections."

No doubt similar tributes were paid to the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe in the
German press of 1939-40. In reality, the "battle for Fallujah" was entirely
one-sided. US military and technical superiority over the Iraqi resistance
is as great, if not greater, than the American army's advantage over their
Indian opponents in the 1870s and 1880s.

The openly right-wing press can hardly conceal its glee over "payback" in
Fallujah. The Indianapolis Star proclaimed in an editorial, "The U.S.-led
military offensive under way in Fallujah against Iraqi insurgents was long
overdue. 'We are determined to clean Fallujah from terrorists,' interim
Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said on Monday. A hotbed of insurgent
activity for months, Fallujah and other cities surrounding Baghdad must be
cleared of resistance so the country can proceed with elections in

The headline of the Charleston [South Carolina] Post and Courier editorial
is quite explicit: "No option but force for Fallujah." The comment lays the
blame for the annihilation of the city squarely on the shoulders of those
who sought to defend it from the American occupiers. "The fanaticism of the
al-Qaida-led terrorists and the obduracy of hard-line Sunni insurgents left
no other alternative to the all-out offensive launched yesterday by a
15,000-strong force of U.S. Marines and Army troops, backed by units of the
newly formed Iraqi Army. ... Now it is up to the U.S. Marines and Army, who
are spearheading the thrust into Fallujah, to rid the city of its nest of

The [Phoenix] Arizona Republic editorial carries the headline, "Fallujah
must fall." It argues that "with perhaps thousands more rebels massed in
the city west of Baghdad, the Marines and Army must charge forward once
again. It is a hellish business, fighting street by narrow street, and our
prayers go with the young soldiers, as well as their Iraqi army allies. ...
With a Fallujah teeming with terrorists, insurgents and fundamentalist
anarchists, the planned national elections are jeopardized. ... That means
Fallujah must be freed of terrorist control."

The Boston Herald proclaims that the "Fight for Fallujah is a fight for us
all." The tabloid's editors write: "The fight for Fallujah remained
unfinished business for far too long. It was a nest of terrorist vipers
last spring, when the charred and dismembered bodies of two American
contractors were hung from one of the bridges over the Euphrates. And it
was allowed to continue to grow and to fester--until now."

So much for the American "free press," free only of any commitment to
democratic principles, honesty and truth.

Copyright 1998-2004 World Socialist Web Site. All rights reserved.



November 17, 2004
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Iraq is under martial law, complete with curfews and press restrictions. A
report in the prestigious Lancet says 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been
killed since the start of the invasion. Unemployment is running at 70
percent, kidnappings and beheadings are rife, while the breakdown in
security has driven every international aid agency out of the country.

But never mind, Fallujah--a town of 300,000 souls of which many have
already met their Maker--has finally been pacified. That'll teach them to
lay off foreign mercenaries in future. Oops! I mean contractors, of course.
Congratulations USA!

Now that all is right with the world, some 200,000 exiled civilians can
return home, provided they still have one that is. A report in the Los
Angeles Times describes the city as "a tableau of destroyed buildings,
burned-out cars, battered mosques and piles of rubble." No building was
sacrosanct including hospitals and clinics.

The fate of those who stayed behind because they have nowhere else to go or
did not want to abandon their belongings and valuables is uncertain.
Reports of families burying their dead in gardens, eking out an existence
on flour or dates, bleeding to death without medical assistance or becoming
ill after drinking contaminated water paint an ugly picture.

We have yet to discover how many newly minted orphans there are, courtesy
of the Marines, such as five-year-old Aysha Saleem who lost her parents and
grandparents in one of the US military's "precision strikes." Indeed, we
may never know as the mouths of reporters embedded with the troops open and
close according to military diktats.

We would never know how US soldiers are breaching the Geneva Conventions
but for a renegade video aired by Australian ABC television. In it, a
Marine shouts: "I've just injured one. He's between two buildings." One of
his colleagues walks over to a tiny alleyway separating two houses, climbs
up onto a metal drum, and fires his weapon in cold blood. "He's done," he
announces flippantly.

We may never learn whether his victim, exterminated like a rat, was a
hardcore foreign fighter, a local insurgent or merely a male resident of
Fallujah prevented from leaving. Men aged between 15 and 55 were either
rounded up or forced to fight to stay alive. Members of the Scottish Black
Watch regiment, whose job they say is to patrol the "rat run," confirmed
the status of fleeing Iraqis as rodents.

In a further breach of the Geneva Conventions, US troops prevented a Red
Crescent convoy of emergency aid from reaching the main Fallujah hospital,
where wounded residents have been forbidden from entering.

Yet even though the stench of human flesh pervades their nostrils, one
Marine held to the view: "We will win the hearts and minds of Fallujah by
ridding the city of insurgents. We are doing this by patrolling the streets
and killing the enemy." Those who have lost mothers, daughters, sons and
brothers to his bountiful nature will, no doubt, be grateful.

Another such enlightened soldier, Lt. Col. Gareth Brandl, told the BBC:
"The enemy has got a face. He's called Satan. He lives in Fallujah." Others
of his ilk were holding evangelical ceremonies or dressing up as gladiators
for chariot races, using horses confiscated from Iraqis, in the mold of the
movie Ben Hur.

A third, a music lover, was quoted as saying: "Only two songs send a shiver
up my spine. The Marine hymn, and that song by Toby Keith after 9-11 which
says 'we're gonna kick you up the ass--that's the American way." The
majority of US soldiers in Iraq still believe the lie that Saddam Hussein
had links to Osama Bin Laden and the attacks on America.

For the 48 percent of Americans who voted against the Bush doctrine, this
is not the American way. They include a former Marine Staff Sergeant James
Massey from Waynesville, North Caroline, who told the WSW website: "We're
committing genocide in Iraq."

He describes his disillusionment thus: "We were like a bunch of cowboys who
rode into town shooting up the place. I saw charred bodies in vehicles that
were clearly not military vehicles. I saw people dead on the side of the
road in civilian clothes." He recalls how his trigger-happy compatriots
mowed down 30 civilians at a checkpoint on a single day.

Iraq's Girl Blogger who pens Baghdad Burning is similarly angry over
Fallujah. She writes: "Iraqis will never forgive this. Never! It's
outrageous. It's genocide and America--with the help and support of [Iyad]
Allawi--is responsible."

The land of deprivation, death and degradation, which Iraq has become due
to US intervention, is there for all to see but where is the outrage? Why
aren't decent people of every faith up in arms?

Author and philosopher George Orwell may have the answer. "The nationalist
not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but
he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them."

"Political language . . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and
murder respectable" goes another of Orwell's remarkable insights.

But the politicians aren't the only ones to blame for the horror
masquerading as the spread of democracy. Extremist religious leaders are
just as culpable as is a supine media, which despite its various mea culpas
over its failure to say it like it is, has once again stifled truth.

Think about it. How can individuals, fighting for their own freedom against
a foreign power in the towns and cities of their birth and protecting their
wives and children, possibly be "terrorists"?

And by the same token why should those rampaging foreign armies whose
members believe freedom extends to being able to play video games be
labeled honorable? Such is the big lie, and one that is the duty of all
those who are able to cut through the propaganda, to quash.

There is but one truth for the vast majority of Iraqis. They want no more
pretty promises, corrupt plutocrats, superpower pawns or deviant torturers.
Amid a growing insurgency, most of all, they want the invaders and their
military hardware gone. Who of sound mind and compassionate heart can
possibly blame them?

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She
welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at
heardonthegrapevines at yahoo.co.uk.

Copyright © 1998-2004 Online Journal. All rights reserved.

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San Francisco, CA 94110
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