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The Pentagon's Neurosis

Fallujah Gulag

by DOUGLAS LUMMIS

The U.S. Military, the newspapers tell us, has conquered Fallujah. But here you must read the news carefully. It seems that the U.S. military is in control of (most of) the area of Fallujah, and of (what is left of) its buildings, but not of its people. The people, some 300,000 of them, are outside the city, waiting to go home.

So the U.S. Military is facing a dilemma. The point of the Fallujah operation was to make it possible to hold elections in January. To carry out elections in Fallujah, the U.S. Military will have let Fallujah’s residents return home. But what if, after they return home, they start fighting against the U.S. occupation, as they did before?

According to a December 5 article by Ann Barnard in the Boston Globe, the U.S. military has devised a plan to solve this dilemma. They are going to "funnel Fallujans to so-called citizen processing centers on the outskirts of the city to compile a database of their identities through DNA testing and retina scans." Then they will give each person a nametag, which they will be required to wear at all times. Presumably people not wearing nametags will be in danger of being seen as guerrilla fighters, and shot.

The Military also wants to organize all Fallujan men into "military-style battalions", and force them to work, cleaning up and rebuilding the destroyed city.

It seems the U.S. military is still under the illusion that in Fallujah there are two types of people, "terrorists" and "ordinary residents". So if you can distinguish which is which, and allow only the "ordinary residents", clearly marked, back into the city, peace will be achieved. But when the "ordinary residents" return to the city, some of them will surely resume guerrilla operations ­ especially after they see what has been done to their homes.

To prevent this, they will be organized into work battalions, probably under U.S. or Iraqi military commanders.

So this is the point to which these American Bringers-Of-Democracy have been driven to? Where can we find a parallel for the kind of social organization they are planning? In German history, the concentration camp. In U.S. history, the relocation centers of World War II. In Russian history, the gulag.

I think this mad "Fallujah plan" will, or should, go down in history as one of those perfect, crystalline moments when imperial domination shows its true nature. During the Vietnam War we had the immortal words, "We had to destroy the village to save it." That summed it all up beautifully. The Fallujah Plan expresses the same contradiction. To save Fallujah’s "freedom" it has to be destroyed as a city and turned into a prison.

But is it possible to transform an entire city of angry people into a prison? Is it possible to "process" 300,000 people, "process" meaning, transform them from citizens into prisoners in their own city, all in a couple of weeks to be in time for the election? This sounds less like a plan than a mad fantasy dreamed up by a group of people frustrated and driven to the wall. The U.S. military assault on Fallujah succeeded. It was, Pentagon officials boast, a great military victory. The U.S. Military did everything a military can do. They shot the people they could shoot, wrecked the buildings they could wreck, and took control of the city. If the city of Fallujah is its land and buildings, they have won it. But if the city is its people, they have not won it. When they let the people back in, they will be back where they started. They won, and yet they lost. No wonder they are beginning to show neurotic symptoms.

DOUGLAS LUMMIS is a political scientist living in Okinawa and the author of Radical Democracy. Lummis can be reached at: ideaspeddlers@mpd.biglobe.ne.jp