Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Four Missiles, 14 Deaths

The Independent

This is how they like it. An American helicopter fires four missiles at a house in Fallujah. Fourteen people are killed, including women and children. Or so say the hospital authorities.

But no Western journalist dares to go to Fallujah. Video footage taken by local civilians shows only a hole in the ground, body parts under a grey blanket and an unnamed man shouting that young children were killed.

The US authorities say they know nothing about the air strike; indeed, they tell journalists to talk to the Iraqi Ministry of Defence–whose spokesman admits that he has “no clue what is going on”.

And by the time, in early afternoon yesterday, that the American-appointed Iraqi Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, said that he had given permission for the attack–even though US rules of engagement give him no such right–there had been car bombs in Tikrit in which two policemen died, one of Saddam’s former generals was captured, and Fallujah became just another statistic, albeit a deeply disturbing one: this is the sixth air strike on the insurgent-held city in less than five weeks.

None of the six was independently reported. The dead were “terrorists”, according to Mr Allawi’s office. So were the doctors lying?

As in Afghanistan, so in Iraq. US air strikes are becoming “uncoverable”, as the growing insurgencies across the two countries make more and more highways too dangerous for foreign correspondents. Senior US journalists claim that Washington is happy with this situation; bombing wedding parties and claiming the victims were terrorists–as has happened three times in a year–doesn’t make good headlines. Reporters can’t be blamed for not travelling–but they ought to make it clear that a Baghdad dateline gives no authenticity to their work. Fallujah is only 25 miles from Baghdad but it might as well be 2,500 miles away. Reports of its suffering could be written in Hull for all the reliability they convey.

Here, then, is the central crisis of information in Iraq just now. With journalists confined to Baghdad–several have not left their hotels for more than two weeks–a bomb-free day in the capital becomes a bomb-free day in Iraq. An improvement. Things might be getting better. But since most journalists don’t tell their viewers and readers that they cannot travel–they certainly don’t reveal that armed “security advisers” act as their protectors–they do not see the reality of cities such as Fallujah, Ramadi and Samara, which are now outside all government control. Indeed, US Marines are no longer allowed into the centre of Fallujah, which is now run by the Fallujah Brigade, made up of former Baathists and current insurgents. The Independent does not use security advisers in Iraq, armed or otherwise.

So what happened in Fallujah? The US attack on the house at 2am yesterday turned the building into a pit of earth in which small bomb fragments and arms and legs were found. Locals described the building as the home of poor people. Angry crowds of men cried “God is Great” at the site. And then an official in Mr Allawi’s office announced that “the multinational forces [ie the Americans] asked Prime Minister Allawi for permission to launch strikes on some specific places where terrorists were hiding and Allawi gave his permission.”

Precisely the same formula was used by Iraqi authorities 84 years ago when RAF aircraft made “precise” attacks on Iraqi towns and villages supposedly sheltering insurgents opposed to British occupation. Ironically, one of the US bases near Fallujah currently under constant nightly attack by Iraqi gunmen is Habbaniya–the very air base from which British bi-planes had staged their air strikes.

On an Islamist website–and, in truth, no one knows who controls it–Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, one of Osama bin Laden’s junior fighters, claimed that Saturday’s suicide attacks on the Iraqi Justice Minister and a military recruitment centre in Mohammediya, which killed a total of eight Iraqis, were his work. The US military blamed the bombings on “people who want to stop the progress of democracy in this country”–which is an odd way of describing an organisation that allegedly wants to destroy not just the US-appointed government here but the United States itself.

The capture in Tikrit of General Sufian Maher Hassan of Saddam’s Republican Guard was being portrayed as another success by the US army. However, since General Hassan was in charge of the defence of Baghdad in 2003 and is mockingly regarded as the man who turned a potential Stalingrad into one of the easiest American military victories of modern times–which is not exactly correct, but that is another story–his capture is not going to change the deteriorating security crisis in Iraq.

With ghoulish relish, meanwhile, Saudi Wahabists posted the execution of an American captive in Saudi Arabia on a website. The pictures showed a man in a white apron sawing at the neck and vertebrae of John Palmer before eventually placing his severed head on the back of his torso.

Given such gruesome proof of Western vulnerability, it’s no surprise that journalists in Iraq–where similar videos have been made–want to avoid the same fate. But it’s not just the killers who want to keep the reporters indoors.

ROBERT FISK is a reporter for The Independent and author of Pity the Nation. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s hot new book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

More articles by:

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
Victor Grossman
A Big Rally and a Bavarian Vote
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Wim Laven
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
David Yearsley
Shock-and-Awe Inside Oracle Arena
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail