FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

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. 

March 19, 2019
Victor Grossman
Women Marchers and Absentees
Binoy Kampmark
The Dangers of Values: Brenton Tarrant, Fraser Anning and the Christchurch Shootings
Jeff Sher
Let Big Pharma Build the Wall
Jimmy Centeno
Venezuela Beneath the Skin of Imperialism
Jeffrey Sommers – Christopher Fons
Scott Walker’s Failure, Progressive Wisconsin’s Win: Milwaukee’s 2020 Democratic Party Convention
Steve Early
Time for Change at NewsGuild?
March 18, 2019
Scott Poynting
Terrorism Has No Religion
Ipek S. Burnett
Black Lives on Trial
John Feffer
The World’s Most Dangerous Divide
Paul Cochrane
On the Ground in Venezuela vs. the Media Spectacle
Dean Baker
The Fed and the 3.8 Percent Unemployment Rate
Thomas Knapp
Social Media Companies “Struggle” to Help Censors Keep us in the Dark
Binoy Kampmark
Death in New Zealand: The Christchurch Shootings
Mark Weisbrot
The Reality Behind Trump’s Venezuela Regime Change Coalition
Weekend Edition
March 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Is Ilhan Omar Wrong…About Anything?
Kenn Orphan
Grieving in the Anthropocene
Jeffrey Kaye
On the Death of Guantanamo Detainee 10028
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
In Salinas, Puerto Rico, Vulnerable Americans Are Still Trapped in the Ruins Left by Hurricane Maria
Ben Debney
Christchurch, the White Victim Complex and Savage Capitalism
Eric Draitser
Did Dallas Police and Local Media Collude to Cover Up Terrorist Threats against Journalist Barrett Brown?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Straighten Up and Fly Right
Jack Rasmus
Trump’s $34 Trillion Deficit and Debt Bomb
David Rosen
America’s Puppet: Meet Juan Guaidó
Jason Hirthler
Annexing the Stars: Walcott, Rhodes, and Venezuela
Samantha M. - Angelica Perkins
Our Green New Deal
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s Nightmare Budget
Steven Colatrella
The 18th Brumaire of Just About Everybody: the Rise of Authoritarian Strongmen and How to Prevent and Reverse It
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Riding the Wild Bull of Nuclear Power
Michael K. Smith
Thirty Years Gone: Remembering “Cactus Ed”
Dean Baker
In Praise of Budget Deficits
Howard Lisnoff
Want Your Kids to Make it Big in the World of Elite Education in the U.S.?
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Foreign Policy is Based on Confrontation and Malevolence
John W. Whitehead
Pity the Nation: War Spending is Bankrupting America
Priti Gulati Cox
“Maria! Maria! It Was Maria That Destroyed Us!” The Human Story
Missy Comley Beattie
On Our Knees
Mike Garrity – Carole King
A Landscape Lewis and Clark Would Recognize is Under Threat
Robert Fantina
The Media-Created Front Runners
Tom Clifford
Bloody Sunday and the Charging of Soldier F
Ron Jacobs
All the Livelong Day      
Christopher Brauchli
Banking, Wells Fargo-Style
Jeff Mackler
After Week-Long Strike, Oakland Teachers’ Contract Falls Short
Chuck Collins
Bring Back Eisenhower Socialism!
Binoy Kampmark
Grounding Boeing
James Munson
Why Are We Still Sycophants?
Jill Richardson
Politicians Are Finally Catching Up on Marijuana
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail