The Battle for Fallujah

“U.S. Urges Civilians to Flee Targeted Falluja,” reads a headline (Reuters dispatch, November 5). Not true, as the article subsequently indicates: “U.S. troops sealed all roads to Falluja and urged women, children and non-fighting age men to flee, but said they would arrest any man under 45 trying to enter or leave the city.”

We see here the 100-percent equation of “women, children and non-fighting age men” with the “civilian” population, and the corresponding totalizing depiction of males aged 18-45 as legitimate targets for arrest, detention (perhaps in Abu Ghraib-like conditions) and destruction.

Can someone please explain how to square this with the Geneva Conventions, Article 3? “Persons taking no active part in the hostilities … shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, *sex*, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.”

The blanket designation of “battle-age” males as participants in military activity is a standard prelude to the gendercidal (gender-selective) slaughter of men of this age-group. Denial of the right of “battle-age” men to flee a besieged city and find safe refuge occurred at Srebrenica in Bosnia in 1993, paving the way for the massacre of Muslim males in July 1995, Europe’s worst massacre since the Second World War. U.S. forces are already deeply complicit in one major act of gendercidal killing in recent years, the murder by Northern Alliance forces of thousands of Taliban prisoners-of-war in Afghanistan in 2001. (See my article for Counterpunch, “America’s Srebrenica“.)

U.S. estimates of the number of active rebels in Falluja range between 1,500 and 3,000. Most observers claim that between 60,000 and 100,000 people remain in the city, overwhelmingly, it seems, “battle-age” men. Let us take the high-end estimate for the rebels, and the low end for the population as a whole: 3,000 rebels, 60,000 people total. If this is accepted, only about one in twenty — five percent — of those in the city are combatants.

Of course, many of the remaining (mostly adult male) civilians could be providing support services for the rebels. But that could be no less true of women, children, and old men, who are being allowed to leave the city unmolested. No-one has suggested the resistance in Falluja is anything but popularly-based.

Anyone who is concerned that all human and civilian rights be protected in conflict should be outraged by the imposition of this gender-selective policy, which is preparing thousands or tens of thousands of civilian men in Falluja for a brutal death at U.S. hands.

ADAM JONES is executive director of Gendercide Watch, a Web-based educational initiative that confronts gender-selective atrocities worldwide. He is editor of “Genocide, War Crimes & the West: History and Complicity” (Zed Books, 2004).