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Fallujah and the Erosion of American Power


“and what will their faces tell them
when they look in the mirror
when they look on their dressers
and see the pieces of metal
they were given for killing us
in our own homes, in own cities, in
our own mosques and churches,
what will their eyes say,
what will they say when their twisted
lies are uncovered, when the rest of the
world speaks of their massacres of
women and children, of old men, of
bombing hospitals, what will they
do when they see the smirking face
of their presidents, their senators, their
leaders who have allowed them to do this,
have ordered them to do this”

from “This Night in Fallujah” by Sam Hamod

The assault on Fallujah will resonate across generations as an atrocity. Despite the torrent of lies and misinformation, the truth will emerge. If the American military pursues its aims to the murderous end, the name of the Iraqi city will take its place alongside Guernica, My Lai and other symbols of imperialist barbarism.

World Socialist Web Site editorial, nov 9, 2004

There’s a true story circulating through the Arab world that has dwarfed the many other horrors now taking place in Falluja. It’s the tale of a nine year old boy who was wounded by shrapnel in the stomach when his house was hit by an errant bomb. Over the next ten hours his father Mohammed Abboud watched his son bleed to death in his living room because he was unable to venture out to go to the hospital. After the American bombing ceased, Abboud was forced to bury his son in his own garden.

The story of Abboud is particularly poignant because it takes one small event, one tiny part of the collective suffering, and crystallizes the entire Iraq conflict. If American’s want to understand why we will lose this war; they must understand Abboud’s story. It explains why Iraqis will never accept the occupation and why anyone with even a drop of patriotic blood has already joined the resistance. The same would be true in America if the situation was reversed.

The momentum for the siege of Falluja has been building for months. The entire rightward-tilting punditocracy has elicited a feverish appeal to “bring down God’s wrath on the infidels”. Krauthammer, Will, Safire and the rest of their raving cadres have laid down the gauntlet for Bush and Co. to flatten Falluja and make an example of the resistance. Ralph Peters of Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post summarized this war mongering sentiment the best. He said the mission should be “to burn out the plague of fanaticism and prove to Iraq’s people that the forces of terror will not be allowed to enslave them. We need to demonstrate that the United States military cannot be deterred or defeated. If that means widespread destruction, we must accept the price.” Peter’s enthusiasm for retaliation in Falluja mirrors much of what has appeared in America’s editorial pages across the country.

Undoubtedly, the Bush team, led by Donald Rumsfeld, needs little encouragement. They’d already decided that the only way to celebrate their newly stolen election was to raze Falluja to the ground and eliminate anyone who stands in their way. The full force of the American military machine is being brought to bear on a civilian enclave just east of Baghdad. The results of the misadventure are already apparent.

Despite the sketchy reports emerging from Falluja (mostly filtered through a “sympathetic” American lens) we can still sort out a picture of unfolding horror. Pepe Escobar in Asia Times online, tells of “Terrified Fallujans calling Baghdad to tell of A-10 jets raining cluster bombs on the city’s streets.there is no possible way to estimate how many civilians are dead, blown up, burned or injured, although al-Jumaili tells of “scores of injured civilians”. A brand-new clinic funded by a Saudi Islamic relief non-governmental agency was bombed by the Americans during the weekend, as well as a medical dispensary in the city center: this was apparently the last place where anybody could get any medical attention. (“Satan Hides in a Hospital” Pepe Escobar, Asia Times Online, Nov. 11, 2004)

Fadhil Badrani, a reporter for the BBC World Service, writes that “a lot of the
mosques have also been bombed. For the first time in Fallujah, a city of 150 mosques, I did not hear a single call to prayer this morning.” (US military has not denied the intentional bombing of mosques.)

The pretext for the siege continues to be the war on terror and, in particular, pursuit of the elusive Abu Musab al Zarqawi. In fact, the Defense Dept. knows that Zarqawi is not in Falluja, but they continue to use the cloak of terrorism to conceal their broader objective; to pacify the local population. The Fallujah Shura Council, (the coalition of the city’s clerics) said: “The people of Fallujah assure you that this person (Zaqawi), if he exists, is not in Fallujah… and we have no links to any groups supporting such inhuman behavior. We appeal to you to urge the UN (to prevent) the new massacre which the Americans and the puppet government are planning to start soon in Fallujah.”

This assurance hasn’t stopped the public relations team at the Pentagon from invoking the terror phantom to disguise their aggression. The war on terror is the last flimsy fig leaf masking the widespread populist uprising that has grown up in reaction to the occupation. The American people are still unaware that the vast majority of Iraqis now want the US to leave. The media can be expected to perpetuate this illusion.

The Defense Dept pretends not to know the exact makeup of the resistance, but this too is misleading. The “Iraqi insurgency” is mainly comprised of the 400,000 soldiers who Rumsfeld sent home (with their weapons) after the fall of Baghdad. American’s would be enraged to know that their sons and daughters are being killed by the very same conscripts who were willing to work for the occupation before they were dismissed. Pepe Escobar reports these same soldiers, “are operating with small mobile units of five or six or a maximum of 20 fighters, changing positions all the time. As a counter-measure, American snipers are trying to control the rooftops. The mujahideen are trying to attract as many American troops to the city center as possible so they can unleash what seems to be hundreds of coordinated car bombs and improvised explosive devices.”

Escobar’s report should concern every American. It illustrates that the conflict has entered a new phase; guerilla warfare. He confirms that the mujahideen have a clear idea of what they are doing and how to succeed. He states: “They have been preparing for this onslaught for months. And they do have a battle plan – as it was relayed to Asia Times Online by sources in Baghdad. Former or retired Iraqi army officials have always been serious students of Viet Minh tactics and Che Guevara’s theory of the guerrilla foco (center of guerrilla operations). Now they are applying this to urban warfare. (“Satan hides in a Hospital” Pepe Escobar)

Viet Minh tactics? Che Guevara’s theory of guerilla foco?

Most American’s still believe the insurgency is a mix of foreign terrorists, ex-Ba,athists and “dead-enders”. Escobar paints a grim picture of skilled professionals prepared to use the classic techniques of guerilla warfare to disrupt the occupation. His description is reminiscent of conditions that existed in the Vietnam War. It’s no wonder the DOD would rather downplay their knowledge of the insurgency and how it operates.

The Elections

The prevailing theory that Falluja must be battered into submission so that free elections can go forward is one of the bizarre twists in the current situation. Iraqi clerics as well as most of the Sunni Iraqis have already withdrawn their support for the upcoming elections because of the renewed hostilities. Harith al-Dhari, secretary general of the powerful Association of Muslim Scholars, says the scheduled January election would be held “over the corpses of those killed in Fallujah and the blood of the wounded”, and has called on all Iraqis to boycott it.(Al Jazeera) What Iraqi could possibly endorse the killing of civilians and the destruction of their cities for the ephemeral promise of American-style democracy? (In this case, democracy at gunpoint with all the trappings of military rule.)

Aside, from the growing hostility of the Iraqi people to the occupation, (the overwhelming majority now want America to leave) the “Coalition of the Willing” is deteriorating by the day. Hungary, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands, Poland, Thailand, the Philippines, Dominican Republic, Honduras, New Zealand and Norway have either left the effort already, or are planning to leave shortly. This development is perhaps more significant than the actual resistance on the ground. The entire murderous crusade in Iraq is predicated on the disproportionate access to force in the hands of a few powerbrokers in Washington. It is this disparity of power that incites both unilateralism and aggression. Whatever takes place in Iraq that further isolates America and erodes its power serves the greater interests of world peace and stability. It’s tragic that the “wearing down” of America has to be at the expense of so many innocent lives.

Increasingly, the nations of the world are backing away from America’s aggression in Iraq. The smokescreen of “preemption” has not convinced 90% of the world’s population that the invasion was either legal or moral. The vast majority know that it was neither. The war has begun a gradual slide in America’s fortunes. Soon that will increase into a downward spiral. The careers of the next generation’s leaders won’t depend on their abilities to negotiate trade contracts or promote a domestic platform, but simply on their ability to convey their abhorrence for America. This will be the final testimonial to the Bush Global Democratic Revolution, that ill-conceived plan for world domination that led to led to national tragedy.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He can be reached at:


More articles by:

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at

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