War Crimes in Fallujah; a Gutsy Campaign Against Lantos

The United States is bringing “democracy” to Iraq on the same terms that the Russians imposed its federal mandate on Chechnya, a region which has Iraq’s future written in its rubble. The advocates of intervention in Iraq, the epigones of Wolfowitz , should take a walk through Grozny, and measure against its ruins the fate of their proclaimed ambition to bring democracy to Fallujah and other cities in Iraq.

In the waning weeks of the US election campaign the antiwar movement here in the US, was largely corralled into the Kerry campaign and strangled by the bizarre contradiction of supporting a candidate whose “peace plank” was continuing war. Will it now turn out that for many Kerry supporters their interest in the US war on Iraq was in fact mostly its utility as a rationale for attacking Bush? Now that the race is over, will they forget the war along with Kerry’s disastrous campaign?

If there is anything that should fuel the outrage of the antiwar movement, it is surely the destruction of Fallujah and the war crimes being inflicted by US commanders on its civilian population, who are now being denied the most basic and essential source of life, water.

This is not the first time that US forces have cut water supplies, something explicitly forbidden under Article 14 of the second protocol of the Geneva Conventions, which reads as follows:

“Starvation of civilians as a method of combat is prohibited. It is therefore prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless for that purpose, objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population such as food-stuffs, agricultural areas for the production of food-stuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works.”

Back in 1991 the US war planners targeted and destroyed the infrastructure of Baghdad’s water supplies, and the sanctions thereafter denied new equipment necessary to repair it. In consequence civilians, particularly babies and young children died in vast numbers.

Here at CounterPunch we are in receipt of a compelling dossier of the denial of water to Iraqi civilians, assembled by Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq (CASI)], whose briefing may also be studied at http://www.casi.org.uk/

Water supplies to Tall Afar, Samarra and Fallujah have been cut off during US attacks in the past two months, affecting up to 750,000 civilians. This appears to form part of a deliberate US policy of denying water to the residents of cities under attack. If so, it has been adopted without a public debate, and without consulting Coalition partners. It is a serious breach of international humanitarian law, and is deepening Iraqi opposition to the United States, other Coalition members, and the Iraqi interim government.

On 19 September 2004, the Washington Post reported that US forces ‘had turned off’ water supplies to Tall Afar ‘for at least three days’ . Turkish television reported a statement from the Iraqi Turkoman Front that ‘Tall Afar is completely surrounded. Entries and exits are banned. The water shortage is very serious’. Al-Manar television in Lebanon interviewed an aid worker who stated that ‘the main problem facing the people of Tall Afar and adjacent areas is shortage of water’ Relief workers reported a shortage of clean water . Moreover, the Washington Post reports that the US army failed to offer water to those fleeing Tall Afar, including children and pregnant women .

‘Water and electricity [were] cut off’ during the assault on Samarra on Friday 1 October 2004, according to Knight Ridder Newspapers and the Independent. The Washington Post explicitly blames ‘U.S. forces’ for this . Iraqi TV station Al-Sharqiyah reported that technical teams were working to ‘restore the power and water supply and repair the sewage networks in Samarra’ . Al Jazeera interviewed an aid worker who confirmed that ‘the city is experiencing a crisis in which power and water are cut off’ , as well as the commander of the Samarra Police, who reported that ‘there is no electricity and no water’ .

On 16 October the Washington Post reported that: ‘Electricity and water were cut off to the city [Fallujah] just as a fresh wave of strikes began Thursday night, an action that U.S. forces also took at the start of assaults on Najaf and Samarra.’ . Residents of Fallujah have told the UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks that ‘they had no food or clean water and did not have time o store enough to hold out through the impending battle’ . The water shortage has been confirmed by other civilians fleeing Fallujah, Fadhil Badrani, a BBC journalist in Fallujah, confirmed on November 8 that ‘the water supply has been cut off’.

In light of the shortage of water and other supplies, the Red Cross Has attempted to deliver water to Fallujah. However the US has refused to allow shipments of water into Fallujah until it has taken control of the city.

According to the Cambridge dossier, the information reported above is more widely known in Iraq than in the US and UK, and has had become a significant political issue.

Condemnations of the tactic have been issued by several major Iraqi political groups. On October 1 the Iraqi Islamic Party issued a statement criticizing the US attack on Fallujah which ‘cut off water, electricity, and medical supplies’, and arguing that such an approach ‘will further aggravate and complicate the security situation’. It also called for compensation for the victims .

Three days later Muqtada al-Sadr criticized both the denial of water To Samarra, and the lack of international outrage at it: ‘They say that this city is experiencing the worst humanitarian situations, without water and electricity, but no-one speaks about this. If the wronged party were America, wouldn’t the whole world come to its rescue and wouldn’t it denounce this?’

Silver Linings: Pat Gray’s Run Against Lantos

As dazed survivors of the Any But Bush campaign limp from the battlefield CounterPunch has received some encouraging accounts of stirring and unexpectedly strong campaigns. Take for example Pat Gray’s gutsy run against Rep Tom Lantos, one of Israel’s most fanatical representatives in the US Congress and a big booster of the Patriot Act, also of proposed legislation designed to suppress criticism of Israel on campuses here in the Homeland . We’ve been hearing from CounterPuncher Anne Silver of Burlingame , south of San Francisco, about Gray’s congressional campaign against Lantos in California’s 12th district (this includes the southwestern part of San Francisco on down the peninsula to San Carlos). Gray ran as an independent Green, and Anne worked as a volunteer for her campaign because, as she wrote to us, “I thought it was important to try to defeat (or at least expose) Lantos, a warmongering, pro-Patriot Act best friend of Israel ­ not because I am part of the Green party.”

With a tiny little budget and some volunteers, Anne reports “Gray got 19,000 votes which represents 9.3% of the total and ten times more than the registered Greens in the district. I understand she did better than any Green in the state. Gray is a retired schoolteacher and painter, raising two grandchildren, and is a strong voice for peace and justice.”

We asked Anne for more details.

Gray’s campaign manager is Jim Shannon 24, and a Green. He tells me that being manager of the marching band at UC Davis was his main preparation for this job. He says ‘We raised and spent $40,000. All from individuals… and in mostly small dollar amounts. Only paid staff position was a part-time media consultant, who gave us the largest amount of earned-media ever garnered by a congressional candidate in CA. Bulk of the money was spent on literature for a ground-centered precinct by precinct campaign. During the last week, a few thousand dollars were spent with a target mailer and a radio buy. All in all, quite an accomplishment for a campaign up against an entrenched incumbent, in the suburbs, who raised over $2 million.’ The San Francisco Bay Guardian endorsed Gray in the end, but weakly. Gray herself is from San Francisco, working class, a retired school teacher and union activist, and was a Democrat until NAFTA. She has never run for office before. Her outrage at Lantos for his support of the war compelled her to take him on.

Anne writes that Gray “is raising two grandchildren, and she talks about how much less support there is for families now than when she raised her three sons. I met her at one of the weekly protests in front of Lantos’ office that began back before the war even started. I liked standing next to Pat as she always had an apt epithet for detractors and when guys would flip us off, she would flash them a peace sign and holler, ‘You’re almost there, just one more finger!’ At the volunteer party she regaled us with tales of cops showing up at the mall to take her away from her unpermitted tabling, only to ask to register Green themselves after they heard her spiel. Her platform was a strong anti war one: bring the troops home now (and send them to college), stop military aid to Israel, revoke the Patriot Act, universal health care, invest in education, and alternate energy sources. The times that I heard her speak she was strong in her support for Palestine. “Lantos himself showed up only a few times during the campaign. A week before the election he came to a forum for the candidates sponsored by a women’s group from San Bruno. He looked like a polished pink rodent and was chillingly serene as he responded to questions we submitted about the untold number of deaths in Iraq, Israel’s brutality, and the loss of our civil liberties. He rattled off his legions of support and made some broad points about the difficulty of war. The room was loaded with pro-Israel people who clapped and cheered loudly when Lantos spoke approvingly of Israel’s acts of violence (such as the assassination of the elderly Palestinian cleric who was in a wheelchair). It was a nasty night.”

Thank you, Anne, whose final words are fragrant to our nostrils: “I don’t know what anyone would do without CounterPunch.”


Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined!, A Colossal Wreck and An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents are available from CounterPunch.