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Falluja: A return to barbarity
by Al-Ahram Weekly
Friday Nov 19th, 2004 10:05 AM
"This is the 21st century and it is not acceptable that injured people be left lying in the street," Rana Sidani, spokesperson of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was speaking in an interview with Al- Jazeera on Monday, commenting on the situation in the city of Falluja, 60kms west of Baghdad, where 10,000 US marines and 2,000 Iraqi security forces have been conducting a major military onslaught since 8 November. Sidani's reminder predictably fell on deaf ears.
But the standards of the ongoing offensive seem far removed from the modern world's rules of war. The Iraqis are again faced with mediaeval images emerging from Fallujah of decomposing bodies floating in the river, children left to bleed to death in the wreckage of their homes and wounded and helpless prisoners summarily executed.

It is 10 days into the assault on the city and neither the Iraqi interim government nor the US forces spearheading the attack have succeeded in proving their claim that the city was occupied by foreign fighters who were terrorising its population and the rest of Iraq. In 10 days only 15 non-Iraqi fighters -including Syrians, Egyptians and Jordanians- have been arrested in Falluja. In the meantime the world has seen what this onslaught has done to the people it had claimed to be liberating.

US military spokespersons argue that the "insurgents" fled the city before the US attacked. The claim holds little water given the ferocity of resistance in the city.

According to the US military the "successful" operation has killed 1,600 "insurgents" while another 1,052 have been captured. At least 51 US troops have been killed since the start of the offensive.

As the fighting grinds slowly to a halt occupation forces and the interim government are already looking at ways of controlling the rebel city, with plans of appointing a new mayor and installing thousands of Iraqi security and paramilitary forces.

The horrific accounts of destruction and unlawful killings lend greater urgency to calls for an investigation into what international rights groups such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch describe as "war crimes" in Iraq.

Their statements came in response to the screening of two separately filmed incidents showing US marines executing wounded Iraqis. On 13 November an NBC report showed a marine shooting a wounded Iraqi in the head. According to NBC US marines had left five wounded Iraqi men in the mosque on Friday. The following day a second group of marines entered the mosque. The NBC reporter then filmed one of the marines shooting a wounded Iraqi in the head. The fate of the four other Iraqis remains unclear.

The second video was aired on ABC television in Australia on 11 November. It shows a US marine standing on the roof of a building shooting at an Iraqi. The marine shouts "I've just injured one, he's between the two buildings." A second marine walks over to the gap between the two houses, climbs a 44- gallon drum and aims his gun at the injured Iraqi. The marine then climbs down saying, "he's done."

The soldier in the NBC footage is currently under investigation, though few expect the result to be anything other than a whitewash.

No Arab officials have condemned the Falluja offensive.

Though the US military was keen to seal off the city, turning back aid convoys and anyone else who tried to enter, news from Falluja continued to trickle out through the course of the onslaught. Survivors who managed to leave and reports by journalists embedded with US forces, reveal harrowing scenes with hundreds of bodies piled in the streets, many being eaten by stray dogs. One survivor told Al-Jazeera on Monday that he saw US bulldozers dragging dozens of corpses to be thrown in to the Euphrates.

On 15 November Al-Jazeera interviewed an Iraqi doctor who provided details of the looting by Iraqi forces, under US control, of Falluja General Hospital. The doctor, Asma Khamis Al-Muhannadi, said the hospital was targeted by bombs and rockets during the initial siege of Falluja. Troops dragged patients from their beds and pushed them against the wall. "I was with a woman in labour," she said, "and the umbilical cord had not yet been cut. A US soldier shouted at one of the (Iraqi) national guards to arrest me and tie my hands while I was helping the mother to deliver."

The US military continues to refuse the repeated pleas by aid groups to allow humanitarian relief convoys inside the city. Several Iraqi Red Crescent (IRC) convoys remain waiting at the western entrance to the city, waiting to be allowed through. According to Ahmed Rawi of ICRC's Iraq office "residents have had no access to drinking water or electricity since 8 November and the only water station they can use is cordoned off by the US military."

The situation is so bad now that "our top priority is the safety of residents whose lives are threatened hourly," he told Al-Ahram Weekly in a telephone interview.

"We are urging the Iraqi Health Ministry to supply the wounded of Falluja, and the thousands who fled the city before the assault, with the medical care they need," he added.

Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has repeatedly denied there is a humanitarian crisis in Falluja, a position echoed by the Iraqi health minister who insisted that most of the city's 300,0000 residents had left it before the offensive.

But according to the IRC spokesperson at least 157 families are still stuck inside Falluja. This evaluation was supported by ICRC's Rawi who said that many of the families who left Falluja said that the Marines prevented all male residents aged between 15 and 45 to exit the city.

On Tuesday nine international aid groups issued a joint statement expressing concern "for the safety of thousands of civilians caught up in the major offensive." The statement took issue with the recent 60-day state of emergency as well as the assault on Falluja which, it said, "indicate the failure of the Iraqi government to fulfil its legal obligations to guarantee an appropriate environment for the implementation of Resolution 1546 of the UN Security Council."

The interim government argues that the assault and emergency law are intended to secure Iraq for elections scheduled for 27 January. But in protest the Islamic Party, the country's most influential Sunni political group, announced its withdrawal from the government in response to the attack on Falluja. The Sunni Muslim Clerics Association went further, urging Iraqis to boycott the vote. Several of its leading members have been arrested as a result. It is not clear if this will provoke an even larger boycott of the elections, and there is no certainty that the Shia majority will act along clear-cut sectarian lines. Indeed, in light of the Falluja offensive, many commentators believe Allawi's position has been fatally compromised.
§Falluja: A return to barbarity
by Al-Ahram Weekly Friday Nov 19th, 2004 10:05 AM
A US Marine aims his rifle at an Iraqi prisoner lying on the floor of a mosque in Falluja, fires, then walks away (photos: AP)
§Falluja: A return to barbarity
by Al-Ahram Weekly Friday Nov 19th, 2004 10:05 AM
A US Marine aims his rifle at an Iraqi prisoner lying on the floor of a mosque in Falluja, fires, then walks away (photos: AP)
§Falluja: A return to barbarity
by Al-Ahram Weekly Friday Nov 19th, 2004 10:05 AM
Strapped in the backpack of a US Marine walking amid the ruins of Falluja, a supposedly good luck mascot in fatigues (photo: AP)
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U.S. War Crimes Shame AmericaJoshua GoldmanFriday Nov 19th, 2004 12:33 PM
Falluja aflameAl-Ahram WeeklyFriday Nov 19th, 2004 10:07 AM

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