Revolution #71, December 3, 2006
While U.S. Talks of “New Direction” in Iraq:
Massacre in Ramadi
Some politicians and media now portray Iraq as a civil war in which U.S. soldiers are “well meaning peacekeepers caught in the middle.” But what happened on November 13 in the city of Ramadi, in the western part of Iraq, tells a different story.
On that night, U.S. tanks opened fire on homes in the Al-Dhubat area of Ramadi killing at least 35 people. A 60-year-old man, Haji Jassim, told Inter Press Service (IPS), "We heard the bombing and we thought it was the usual fighting between resistance fighters and the Americans, but we soon realized it was bombing by large cannons. We weren't allowed by the Americans to reach the destroyed houses to try to rescue those who were buried, so certainly many of them bled to death… There was a big American force that stopped us and told us the usual ugly phrases we hear from them every day."
According to the IPS article by journalists Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily, “Jassim, speaking with IPS while several other witnesses listened while nodding their heads, said that ambulances did not appear on the scene for hours because ‘we realized that the Americans did not allow them to move,’ and that as a result, ‘there were people buried under the rubble who were bleeding to death while there was still a chance to rescue them.’”
Iraqi doctors and witnesses at the scene of the attack said that the people killed were civilians. The doctors who spoke with IPS didn’t want to talk about too many details of the attack because they fear U.S. military reprisals, but did confirm that many of the people who died had bled to death. According to IPS, “tempers run high in Ramadi because the city has often been the scene of large-scale U.S. military operations and their inherent forms of collective punishment.”
A report on Al Jazeera’s English website quoted Rabah al-Alwan, the head of the Union of Lawyers in Al-Anbar, who said the U.S. Army had seized the whole neighborhood of al-Soufiya in Ramadi’s center in January. Al-Alwan said the army had thrown 211 families out of their homes. U.S. snipers have fired at and killed people who approach the area to get their belongings.
It is true that civil war between different factions is clearly a huge part of the picture in Iraq right now. And that poses a big obstacle to U.S. plans in Iraq and in the region more generally. And, there is a tragic element to it, in the sense that masses have been pitted against each other and that reactionary Islamic fundamentalist trends and forces have been strengthened through the course of that. But a) this civil war is itself a byproduct of the U.S. invasion and occupation, and b) U.S. troops continue to play a very aggressive and vicious role in attempting to bludgeon all the different forces into some kind of setup agreeable to the U.S.'s imperialist interests in Iraq and the region.
Necessities of An Unjust War
Ramadi is just 60 miles from the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, and 30 miles from Fallujah. Both Ramadi and Fallujah are in the heart of what the U.S. calls the “Sunni Triangle”—a region of sharp resistance to the U.S. occupation led by various Sunni Muslim forces, including many reactionary forces closely aligned with the deposed regime of Saddam Hussein. These forces are just one faction of the resistance to U.S. occupation of Iraq, but if the U.S. is to be in a position to pursue any options favorable to its objectives, and in particular to bring various Sunni forces in line as it searches for a “new direction” to carry out its objectives in the region, it needs to crush resistance in this part of Iraq. Or, at least, to “teach a lesson” to opposition forces there.
The most concentrated example of this occurred with the massive, deadly attack on Fallujah in 2004. The British newspaper The Guardian reported, "By the end of operations, the city lay in ruins. Fallujah's compensation commissioner has reported that 36,000 of the city's 50,000 homes were destroyed, along with 60 schools and 65 mosques and shrines. The US claims that 2,000 died, most of them fighters. Other sources disagree. … Iraqi NGOs and medical workers estimate between 4,000 and 6,000 dead, mostly civilians—a proportionately higher death rate than in Coventry and London during the [Nazi German] blitz."
In the assault on Fallujah, the U.S. targeted medical clinics and personnel for the first wave of bombings. A Pentagon “information warfare” specialist said these clinics could be "propaganda centers." And the U.S. committed horrible war crimes in Fallujah by using chemical weapons—burning people alive and suffocating them by dropping white phosphorus gas on the city.
While the extent of the death in Fallujah was largely censored out of U.S. news coverage, the rest of the world, and in particular people in the Middle East, watched hourly updates on Al-Jazeera (prompting recently dumped Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to call Al-Jazeera "vicious" and "disgraceful"). In Fallujah, the U.S. proved it could, with a massive concentration of overwhelming force, obliterate what was once a large, lively city. But Fallujah became a curse and a battle cry to oppose the U.S. occupation.
Stuck in a Mess and Carrying Out Massacres
So far, the U.S. attack on Ramadi which began (in its current phase) in June of 2006, is not the same kind of massive, world-attention-grabbing, concentration of force used in the rape of Fallujah. But there are ominous parallels. As with Fallujah, the occupation forces seized control of all major entrances into the city of 400,000, trying to choke it off. Many residents expected the city to be leveled and people slaughtered as the U.S. did in Fallujah, and 10,000 people fled. Maurizio Mascia of the Italian Consortium of Solidarity, a group that aids Iraqi refugees, told IPS, “The Americans, instead of attacking the city all at once like they’ve done in their previous operations in cities like Fallujah and Al Qa’im [another city in the Sunni triangle the U.S. laid siege to last year], are using helicopters and ground troops to attack one district at a time in Ramadi.”
As we head into a period when Iraq will very likely be the subject of sharp debate among the rulers and hence in society more broadly, and when many calls to “maintain the U.S. presence” (or even increase it) will be cloaked in the name of “protecting Iraqis,” it is very important to understand and bring to others the lesson of Ramadi: U.S. military forces are not in Iraq to do anything but bludgeon people into submission to U.S. dictates.
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