Invasion and Resistance

Revolutionary Worker #1259, November 21, 2004, posted at http://rwor.org

"The logic is: You flatten Fallujah, hold up the head of Fallujah, and say, `Do our bidding, or you’re next.’"

Analyst at London’s International Institute of Strategic Studies
Christian Science Monitor , October 29

"We need to demonstrate that the United States military cannot be deterred or defeated. If that means widespread destruction, we must accept the price.. Even if Fallujah has to go the way of Carthage, reduced to shards, the price will be worth it."

Ralph Peters, former Army officer and columnist,
New York Post , November 4

"Every vehicle is treated as a potential car bomb and every person a possible enemy. Approval even came over the radio to shoot dogs with shotguns to prevent them from carrying explosives."

Scott Peterson,
Christian Science Monitor reporter, November 9

Since last April, the people of Fallujah have openly defied the occupation. Their city became a symbol and center of the growing Iraqi resistance. So in November, the U.S. command intended to conquer the city and break that resistance. The U.S. high command was determined to show how invincible and utterly ruthless they are.

The destruction of Fallujah was supposed to send a message: Anyone who resists the U.S. will suffer.

U.S. armies encircled the city with between 10,000 and 15,000 soldiers. Soon after the U.S. elections came the order for the brutal attack.

Jets, helicopters, tanks and artillery bombarded the city, including with ground-shaking 2000-pound bombs. Fallujah’s northern neighborhoods of Jolan and Askali were engulfed in a wall of flames, smoke and explosions—and large stretches of these communities were simply flattened.

In the evening of November 8, six heavily armed battalions of Marines and U.S. Army, tailed by their allied Iraqi troops, began the ground invasion. The heavy armor went in first—shattering buildings with artillery. Helicopters sent Hellfire missiles toward any sign of resistance. Thick ropes of high explosives were uncoiled into the streets and set off to trigger mines. Anything that moved in the darkness was shot.

Overwhelming force, expensive high-tech weapons, deadly and merciless.troops advancing over scorched rubble.it was a classic and brutal application of the American Way of War.

It took the city, at great cost to the people there. But the U.S. attack seems to have failed to break the resistance— as U.S. forces lost control of cities across Iraq.

Target: The People of Fallujah

"The enemy has got a face. He’s called Satan. He lives in Fallujah. And we’re going to destroy him.’"

Lt. Col. Gareth Brandi, battalion commander in Fallujah,
BBC, November 7

"We’re going to let loose the dogs of war. "

Staff Sgt. Mortimer, as Fallujah was bombed,
MSNBC, November 10

"There is nothing that distinguishes an insurgent from a civilian."

An officer who would not give his name, 1st Cavalry Division,
Fallujah Associated Press, November 12

"Every minute, hundreds of bombs and shells are exploding... The north of the city is in flames. I can see fire and smoke. Fallujah has become like hell."

Fadil al-Badrani, reporting for Reuters

"The streets are deserted. But there are some exceptions. The dead. The Marines are operating with liberal rules of engagement. `Everything to the west is Weapons Free,’ radios Staff Sgt. Sam Mortimer of Seattle, Washington. `Weapons Free’ means the marines can shoot whatever they see — it’s all considered hostile."

Kevin Sites, NBC photographer in Fallujah, from his personal web log

"The Jolan and Askali neighborhoods seemed particularly hard hit, with more than half of the houses destroyed. Dead bodies were scattered on the streets and narrow alleys of Jolan, one of Fallujah’s oldest neighborhoods. Blood and flesh were splattered on the walls of some of the houses, witnesses said, and the streets were full of holes."

San Francisco Chronicle, November 10, 2004

The last time the U.S. tried to take Fallujah, in April, the brutality of their siege and bombardment infuriated people all over the world. It backfired, igniting intense Iraqi resistance in city after city.

So this time, as they actually try to "finish the job," the U.S. high command is determined to prevent the world from seeing what they do to Fallujah’s people.

Because of heavy-handed media clampdown it still remains very hard to know, with any precision or detail, what has happened to the people of Fallujah. That, after all, is the point of a media clampdown.

However this much is known: The suffering and resistance of Fallujah’s people have both been intense.

It is clear that U.S. soldiers have been trained to treat everyone as an enemy (and not just in Fallujah). One NBC photographer describes in his web-log how U.S. soldiers gathering outside Fallujah were hyped up "to get some," to "pay Haji back." (Haji, Ali Baba and raghead are ugly names U.S. forces are taught to use for Muslim and Iraqi people.)

Allawi’s government declared a strict military curfew on Fallujah—forbidding even ambulances from moving around the city. This gave invading soldiers legal permission to treat anyone they saw as an enemy, and to kill anyone found on the street.

Les Roberts of the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health recently reported that about 100,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the U.S. 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. This report estimated that two-thirds of those who died "violent deaths"—directly from battles and airstrikes—died in the previous U.S. attack on Fallujah last spring. The casualties then were most likely in the thousands.

Now, a second attack on Fallujah has certainly added to that earlier death toll.

U.S. media estimated that thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of families were trapped in their homes. Water and electricity were cut off, and food supplies were running out.

With each day of this attack, the U.S. troops moved deeper and deeper into Fallujah—destroying much of the city with fire and explosives. It is almost certain that the flattened buildings contain many dead fighters and civilians. U.S. forces used white phosphorus shells that burn intensely on contact and cannot be washed off. Local observers reported seeing many badly burned bodies, including some that were literally melted.

As the U.S. forces moved in from the north, many of Fallujah’s people tried to escape by moving south. There they ran straight into an "anvil" of waiting U.S. forces. People trying to flee across the Euphrates River were attacked. Apache gunships sank at least five rowboats and a motorboat.

Associated Press (November 12) describes how U.S. troops stopped groups of refugees. They separated out women and children and allowed them to leave the city, but their husbands, brothers and sons were prevented from leaving. These men were also not "taken into custody" for the duration of the battle. Every man between 15 and 55 was sent back —on foot, unarmed— into the battle zone where they were likely to be targeted and killed. Even if they survive—these men will then face brutal captivity in U.S. hands. Military authorities say all survivors will be tested for explosive residue, checked against "insurgent databases" and interrogated.

This policy of treating all men as enemies is proof that the population of Fallujah itself is the target of this attack.

Meanwhile, almost nothing is being reported in the mainstream press about the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled Fallujah. Where have they gone? What conditions are they living under? How are they eating? Are they facing arrest, interrogation and threats from the occupation forces? Who will decide if they can return to their homes? How will they rebuild their shattered lives and city? Where are their stories and faces in the media coverage?

Fierce Resistance

It is no surprise that the U.S. has been able to occupy Fallujah. The resistance forces were not able to defeat the U.S. forces in frontal warfare—and they did not try.

With each day, the invading forces pressed further and further into the city, until they started to claim that they had the whole city under their control.

However, it is also clear that the resistance has been fierce day after day.

The city’s resistance fighters fought with rifles and mines against armies shooting missiles and artillery. The guerrillas used flares to blind the night-vision equipment of the attacking Americans. They shot single-rounds from hiding, behind the thick masonry walls of Fallujah’s buildings. Again and again the resistance snipers would get the American troops in a crossfire and halt the advance. Their solitary popcorn cracks contrasted with the ear-splitting explosions of Hellfire missiles and the rattle of helicopter gatling guns spewing thousands of rounds a minute.

Again and again, the resistance fighters would fall back through tunnels that connected one city block to the next, or they would creep forward, reclaim the rubble and keep shooting. In some cases they moved on bicycles from place to place. The fighters hoisted black flags to signal each other—and terrify the U.S. invaders.

Two American Super Cobra helicopters were shot down by ground fire.

Neck Deep in Insurgents

"Insurgent attacks across Iraq stretched American forces to their limits yesterday when rebels appeared to be in control of at least two cities, and the operation in Fallujah entered its most dangerous phase."

Telegraph (UK), November 13

The resistance fighters responded to this invasion of Fallujah by intensifying their attacks in other cities. There were 130 attacks on November 8, and in the following days the U.S. occupation authorities lost control in major cities.

Najaf was put under military curfew. Ramadi, 35 miles west of Fallujah, is reported to be out of U.S. control. And there are reports of "growing unrest" in Baghdad, Tikrit, Samarra and Baquba—despite military curfews. Samarra is a city "taken" by U.S. invasion within the last months—where the resistance has, once again, reasserted control.

Perhaps most significant of all: While the U.S. command kept insisting that they still control the important northern oil city of Mosul, reporters on the scene in Iraq’s third largest city say it has been wrenched completely out of U.S. hands. Armed attacks systematically wiped out the city’s pro-government police stations. In some cases, the police of Mosul threw off their uniforms and went over to the resistance, bringing their automatic weapons with them.

By November 11, the U.S. was bombing Mosul from the air, and the streets were controlled by Iraqi guerillas. U.S. soldiers holding key bridges were under attack. In an extremely revealing development, the U.S. command was forced to take an armored battalion out of the encirclement of Fallujah and rush it 200 miles north to the fight for Mosul.

There are also reports that several batallions of Kurdish "peshmerga" forces were sent down from the northern highlands into Mosul. This move threatens to be particularly destabilizing since the U.S. had promised the government of neighboring Turkey that Kurdish forces would never be allowed to occupy and control Mosul. Turkey fears Kurdish parties might seize Mosul’s oil reserves to finance their army and fuel region-wide moves for Kurdish independence.

Ruthless But Not Invincible

Now, one week into the assault on Fallujah, the U.S. plans seem to be failing badly.

They have destroyed much of the city. They have brutalized, terrorized, and dispersed a population of hundreds of thousands.

But they have almost certainly not succeeded in trapping the main forces of guerrilla fighters or in laying a basis for their long-term control of this city. And, at the same time, they have lost ground to the resistance in many places across Iraq.

General Richard Meyers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, now claims he never expected to break the back of the resistance in Fallujah.

He said on NBC’s Today Show , "If anybody thinks that Fallujah’s going to be the end of the insurgency in Iraq, that was never the objective, never our intention and never even our hope."

As we go to press (on November 14), there are reports that "the city is occupied but not subdued." This describes the whole of Iraq, not just Fallujah. Even if the U.S. succeeded in taking this whole city—as seems likely—there are growing questions about how their forces can expect to control Fallujah—especially after the population returns and their resistance fighters return with them.

The U.S. occupiers have proven, once again, how brutal and powerful their armed forces are. But they have not shown that they can defeat the resistance, conquer Iraq, win the support of its people, or stabilize the rule of their chosen puppets.