Letter from America: Remembering FALLUJAH and NATO War Crimes
Eight years ago, Fallujah in Iraq became the theater of a major showdown between the Iraqi insurgents and the American occupying forces. By successfully repelling the first U.S. led siege in April 2004, just a year after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Fallujah essentially became a symbol of heroism and resistance against American occupation in Iraq.
Interestingly, Fallujah with a Sunni majority during the early days of U.S. invasion was a peaceful city that did not join in insurgent activities against the occupying forces. All that, however, changed very quickly when on April 28, 2003 the soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. military fired upon a crowd of peaceful protesters killing 17 and wounding more than 70 unarmed Iraqis. Soon thereafter the trigger-happy military unit was withdrawn and replaced with other units, but the killing of unarmed civilians continued unabated. On June 30, 2003 a U.S. fired missile hit a mosque killing its Imam and eight other worshippers, thus, ushering in an era of resistance that would redefine Sunni insurgency in Iraq.
Hounded and harassed daily by the occupation forces, the Iraqi insurgents from the Brigades of Martyr Ahmed Yassin in Fallujah ambushed a convoy and brutally killed four American private military contractors employed by Blackwater USA on March 31, 2004. Al-Qaeda took the credit for the brutal action but the local population paid the price. Within days the U.S. Marines surrounded the city, and arrested anyone suspected of the ambush. The U.S. Marines suffered 40 deaths in the siege while probably a thousand Iraqis (including civilians) were killed, further worsening the tense mood within the besieged city. On April 10, 2004, the U.S. military was forced to pull back to the outskirts of the city. Throughout the summer and fall of 2004, the U.S. military conducted sporadic airstrikes on Fallujah while the city remained under complete control of the insurgents.
In November of that year, the U.S.-led occupying forces launched a devastating assault on the city. As reported in the Guardian (dated November 9, 2005) by Mike Marqusee, a co-founder of Iraq Occupation Focus, www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk, the mood of the assault was set by Lt Col Gary Brandl who said: "The enemy has got a face. He's called Satan. He's in Fallujah. And we're going to destroy him."
The assault in Fallujah, called Operation Phantom Fury - the bloodiest battle involving American troops since the Vietnam War (1968), was preceded by eight weeks of aerial bombardment. The American troops, in clear violation of the Geneva Convention, cut off the city's water, power and food supplies. A UN special rapporteur accused the occupying forces of "using hunger and deprivation of water as a weapon of war against the civilian population". Two-thirds of the city's 300,000 residents fled, many to squatters' camps without basic facilities. As the siege tightened in and around Fallujah, the Red Cross, Red Crescent and the media were kept out, while males between the ages of 15 and 55 were kept in. According to American sources between 600 and 6,000 insurgents were holed up inside the city, which by then had nearly a hundred thousand non-combatant inhabitants. Before the final assault, the inhabitants were given 24 hours to leave the city through security checkpoints but anyone of military age, suspected of being an insurgent, was arrested and interrogated, often with blow torches; and those that tried to sneak out via non-designated points were shot dead, irrespective of whether they were children, women or elderly people.
On November 8, 10,000 U.S. troops, equipped with artillery and tanks, supported from the air by bombers and helicopter gunships, blasted their way into the city. By the end of operations, the ‘City of the Mosques’ and shrines lay in ruins. Fallujah's compensation commissioner reported that 36,000 of the city's 50,000 homes were destroyed, along with 60 schools and 65 mosques and shrines. Even after eight years, there is hardly a building that does not have bullet scars on its structure.
It is widely believed that at least ten thousand civilians were killed in the assault. The overwhelming majority were children, women and the elderly. There were many incidents of execution style murders committed by the occupying U.S. forces in homes, mosques and shrines of Fallujah. It took a week to establish control of the main roads; another two before victory was claimed.
The city’s main General Hospital was one of the first major targets taken over by the U.S. forces, denying Iraqi patients necessary medical assistance. On November 13, 2004 a Red Crescent convoy containing humanitarian aid was denied access from entering Fallujah by the U.S. army. With no medical supplies, people died from their wounds. American snipers were put on the top of the hospital; everyone in the street was a target for these American snipers.
And what is worse and completely inexcusable is the fact that during this second major assault on Fallujah, the U.S. military used cluster bombs and white phosphorus (WP) against unarmed civilians. The use of both cluster bombs and WP ammunition was confirmed from various independent sources, including U.S. troops who had suffered WP burns due to friendly fire.
It should be noted that the use of incendiary weapons against civilians is illegal by Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (1980).
In mid-December, residents of Fallujah were allowed to return to their already churned or destroyed homes after undergoing biometric identification. They must now carry their ID cards all the time.
As recently demonstrated by Iraqi filmmaker Furat Alani (in his must-see documentary film – Fallujah – A Lost Generation? http://vimeo.com/38175279) the suffering inflicted on Fallujah did not end in 2004. “Life for the people who chose to return to their city never improved. The U.S. imposed security measures and curfews that made living a normal life in Fallujah impossible. Residents already had to struggle to make ends meet in their dilapidated city, but the constant security check-points, ID card scans, and arrests only made life harder. Food and Medicine were scarce, and they remain scarce to this day. Worst of all, since 2004 there has been a dramatic increase in birth defects, infant mortality, mental retardation, and cancers of all sorts in Fallujah. The birth defects are truly horrifying. Babies have been born with six fingers on each hand, scaly skin, missing limbs, two heads, and there has been one case of a child born with a single eye in the center of his forehead. Experts blame chemical weapons used by the U.S. during the 2004 sieges, like white phosphorous and possibly depleted uranium. The few studies that have been done suggest that there is “genetic damage” within the population, and the evidence suggests ionizing radiation exposure as the cause. This has led some to say that the health crisis in Fallujah is worse than in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bombs. So many children in Fallujah are now being born horribly deformed or mentally retarded that many women are afraid to try to have families. The U.S. occupation has had horrible effects on the Iraqi population, but Fallujah has suffered more than any other Iraqi city. Fallujah is to the Occupation of Iraq, what My Lai was to the Vietnam War, and what Hiroshima and Nagasaki were to World War II.”
Last year, on 17 May 2011, AFP reported that 21 bodies, in black body-bags marked with letters and numbers in Roman script had been recovered from a mass grave in al-Maadhidi cemetery in the centre of the city. Fallujah police chief Brigadier General Mahmud al-Essawi said that they had been blindfolded, their legs had been tied and they had suffered gunshot wounds. The Mayor, Adnan Husseini said that the manner of their killing, as well as the body bags, indicated that the U.S. forces had been responsible. Both al-Essawi and Husseini believe that the dead had been killed in 2004.
Mr. Alani interviewed Fallujah residents, doctors, veterans, and weapons experts to shed light on the cause of chronic health crisis. He noted that so many children have been born with birth defects in Fallujah that the hospital cannot offer any statistics. Parents didn’t want to talk. "Families bury their newborn babies after they die without telling anyone," said hospital spokesman Nadim al-Hadidi. "It’s all too shameful for them… We recorded 672 cases in [the month of] January [alone] but we know there were many more," said Hadidi. Facing a frozen image of a child born without limbs, parents’ feelings usually range between shame and guilt. "They think it’s their fault, that there’s something wrong with them. And it doesn’t help at all when some elder tells them it’s been ‘God’s punishment’," said Hadidi.
According to a study released by the Switzerland-based International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in July 2010, "the increases in cancer, leukemia and infant mortality and perturbations of the normal human population birth sex ratio in Fallujah are significantly greater than those reported for the survivors of the A-Bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945." Similarly, Dr Chris Busby, author of “Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth-Sex Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2006,” said, “We found that the infant mortality rates compared with Egypt and Jordan were about four or five times higher, and about ten times higher if you taker countries like Kuwait, where there is good health care.”
Other than the white phosphorus, depleted uranium (DU) -- a radioactive element which, according to military engineers, significantly increases the penetration capacity of shells and has a half life of 4.5 billion years -- was widely used in Iraq by the NATO forces. DU has been labelled the "silent murderer that never stops killing."
Suffice it to say that there are plenty of evidences to show that weapons used by the U.S. in 2004, including napalm, white phosphorous, depleted uranium, and anti-personnel thermo-baric weapons, are the root causes behind babies that are born with malformations, kids affected with leukemia and ten-fold increase in cancer in Fallujah. Even the U.S. marines who took part in the battle are developing strange diseases.
Since 2004 Fallujah has joined the names of places like Jallianwallah Bagh (India), Guernica (Spain), My Lai (Vietnam), Halabja (Iraq) and Grozny (Chechnya/Russia), and has become a symbol of unfathomed and unconscionable cruelty, wanton devastation, and brutal occupation to much of our world.
The use of firebombs puts the US in breach of the 1980 Convention on Certain Chemical Weapons (CCW) and is a violation of the Geneva Protocol against the use of white phosphorous, "since its use causes indiscriminate and extreme injuries especially when deployed in an urban area."
The Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rice-Blair cabal invaded Iraq under the pretext of stopping the Iraqi dictator of using WMDs, and evidences since then have proven that not only were there no Iraqi WMDs but that the worst culprits of mass murder and use of WMDs have been the governments of Bush and Blair. By authorizing the use of banned weapons in Iraq, they have relegated them to the level of war criminals, and thus, must be tried as such at The Hague.
Regrettably, the world community has failed to put these mass-murdering war criminals where they belong. In the mean time, over 3 million Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes since the invasion in 2003, in the biggest movement of displaced people in the Middle East since the Palestinians in 1948. The US and UK, who are most responsible, have done almost nothing to address it. And as to Fallujah, it still remains "a giant prison". The curse of banned weapons will continue to haunt its residents forever.
Where is justice in our world? Will the so-called civilized world ever have the moral courage to convict its former leaders - some of the worst offenders in human history, much like what the Egyptians were recently able to do with their Hosni Mubarak?
- Asian Tribune -