Collective Punishment in Falluja

[ Dahr Jamail is Baghdad correspondent for The NewStandard. You can read his other daily dispatches online, or through ZNet. –BL ]

04/26/04 New Standard

by Dahr Jamail

The current “negotiations” in which the U.S. is engaged with the mujahedeen in Falluja boil down to this: the mujahedeen are to relinquish their “heavy weaponry” (ie, turn in their rocket propelled grenade launchers) to the U.S. military.

This is an interesting proposition in light of how this all began. First the U.S. invaded Iraq. Just afterwards, in April 2003, American soldiers gunned down several people in Falluja during a demonstration against the military occupation of a school there.

Thus began the resistance to the U.S. occupation in Falluja.

Then, utilizing their usual heavy-handed tactics, the military responded with collective punishment: mass home raids, detentions, power and electricity cuts, and military patrols through the city on a daily basis.

As resistance attacks continued to increase in the city against the occupiers, so did the retaliation by the military. And so it has grown to bring us to the current siege of Fallujah where hundreds of women, children, elderly and unarmed men have been slain by soldiers, along with some mujahedeen.

In the beginning of April, some residents of Fallujah killed four Blackwater Security mercenaries in their flashy white SUV while the professional militants were guarding a food shipment through the city. Since then, the U.S. military has traded scores of its soldiers’ lives (and over 800 Iraqis) in an attempt to seek revenge for the desecrated bodies of the security contractors, which were brutally dragged through the streets, the scorched remnants then hung from the bridge over the Euphrates River.

Thus the next move of one-upmanship by the U.S. military was launched against all the people of Falluja. The city was promptly sealed, electricity and water cut, and military operations commenced in earnest.

However, as an Iraqi friend with relatives in Falluja recently told me, “The people of Falluja started preparing for this immediately after the Americans shot the demonstrators there last year. They have enough weapons to fight for a year straight if they need to.”

Resistance fighters in Falluja have been able to turn Marine incursions away by fighting against them. The U.S. military has lost well over 70 soldiers in Falluja alone since the fighting began. The soldiers have been forced to set up a perimeter around Falluja and are using snipers to penetrate the city. In addition, the aggressors have resorted to using psychological operations such as blaring sounds of wailing women, crying children, barking dogs, Jimi Hendrix songs and music from the heavy metal band AC/DC at all hours.

And the fighting continues, despite the U.S. military rhetoric of supposed “ceasefires.”

On a recent trip into Falluja a young boy yelled at my vehicle, “We will be mujahedeen until we die!”

This mindset is also reflected by the adults fighting in Falluja. One of the several mujahedeen I spoke with in the middle of the city stated, “The Americans will not take Falluja until they have killed every Iraqi in it!”

Along with the ideologically driven mujahedeen fighting the soldiers in Falluja, an increasing number of residents are simply fighting to defend their homes, their families, their mosques and their city.

The veil of democracy and freedom has been stripped from the face of the U.S. occupation, particularly in Falluja, where the brutality takes the form of American snipers shooting grandmothers waving white flags.

Mr. Maki Al-Nazzal, a 47 year-old Iraqi man who is managing one of the two remaining functional clinics inside Falluja, works for an Italian NGO, INTERSOS. I sat with him during a rare break in the nearly constant influx of wounded women and children being brought to his clinic for treatment.

He wearily said, “For 47 years I had accepted the illusion of Europe and the U.S. being good for the world. The carriers of democracy and freedom. Now I see that it took me 47 years to wake up to the horrible truth. They are not here to bring anything like democracy or freedom.”

“You can use my name in your writing,” Al-Nazzal added. “What are they going to do to me that they haven’t already done here?”

So today the U.S. demands that the fighters of Falluja surrender their heavy weapons — to essentially disarm themselves and allow the occupiers full control of their city. To be “pacified.” A people who were shot by soldiers for demonstrating when U.S. soldiers occupied one of their schools are being asked to surrender their ability to protect themselves from their aggressors.

Meanwhile the snipers continue to harass the city, the collective punishment continues, and refugees from Falluja are displaced throughout Baghdad as Red Crescent medical workers struggle feverishly to prevent a humanitarian crisis among them.

No one among the occupiers seems to have considered the obvious alternative to siege, instigation and aggression: maybe the U.S. military, as part of the negotiations, should leave the residents of Falluja alone. Why shouldn’t the U.S. lay down their own “heavy weapons?” Or cease the home raids, detentions of innocents, military patrols of neighborhood streets. Or cease allowing mercenaries to drive through the city? Or maybe U.S. soldiers should offer themselves up to be searched by the mujahedeen before entering Falluja, as the residents of Falluja are now searched, complete with being forced to show identification?

As far as the “negotiations,” demanding the mujahedeen in Falluja relinquish their “heavy weapons,” perhaps the U.S. military should recall the ancient tribal proverb in Iraq which states, “Your weapon is your honor.”

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