We are currently bombing the 300,000 people of Fallujah in hopes of pacifying the city and may wind up levelling it altogether. Is the sky the limit on what it will take to bring freedom and democracy to the people of trag? Don’t you wonder? -Jude Wanniski, a memo to David Border, Washington Post, November, 0, 2004.
In September 2002, I was invited to Iraq, along with journalists from other media organisations from around the world, including the BBC, CNN, RFI, Radio Canada, Al-Jazeerah and a host of others, to witness the last Presidential elections held under the regime of Saddam Hussein. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities no journalist worthy of the profession would miss. There was also the fact that our newspaper was the only Nigerian medium that was given the invitation.
What made it particularly useful was that by that time, everybody knew that the United States was already preparing the excuses for its invasion of Iraq. At the back of my mind, I wanted to know what the effects of ten years of the most merciless sanctions had wrought on the lives of the Iraqi people. I was also interested in the real attitude of the Iraqi people to the regime of Saddam Hussein as well as to the United States of America.
For any first time visitor to Irag, one of the most striking things you get out of the people is their sense of history and the pride of how old they are as the people at the fount head of human civilisation. Iragis are very proud of the fact that it was along the two major rivers that define their country, the Rivers Tigres and Euphrates that civilised existence was invented by humanity.
Everywhere that I went, and we got the opportunity to visit such places as Babylon, with its hanging gardens, its remarkable museum and all those biblical accounts; we saw the holy places of Najaf and Kerbala, and the spiral dome of the city of Samara as well as the delightful city of Baghdad, which was the heart of the Abbasid Caliphate made so popular by the Caliph Haroun ar-Rashid. Everywhere, the Iraqi people prided themselves on their long and very eventful history.
It struck me that while most Iraqis detested the oppression by Saddam Hussein, they nevertheless appreciated the challenge which his defiance posed to the big powers, who have been responsible for the punitive sanctions regime of the previous decade. They particularly hated the United States of America for being the most anti-Iragi over the years.
In response to questions the journalists asked about the inevitability of an American invasion, I got the sense that the Americans would of course eventually take the country, however, I also felt, judging by what ordinary Iraqis told us, that the Americans will not find life of occupation a picnic. It would be blood, toil and more blood, as we have seen over the past eighteen months or so, of the occupation of the country by the Anglo-American coalition; an occupation that the United Nations Secretary General has described as illegal and done on the basis of lies, distortions and more lies.
It has therefore been no surprise to me that the Iragi people have valiantly resisted the occupation of their country, opening new pages of heroism, in the context of the difficult conditions of the early twenty-first century. Why do I say difficult? Because today, in a unipolar world, with the United States the only imperialist superpower, there is no country that dares to aid a just war of resistance such as the Iraqis are waging. The new Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive warfare means that any country can be attacked once it is deemed to be in the vital security or economic interest of the United States to do so.
Therefore, even if people recognize the legitimacy of resistance to an illegal invasion and occupation, no one will come to their aid. They have been obliged to task their own ingenuity to wage the heroic war that we have all read about or seen in distorted frames on television in recent months.
If any city has become the symbol of the Iraqi resistance to American savagery, that city is Falluja. It showed its hatred of the occupation almost from day one, and has therefore been at the receiving end of some of the most criminal acts by the Americans in recent months. Its resistance is bad news which underlines the unpopular nature of the American occupation. It was therefore decided that it must be broken, as a symbol of defiance and of the free spirit of Irag, and to prepare the ground for the sham elections planned for January 2005.
On the eve of the attack, Stephen Breen, writing in THE SCOTSMAN of Sunday 3rd October 2004, quoting intelligence sources, had indicated that George Bush was planning an all-out crackdown, “with some suggesting it would involve practically flattening Falluja”. This is the reason why the interim government headed by the CIA agent, Iyad Allawi, forced out the Arabic satellite television channel, Al-Jazaeerah from Iraq, to ensure that an independent view of the atrocities were hidden from the world.
Instead, we have embedded journalists who accompany the American army in its mission and therefore report the aggression from the propaganda spectacle of the American defence establishment. In real terms, as the WSWS Editorial Board report of the 9th of November, 2004 puts it, “the entire media and political establishment in the US is an accomplice in the crime” in Falluja.
For the assault. the United States mobilized between 10,000 and 15, 000 soldiers and marines, and reading some of the accounts of the Western media, you could be forgiven to assume that what was being described was not the destruction of human lives and their properties, but a fictional account of some imaginary war game. On November 8, 2004, THE NEW YORK TIMES carried a report titled G.I’s OPEN ATTACK TO TAKE FALLUJA FROM IRAQ REBELS. The reported carried the by line of Richard A. Oppel and Robert F. Worth.
In part the report says that “as that fire fight raged, extensive air strikes and artillery fire pummelled the northern and western sections of Falluja, with great blossoms of the flame brightening and then fading with each boom of the heavy canons on the AC-130
gunships, circling over the city like birds of prey. A huge fire burned in the midst of the city. The streets themselves, as seen through the powerful night-vision equipment aboard one Bradley fighting vehicle southeast of Falluja, appeared eerily deserted.”
So in a city that still had approximately 150,000 people at the time of the assault, what these journalists could admire was the machinery of death that the United States was unleashing on a city that is a symbol of resistance. No wonder, the WSWS opined that
“the upper echelons of American society are hopelessly corrupted and morally decayed”.
It is only ‘hopelessly corrupted and morally decayed’ people, that can order such a large scale attack on the city known to the world as the city of Mosques. Falluja is reputed to have 120 large Mosques, and the Iraqi journalist Fadil al-Badran, reporting for Reuters from the city told Al Jazeerah that “almost half of those 120 Mosques “have been destroyed after being targeted by US air and tank strikes”.
James Cogan reporting on 11th November, 2004 for the WSWS, quoted NEW YORK TIMES’ correspondents that more than half the houses in the northern suburbs of Jolan and Askeri have been destroyed, with dead bodies scattered on the streets and narrow alleys of Jolan, one of Falluja’s oldest neighbourhoods. The report added that blood and flesh were splattered on the walls of some of the houses. Just two days ago most of the international media carried the horrific images of the American soldier that killed a wounded Iraqi fighter inside a Mosque! No wonder the Iraqi Red Crescent Society has described Falluja as a major catastrophe.
The main propaganda thrust has been that the atrocity against Falluja is necessary to prepare the ground for elections in January 2005. But I believe that James Cogan got it right, when he argued that “the occupation of Iraq will not give rise to “democracy’, but a pro-US police-state that sanctions the indefinite presence of American troops and the looting of the country’s oil resources by American corporations.”
The savagery in Falluja, is the actual face of the American occupation of Iraq. Falluja is being razed to the ground as the example of the punishment in store for all that resist the occupation and the grand design of unending exploitation of the resources of Iraq. This is the Iraq that the elections of January is to give an imprimatur; it is expected that Iyad Alawi, known as “Saddam without the moustache”, will eventually win such a sham election to ensure business as usual, the business of exploitation of Iraq and the expropriation of its people.
It is also quite indicative that the assault on Falluja took place, just weeks after the Audit report by KMPG for the International Advisory and Monitoring Board, created by the United Nations to monitor the American stewardship of Iraqi funds, was released. The report, very damning, exposed the true content of the American invasion and occupation of Iraq.
In the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the report “found 37 cases where contracting files could not be located”. These were contracts totalling $185m. In another 52 cases, there was no record of the goods received for $877.9 million in expenditures. In a military commanders program to buy back weapons, the report said $1.4m was spent from a fund that specifically prohibited such expenditure.
The auditors queried cheques made payable to a US official, a senior adviser in the Iraqi Ministry of Health, rather than to suppliers. In another instance, the auditors were given a deposit slip that showed transfer of $1.4b to a Kurdish Bank, but were denied access to accounting records and were unable to verify how-or if-the money was spent.
The report added that millions of dollars in oil proceeds were expended with little effort to monitor and justify the expenditures. So disgusted was Rep. Henry Waxman, Democrat member of the US House Government Reform Committee about the scandalous nature of the husbandry of Iraqi revenue, that he specifically requested that an urgent Congressional investigation must be conducted. So far, over 190 national companies of Iraq have been asset-stripped by the Americans and taken over by American companies. So in the twenty first century, we are witnessing acts of bare-faced theft of a country, by another. This is the reason a desperate, brutal and criminal effort is being made to destroy the Iraqi resistance, so that the act of theft can continue unabated.
The scenario in Irag, is actually part of a world-wide design by the United States of America. It is projecting military power into different regions of the world to secure the sources of strategic resources such as petroleum products, for American transnational companies. Already, there are designs to station Naval Forces in the Gulf of Guinea, which they have declared as vital to them. George Monbiot’s article of March 111, 2003 in the British GUARDIAN newspaper itled A WILLFUL BLINDNESS OF BRITISH! LIBERAL INTERVENTIONISTS, underlined the fact that the US had by 2003 begun ‘negotiations’ to establish a military base in Sao Tome and Principe, from which it can, if it chooses, dominate West Africa’s principal oil fields. By pure good fortune,” Monbiot added, “the US government now exercises strategic control over almost all the world’s major oil-producing regions and oil transport corridors”.
Unfortunately, the neo-colonial regimes of the region seem to be hands-in-glove with the United States, against our national interest. For example the top leadership of Nigeria’s Armed Forces have been reported at various times as welcoming the American interest in our Gulf of Guinea, while since 1999, the Obasanjo government has effectively handed over Nigeria’s Armed Forces to the United States, ostensibly to teach them lessons in peace keeping! Whatever its weaknesses, our army has a wonderful record of peace keeping dating back to the 1960s, while the American Army disturbs the peace of different regions of the world. To cement subservience, Obasanjo even secretly signed the American Servicemen Protection Act (ASPA), which effectively ousted the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, in respect of American atrocities around the world, and it was done without receiving the approval of our National Assembly!
The obverse of these strategic acts of surrender is the implementation of the neo-liberal economic program which has resulted in the gradual erosion of our nation’s sovereignty, as the regime opens up our economy to unfair competition, sells our vital national assets in a dubious privatization program and withdraws subsides from social sectors vital to national development. This is why the standards of existence have continued to plummet in Nigeria, leaving in its wake the groundswell of social discontent and despair in the country.
The lesson is that all third world countries are expected to surrender to a regime of plunder by the transnational corporations under the watch of the United States. To effectively ensure such a project of plunder, pliant regimes are implanted to implement neo-liberal economic programs of total surrender such as Obasanjo is doing in our country. Of course, dissent could hopefully be beaten back locally by the regime, or in the extreme, the American marines might be landed.
Falluja is therefore a metaphor; it is to tell Iraqis that resistance to the power of American imperialism is futile. By extension, it is a warning to all who want genuine independence for their countries, whether in the Middle East, in Africa or elsewhere, that the United States has the power of impunity.
This is why we must give a thought to the heroic people of Falluja-men, women and children that have been butchered by the United States. The truth is that we are all from Falluja. This is the reality that all free people have to confront, one day or the other. So today it is Falluja, tomorrow it could be our homestead. That is why American imperialism decided to kill Falluja. But it is an exercise in futility because such heroic examples as Falluja don’t die, they multiply.