I’d like to insert a joke about “freedom is on the march!” here but am too disgusted to do it. I just received a lengthy report from Dr. Muhamad Al-Darraji, President of CCER (Conservation Center of Environmental & Reserves), Fallujah City, Iraq (PDF, Doc). It documents the attacks of the past year on the people of Fallujah by the government of Iraq. The U.S. government has rushed weapons to the Iraqi government for this assault. A petition opposing further U.S. arms sales to the government that decades of U.S. violence left behind in Iraq is here.
The U.S. has moved, over 30 years, from arming a brutal government in Iraq, to attacking it, to bombing and sanctioning that nation, to utterly destroying it, and back full-circle to selling weapons to a brutal government left behind by yet another nation-building humanitarian war that built no nation and ripped humanity’s heart out to stomp it in the dust.
Hundreds of civilians have been killed in recent fighting in Fallujah, as the Iraqi government shells the city with American-bought weapons. The Iraqi Ministry of the Interior claims that al Qaeda has taken over the city and that a heavy-handed military response is needed to take the city back from terrorists. But many residents of Fallujah insist that tribal militias control Fallujah and that al Qaeda forces play only a marginal role in the fighting.
The violence began when the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al Maliki, forced a year-old, nonviolent protest camp in Fallujah to disperse. The Iraqi government has since bombed Fallujah with American-bought Hellfire Missiles, a weapon system that is believed to contain uranium and could cause indiscriminate public health effects, something that would not be new to Fallujah after the assaults of 2004 (images here) that have left such an epidemic of birth defects that women are advised by doctors not to become mothers.1
CCER’s report provides eyewitness accounts, photos (don’t scroll down if you don’t want to see what your taxes buy), and links to videos, as well as this summary of what is happening:
Since the start of the peaceful sit-ins of December 2012, numerous peaceful protests have sprung up and spread in the Sunni Iraqi provinces against the sectarian political system, and the continued violation of human rights by the repressive Maliki forces. Instead of negotiating the legal, legitimate demands of the protesters, the Maliki regime conducted a brutal crackdown on the protests, the brutality increasing gradually with time. The number of arbitrary mass arrests increased with a parallel increase in killings in an attempt to exterminate the protesters. This was especially evident in the three consecutive crimes that took place at the beginning of 2013, where protesters were gathered in the cities of al Huwayja, Fallujah, and Mosul. Maliki’s regime justified its policy with the excuse of fighting terrorism, then declared that the demands of the protesters were legitimate, only to go back to declare war on terrorism, a war that in reality is a war against those who oppose that regime and its sectarian government.
While the current violence does not rise to the level of the horror that existed when U.S. and other foreign troops occupied Iraq, it is serious and worsening:
The continuing genocidal policies against the Sunnis in Iraq motivated a member of the European Parliament, Mr. Struan Stevenson, who heads the European Parliament Committee on Relations with Iraq, to say that “Iraq is regressing quickly to a state of civil war and ethnic cleansing.” His point is made even clearer through the televised speeches by Maliki, in which he threatens the protesters, and, with sectarian language, encourages supporters to aid him in his struggle against the residents of Anbar.
The report argues for the right of violent self-defense, and pleads for international intervention, both of which positions raise troubling issues. In particular, Western governments associate “intervention” with missiles, not humanitarian aid or negotiators. The crimes the report documents are terrible:
The residents of Fallujah have accused the Maliki government of murdering their children by bombing schools and demolishing mosques and homes (22,10, 23). The victims of the Iraqi forces’ artillery, which are centered in Mazra’a Camp near Fallujah, have confirmed that many bombs fell on their houses in the morning, while families were having breakfast, injuring numerous women and children in the village of Sbeyhat (the city of Karma) near Fallujah (4). An elderly man (living in the area of Jubeil) who was injured upon exiting the taxi-cab that had taken him to the city from Baghdad, claimed that the military had opened fire on him meters after he left the area which they controlled. He was transported to the hospital with life-threatening wounds and a critical state of shock (6).
The report gives a lot more examples, and summarizes the damage:
The chief of the Residing Physicians in General Fallujah Hospital, Dr Ahmed Shami Jassem, spoke to us about the number of victims as of January 27th, 2014, saying there were 313 severely wounded civilians (amongst them 31 children, 31 women). The number of dead is 59 martyrs (amongst them 10 children and 4 women). He added that bullets caused most of the wounds during the first three days of the operation, which proves that military tried to force their way into the neighborhoods of the city. This contrasts with the wounds that he treated after January 3rd, 2014, which were caused by shrapnel due to the indiscriminate shelling of the city and its homes (2).
We were able to find an official medical document that confirms that the number of civilian casualties in Fallujah since the beginning of the military operation by the Maliki Regime on December 30, 2013 up until February 5th, 2014 is 452 victims. Of them, 69 have died, and 383 were wounded. Of the wounded, 40 were children and 39 were women, and amongst the dead 10 were children and 4 were women (12). While another medical sources in Fallujah said the number of martyrs reached 85, while the wounded had exceeded the 400 injured, mostly children, women and the elderly (30).
The report provides images. Here’s just one sample:
“A … young girl (Assile Jaber Hamid Ghatran) (aged 14), she was wounded by shrapnel in her neck, the upper right side of her body, and the lower left side of her body, as can be seen in the picture below.
Arrival at a hospital is of limited value in Fallujah, as the Iraqi government has repeatedly shelled the hospital, as documented in the report by eyewitnesses and photographs.
“The Head of the Doctors Residing in the Hospital confirmed that the general state of depression, terror, and fear amongst the medical cadres was overwhelming, not to mention the dangerous psychological effect the shelling has on the patients.”
Of course, we’ve recently learned that killing people is only a concern to the U.S. government if it’s done using chemical weapons. Sadly, that may be part of the story here as well.
Some information from eyewitnesses within Fallujah has confirmed that gasses defused from some mortar shells for several hours after they landed. Mahmoud Nouri Kamel, one of these eyewitnesses, has given us images of these thermal shells …. When the shells fell, a strong flame blazed from [them], and a chemical vapor that smelled like rotten eggs wafted towards those nearby. Images below depict the occurrence. Other eyewitnesses have sent us videos of the remains of a mortar that exuded a nausea-inducing vapor (8).
The report is not perfectly translated, but I urge reading it in full (PDF, Doc) and considering its recommendations, including the desperate need for aid (which is, of course, far less expensive than “military aid”) and including the halt to weapons shipments.
Not only would providing doctors, medicine, cleanup crews, aid workers, and negotiators cost less money than providing weapons; it would also provide greater security and protection to us in the West. Don’t imagine the world doesn’t know that Iraq wasn’t like this before we provided our unsolicited assistance in the form of a “war on terror” that continues to terrorize.
- Here’s more background on the recent assaults:
Le Monde Diplomatique: Violence and Power Struggles
OrientXXI: Is al Qaeda in Control of Fallujah? (French)
The Guardian: Victims of Fallujah’s Health Crisis Stifled by Silence
Democracy Now: As U.S. Rushes Weapons to Iraq, New Assault
The Justice for Fallujah Project [↩]