The war drums are being beaten once again in Fallujah. After the siege in April this year, the city will again be the scene of an onslaught, probably bigger than last time. Life has almost come to a standstill as thousands of people are fleeing their houses. During the last weeks, the US forces stepped up their daily air raids while at the same time applying heavy psychological warfare tactics. Threatening to crush the resistance, US imperialism is now actually heading steadily for an all-out assault on Fallujah. Between 10,000 and 15,000 US soldiers and marines backed by newly trained Iraqi forces are moving into Fallujah for what will perhaps be one of the bloodiest episodes since the start of the war.
Yesterday, November 7, the Interim Iraqi government declared a state of emergency across the war-torn country, except for the Kurdish-run north, which actually gives it sweeping powers. Some days before it was reported that the government is setting up a shadow administration to run Fallujah if US Marines and Army soldiers are ordered to assault the insurgent stronghold. That leaves little doubt about the plans US imperialism has for the city. The stage has been set for massive killings – insurgents, US and British soldiers and civilians.
The case for crushing the resistance
US officers maintain that Fallujah is the main base of Arab terrorists purportedly led by the notorious Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, said to be Al Qaeda’s top operative in Iraq. The resistance council administering Fallujah refutes this, however, and says they are only being targeted because they don’t accept the occupation. The puppet interim government has no authority in Fallujah and neighbouring areas. Along with all the talk about the weapons of mass destruction, another pretext for waging an imperialist war always comes in handy. That excuse was found already a year ago in the person of Al Zarqawi. The smokescreen created since then to mislead public opinion has only become more prominent after the exposure of the WMD myth. Although nobody really knows whether Al Zarqawi is in Fallujah or not, he is now cited to be the main motivation for the assault.
In April the US imperialists had to accept a humiliating truce. Despite the massive bombing of Fallujah, they were not able to subjugate the population. In effect, what this constituted was nothing more than a defeat for the American troops. The Iraqi security forces refused to fight in the face of an uprising that began in Fallujah and then spread to the predominantly Shiite areas south of Baghdad. The resistance movement could not be crushed, and this fact in itself served to strengthen the determination of the resistance. The small detail that at least 700 Iraqis were killed and 1,500 others injured during the vicious raid on Fallujah in April, won’t have made the occupiers popular either.
After the Fallujah massacre in April, air strikes on Fallujah homes have continued without mercy. US spokesmen usually claim that the targets were “safe houses” for Jama'at Al-Tawhid Wa Al-Jihad, the terrorist organisation headed by Zarqawi. The trick, you see, is fairly simple. As soon as houses, cafés and mosques get bombed, killing dozens of innocent citizens in the “precision strikes”, at least they were bombarded for a good cause. “This was a successful mission directed against Al Zarqawi”, so the story goes. The fact of the matter is that it is nothing less than ordinary state terrorism. Besides, these attacks have a broader goal than simply removing Al Zarqawi – they are intended to crush the most militant centre of the Iraqi resistance.
Just as in April, US imperialism wants to make an example of Fallujah because it still is the symbol of the resistance. At the time they failed miserably. Whether they will succeed now is not sure at all either.
As Patrick Graham, writing in The Guardian, remarks:
“The Americans have more than enough troops to attack Fallujah, but as soon as they do the area will once more erupt, and it will take everything the Americans have to control the surrounding villages of Habbaniya, Khaldiya and Al Kharma. According to the Iraqi president, Ghazi al-Yawar, there is a good chance that when the marines hit Fallujah again, even Mosul, home to three million Sunnis, will explode. Unlike the US army, Mr Yawar knows what he is talking about and understands the way the tribes are grouped in northern Iraq, an intricate web of families that runs through the Sunni triangle. If Mosul is pushed over the edge, holding the north will be like trying to keep the lid on a pressure cooker by hand.” (The Guardian, October 21, 2004)
However, there is another element in the equation: elections. At the end of January “free” elections are supposed to take place that would lay the groundwork for a “sovereign” and “democratic” Iraq. Since Fallujah is the hotbed of the resistance, US imperialism cannot stand being faced with insurgents disrupting the carefully guided elections. Rebel Fallujah needs to be tamed and reincorporated into the rest of the country. Since it cannot be done by diplomatic means, they will do it by force. They delayed the assault until after the US elections. Now that Bush has been re-elected, the way has been cleared for a bloody retribution.
A small carrot... and a very big stick
Strikingly enough, the build-up to the assault was one of the most promoted events since the beginning of the war. Instead of taking the enemy by surprise, the Americans chose to adopt a rather open policy with regard to Fallujah. This is no coincidence. US imperialism may have stormed Iraq like an elephant in a China shop, using an extraordinary amount of military force and thereby killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians, but this does not mean that they rely on military means alone to maintain the occupation. Obviously, politics and diplomacy also play an important role in warfare, and that is why the US was weighing up its tactics. They have not forgotten the painful defeat in April and are aware that simply crushing Fallujah in blood may prove too difficult. Hence, by openly proclaiming imminent attacks and moving troops around the city, they hoped to intimidate and put pressure on the insurgents. In that way, a deal could possibly be reached (though this is highly improbable now), thus avoiding too many US casualties. Now the talking is over and the siege has started. As a consequence, both US and British troops may well suffer severe losses in the coming days and weeks.
However, it is also a matter of trying to win the “hearts and minds” of the local tribal leaders. Allawi has offered local leaders some positions in the government and aid in general if they put down their weapons and show their willingness to collaborate. The tribal leaders play an important role in this war as they have significant influence on the resistance. The idea has always been to have some of the leaders in the pocket in order to curb the resistance movement. If that tactic doesn’t work, which seems to be the case in Fallujah now, the solution is less elegant: put on the boxing gloves and deliver some well-aimed punches. In other words, this is the classical carrot and stick policy: the resistance is offered a carrot, but if they don’t agree they get the stick – a very big stick indeed. With the U.S. presidential election over, there is room for using a more risky approach in order to try to deliver a decisive blow to the resistance movement. By drowning the movement in blood, US (and British) imperialism want to deliver a clear message to the insurgents in the other cities.
New war crimes
After Fallujah Part One, viewers are treated to the next episode in this horrendous drama. Fallujah has been bombed on a daily basis as part of the “softening up” for the long-awaited siege. Hundreds of Iraqi families have fled the city to a refugee camp in the neighbouring Habaniya area. Once again they are the playthings of ruthless forces deciding their fate. Innocent people are driven out of their houses, leaving a city that is already a wasteland. What will remain when they come back?
Robert Fisk, one of the few honest journalists reporting on Iraq, writes:
“The Americans have a professional army in Iraq, but it is becoming frighteningly casual about the way it kills women and children in Fallujah, simply denying that its air strikes are killing the innocent, and insists that all 120 dead in their Samarra operation are all insurgents when this cannot possibly be true. What about the latest wedding party carnage, another American “success” against terrorism? Because journalists can scarcely travel in Iraq any more, there is no longer any independent witness to this awful war. What is going on in Ramadi and Hilla and all the other cities where US forces carry out their brutal raids?”
That is a hundred percent correct. War crimes are committed on a daily basis in the name of freedom and democracy, and it is nonsense to portray the attacks as a product of terrorists alone. The resistance are not only small groups of Islamic fanatics or supporters of Saddam Hussein. What we see in Iraq is a resistance movement with a real mass basis. True, tragically enough the leadership of the movement tends to be in the hands of the Islamists, but that is only because no genuine alternative is available at the moment. The Communist Party and parts of the trade union movement are openly collaborating with the occupier. Thus, it is no wonder ordinary Iraqi people orient themselves towards the clergy, which they see as the only voice speaking against imperialism.
It is easy to see why the resistance is growing. When you see your relatives and friends being killed on a regular basis, you are likely to seek revenge. And as the deadly bombs are dropped from American planes, the anger of the Iraqi people will inevitably be directed against the occupying troops. The fact that some terrorist groupings are able to hijack this enormous amount of rage and frustration and use it for their own reactionary purposes is no excuse for the crushing of Fallujah and other rebel cities. It will only exacerbate the tensions and make the spiral of violence worse.
Nobody will deny that Iraq is in a mess now. Nobody can walk on the streets without the fear of losing one’s life. Every day suicide attacks and bombings disrupt what once was a rich and cultured country. Even The Lancet, a medical journal not particularly known for its radicalism, puts the number of civilian dead since the start of the war at no less than 100,000. That in itself is a shocking condemnation of this filthy war. Even if this number is exaggerated (but then it could also be more, as The Lancet considers its findings conservative), that does not change by one iota the nature of this war. How much “collateral damage” do they want? Twenty thousand people? Fifty thousand people or 200,000? Whatever the number of innocent people dying in Iraq, it is already clear enough how monstrous “Operation Iraqi Freedom” is.
The truth is that the occupying forces have created this mess themselves. Iraqis are not better off than under Saddam’s regime, on the contrary. The whole of the Middle East has become a deadly chessboard on which the major players – US imperialism, Al Qaeda and the resistance movement – battle for decisive victory. People fool themselves if they think American and British troops are in Iraq to “pacify” the country. In reply to the argument that only chaos will prevail after a withdrawal of the troops we say: but there is already chaos. Every day people are being killed. Is the present onslaught on Fallujah not terrible “chaos”? The responsibility for all this mess lies entirely on the shoulders of imperialism. The Iraqi people have the right to decide their own fate and to control the resources of their country. But that is impossible with an occupying force present – an occupying force that is not there to establish genuine “democracy” and “sovereignty”, but only to defend the interest of US imperialism. They should be out.
There is a lot of talk about the “ethnic divisions” in Iraq. In reality there is a lot of unity among the different sections of society, except for the Kurds (for particular reasons). The imperialists use the supposed threat of the collapse of the country into ethnic divisions to justify their presence.
There is another way of guaranteeing unity and civilised existence. That is, the working class must emerge as the leader of the nation. When we say that the organised working class should be at the head of the resistance, we don’t say this for sentimental reasons. Precisely because of its role in the economic process, only the working class armed with a militant class programme can unite the country and cut across any possible ethnic divisions. The threat of the collapse of any civilised existence does exist in Iraq. But the workers of Iraq would know how to stop this if they had power in their hands. Therefore, a big responsibility lies on the shoulders of all genuine trade union and communist activists in Iraq.
Stop the Fallujah massacre!
End the occupation of Iraq!
Bring the troops home now!
Down with imperialism and capitalism – the source of all wars, hunger and misery in the world!