HAVE WAR CRIMES BEEN COMMITTED
DURING THE SIEGE OF FALLUJAH?
By Christopher Bollyn
American Free Press
While the U.S. mass media has avoided the subject, reports in the foreign press indicate that hundreds of unarmed civilians have been massacred during the siege of Fallujah.
DEARBORN, Michigan – During the first 18 days of April the majority of the 117 U.S. military personnel who lost their lives in Iraq died in a brutal offensive on the Sunni city of Fallujah. The U.S. media, however, has largely avoided discussing the details of the costly three-week old siege.
European and Arabic news outlets, on the other hand, have produced daily reports during the siege, which began in the first week of April. Many of these foreign reports contain first-hand information from people in the besieged city, which suggest that war crimes have been committed.
After the first week of the U.S. offensive on Fallujah, Britain’s leading papers carried detailed reports from the besieged Iraqi city of nearly 300,000 people. The Sunday Telegraph of April 11, for example, had a front-page story by Lee Gordon, who was with the Iraqi resistance fighters in Fallujah.
“More than 600 Iraqis have been killed in Fallujah since Marines began a siege against Sunni insurgents in the city a week ago,” the Associated Press reported on April 11, “most of them women, children and the elderly, the head of the city's hospital said Sunday.
“Bodies were being buried in two soccer fields,” AP reported, “filled with row after row of graves.” There were also “reports of an unknown number of dead being buried in people's homes.” There have been numerous reports that U.S. forces seized the city’s main hospital during the opening days of the siege, and prevented injured people from being treated.
CNN reported on April 20 that negotiations in Fallujah could result in the city’s population getting access to the hospital and being allowed to bury their dead, which implies that for three weeks they had not been able to do so.
CNN - CLUELESS IN FALLUJAH
While U.S.-based CNN International reported on April 11 that 480 Iraqis had been killed in the fighting in Fallujah, it provided no photos or reports from the city. During the next ten days, as the death toll continued to grow, CNN remained clueless in Fallujah – unable or unwilling to report about what was actually happening in the besieged city.
CNN, however, was certainly aware of the legal questions concerning the U.S. offensive. On April 5 the CNN website carried a lengthy article by legal scholar Phillip Carter about international law and the killing of the four “contractors” from Blackwater Security Consulting in Fallujah on March 31.
Members of a privately contracted army of irregular soldiers in Iraq, the four Blackwater employees carried weapons but wore no uniforms. Carter wrote that the four slain soldiers-of-fortune were “agents of the U.S. government,” and could be considered “combatants for the purposes of international law.”
“It is not so obvious that this was a crime,” Carter, a former U.S. Army officer wrote, “ as opposed to an act of war.”
The desecration of the corpses is a war crime, Carter wrote, although it was committed by a leaderless mob of angry Iraqis.
“We are not going to do a pell-mell rush into the city,” U.S. Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said about the military’s planned response to the killings. “It’s going to be deliberate, it will be precise and it will be overwhelming. We will not rush in to make things worse. We will plan our way through this and we will re-establish control of that city and we will pacify that city.”
International law prohibits any kind of reprisal against the civilians of Fallujah, Carter wrote, but the U.S. military could respond if three principles of international law were met: necessity, proportionality, and distinction.
To be legal, the U.S. response “must not intentionally or negligently kill non-combatants,” Carter wrote. “No atrocity may be used to justify an act of retribution against non-combatants.”
After CNN published Carter’s article, however, reports from the foreign press suggest the U.S. response in Fallujah took its heaviest toll among the city’s civilian population.
On April 21, American Free Press asked Carter what he thought about the three-week old siege of Fallujah. “This is a bloody fight,” Carter said. The American offensive had been “fairly precise,” he said, with “no obvious violations.” Carter said his main sources of information were leading U.S. newspapers.
Asked how the Gattling guns and cannons of an Apache helicopter or the huge AC-130 gunship firing on a city of 300,000 could distinguish a combatant from a civilian, Carter said: “They are very precise weapons.”
Carter, however, said the people of Fallujah have no right to resist U.S. occupation. Despite Iraq’s long history of occupation, with Britain being the most recent occupier from 1914 until 1955, Carter rejected the idea that Iraqis have the right to resist a foreign occupation. Asked if he would turn his weapons over to foreign troops occupying California, Carter refused to answer.
Jack Fairweather of Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported on April 12 that U.S. Marine snipers had taken up positions in a mosque in Fallujah and killed unarmed civilians. The same article reported that an Apache helicopter had opened fire on mourners at the city cemetery killing 25 people.
According to an eyewitness, an Apache helicopter gunned down nine people on a rooftop, Fairweather reported.
Patrick Cockburn of The Independent (U.K.) reported on April 21 from a hospital in Baghdad where some of the Fallujah wounded were being treated. A 51-year-old woman said U.S. snipers shooting from a mosque had hit her: “American troops were on the roof of the mosque and they hit me and my son, she recalled. “I was hit twice in my chest and once in my hand. My family won’t tell me if my son is alive or not.”
The siege has badly damaged the reputation of the U.S.-led alliance among Iraqis, Cockburn wrote.
The Associated Press reported that on April 15, a Humvee with a loudspeaker blasted heavy metal music in the city and said in Arabic: “May the ambulances in Fallujah have enough fuel to pick up the bodies of the mujahadeen.” Moments later an AC-130 gunship pounded the city with its big guns.
“Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw in Fallujah yesterday,” Dr. Najeeb al-Ani told Fairweather. “There is no law on Earth that can justify what the Americans have done to innocent people.”
“I never saw a more despicable and evil action by the Americans,” Dr. Tariq Atham told United Press International. “Even Sharon or Saddam are better. They [U.S. troops] shot children and women in the face and neck every time.”
Dr. Jamal Taha, a doctor at Al Yarmuk hospital told The Telegraph: “The U.S. is the most developed country in the world, but in Iraq they are barbarians.” By April 13, Fallujah hospital officials reported 508 Iraqi dead, with 1,224 injured. Of those killed 298 were women and children – 58 under the age of five.
“When you see a child five years old with no head, what can you say?” a doctor in Fallujah asked Pacifica Radio.
“We buried many in the stadium for football until it became full. When you are burying you cannot stay long because they [U.S. Marines] will just shoot you. So we use the shovel. Just dig a big hole and put a whole family in the hole and leave as soon as possible so we are not shot.”
American Free Press spoke with Mohammed Al Omari, media director from the Southfield, Michigan-based organization Focus on American and Arab Interests and Relations (FAAIR) about the events in Fallujah and how the Iraqi people view the siege. Dearborn is home to the largest Iraqi population in the United States.
“It is against the best interest of the United States,” Al Omari said from FAAIR’s Baghdad office. “It will only build hatred.”
“Using F-16’s to bomb houses and mosques is completely unjustified,” he said. “The people want the U.S. forces to leave the city. The U.S. attacks are antagonizing them.”
Asked about reports of the massacre of mourners in the graveyard by an Apache helicopter, Al Omari said, “That’s true. Then they cordoned off the cemetery.”
Frank Patterson, spokesman for the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, said, “Anybody [in Fallujah] who walks in the street is in danger.” Asked about the reports of Marine snipers shooting women and children, Patterson said the Marines are trained to shoot “only people with weapons.”
Reports about the newly trained Iraqi forces refusing to join the fight for Fallujah are not accurate, Al Omari said. The only element of the U.S.-trained force that refused to attack the people of Fallujah was the “volunteer” group, which is comprised of Sunni Arabs.
Shiite fighters belonging to militia groups controlled by Ahmed Chalabi and Mr. Hakim of the U.S. appointed governing council did join the battle of Fallujah, as did Kurdish fighters, Al Omari said.
Al Omari said the story was spun to prevent the Iraqi people from learning that Chalabi’s fighters and others from the U.S.-trained Iraqi forces had joined the fight in Fallujah on the side of the Americans. If Iraqis knew this, Al Omari said, the new Iraqi army and its leaders would be rejected by the population.
“Losses on the U.S. side in Fallujah have been in the hundreds,” Al Omari said. He said he has unconfirmed reports that U.S. soldiers had dismembered bodies in Fallujah to avenge the mutilation of the corpses of the Blackwater employees.
The U.S. attack against Fallujah had included the use of cluster bombs, he said.
The U.S. requested a ceasefire, Al Omari said, after Iraqi fighters cut off their supply lines and a group of U.S. forces in Fallujah were surrounded. Al Omari’s claim is supported by reports in the mainstream media.
“The Marines were essentially pinned down inside the building [in Fallujah] for several days last week while insurgents peppered it with small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades,” Time magazine of April 19 reported.
During the ceasefire the Marines were “eager to plunge back into the fray,” the Washington Post reported on April 11. Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne, commander of the 5th Marine Battalion in Fallujah told the Post: “Given the virulent nature of the enemy, the prospect of some city father walking in and getting Joe Jihadi to give himself up is pretty slim … That’s fine, because they’ll get whipped up, come out fighting and get mowed down,” Byrne said, “Their only choices are to submit or die.”
Time wrote, “the Marines sensed that, no matter how the battle turns out, winning hearts and minds in Fallujah after so much destruction may be impossible.”
Marine snipers in Fallujah are using Israeli tactics and ruining the reputation of America in the Middle East. Here they have taken over a school. Why is the U.S. flag backwards these days - maybe it should be upside-down.