To say that I am impressed by how impressed the Americans are, not only with their ability to kill Iraqis, but their ability to get away with it, too, would be an understatement. At this art—two arts, really—two distinct but nonetheless inseparable arts—the Americans are second to none.
Take Monday’s New York Times. Right there on the front page, the Times published an article along with a photo detailing the launching of Operation Al Fajr, or “Dawn,” including Sunday’s capture of the Fallujah General Hospital by American Special Forces—prime enemy turf, to hear the Americans tell it, a real hotbed of the resistance. (Now habitually referred to as the “insurgency,” by the way. As if occurring somewhere in Manhattan. Or the streets and alleys of Washington and Los Angeles. Rather than some place 7,000 or 8,000 miles east.)
What I like the most about this front-page photo is that it depicts, as clearly as any could, the American Special Forces in the act of committing a war crime: Namely, their conversion of the Fallujah General Hospital into a theater of combat. “Patients and hospital employees were rushed out of rooms by armed soldiers and ordered to sit or lie on the floor while troops tied their hands behind their backs,” in the words of the embedded New York Times reporter. (And these days, close to 100 percent of the American reporters are similarly in bed with the American forces.) “Perhaps the most intriguing discovery of the night—aside from the Moroccan [note that I’ve left this mention of the “Moroccan” here because it’s so rich]—were two cellphones found on the roof of the hospital. The Americans said they were clear evidence that someone was monitoring the area in front of the hospital. ‘Cellphones work fine on the first floor, if you want to talk to your family’, the American Special Forces commander said. ‘It’s pretty clear they were on the roof spotting’.” (Richard A. Oppel Jr., “Early Target of Offensive Is a Hospital,” Nov. 8.—I found no mention as to whether Charles Duelfer’s mysterious “Mr. Claude” was discovered cowering in the same custodial closet as the “Moroccan.”)
(Quick aside. On the American forces’ conversion of the Fallujah General Hospital into a theater of combat, one need look no further than Geneva Convention I (1950-), Ch. III, “Medical Units and Establishments.” Therein, Art. 19 states: “Fixed establishments and mobile medical units of the Medical Service may in no circumstances be attacked, but shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties to the conflict. Should they fall into the hands of the adverse Party, their personnel shall be free to pursue their duties, as long as the capturing Power has not itself ensured the necessary care of the wounded and sick found in such establishments and units.” Notice that neither Art. 19 nor articles 20-23 state anything about handcuffing patients and doctors alike. And here the Americans get away with this particular contravention of the first Geneva Convention smack dab on the front page of the New York Times!)
(Another quick aside. The Los Angeles Times quoted a “senior Pentagon official on condition of anonymity” who explained that the Fallujah General Hospital was seized “to ensure that there was a medical treatment facility available to the population as well as making sure the insurgents could not continue to exaggerate casualties,” the second of these two reasons ringing far truer to my ear than the first.—Maybe next time they should consult with Slate‘s Fred Kaplan?)
And so on. And so on. Splashed across pretty much every front page of every American newspaper of note on this first Monday following the national elections. (Way beyond anything I’ll ever be able to reproduce for you here, sorry to say. Just imagine how bad it would get, were we to extend this sample to the 24-hour-a-day American cable TV news channels!)
For example (and admittedly being selective, given the enormity of what’s available):
* “GIs push into Fallujah: Iraq imposes martial law, vows elections will proceed”
* “US captures key points in Fallujah: Martial law declared amid wave of violence”
* “U.S. pushes into Fallujah”
* “U.S. Heading into Major Urban Assault”
* “U.S. Troops Advance to Fallouja’s Edge”
* “G.I.’s Open Attack to Take Falluja From Iraq Rebels”
* “Long-planned attack begins”
* “U.S. and Iraqi troops begin Fallujah assault”
* “Fighting Around Fallujah Intensifies; Premier Puts Most of Iraq Under State of Emergency“
Now. Lest you go crazy trying to read each and every one of these, let it suffice to say that there is not one single report in the afore-linked collection from nine different U.S. print media that does not provide compelling evidence of the Americans’ ability to kill Iraqis with impunity (in particular, with bombs and rockets launched from the skies overhead—the preferred method of killing) along with equally compelling evidence of the reigning political culture’s lack of capacity to reflect critically upon the real meaning of its capacity to sanction the killing of Iraqis and do so with impunity.
Real, that is, as in for the people of Fallujah, having been incinerated for weeks from the skies above, and now close-range, too, thanks to the dramatic escalation these past two or three days.
Real—as in for the world as well, vast parts of which observe with utter horror the spectacle of American forces killing Iraqis like flies, and keep asking themselves, much as they have for decades, Who will the Americans attack next?
But no less real for the Americans (though they suffer abject denial of it—one of the lessons of last Tuesday’s national election), where a captive population fails to understand the elementary logic that its real security, these days more than ever, rises or falls in direct correlation with the success their state enjoys at placing the life and limb of other peoples on the chopping block.
Consider a few of the comments form the military leaders on the American forces now swatting “Hajis” in Fallujah:
“The eyes of the world are upon you, and I know you won’t let us down,” First Marine Division Maj. Gen. Richard F. Natonski said. “When they’re talking about the history of the Marine Corps 100 years from now, they’ll be talking about this battle….I think you’re going to be so aggressive and so hard-hitting and so violent, this will be over very, very quickly. We’re going to kill these suckers who are just terrorizing the people.”
“This is as pure a fight of good against evil as we’re likely to see in our lifetime,” quoting U.S. Marine Seventh Regimental Combat Commander Col. Greg Tucker, who also urged his troops to attack Fallujah “with deliberate and precise violence oriented toward the enemy, and with deliberate mercy toward the innocent.”
“Never send a marine where you can send a round,” said Light Armored Reconnaissance Company Capt. Gil Juarez. “The enemy is crafty. We just have to be methodical, with techniques that work. Put steel on the target. We need not panic in the face of the enemy.”
“You can feel the energy,” First Marine Expeditionary Force Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler said. “You can feel the chemistry. You’re going to give that to the Iraqi forces as they join that fight. God bless you, each and every one. You know what your mission is. Go out there and get it done.”
(Evidently, the New York Times also has embraced the commanders’ philosophy. As its editorial voice explained today: “[I]f Mr. Bush intends to keep American troops in Iraq until his stated aims are achieved, he must face up to the compelling need to increase their strength, and to commit the resources needed to give present policies at least some chance of success….If Mr. Bush feels he now has a mandate from the voters to stay the course until he creates a stable, unified Iraq, he owes it to the Iraqi people and Americans stationed there to commit enough additional troops to make that look like a plausible possibility. Insufficient troops in the early going made it easier for looters, saboteurs and assorted armed militias to derail earlier transition plans. Too few troops now would almost certainly mean less secure elections, further damaging delays in reconstruction and even graver threats to international aid workers and Iraqi military and police recruits. And it would mean no let-up in the risks and hardships for America’s overstretched forces.” (“More Troops for Iraq,” Nov. 8.) If this is not the logic of quagmire speaking—stay the course, no matter what—I don’t know what is.)
Earlier today, the Iraqi Interim Prime Minister “gave the formal go-ahead for the 20,000 US-led multinational troops camped around Fallujah to launch the assault,” Agence France Presse reports. (Faris Dlimi, “Propaganda war rages ahead of battle for Fallujah,” Nov. 8.—By the way, the number 20,00 may be too high. It’s hard to say.) “[Ayad] Allawi showed maps he said were found on foreign fighters that proved the insurgents would violate holy buildings,” AFP adds. “He also showed pictures of arms and explosives he said were found in a mosque and youth center in the flashpoint town of Ramadi.” (Once again, no mention was made of Charles Duelfer’s “Mr. Claude.” The Iraqi Interim Prime Minister must have left that photo back on his desk.)
“We are determined to clean Falluja from the terrorists,” Reuters quotes Allawi telling a news conference in Baghdad. In what reads as if a staged exchange between Allawi and some of the troop, Reuters also reports (“U.S. Marines Launch Offensive on Iraq’s Falluja,” Nov. 8):
“Your job is to arrest the killers but if you kill them then let it be,” he said, according to a pool report.
“May they go to hell,” shouted the soldiers.
“To hell they will go,” Allawi replied.
“I have made my best to solve the problem of Fallujah,” Allawi explained. He continued (“Ayad Allawi Holds a News Conference,” Nov. 8):
[T]oday I reached convictions that terrorists and the armed groups do not want the peaceful settlement because they have done the following. They have refused the supremacy of law. They refused all the efforts to take part in the political process. They have violated all the moral and religious principles by killing the Iraqi people and the security forces in this holy month.
Once again, yesterday, we have seen more criminal acts committed by these terrorists who continue to use Fallujah as a base for their operations. I have reached a conviction that we have no other option but to take necessary measures to protect the Iraqi people from these killers and to liberate the Fallujans so that they will go back to their homes and lead a normal life.
According to this, I have decided today to implement the security law in Fallujah and Ramadi and the procedures will be carried out after the 6:00 p.m. today.
Higher up the chain of American Power, the American Gen. George W. Casey, Jr.—who holds the official title of Commander of the Multi-National Force for Iraq—a by-product of UN Security Council Res. 1546, you see—briefed reporters somewhere inside Baghdad’s famous “Green Zone” (“Iraq Security Forces and Multinational Forces Offensive Actions in Fallujah, Iraq,” Nov. 8):
Tonight, Iraqi security and coalition forces kicked off offensive operations to eliminate the terrorist and insurgent safe haven in Fallujah and to restore control to the Iraqi government.
As you know, Fallujah has been the center of terrorist and insurgent activity in Iraq. It has been used as a planning, staging, and logistics base for foreign fighters and the Iraqi insurgents that support them. From Fallujah they have exported terror across Iraq against all Iraqis. As we have seen in Najaf, Tall Afar, Samarra and Thawra, the Iraqi people are fighting to throw off the mantle of terror and intimidation so that they can elect their own government and get on with building a better life for all Iraqis. Elimination of Fallujah as a terrorist safe haven will go a long way in helping them achieve these goals.
If I could, I’d just like to say a few brief words for the home audience.
As a nation, you can take great pride in the role that our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are playing in helping build a new Iraq. Each and every one of them recognizes the importance that successfully accomplishing this mission holds for our security, and each and every one of them makes a difference here every day. Wherever I go, I see their acts of bravery, compassion and selflessness, and I couldn’t be prouder of these wonderful men and women.
The fight in Fallujah will be a tough one and there will be other tough fights in our time here, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy, and the challenge of helping 25 million Iraqis build a better future is one that the Iraqi people and the armed forces of more than 30 freedom-loving nations are clearly up to.
Higher up the chain-of-command still, all the way back in Washington, a reporter asked the American Secretary of Defense a monumentally stupid question, but received a wonderful response (“Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld Press Briefing,” Nov. 8):
Question: Mr. Secretary, isn’t the decision of whether or not this will be carried through not really in your hands, not in President Bush’s hands, it’s in President Allawi’s hands? I mean, he has more power over determining whether or not this will be followed through to completion than anybody in this room or in this city does, doesn’t he?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Let me put it this way. The subject was discussed extensively, and I detected no debate about whether or not it would be finished. Indeed, I would say there was a good deal of discussion about the fact it isn’t a matter of two decisions here—one to start, and second, when you stop; the decision to go included the decision to finish and to finish together. So I think what I said is probably accurate.
And that does not make the way you phrased your question inaccurate, it just simply points out the fact that the prime minister has been involved in every aspect of this. And I can’t speak for him, but I can certainly say that I would be amazed.
An Appeal from Fallujah to Kofi Anan and the UN, Kassim Abdullsattar al-Jumaily, President, Center for the Study of Human Rights and Democracy, Fallujah
“Iraqi, U.S. Troops Begin ‘Al Fajr’ Operation in Fallujah,” Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service, November 8, 2004
“Troops ready for signal to storm into Fallujah,” Margaret Coker, Atlanta Jounral-Constitution, November 7, 2004
“Insurgents widen Iraq fighting” Anne Barnard, Boston Globe, November 7, 2004
“Fear, violence reign on Haifa Street,” Alex Rodriguez, Chicago Tribune, November 7, 2004
“Surge of Violence Kills 50 Iraqis,” Alissa J. Rubin and Raheem Salman, Los Angeles Times, November 7, 2004
“Propaganda war rages ahead of battle for Fallujah,” Faris Dlimi, Agence France Presse, November 8, 2004
“U.S. Marines Launch Offensive on Iraq’s Falluja,” Michael Georgy, Reuters, November 8, 2004
“GIs push into Fallujah: Iraq imposes martial law, vows elections will proceed,” Margaret Coker, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 8, 2004
“US captures key points in Fallujah: Martial law declared amid wave of violence,” Thanassis Cambanis and Anne Barnard, Boston Globe, November 8, 2004
“U.S. pushes into Fallujah,” Alex Rodriguez and James Janega, Chicago Tribune, November 8, 2004
“U.S. Heading into Major Urban Assault,” Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, November 8, 2004
“Black Watch bomb disposal experts are injured in blast,” Toby Harnden, Daily Telegraph, November 8, 2004
“US warplanes attack rebel-held city of Falluja,” Steve Negus, Financial Times, November 8, 2004
“U.S. Troops Advance to Fallouja’s Edge,” Patrick J. McDonnell, Alissa J. Rubin, and John Hendren, Los Angeles Times, November 8, 2004
“G.I.’s Open Attack to Take Falluja From Iraq Rebels,” Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Robert F. Worth, New York Times, November 8, 2004
“Early Target of Offensive Is a Hospital,” Richard A. Oppel, Jr., New York Times, November 8, 2004
“More Troops for Iraq,” Editorial, New York Times, November 8, 2004
“Long-planned attack begins,” Matthew McAllester, Newsday, November 8, 2004
“U.S. and Iraqi troops begin Fallujah assault,” Dave Moniz and Steven Komarow, USA Today, November 8, 2004
“Fighting Around Fallujah Intensifies; Premier Puts Most of Iraq Under State of Emergency,” Karl Vick, Washington Post, November 8, 2004
“Screams will not be heard: This is an information age, but it will be months before we learn the truth about the assault on Falluja,” Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian, November 8, 2004
“The BBC—Legitimising Mass Slaughter in Fallujah,” Media Lens (U.K.), November 8, 2004
“Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey,” Les Roberts et al., The Lancet, posted online October 29, 2004
“Iraqi Civilian Deaths Increase Dramatically After Invasion,” Press Release, Center for International Emergency, Disaster, and Refugee Studies
“100,000 Iraqis Dead: Should We Believe It?” Stephen Soldz, ZNet, November 5, 2004