US Air Strikes Kill 20 in Fallujah
US air strikes on Fallujah on Monday killed some 20 persons. The US military maintained that it was targeting safe houses of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his group, Monotheism and Holy War. (Some are translating tawhid as “unity,” but in Islam what is meant by tawhid is to “affirm the oneness of God” — i.e. monotheism.) Local Fallujans complained that the air strikes hit the residential al-Shurta neighborhood, inflicting damages on apartment buildings and the markets. Hospital authorities later said there were 20 deaths, including women and children.
Kudos to Robert Burns of the AP for taking up the issue of increased US reliance on air strikes on urban residential neighborhoods as a way of combatting the guerrillas now warring against them.
‘ Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Arlington, Va.-based Lexington Institute think tank, said Monday the Americans seem to believe that airstrikes in Fallujah will wear down the insurgents and buy time for U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces to prepare for a ground assault in the weeks ahead. “But you have to wonder whether we’re radicalizing the Iraqi civilian population” in the meantime amid claims – substantiated or not – that airstrikes are killing innocent people, Thompson said. ‘
Lt. Gen. James Conway, has spoken out about last spring’s US attack on Fallujah. He said he had not, himself, been inclined to attack the whole city over the killing of 4 civilian security men:
‘ “We felt that we probably ought to let the situation settle before we appeared to be attacking out of revenge,” he told reporters. “I think we certainly increased the level of animosity that existed.” ‘
Conway would not speculate on “how high” the decision went, to attack Fallujah, saying he had gotten his orders from Lt. Gen. Rick Sanchez. But I think the implication is that it was a political decision made in the White House. Certainly, that is what Newsweek reported at the time. Bush is said to have commanded, “Let heads roll.”
Conway clearly felt that it would have been better not to besiege the city in the first place, but that once the siege was begun it should have been carried through to completion. I am not in sympathy with this sentiment, since the cost of “carrying it through” would have been hundreds more civilian deaths. As it was, the US killed over 600 persons, many of them women and children, disgusting most of Iraq and the Arab world at the kill ratio (4 Americans, 600 Iraqis).