Iraqi Press Reaction To Fallujah

Iraqi Press Reaction to Fallujah Mosque Killing

Al-Hayat: (trans. J. Cole): “The killing of a wounded Iraqi in a Fallujah mosque by an American Marine and the killing of the Iraqi-British hostage Margaret Hassan epitomize the battle taking place in Iraq. As the American military began its investigation of the marine’s motives, an Islamic group broadcast a cassette of the slaughter of the female hostage.”

“The American forces announced that they had established control over “all of Fallujah,” affording the opportunity to Iraqis to gather up the bodies of the dead from the streets. At the same time, the battle shifted to Mosul, in hopes of taking it back from the gunmen who had taken control of its police stations. Gen. George Casey, commander of the US military in Iraq, said that his troops had come upon 15 foreign fighters in Fallujah among 1000 fighters who were all Iraqi. This statement contradicted American and Iraqi official pronouncements that had insisted that it was foreign fighters who had plunged into battle in the city.”

I was initially a little surprised that al-Hayat (a Saudi-funded daily published from London, which is generally moderate with regard to attitudes to the US) paired the killing of Margaret Hassan with the killing of a wounded prisoner in Fallujah in this way. It seemed to take the edge off the rawness of the murder of the prisoner, to say that there are bad characters on the Iraqi side, as well.

But as I thought about it, it became clear to me that the author had put the marines and the Sunni Arab guerrillas who murder their hostages on the same level. Since I am after all an American, this equation seemed to me eminently unfair. The guerrillas in Fallujah were responsible for a lot of bombings and killings of innocent civilians in Iraq, which involved deliberately targetting and killing, e.g. Shiites. The Marines are, in contrast, a legitimate miliary force that is operating in Iraq with UN sanction. I personally think that the assault on Fallujah was problematic, ethically and politically. But it doesn’t put the Marines in Zarqawi’s camp!

The announcement by Iraqi state minister Qasim Daoud that the number of captured fighters stands at 1052 (with 1600 killed) underlines the point I made yesterday, that the murdering of prisoners is not a generalized practice.

Jim Crane of AP expresses healthy skepticism about the US military’s hopes of making friends in Fallujah after they had flattened parts of the city. He also predicts that information about the true extent of civilian casualties will start coming out soon, when the Marines’ grip on the city lightens.

The Boston Globe reports that the Baath Party had reconstituted itself in Mosul and was behind that city’s recent insurrection. The US troops fought on Tuesday to retake police stations in the city of over a million. It appears that most Mosul police defected to the guerrillas.

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