Sunni Arab Regions in Flames
Heavy fighting continued in Fallujah on Monday, according to Reuters, as some guerrillas there demonstrated that they would fight to the death.
Meanwhile, police stations were attacked in Baqubah and Buhriz in the east, and in Suwairah south of Baghdad. The fighting in Baqubah was so heavy that the US at one point dropped two 500 pound bombs on the guerrillas. Hundreds of people gathered in northeast Baqubah to protest the continued US presence in Iraq, demanding that the foreign troops go home.
Fighting broke out in Baiji, Ramadi and parts of Baghdad, as well. A Mosul oil installation was also attacked, and so was a US convoy near the city, and there appears to have been some fighting inside Mosul on Monday (a US general insisted that the situation there wasn’t “desperate.” OK.) In general the Sunni Arab regions of the country appear to be in virtual chaos.
Propaganda reared its ugly head on several occasions. US-installed CIA asset Iyad Allawi, the “prime minister,” said he was sure there had been no civilian casualties in Fallujah. Allawi is gradually revealing himself as the pro-American twin of Muhammad Said al-Sahhaf, “Baghdad Bob,” who used to deny that US troops were in Baghdad even though journalists could see the tanks over his shoulder. Now Allawi wants to deny that residents of a city that has been invaded and crushed managed to escape without a scratch unless they were active guerrillas. Col. Mike Shupp joined in this vaudeville act, denying that there was a humanitarian crisis in Fallujah or that there was a need for Red Crescent aid.
Let’s say there were only 30,000 civilians left in Fallujah, out of 250,000 or so residents as of last year. Given the kind of aerial bombardment, tank and artillery fire the city has taken, it is impossible that there aren’t civilian casualties, and probably quite substantial ones. In addition, some reports speak of Marines using heat detectors and shooting at any buildings they think inhabited. Eyewitnesses speak of bodies lying in the street everywhere.
The generally pro-American Saudi daily, Asharq al-Awsat, has a long piece on the sufferings of civilians in Fallujah, based on telephone interviews and eyewitness accounts by Iraqis. The article is extremely suspicious of American motives in having taken the Fallujah hospitals and in having kept the Red Crescent and other aid agencies away from the city. Do they want to get rid of all the bodies lying in the streets before anyone sees them, the article asks.
As for the apparent murder of a wounded guerrilla by a Marine, it was horrible. I fear that the attitude of the other troops, which wasn’t exactly shock, suggests that these sorts of murders of prisoners are not uncommon. (But they are not universal, or else there wouldn’t be 400 prisoners. There would be no prisoners.) It does concern me that the wounded and bleeding guerrillas were just stacked up in that mosque awaiting medical attention, apparently for days. If there are many prisoners treated that way, then there really is an issue here with regard to US military policy. And, what is the difference between letting them bleed to death and putting a bullet in their heads? Col. Shupp might want to reconsider his position that the Red Crescent is unneeded.
Ash-Sharq al-Awsat writes of Fallujah, and I paraphrase: Whatever the number of families that stayed in Fallujah, they are suffering now from lack of food, water, and aid. Although the US and Iraqi military authorities insist they have taken the city with the exception of some pockets of resistance, they refuse to allow Red Crescent aid trucks even into the areas they say they control. It is not known if the reason for this refusal is to prevent the “pockets of resistance” from getting hold of some food, or if it is because they want to get the bodies off the streets before the Red Crescent comes in, so as to avoid shocking the aid workers.
One man said in a telephone interview, from the Dubat Quarter, “Our situation is very bad . . . We have no food or water. My seven children al have bad diarrhea.” He added, “there are corpses lying in the street.” He said he knew of 6 families in a similar situation nearby, and broke into tears. “We are still fasting, even though the Eid came on Sunday. God is Great, God is Great.” (This phrase pulls at the heartstrings among Muslims, given that the fasting month of Ramadan has a holy aura.)
The article describes a family that buried its 9-year-old son in a garden after he was shot and killed (implying that a lot of the dead cannot even be accounted for easily).