Thousands of Fallujans Demonstrate
Ash-Sharq al-Awsat Thousands of Fallujans demonstrated on Saturday in front of the main entrance to the largely abandoned city. They demanded that US military forces leave their city and that basic services be restored so that they could return. One eyewitness reporter called in from the scene an estimate of 30,000 demonstrators. [Cole: I saw footage of the demonstration on Arab satellite television, and agree that it was a big, important demonstration, but I’d say it was only a few thousand strong; I suspect that having 30,000 people out by that gate would be a logistics problem–where did their water come from, e.g.]
Some of the placards announced that Fallujans refused to live under a military occupation. They presented a list of demands, which included the facilitation of their return to the city, speedy return of services, rebuilding of the devastated city, and monetary compensation to its inhabitants. They also protested the US military demand that returnees show identification papers. Many said that such papers got left behind in the city when they fled.
Children marched with placards reading “Where is my Father?” or “Where is my house, you supposed Liberators?”
Several demonstrators said that returnees were instructed by the Marines not to eat any food left behind in the city during their absence.
I suppose the implication is that the US used chemicals in its assault on the city, which may have poisoned foodstuffs. This allegation does not make any sense to me, however. I don’t think the US did use chemicals, or that it would have risked the public relations backlash from doing so. I also can’t imagine what chemicals are in the US inventory that would render food inedible.
The Fallujah demonstration was big enough to be news, but I couldn’t find out anything about it via Western newspapers and wire services.
[1/2 Addendum: Kind readers made several suggestions about why the US might have warned against eating food left behind, assuming they did issue such a warning. One reader suggested that cordite and other chemicals released in the course of a high-powered conventional assault on the city could not be good for a person. Another suggested that it had to do with the use of uranium-tipped shells fired by US tanks. Another suggested that US troops as a tactic of war deliberately poisoned food so as to deny it to the guerrillas.)