Helen Williams, Youth Aid Iraq,
Amman, 10 November 2004 — As I sit here in Amman in relative safety, I feel compelled to say something about the war crimes being committed against the people of Fallujah. I went to Fallujah during the April seige of the city and felt honoured to have been there - amongst the wonderful people and brave fighting men of the 'City of a Thousand Mosques'. By the time you get this it may all be over - America may have won their peace - but this is how things stood with me yesterday (Tuesday) evening.
So the final 'assault' (America's word) or massacre (everyone else's word) on Fallujah has begun. Dubbed 'Phantom Fury', it is the war the networks have been waiting for. CNN embeds Jane Arraf and Karl Penhaul spout propaganda and little else for the war-hungry American public back home. Indeed, last night (Monday), Penhaul had decided not to to accompany his unit into Fallujah, prefering to remain around a mile from the city limits bec! ause of the threat of booby trap bombs laid in the city by the Mujahadeen.
It is difficult to see what he can report on from there, although 'troop moralè - soldiers playing cards and music - seems to be a favourite feature on CNN. As it is, Jane Arraf doesn't say much either, paticularly not wanting to report on US casualties - as of Tuesday evening more than 10 soldiers had been killed in Fallujah and there were reports that 36 US troops had been captured by the Mujahadeen. To find out any truth, or to see any real footage of what's going on, you need to check out the Arabic networks such as Al Arabia or Al Jazeera. It is widely believed that these stations get much of their news from people inside Fallujah, members of the civilian population who make phonecalls, take photos and make videos, in an attempt to get some truth out.
Estimates put the number of civilians who have remained in Fallujah at over 100,000, out of a population of 250,000. CNN dubs them! 'human shields'. Maybe they are - brave citizens who have decided to stay come what may. They have chosen to stay in their homes as a 24 hour curfew is declared for their city and they seem determined to make the US military's job more difficult as America supposedly tries to avoid causing extensive civilian casualties.
I find it hard to believe this mock concern that the US military tries to portray for the civilian population. One of the first things they did during the final massacre was to surround and raid the main hospital in the city. First they said that this was to keep it open for civilian casualties - as if they were trying to say that the Mujahadeen were going to prevent civilians from going to hosptial, or indeed close the hospital - not a chance - it is only American forces that prevent people attending hospital.
After the Americans said this, they themselves actually closed the hospital, saying that any civilian casualties could be taken to Baghdad on tanks!! Have you ever heard anything so unbelievable or stupi! d? How many spare tanks do you suppose the Americans have to be used as ambulances in this way, and isn't this just the ultimate in using civilians as human shields? On top of this, just how long will it take to get an emergency case to a hospital in Bagdad, some 60 km away to the east?
And yesterday, in yet another atrocity committed by America, a clinic was bombed from the air.
How can the US military be concerned for the civilian population when they have dropped over 500 heavy bombs on Fallujah since Monday? They have also been using 500 lb bombs to devastating effect. They are also using the 'Hellfirè - burning people alive.
CNN has not yet reported any bad news for America, just saying that the Resistance does not seem to be as well organised as the US soldiers had feared. They have not reported widely:
1 US helicopter has been shot down.
1 unmanned drone (reconnaisance plane) has been shot down (video footage shown).
4 ! tanks have been blown up.
1 US soldier tells how he saw 2 of h is friends die in the city.
Also there is widespread desertion amongst the 2000 or so Iraqi soldiers taking part in the massacre. They are either too frightened or unwilling to fight their countrymen. 1 high level commander left his post on Sunday - he was said to be privy to America's attack plans and it is thought that he may have been an infiltrator for the Mujahadeen.
Who knows what the Americans will get up to during their bloody and violent
onslaught. When I was there in April, American snipers shot a 10 year old
boy in the head - I watched him die as his brave, innocent parents screamed
in agony and grief, but insisted we film their dear little son's last moments.
I saw 2 middle aged women die - they had gone out of their homes to the shops, believing there to be a ceasefire and were shot at by American snipers - one died clutching a white flag.
The clinic's only ambulance, already shot at and badly damaged in the morning,
was rendered unus! able and undrivable in the afternoon, again by American
snipers, as it tried to reach a woman in labour, in an attempt to bring her
to the clinic. Unfortunately for American propaganda, the ambulance was full
of internationals and that bit of news got out, even reaching the Pentagon.
Yes, the American soldiers do attack ambulances.
If you read my reports from Fallujah in April ('Fallujah part 1' and 'Fallujah continued'), you will also see how US snipers prevented civilians reaching Fallujah's main hosptial then and how, during a 'ceasefire', cluster bombs were dropped on residential areas.
What crimes will these murderous soldiers commit this time. Because of the threat of kidnapping, people like me have left Iraq, instead of going to Fallujah again to witness and report the truth.
But one telling moment was aired on CNN during one of their 'troop moralè pieces. An American soldier stated how he couldn't wait to get into Fallujah and "burn the b**tards"! .
And many people I know have heards US troops openly brag abo ut how many Iraqis they have killed today, saying things like "I got 12" and laughing.
Criticism for the onslaught on Fallujah has come from far and wide:
Kofi Annan put his concerns in writing to the American, British and Iraqi Interim Governments.
China has stated its concern for civilian casualties in Fallujah.
Turkey has warned America over Iraqi victims and casualties.
Moscow has said the attack should be scaled down, depending on the size of the Resistance forces in Fallujah.
(But Japan says the attack is necessary for the future of Iraq).
Jordanian Muslim Scholars have criticised the US onslaught and called for it to be halted.
The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq have criticised the US forces, saying the attack on Fallujah should be stopped immediately. They hold Prime Minister Allawi responsible and say the election, scheduled for January, should not now go ahead because it ! will be an election from the blood of the Iraqi people.
The Islamic Party of Iraq have pulled out of the Interim Government over the impending massacre. A representative from the party cited the terrible living conditions endured by Fallujah's residents who have no water or electricity. He told how many of the inhabitants had fled - some to houses in Bagdad and around Fallujah, but most of them suffering in tented camps around their home city - all becoming refugees in their own country - all internally displaced by a war they did not start. And many, if they survive, will return to houses of rubble, shatterd homes and shattered lives.
He went on to say (as do all Iraqis) that the 'terrorist' Zakawi did not exist, calling him an 'American phantom' and he demanded that the onslaught on Fallujah be stopped straight away.
Sadr's Office, closely linked to the mainly Shia Mahdi Army, is criticising
Prime Minister Allawi, the Iraqi Police and the Iraqi Nat! ional Guard and
is calling for the attack on Fallujah to be halted.
Rotana is an Arabic satellite music channel aired all over the Arab world. Music videos are played on the station 24 hours a day. On the bottom of the screen is a horizontal bar where greetings appear from members of the viewing public. They are usually frivolous and friendly messages to pals or about the music played. Not so during the last couple of days. The greetings bar has been full of messages to Fallujah and Iraq. Here are a selection:
"Greetings to Fallujah people"
"Iraq is still Iraq"
"Allawi, don't stick your nose up at Fallujah people - they are heroes"
"Long live Iraq"
"Hi Hero Fallujah"
"Iraq is the most loved country"
"Hussein here - Greetings to Fallujah".
It is not just brave Fallujah that is resisting in Iraq.
Here are some other things that have happened in the last 24 hours - you may or may not have heard:
Ramadi, 45 km west of Fallujah - there has! been much Mujahadeen activity here, much fighting which has resulted in the Resistance taking control of the centre of Ramadi.
However, American forces have surrounded Sofia quarter to the east of the city.
Two explosions have occurred in Ramadi's American military base.
Two suicide car bombers attacked and destroyed US tanks in the city.
Hit, 65 km north west of Ramadi - the Resistance control the town as of Tuesday evening.
Al Qaim, on the Syrian border north west of Hit - much heavy Resistance fighting.
Bakuba, 55 km north of Bagdad - three police stations were hit by car bombs which killed over 45, mainly Iraqi Police. Casualties would have been much higher, but one of the police stations received information that they were about to be attacked and so managed to evacuate many people.
Kirkuk - a car bomb exploded at a police station killing 3 Iraqis.
Samarra - an election candidate was assassinated.
Mosul - Resistance fighting growing - 2 US soldiers killed.
B aigi, north of Tikrit - Resistance fighting.
Kerbala - 1 Iraqi policeman killed, 9 injured.
Lattifya - a car bomb killed 2 British mercenaries and a mortar round killed another British soldier, bringing the total to 6 since Black Watch moved north.
Abu Gharib (town) - 2 Resistance fighters killed and 8 injured in fighting with American soldiers.
Green Zone - 4 mortars hit the Green Zone, smoke was seen in the sky above the area.
Haifa Street - heavy Resistance fighting.
Kerrada - the Finance Minister's house was hit by a car bomb injuring one security guard.
Karkh - police station manager injured by a road side bomb, his security guard was killed.
Daura - police station hit by a bomb and two churches were hit by car bombs, five minutes apart. 3 Iraqis were killed and 7 injured. A car with a bomb followed the Iraqi Police taking victims to Al Yarmouk Hospital and there the bomb was detonated, kill! ing 5 Iraqi Police and damaging the front of the hosptial.
Rumours abound that some members of Allawi's family have been kidnapped.
I personally do not see how attacking churches, hospitals or Iraqi civilians helps get rid of the hated occupation and I believe that the people doing these things are very different from those resisting and fighting in places like Fallujah, Ramadi and Hit.
When we heard of the attack on the Daura churches, Hussein, one of our friends here in Amman, panicked - his family live just behind one of the churches.
Bagdad now has a 10.30 pm - 4.30 am curfew imposed on the whole city. This is to the detriment of the whole civilian population there. Just take the street where I was living in the main shopping area of Kerrada as an example. The shops there do not close until almost midnight and clearing up from the day often continues after this time. Now, during the curfew, the shops and stalls must close much ! earlier. Not only must they shut and clear up by 10.30 pm, but time mu st be allowed for the journey home - often to other areas of Bagdad. Take Sari, for example, in the internet cafe - he must get to Al Qanat. Or Safa'a, the 'ice man' must go home to Sadr City and Abu Ali must reach Zafarania. The effects of this curfew on men working to support their families could be serious as much needed earnings are lost.
The curfew also drives more fear, if that is possible, into the ordinary Iraqi, already worn out and stressed by the lack of security, water and electricity and fast losing any hope of ever seeing a stable and peaceful Iraq.
People who need to go to hospital in the middle of the night, or who have work shifts to attend, must now run the gauntlet of the curfew. During the summer in the hot waking hours when I could not sleep, I would see many men from my neighbourhood leave for work from 3.30 am onwards - what will they do now?
And many of the poorest people in Bagdad can be seen wandering the streets in the quiet! carless hours before dawn collecting drink cans for recycling for a few hundred dinar a kilo. Now they will have to go out in the day to earn their meagre living amongst the busy shoppers and car filled streets.
So as the American army continue to ravage Fallujah and turn it to rubble, we see Resistance kicking off all over Iraq.
The American soldiers have always been scared of Fallujah and most are terrified now, just following orders, even more scared to lay down their weapons and say "No, this is wrong".
Meanwhile the brave men of the Mujahadeen are fighting for something, for something they really believe in - whether it is their city, their home, their family, revenge, their way of life or religion - one thing is certain, it is not for wages or orders.
CNN and their ilk can call these men what they like - terrorists, Islamic fundamentalists, Saddam loyalists or foreign fighters. It doesn't matter what they say. The men of the Mujaha! deen in Fallujah (and everwhere else in Iraq), like the Mahdi Army men I met in Kufa, are amongst the bravest, most decent and most honourable men in all Iraq and they deserve to do well and survive, to live - maybe to fight somewhere else another day. But most of all they deserve our respect, our admiration and our hopes and prayers. One thing is certain events of the next few days will be marked down in the pages of history.