“WE HAVE liberated the city of Fallujah,” crowed General John Abizaid of US Central Command last Sunday.
Fallujah, a city of 300,000 people, had been cut off from the world for six days, and subjected to a massive bombardment and invasion.
It was clear as reports started to filter out that this was not a “liberated” city but a devastated one.
In an attempt to clamp down on resistance to its rule in Iraq, the US has punished a whole city, killing hundreds and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee. No one knows how many civilians have died.
Over 10,000 US troops surrounded the city, forcing any men aged between 15 and 55 to return to take their chances amid the carnage of Fallujah.
And the troops blocked Iraqi Red Crescent vehicles trying to bring aid to civilians trapped in the city, deprived of food, water and electicity.
The rotting corpses littering the streets for days have added to the humanitarian crisis.
Terrified Fallujans have told journalists of A-10 jets raining down cluster bombs on the city.
These weapons will endanger those in the city for years, remaining unexploded until touched.
Horrific stories of children being attracted to their shiny outer surface and detonating them are common in other war zones.
A Reuters correspondent who drove through Fallujah last Sunday saw bloated and decomposing bodies in the streets, smashed homes, ruined mosques, and power and telephone lines hanging useless.
The US and the Iraqi government spoke of hundreds of dead “insurgents” and claimed that no civilians were killed by their assault. But eyewitness reports contradict that.
A member of an Iraqi relief committee told Al Jazeera television he saw 22 bodies buried in rubble in one street in Fallujah’s northern Jolan district last Sunday.
“Of the 22 bodies, five were found in one house, as well as two children whose ages did not exceed 15 and a man with an artificial leg,” Mohammed Farhan Awad said.
“Some of the bodies we found had been eaten by stray dogs and cats. It was a very painful sight.”
“Our situation is very hard,” said Abu Mustafa, who stayed behind. “We don’t have food or water. My seven children all have severe diarrhoea.
“One of my sons was wounded by shrapnel last night and he’s bleeding, but I can’t do anything to help him.”
Fadhil Badrani, a BBC journalist, reported after just two days of attacks on the city, “I am watching tragedy engulf my city. I cannot say how many people have been killed, but this city looks like Kabul.
“Large portions of it have been destroyed. I have not been able to find out more about casualties. A lot of the mosques have also been bombed.”
The Khulafa al-Rashid mosque, Fallujah’s most celebrated religious building in a “city of mosques”, was partly obliterated by US fire.
Despite US claims that it controlled the city, fighting was still taking place in Fallujah as Socialist Worker went to press.
Opposition to US spreads
THE US’S attempts to crush resistance by smashing Fallujah have only increased the feeling across Iraq against the brutality of the occupation.
Fighting broke out in the cities of Mosul in northern Iraq and in Ramadi near Fallujah last week as resistance fighters hit back. Many fighters have moved from Fallujah to other areas of the country.
The Association of Muslim Scholars, an important Sunni Muslim organisation linking together Iraqi mosques, has called on people to boycott the elections, planned for next January, in protest at the attack on Fallujah.
The US has tried to use the official Iraqi army as propaganda to show that Iraqis support the occupation forces.
But these forces have done little of the fighting, and hundreds of Iraqi soldiers resigned rather than take part in the assault.
Barham Salih, the Iraqi deputy prime minister, has hinted that the elections set for January, which the devastation of Fallujah was supposed to guarantee, might be postponed because of continuing resistance.
Iyad Allawi’s puppet regime is also clamping down on dissent in the media.
The Iraqi interim government warned the country’s media last week that it had to support the government or face unspecified action.
The ‘hub of resistance’
Fallujah WAS the heart of the resistance to US occupation not because it was the “hub of terrorism”, but because from the early days of the occupation it took control of its own affairs.
Local religious groups and civic leaders guaranteed order. So when US troops took over a school in the heart of the city a crowd demanded they leave.
Soldiers opened fire, killing 13. The city’s first act of resistance came the day Bush declared the invasion “mission accomplished”.
The US forces responded with mass arrests. Hundreds were seized. Fallujah met each raid with growing anger.
On 31 March 2004 four mercenaries were ambushed and killed. The US demanded the city surrender those responsible. Fallujah refused.
The next day troops stormed into the town, but the resistance held its ground. Fallujah appealed for aid, and Iraq rallied.
Resistance and protests across Iraq forced the US to abandon its siege. Fallujah became the first victory for a new, popular resistance.
By the summer of 2004 the US had decided to try to co-opt sections of the resistance.
They began offering “cash and candy” to the popular resistance—accept the occupation and get “reconstruction aid”, or refuse and face a full-scale assault.
The destruction of Fallujah is the price Iraq has paid for resisting, but it is a hollow victory for the Americans. They may have taken Fallujah, but they have not defeated the resistance.