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Old Monday, January 09, 2006
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Default War On Iraq

War On Iraq

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Insurgents will run wild, despite the Fallujah ons

The Independent
By Justin Huggler

All eyes may be on Fallujah, but violence continues across Iraq. The US is selling the battle of Fallujah to its troops and to the outside world as a decisive moment, when the tide will turn against the militants - but the bloodshed across the rest of the country yesterday suggested that taking the city would not inflict a body blow to insurgents.

They are able to operate freely inside the capital. In Baghdad yesterday, they bombed a Catholic church, wounding at least 35 people. The outer wall of St Bahnam's Church was destroyed and the house next door set alight. A car bomb in western Baghdad killed at least one American soldier. On the airport road, one of the most notorious highways in the country, a suicide bomber used a red Opel packed with explosives to ram a civilian convoy. Witnesses said at least three people were killed. The group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian al-Qa'ida ally whom the US has presented as its main target in Fallujah, claimed responsibility.

The same group took responsibility for attacks in Samarra on Saturday in which at least 34 people were killed. US forces carried out an air strike on what they said were suspected rebel positions near Samarra yesterday, in which at least one person died. Four Iraqi contractors were killed in the same area overnight when gunmen opened fire on them as they drove out of a US base.

The violence in and around Samarra is an illustration of the problem American-led forces face in Fallujah. Only last month, US forces claimed to have recaptured Samarra from rebels and pacified it in an operation that was seen at the time as a dry run for Fallujah. But the latest violence has shown that that offensive failed in its prime military objective: to rein in the insurgents.

At least 70 people in all were killed in attacks over the weekend. They include nine policemen lined up against a wall and shot dead, at Haqlaniyah, near Hadithiyah, north-west of Baghdad, on Sunday.

The violence spread south of the capital as well. As many as 20 police are believed to have been killed at Latifiyah, another rebel stronghold, on Saturday. In a counter-attack, police ambushed militants in the town yesterday, killing 25 in a gun battle that lasted for several hours.

The recent bloodshed has been concentrated in the Sunni heartlands of central Iraq. But fighting has now spread well beyond the "Sunni Triangle".

Iyad Allawi might have declared a state of emergency on Sunday but within minutes a car bomb was set off outside the house of the Finance Minister, Adel Abdel Mahdi. A policeman and a bodyguard were killed.

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Old Monday, January 09, 2006
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War crime underway in Falluja?

US-led attack on the Iraqi Sunni-stronghold will breach the Geneva conventions, writes Tony Kevin.

If this attack goes ahead as appears inevitable, it will obviously breach the laws of war and the Geneva conventions. First, it will grossly exceed proportionality in terms of ends and means. What intended political or military objective could justify so much death, the creation of so many new refugees, and wholesale destruction of homes?

What threat does the city of Falluja pose to the Iraqi state at this point? Allawi has claimed that free elections cannot take place unless Falluja is subdued. What a spurious argument.

The truth is that this city, which has become a symbol of Sunni-Iraqi political resistance to the occupiers, is to be made an example of, to deter others. The message the siege of Falluja sends is brutally simple: resist us and we will destroy you. It is the same message that the Wehrmacht sent in Warsaw in 1944, and the Russian Army in Grozny in 1999.

This attack will also violate the rules of war and the Geneva conventions in having grossly indiscriminate effects on civilians and civilian homes and infrastructure. America's largely untrained in battle but over-armed forces will start their attack "humanely", but as they inevitably take numbers of lethal casualties, their tactics will quickly escalate to indiscriminate bombing and shelling of the city using their WMD armouries.

Eventually, the attackers will flatten the city and kill everyone that still resists in it. Falluja will be the Iraqi people's Masada, and it will sow seeds of deep anti-Western hatred in the Middle East for decades to come.

Saudi scholars: Support Iraqi fighters

November 2004,

Prominent Saudi religious scholars have called on Iraqis to support fighters battling US-led forces, saying fighting the presence of foreign troops is a duty and a right.

In an open letter addressed to the Iraqi people and posted on the internet on Saturday, 26 Saudi scholars and religious preachers stressed that armed attacks launched by Iraqi groups on US troops and their allies in Iraq were "legitimate" resistance.

The statement came as US troops, backed by air and artillery power, were gearing up for a major assault on Falluja.

The scholars - some of whom have been criticised in the past for their views - issued a fatwa, or religious edict, prohibiting Iraqis from offering any support for military operations carried out by US forces against anti-US fighter strongholds.

"Fighting the occupiers is a duty for all those who are able. It is a jihad (holy war) to push back the assailants ...," said the letter dated 5 November.

"Resistance is a legitimate right. A Muslim must not inflict harm on any resistance man or inform about them. Instead, they should be supported and protected," it said.

'Extraordinary situation'

Among the 26 scholars who signed the letter are influential Sunni Muslim clerics Shaikh Safar al-Hawali, Shaikh Nassir al-Umar, Shaikh Salman al-Awdah, Shaikh Sharif Hatim al-Auni and Shaikh Awad al-Qarni.

Al-Hawali - jailed in the 1990s for five years without trial because of his criticism of US involvement in the 1991 Gulf War - is known for his radical views and was once close to Usama bin Ladin.

Like many Islamic activists, al-Hawali also opposed the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia. His name appeared this month on a list issued by a group of Arab intellectuals who seek prosecution of prominent clerics for encouraging what they say is terrorism.

The religious scholars said their appeal was prompted by "the extraordinary situation through which the Iraqis are passing which calls for unity and exchange of views."

Stressing the need for national unity, the scholars said inter-Iraqi fighting would cause "great damage to the Iraqis and give a free service to the Jews who are infiltrating into Iraq and to the coalition forces which exploit differences to consolidate their domination".

Muslims must be spared

The scholars also urged Iraqis fighting US-led forces in Iraq to spare the lives of Iraqi Muslims and not to target citizens of countries that refused to join the US-led force that invaded Iraq last year.

'Resistance is a legitimate right'

Open letter from Saudi scholars

The invasion angered many in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and home to its two holiest cities.

The Saudi government has launched a military campaign against anti-government fighters that started after al-Qaida-affiliated operatives attacked three residential compounds in Riyadh in May 2003. Several more attacks followed and a number of Westerners have been killed.

The government also began an anti-extremism campaign, reining in clerics who espoused radical views.


Iraqi Resistance says captured 35 coalition troops

35 US soldiers captured in Fallujah: mosques

FALLUJAH, Iraq, Nov. 8 (Xinhuanet) -- Mosques in Iraq's restive city of Fallujah announced on Monday that the fighters inside the city have captured 35 US soldiers.

Loud speakers of the mosques blared out the news as US forces were trying to penetrate the rebel-held city, but the news could not be independently confirmed.

US troops and Iraqi special forces stormed into the western districts of Fallujah early Monday and seized the main city hospital and two key bridges over the Euphrates River.

US officials said there may be more fierce fighting to come if US forces try to enter downtown Fallujah on the east bank of the river. Enditem


US religious fundamentalism & violence: Marine officer says "Satan is in Falluja"

Colonel Gary Brandl of the United States Marine Corps commented:
"The enemy has a face. It is Satan's. He is in Fallujah, and we are going to destroy him."

seems like some segments of the USA military are resorting to violence for religious reasons? a rather worrying evolution, imho..

American Marines attack Fallujah

American troops have begun attacking the Iraqi city of Fallujah, the operation which required the Black Watch to be redeployed.

On Thursday, just days after the regiment moved from its base in Basra, three soldiers were killed in a suicide bombing. The operation came on the day Prince Charles visited troops' families in Wiltshire.

During the night American Marines, backed up by troops of the Iraqi Army, began their operation.

The city of Fallujah is said to be the home of the insurgents behind the recent wave of kidnappings, beheadings and suicide bombings.

Colonel Gary Brandl of the United States Marine Corps commented:
"The enemy has a face. It is Satan's. He is in Fallujah, and we are going to destroy him."

The Americans needed to free up hundreds of troops for this operation and the Black Watch was moved from the relatively benign Basra area to allow that to happen.

On Thursday, three soldiers died in only their second day in the area - Sergeant Stuart Gray and Privates Paul Lowe and Scott McArdle, all of whom were from Fife.

Speaking at an anti war rally in Glasgow today, an Iraqi and an American whose soldier brother was killed in Baghdad, says the Fallujah operation will solve nothing.

Dante Zappala, a soldier's brother, said: "Violence breeds more violence, like the Black Watch saw this week. This will result in more tragic deaths."

Mahmood Al-Sabbagh, an Iraqi Refugee commented: "Fallujah will be like Glasgow if there were invaders here, as if Hitler had come here in World War II. It is exactly the same."

The Fallujah operation started on the day Prince Charles visited the Black Watch's base in Warminster, where he met families of the men serving in Iraq.

His visit was planned long before the tragic events of this week.

General Sir Alistair Irwin of The Black Watch commented on the families' reactions:

"They are worried about what has happened, they are experiencing normal, human reactions."

And as the Black Watch continues its difficult and dangerous mission, support for it and criticism of the insurgents, has come from an unusual source.

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury said: "Terrorists are using young boys as suicide bombers. I fear for the Black Watch and I hope we get out of there as soon as possible."

After coming under severe criticism for their part, Tony Blair and his ministers say they are deeply sorry for the soldiers who lost their lives and the families who mourn them.

But they say they died trying to make Iraq a better place and a major part of that is free and fair elections scheduled for early in the New Year.

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Old Monday, January 09, 2006
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The New York Times article I cited earlier, G.I.'s Open Attack to Take Fallujah from Iraq Rebels, has been expanded in today's print edition and on the Web.

Here's the key excerpt:
It was the second time in six months that a battle had raged in Falluja. In April, American troops were closing in on the city center when popular uprisings broke out in cities across Iraq. The outrage, fed by mostly unconfirmed reports of large civilian casualties, forced the Americans to withdraw.

American commanders regarded the reports as inflated, but it was impossible to determine independently how many civilians had been killed. The hospital was selected as an early target because the American military believed that it was the source of rumors about heavy casualties.

"It's a center of propaganda," a senior American officer said Sunday.

This time around, the American military intends to fight its own information war, countering or squelching what has been one of the insurgents' most potent weapons. The military hopes that if it can hold its own in that war, then the armed invasion - involving as many as 25,000 American and Iraqi troops, all told - will smash what has become the largest remaining insurgent stronghold in Iraq.

And with only three months to go until the country's first democratic elections, American and Iraqi officials are grasping for any tool at their command to bring the insurgency under control.

The hospital was one of the primary initial targets of the assault, occupied by U.S. soldiers, with patients and doctors initially handcuffed. Later, doctors were allowed to resume treating patients, but it's for damn sure that few if any of Fallujah's wounded will be brought there -- and, in fact, with both bridges seized, it will be nearly impossible (Fallujah General is across the Euphrates from most of the city), as it was during the last assault.

It was selected as a target because it was the source of "rumors" that were "unconfirmed" about civilian casualties -- i.e., doctors who treated the patients and communicated with other doctors treating patients compiled estimates and gave them to those few journalists who wanted to know.

The U.S. military, of course, which claims never to count civilian dead, and distances itself from the people of Fallujah with a wall of metal, gunfire, artillery fire, and heavy bombs, is in a much better position to estimate civilian dead than the doctors who treat them.

The military "intends to fight its own information war." Of course, information about the truth has been a "potent weapon" for those who oppose the invasion, because Iraqis, Arabs in general, some Western Europeans, and a handful of Americans have learned that truth and tried to act on it.

That must be changed. Since hospitals and information itself are the primary initial targets, the only conclusion can be that the United States wants to cover up in advance the atrocities it will commit, atrocities almost certainly on a greater scale than in the last assault.

When the United States bombed Serbian TV during the war on Yugoslavia, with the same rationale that it spread propaganda and was thus a military target, Amnesty International determined that the attack was a war crime. How much greater a war crime it is to occupy a hospital (oh, and just by the way, the U.S. military is launching attacks on the resistance from positions near the hospital, thus making it in effect a military target for the other side as well) because it is reporting on the victims of this brutal assault.

If you want a symbol of Bush's second term, at home and abroad, there is no more potent one than this action.


November 8, 12:25 am. All bounds have just been passed. Read this Times article, G.I.'s Open Attack to Take Falluja From Iraq Rebels. Fallujah's hospital has just been taken by American soldiers. This is why:
It was the second time in six months that a battle had raged in Falluja. In April, American troops were closing in on the city center when popular uprisings broke out in cities across Iraq. The outrage, fed by mostly unconfirmed reports of large civilian casualties, forced the Americans to withdraw.

American commanders regarded the reports as inflated, but it was impossible to determine independently how many civilians had been killed. The hospital was selected as an early target because the American military believed that it was the source of rumors about heavy casualties.

"It's a center of propaganda," a senior American officer said Sunday
The hospital was shut down because doctors told people how many innocents were killed by the American assault, thus making it a military target. Any pretence of civilization is now gone.

Also, read this incredibly powerful post from Under the Same Sun.


November 7, 10:15 pm. U.S. bombing of Fallujah has just demolished a newly-built, just-opened hospital, the Nazzal Emergency Hospital.

After waiting for "permission" from Ayad Allawi (i.e., after doing preliminary bombing to soften up their targets), apparently U.S. forces have begun ground movements leading to the final offensive.

Allawi declared martial law for 60 days, across the whole country except for the three northern Kurdish-run governorates, ostensibly to guarantee security before the elections, now scheduled for January 27. In truth, of course, security for the elections could have been imposed a week in advance. There are two reasons for this declaration of martial law.

First, and most important, the political climated created by the first assault on Fallujah, and by the defeat (withdrawal of U.S. forces without gaining their political objective) has meant that resistance forces can counterattack across much of the country while U.S. forces are concentrating on Fallujah. The imposition of martial law across everything but northern Iraq is, and will be necessary, in any such attack in the future.

Second, there is a call for Iraqis, especially in Baghdad, to engage in mass civil resistance to help stave off the assault on Fallujah. Under martial law conditions, this may become impossible.

My friend and colleague Dahr Jamail is, amazingly, back in Baghdad. He's very restricted in what he can do, but he has posted a dispatch from Baghdad, called Carnage and Martial Law. Please go read it. As I understand, Dahr has enough money to stay for about two-thirds as long as he wants to. If you can contribute to help him do this important work, please do. And let's hope he manages to keep himself alive. Unfortunately, as we know, many people in Fallujah will not.

P.S. When I read about the hospital, I was worried about Makki al-Nazzal, the man I spoke with extensively when I was in Fallujah in April. He lives in that area of the town. Fortunately, I found out from the Post that he was part of a delegation to Baghdad trying desperate negotiations to head off the assault.


November 6, 1:15 pm. Another quick post before I run off to spend the whole day speaking. I've been speaking about the elections, about hope and despair, and about the need to start over ab initio (and, of course, how the colonial war in Iraq fits into that context). I'm going to try to get audio and maybe a transcript to put up.

But for now Iraq. A couple of great victories for Iraqi democracy recently.

First and foremost, the assault on Fallujah has begun. If you remember, we've seen weeks of escalation, with news articles every day about "Marines preparing for assault," "G.I.'s Itch to Prove Their Mettle in Falluja," and more. We also saw a pattern of strikes in residential neighborhoods on "Zarqawi safe houses."

Now, the true aerial assault has begun. All roads to Fallujah and Ramadi have been closed, with only "families" allowed to leave (i.e, "military-age males" can't leave by themselves). There is an escalating pattern of strikes on "suspected rebel targets." Dozens of houses and a medical warehouse have been destroyed.

All that is lacking is tightening the noose on the ground. The reporting is low-key, so that people don't notice the war on Fallujah has started until it's well along. But it has started.

In other news of the farcical progress toward "democracy" in Iraq, apparently, according to the Times, the Iraqi government has chosen to allow Iraqi expatriates to vote in the scheduled January elections.

This is done against the advice of the U.N., and is simply something that is virtually unheard of. Even in Afghanistan, expatriates were not allowed to vote. The difficulties with regard to vote fraud are even greater with expatriates, but most important they don't have to live in the country they are shaping with their votes. It's an indefensible move. With a generally estimated four million Iraqis living out of the country, it's also something that could easily sway the elections.

The Times paints it as something done at the behest of Sistani and the Shi'a parties, against the objections of the United States, because Iraqi expatriates are mostly Shi'a. This is, of course, in keeping with the trend of Americans explaining everything in Iraq as having to do with internal ethnic and sectarian differences, rather than having to do with opposition to foreign occupation.

In fact, the U.S. government has shown, the Allawi government has no independence of action. This was made crystal clear in October, when the United States nixed a plan to have Muslim peacekeeping troops sent in to help U.N. observers in setting up elections, even though the Allawi government was in favor of it (also read the original Newsday article here).

So, the unstated factor is clearly that Iraqi expatriates would be much more likely to ratify a U.S. choice for puppet figurehead than Iraqis living in Iraq would, so this new policy helps the United States in its quest to pretend that it has brought democracy to Iraq while fixing the results in advance. It's very hard to believe that the United States opposed this.


November 5, 7:55 pm. Two quick responses to my recent writing on Fallujah that I'd like to share with you, one from a current military person and one apparently from an ex-military person:
how dare you call Americans ruthless................with the animals that occupy that city


However, having killed my own number of ragheads and my strong support of genocide of the Arab race and Muslim religion, stands. These are a people who have no business living. None of them. Women, children, old men and any other filthy ###### fucker. We should systematically eliminate them all.
No, I couldn't make these up. Yes, this is America.


November 5, 7:25 pm. Unfortunately, I've had no time to post on the vast number of things that require posting. Now that it seems the assault on Fallujah has started, though, here's a piece about it:
Fallujah and the Reality of War

The assault on Fallujah has started. It is being sold as liberation of the people of Fallujah; it is being sold as a necessary step to implementing “democracy” in Iraq. These are lies.

I was in Fallujah during the siege in April, and I want to paint for you a word picture of what such an assault means.

Fallujah is dry and hot; like Southern California, it has been made an agricultural area only by virtue of extensive irrigation. It has been known for years as a particularly devout city; people call it the City of a Thousand Mosques. In the mid-90’s, when Saddam wanted his name to be added to the call to prayer, the imams of Fallujah refused.

U.S. forces bombed the power plant at the beginning of the assault; for the next several weeks, Fallujah was a blacked-out town, with light provided by generators only in critical places like mosques and clinics. The town was placed under siege; the ban on bringing in food, medicine, and other basic items was broken only when Iraqis en masse challenged the roadblocks. The atmosphere was one of pervasive fear, from bombing and the threat of more bombing. Noncombatants and families with sick people, the elderly, and children were leaving in droves. After initial instances in which people were prevented from leaving, U.S. forces began allowing everyone to leave – except for what they called “military age males,” men usually between 15 and 60. Keeping noncombatants from leaving a place under bombardment is a violation of the laws of war. Of course, if you assume that every military age male is an enemy, there can be no better sign that you are in the wrong country, and that, in fact, your war is on the people, not on their oppressors,, not a war of liberation.

The main hospital in Fallujah is across the Euphrates from the bulk of the town. Right at the beginning, the Americans shut down the main bridge, cutting off the hospital from the town. Doctors who wanted to treat patients had to leave the hospital, with only the equipment they could carry, and set up in makeshift clinics all over the city; the one I stayed at had been a neighborhood clinic with one room that had four beds, and no operating theater; doctors refrigerated blood in a soft-drink vending machine. Another clinic, I’m told, had been an auto repair shop. This hospital closing (not the only such that I documented in Iraq) also violates the Geneva Convention.

In Fallujah, you were rarely free of the sound of artillery booming in the background, punctuated by the smaller, higher-pitched note of the mujaheddin’s hand-held mortars. After even a few minutes of it, you have to stop paying attention to it – and yet, of course, you never quite stop. Even today, when I hear the roar of thunder, I’m often transported instantly to April 10 and the dusty streets of Fallujah.

In addition to the artillery and the warplanes dropping 500, 1000, and 2000-pound bombs, and the murderous AC-130 Spectre gunships that can demolish a whole city block in less than a minute, the Marines had snipers criss-crossing the whole town. For weeks, Fallujah was a series of sometimes mutually inaccessible pockets, divided by the no-man’s-lands of sniper fire paths. Snipers fired indiscriminately, usually at whatever moved. Of 20 people I saw come into the clinic I observed in a few hours, only five were “military-age males.” I saw old women, old men, a child of 10 shot through the head; terminal, the doctors told me, although in Baghdad they might have been able to save him.

One thing that snipers were very discriminating about – every single ambulance I saw had bullet holes in it. Two I inspected bore clear evidence of specific, deliberate sniping. Friends of mine who went out to gather in wounded people were shot at. When we first reported this fact, we came in for near-universal execration. Many just refused to believe it. Some asked me how I knew that it wasn’t the mujaheddin. Interesting question. Had, say, Brownsville, Texas, been encircled by the Vietnamese and bombarded (which, of course, Mr. Bush courageously protected us from during the Vietnam war era) and Brownsville ambulances been shot up, the question of whether the residents were shooting at their own ambulances, I somehow guess, would not have come up. Later, our reports were confirmed by the Iraqi Ministry of Health and even by the U.S. military.

The best estimates are that roughly 900-1000 people were killed directly, blown up, burnt, or shot. Of them, my guess, based on news reports and personal observation, is that 2/3 to ¾ were noncombatants.

But the damage goes far beyond that. You can read whenever you like about the bombing of so-called Zarqawi safe houses in residential areas in Fallujah, but the reports don’t tell you what that means. You read about precision strikes, and it’s true that America’s GPS-guided bombs are very accurate – when they’re not malfunctioning, the 80 or 85% of the time that they work, their targeting radius is 10 meters, i.e., they hit within 10 meters of the target. Even the smallest of them, however, the 500-pound bomb, has a blast radius of 400 meters; every single bomb shakes the whole neighborhood, breaking windows and smashing crockery. A town under bombardment is a town in constant fear.

You read the reports about X killed and Y wounded. And you should remember those numbers; those numbers are important. But equally important is to remember that those numbers lie – in a war zone, everyone is wounded.

The first assault on Fallujah was a military failure. This time, the resistance is stronger, better-armed, and better-organized; to “win,” the U.S. military will have to pull out all the stops. Even within horror and terror, there are degrees, and we – and the people of Fallujah – ain’t seen nothin’ yet. George W. Bush has just claimed a new mandate – the world has been delivered into his hands.

There will be international condemnation, as there was the first time; but our government won’t listen to it; aside from the resistance, all the people of Fallujah will be able to depend on to try to mitigate the horror will be us, the antiwar movement. We have a responsibility, that we didn’t meet in April and we didn’t meet in August when Najaf was similarly attacked; will we meet it this time?
November 4, 4:30 am. I'm about to leave on a tour of Southern California, speaking today, tomorrow, and Saturday. The details of appearances are below:
November 4th, 8 pm, 33 ⅓ Books at 1200 North Alvarado Street, Los Angeles, (213) 483-3500
November 5th, 7 pm, 2000+ Books at 309 Pine Avenue in Long Beach, (562) 435-1199
November 6th, 1-2 pm, First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego at 4190 Front Street, San Diego, (619) 298-9978
November 6th, 7 pm, Casa del Pueblo Cooperative at 1498 Sunset Blvd. #2 in Echo Park, (213) 481-1986 (with KPFK’s Sonali Kolhatkar)
If you know people in the area, please let them know.
November 4, 4:29 am. I'm still here. It's just that this result brings up so many thoughts that I need some time to process them. Very quick thoughts:

This is a huge defeat. Kerry's losing means nothing; Bush's winning means everything. Tariq Ali and others were right about that (to say that therefore the antiwar movement should mobilize for Kerry was a different statement and one that I still disagree with today). This is shattering. It will be interpreted, rightly, by the world and by many in this country as a ratification of Bush's imperialistic, dictatorial, dishonest, and unbelievably destructive policies.

Kerry's concession speech, in which he talked about "healing the wounds" and all of that garbage that losers, especially Democratic losers, always say, was a really stupid thing to do. If Bush "reaches across the aisle," it will be to strangle his opponents. Expect things to get a lot worse. I wrote a month and a half ago about Hindenburg not being exactly the greatest bulwark against Hitler, but electing Hitler? That's a little much to swallow.

All this talk about "did Bush get a mandate" is nonsense. Mandates are not given, they are taken. Bush has the power, therefore he gets to decide if he has a mandate.

This election unfortunately was not a referendum on the occupation or on the "war on terrorism." That would have required some significant, easily graspable divergence of views between the major candidates. The country is evenly split on the occupation of Iraq. This is not for moral reasons; the predominant sentiment against those who oppose the occupation is that "Iraq is not worth it." This makes a difference in terms of political opposition, rather than just opposition expressed in a poll. Still, the country is split.

This election was about the victory, not so much of imperial arrogance and neocolonialism or of crony-capitalist "free market" fundamentalism, but of stupidity. Tom Coburn was elected to the Senate in Oklahoma; while campaigning, at one point he said, "lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they'll only let one girl go to the bathroom. Now think about it. Think about that issue. How is it that that's happened to us?"

Jim Bunning was re-elected to the Senate in Kentucky. He is senile. He said his opponent looked like one of Saddam's sons, admitted he hadn't read a newspaper in six weeks, and reneged on a promise to debate his opponent in a public forum, instead teleconferencing in from remote location where he could read from a teleprompter.

Voters who said honesty was their key consideration for a candidate voted for Bush over Kerry 2 to 1.

The crucial margin in this election came because of gay marriage and the fact that banning it was on the ballot in at least 11 states. This enhanced turnout among conservative evangelicals who weren't all that motivated by Bush, who has not really moved their agenda.

When the United States has launched an imperial crusade that imperils the world and is likely to suffer a defeat as stunning as that in the Vietnam War, these people mobilized to vote because letting homosexuals marry each other "threatens" their marriage.

The victory of stupidity.

This is a time to wallow in the defeat. Let's not shrug it off too quickly. Let's acknowledge what it means in a world that is in the process of being torn apart by a new crusade. When we move on to try to find hope, let's start with a rational core, not one built out of wishful thinking, fantasies about how the world works, and self-congratulation.

I'm naturally perverse. In times of hope, I look for sources of despair; now, I'm looking for signs of hope. Will report when I find them.

November 2, 1:50 pm. Apologies. When I posted my intro to Naomi Klein yesterday, I mixed things up and replaced the end of the introduction with duplicated text from higher up. So if you read it you missed the last four paragraphs. That's been fixed and you can read it here.

Today is Election Day. If you haven't voted yet, go vote. If you don't believe in voting, do it as an act of postmodern anarchist culture-jamming or as a sardonic comment on the mundane obsessions of the hoi-polloi. If you need to fool yourself into believing that voting is a revolutionary act in order to vote, watch Eminem's remarkable and disturbing video, then vote.

On the way home yesterday, I passed a homeless man earnestly telling passersby to be sure to vote. The other 1460 days of the quadrennium, I react with annoyance that people can still think that voting is the summum of political engagement; today, however, for an hour or two at any rate it's nice to feel that spirit of solidarity as voters, of agreement that we all share at least one basic obligation. It's a pale echo of the feeling of human solidarity one feels and I felt, for example, in the Seattle demonstrations, where we all had the same job to do and we instinctively looked out for each other; but for many people in this atomized society, it's as close as they get.

But while you're standing in line to vote, be thinking about what you do tomorrow, because that's more important.


November 1, 6:11 am. On Sunday, I introduced Naomi Klein to an audience of about 500 in Austin. Because of the imminent danger of a major assault on Fallujah after the election (the U.S. hatchet man, Ayad Allawi, has just said that "the time is closing down" and "we are approaching the end"), I spoke about Fallujah and what I saw there during the assault and siege in April, before actually doing the introduction.

What I tried to do was paint a picture, not only of what U.S. forces did to the town in April, but of what it's like being in a war zone. I've posted my remarks here.

October 30, 12:25 pm. Because I'll be flying on Monday when I usually record my weekly radio commentary on Uprising Radio, I recorded this one in advance. It's called Bin Laden's Message to America.
October 27, 3:20 pm. Under the Same Sun has done some really stellar posts recently. I strongly urge readers to check it out. In particular, the recent post, Is Zarqawi Trying to Start a Civil War in Iraq, is a must-read.

Regular readers know that I have frequently written about Zarqawi's particular animus against the Shi'a and the dangers that it holds for Iraq, starting actually on February 10, when he came out with his first communique calling for a full-scale sectarian war, continuing through the Ashura bombings, the emergence into the spotlight of Tawhid wal Jihad, and most recently in Iraq, Algeria, and Civil War.

Under the Same Sun, however, has gone beyond the obvious attacks, like the assassination of Ayatollah Baqir al-Hakim at the Imam Ali mosque last year or the Ashura bombings of Shi'a pilgrims, to look at the various attacks on Iraqi recruits, those applying to become police, etc., and is finding that, although often unreported, these attacks are also directed at Shi'a. So it is literally true that Zarqawi never attacks the occupying forces directly; it is simply a way to legitimize his real agenda with sections of the Iraqi resistance.

Anyway, go read it.

October 27, 38 pm. I sometimes read the Weekly Standard, the leading "theoretical" journal of the neoconservatives, online (not as often as I should), but I just really looked at a hard copy of one a few days ago.

It was the October 18 issue. The cover story is When a Kiss is not just a Kiss: Reality TV Comes to the Arab World. The article itself is a typically snarky neocolonialist racist/culturally supremacist product of Weekly Standard-type writers, complete with laudatory references to Christopher Buckley's absurd new book, Florence of Arabia.

But what really stands out is the cover picture:

A bunch of Arabs, all of course dressed Bedouin-style, with hooked noses, distorted faces, and bizarrely uncomprehending expressions starting at a TV, with a child that has Down's Syndrome-type features waving a flag. And in case that's not enough for you to get the point, there is, of course, a camel in the picture as well.

All in all, a picture that could have come straight out of the pages of Der Stürmer. And this is supposed to be the intellectual journal of the right wing.

October 25, 7:30 pm. For readers living in Texas, I will be speaking in Houston tomorrow on the 26th and in San Antonio on the 27th. Please let your friends and acquaintances know.


OCTOBER 26th, 80 pm: Houston Global Awareness, as part of Halliburton Awareness Month, presents author and activist Rahul Mahajan. Mahajan will be discussing his book, Full Spectrum Dominance: U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond, and the current situation in Iraq where he traveled to earlier this year.

WHERE: The Station. 1502 Alabama at LaBranch

OCTOBER 27th, 60-7:30 pm: University of the Incarnate Word, Peace Day Keynote, San Antonio.

WHERE: Marian Hall Ballroom

University of the Incarnate Word (map)

4301 Broadway

San Antonio, Texas 78209
Rahul Mahajan, author of many books and antiwar activist will discuss the occupation of Iraq and the prospects for an antiwar movement.
October 25, 11:50 am. Over the weekend, I was at the annual conference of the National Lawyer's Guild, in Birmingham, Alabama (the site chosen to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act and to honor the civil rights movement).

It's the second one I've been to. Both times, I've been struck, as an outsider, by the members' fervent devotion to their purpose, which is being the legal arm of progressive movements in this country, and to their own organization and its history of important work. I always find it heartening.

I gave a talk on Iraq as a colonial war. I'll post a longer transcript up as soon as I can, but I used a shorter version as today's radio commentary for Uprising Radio.


October 24, 1:53 pm. Interesting article in the Times today by Norimitsu Onishi, Dutch Soldiers Find Smiles Are a More Effective Protection:
In a neighborhood here without lights, its pockmarked dirt streets and open sewers faintly visible under the full moon, the Dutch soldiers began a foot patrol on a recent evening. After getting out of their soft-top vehicles, the soldiers entered a street, wearing no helmets and pointing their guns down, chatting with Iraqis clustered in front of their homes.

"Hello, Mister!" some boys cried out, and they followed the soldiers to the bend in the road. Driving through the town later, the Dutch called out "Salaam Aleikum" to pedestrians. Many Iraqis, adults and children, waved at them.

Part neighborhood police officers, part social workers, the soldiers managed to practice in Iraq what the Netherlands has come to call the Dutch approach to patrolling. Scarred by national shame over the Dutch peacekeepers who proved powerless to stop the Bosnian Serbs from rolling into the United Nations enclave of Srebrenica in 1995 and killing thousands of Muslims, the Dutch have nonetheless managed to keep a soft touch, honed in Afghanistan and now on display in this small town on the Euphrates.

Instead of armored vehicles, the Dutch drive vehicles that leave them exposed to the people around them. To encourage interaction with local residents, they go bare-headed and are forbidden to wear mirror sunglasses. Making soldiers accessible and vulnerable to their surroundings increases their security, they contend. Making them inaccessible decreases it.
When I was in Iraq in January, I spoke with a Hungarian journalist who had been there since May 2003. He told me that in Samawah the Dutch went around without guns. They learned the language, shopped in the local shops, were friendly to people, and walked around like ordinary people. At long last, the mainstream media has caught up with this story.

I had assumed that the no-guns policy was a casualty of April's events and indeed the article mentions that they carry guns now, although they keep them down, not constantly swiveling and pointing at people the way Americans do when on patrol.

The article suggests that it is unfair to compare the Dutch with the American methods:
Samawa, one of the quietest spots in Iraq outside the Kurdish north, is a world away from the lawlessness that has spread across Baghdad and other cities. What the Dutch face here cannot be compared with what American soldiers must deal with in the capital or in the Sunni triangle, where they are confronted daily with a deadly resistance.

Yet, perhaps unfairly, the Americans do get compared with the Dutch here, in a way that underscores how difficult it will be for Americans to win back some of the popular support they enjoyed after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
But there is an obvious chicken-and-egg problem here. When the Americans swept into Baghdad, very few parts of the city manifested any violence toward Americans. Shi'a areas like Sadr City and Shuala had many people who hoped that the Americans would be liberators and who were grateful for the removal of Saddam Hussein. There were no attacks on Americans coming from most sectors of the city; there's little reason to believe that this would have had to change had the Americans acted like the Dutch.

Even Sunni areas like Aadhamiyah that had regular, consistent attacks on Americans starting in the summer of 2003 (actually, this is almost the only area in Baghdad of which this was true) had large numbers of local authorities and notables who were very willing to work with the Americans and only got turned off after repeated indignities.

In Samawah, the biggest security problem is the occasional American trips across the city:
In Samawa, Chief Zayad and others here said, the American convoys represent the greatest affront to Iraqi dignity. The Dutch and Iraqis say the convoys indiscriminately hit private cars and pedestrians, treating Iraqis only as obstacles to be removed. A few weeks ago, one such convoy struck a car, killing two Iraqi passengers and injuring three, the Dutch said. The convoy never stopped.
The locals clearly note these things and have a very different attitude to the Dutch:
Karim Hleibit al-Zayad, the police chief here, made a clear distinction between the Dutch and Americans: "The Dutch have tried seriously to understand our traditions. We do not view them as an occupying force, but a friendly one. The Americans are an occupying force. I agree they helped us get rid of the past regime, but they should not take away our dignity."
According to the Dutch colonel, even in peaceful Samawah, dislike for the Americans is growing. His attempt at understanding the difference in attitudes:
"Of course, an American is a different type of human than a Dutchman," the colonel said. "We have our own culture. But I think the Americans could have a way of operating with more respect and more understanding toward the population."
A British officer in Basra in April expanded a bit on this:
They don't see the Iraqi people the way we see them. They view them as untermenschen. They are not concerned about the Iraqi loss of life in the way the British are. Their attitude towards the Iraqis is tragic, it's awful.

The US troops view things in very simplistic terms. It seems hard for them to reconcile subtleties between who supports what and who doesn't in Iraq. It's easier for their soldiers to group all Iraqis as the bad guys. As far as they are concerned Iraq is bandit country and everybody is out to kill them."
When the final histories of this war are written, look for the word "Untermenschen."

October 23, 12:25 pm. If the beheading of 12 Nepalis who came to Iraq to work as cooks and cleaners back in the summer was the height of inhumanity that some terrorist groups loosely associated with the Iraqi resistance reached, then, in a different way, the kidnapping of Margaret Hassan is another kind of height.

Although Irish in origin, she had lived in Iraq for 30 years, married an Iraqi, learned Arabic, and converted to Islam. To consider her a foreigner is to apply the standards of the Gulf despotisms that jihadis hate, where if your ancestors for generations back were not natives of the land then you are considered a foreigner.

Furthermore, of course, she spent much of those 30 years fighting to help the Iraqi people in any way she could, opposing the Gulf Wars and the sanctions.

Felicity Arbuthnot, one of the few journalists to cover Iraq extensively even in the mid-1990's , when nobody wanted to talk about the sanctions, has a personal note on Margaret Hassan that was published by BBC. In it, she says,
She never considered leaving - not during the eight year Iran-Iraq war, the 42 day carpet bombing of the 1991 Gulf war, the 13 years of the grinding deprivation of the United Nations embargo, numerous bombings by Britain and America during those years, or when last year's invasion became inevitable.

Instead, she fought for the people and country, of which she had become a part.

She went to the UN in New York in January 2003, briefing the Security Council and UN Agencies that the majority of Iraqis were staggering under the weight of the embargo and the collapse of the infrastructure, due to prohibition of imported parts.

She briefed the British Parliament: "The Iraqi people are already living through a terrible emergency - they do not have the resources to withstand an additional crisis brought about by military action."
She fought in particular, says Arbuthnot, for the "lost generation," Iraqi children and young people stunted and destroyed by the sanctions and, unlike so many others, understood that the war and occupation would mean a second lost generation.

Even those few souls intrepid enough to go to Iraq now can't dream of going to Fallujah. With signs pointing to a massive assault on Fallujah soon to come, there will be no one to document the atrocities in English; this cruel and inhumane policy of abductions and beheadings is harming the people of Iraq more than anyone else -- not that the groups doing it necessarily care about that.

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U.S. forces reach center of Fallujah
14 Americans killed in fighting over 2 days in city, elsewhere

NBC, MSNBC and news services
Updated: 115 a.m. ET Nov. 9, 2004FALLUJAH, Iraq - U.S. Army troops, Marines and some Iraqi forces punched their way through and past the center of Fallujah on Tuesday, but at least 3 U.S. soldiers lost their lives and more were wounded in battles with Sunni extremists.


The fighting in the city and elsewhere in Iraq has cost the United States at least 14 lives over the past two days, according to Pentagon figures. Eleven died on Monday, most in attacks outside Fallujah, marking the highest one-day U.S. toll in more than six months.

Outside Fallujah, meanwhile, insurgents kept up attacks on Tuesday. Raids on police stations in and around the city of Baqouba reportedly killed 45 people, most of them police. The attack was claimed by the terror group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to an Islamic Web site.

Iraqi authorities later imposed the first nighttime curfew in more than a year on Baghdad and surrounding areas under powers granted by an emergency decree announced last weekend.

Hundreds of guerrillas were also swarming the streets of Ramadi, another insurgent stronghold 70 miles west of Baghdad. Gunfire rang out in the city center, and a destroyed car smeared with blood was seen.

Warren of alleyways
In Fallujah, U.S. troops found lighter-than-expected resistance in the Jolan neighborhood, according to NBC's Kevin Sites, who is with one Marine contingent. Sunni extremists were thought to be holed up in Jolan, a warren of alleyways in northeastern Fallujah where the assault began. FREE VIDEO

But heavy street clashes were raging in other northern sectors of Fallujah amid fierce bursts of gunfire, residents said. At least two American tanks were engulfed in flames, witnesses said.

Small bands of guerrillas — fewer than 20 — were engaging U.S. troops, then falling back in the face of overwhelming fire from American tanks, 20mm cannons and heavy machine guns, said Time magazine reporter Michael Ware, embedded with troops. Ware reported that there appeared to be no civilians in the area he was in.

On one thoroughfare in the city, U.S. troops traded fire with gunmen holed up in a row of houses about 100 yards away. An American gunner on an armored vehicle let loose with his machinegun, grinding the upper part of a small building to rubble.

Lt. Col. John Morris said U.S. Marines were spearheading the advance while Iraqi forces would seize weapons and fight insurgents in streets and alleys.

“This will be a challenging task,” he said, adding that insurgents had booby-trapped entire buildings.

The U.S. military said three troops had been killed and another 14 wounded in and around Fallujah during the past 12 hours. On Monday, two Marines were killed when their bulldozer flipped over into the Euphrates near Fallujah.

But a wounded U.S. soldier told a Reuters reporter Tuesday that he had seen 50 wounded comrades. “A buddy of mine and another soldier were killed and I have seen about 50 other wounded (U.S.) soldiers since the fighting began,” he said while awaiting medical evacuation from the city. He declined to give his name.

A U.S. military ambulance driver also said he had witnessed many casualties.

Center reached, mosque surrounded
By midday local time, U.S. armored units had made their way to the central highway in the heart of the city, crossing over into the southern part of Fallujah, a major milestone.

Machine gun fire crackled from the eastern and central parts of the city and black smoke rose from near a mosque.

The once-constant thunder of artillery barrages has been halted with so many troops moving inside the city’s narrow alleys.

Col. Michael Formica, commander of the 1st Cavalry Brigade, said a security cordon around the city will be tightened to ensure insurgents dressed in civilian clothing don’t slip out.

By nightfall, a civilian living in the center of Fallujah said hundreds of houses had been destroyed. “Every minute, hundreds of bombs and shells are exploding,” said Fadril al-Badrani, a resident who lives in the center of Fallujah, said after nightfall Monday. “The north of the city is in flames. I can also see fire and smoke ... Fallujah has become like hell.”

U.S. military spokesman estimated that 42 insurgents were killed across the city in bombardment and skirmishes before the main assault began Monday.

As they entered Fallujah, U.S. troops cut off electricity to the city, and most private generators were not working — either because their owners wanted to conserve fuel or the wires had been damaged by explosions.

Residents said they were without running water and were worried about food shortages because most shops in the city have been closed for the past two days.


'We are not here to liberate Iraq, we're here to fight the infidels'


In the front yard of a half-built house in Falluja, a dozen fighters sat in a semicircle. With Kalashnikovs in their laps and copies of the Qur'an in their hands, they stared at us suspiciously.
The silence was punctuated by the sound of mortar shelling. With each explosion, the fighters would cry, "Allahu Akbar".

Eventually, the mujahideen started talking: "Who are you?" "What do you do?" "Why the big cameras?"

But mostly they were interested only in converting us to Islam. They were still describing the pains I would go through in hell when another fighter, a short thin teenager, appeared. He was still dressed in his white pyjamas and rubbed his eyes as he listened to the conversation.

"What are you doing?" he asked one of the fighters.

"We are preaching to them about Islam," said the fighter.

"Why? They are not Muslims?"


The young man looked with puzzlement at the other fighter and said: "But then, why don't we kill them?"

"We can't do that now. They are in a state of truce with us," the fighter said.

The fighters belonged to Tawhid and Jihad, the group that has claimed responsibility for most of the violence sweeping Iraq. Eradicating these men is one of the prime objectives of the US offensive on Falluja.

At first sight, they all looked and behaved the same; young men in trainers and tracksuits preaching Islam. As time passed, they became more relaxed and open about who they were and why they were there.

It became apparent that they were an odd bunch of people from different places and with different dreams.

There were two kinds of mujahideen bound together in a marriage of convenience. One kind, Arab fighters from the new generation of the jihad diaspora, were teachers, workers and students from across the Arab world feeling oppressed and alienated by the west; they came to Iraq with dreams of martyrdom.

The other kind, Iraqi fighters from Falluja, were fighting the army that occupied their country.

They were five Saudis - or the people of the peninsula, as they called themselves - three Tunisians and one Yemeni. The rest were Iraqis.

Most of the time, when they weren't reading or praying, they spoke about death, not fearfully, but in happy anticipation. They talked about how martyrs would not feel pain and about how many virgins they would get in heaven.

I asked one of them, a young teacher from Saudi Arabia, why he was there. He started reading the verses in the Qur'an that urge Muslims to commit jihad. He read about the importance of martyrdom. After 20 minutes, he directed me to another fighter, an older man with a beard and a soft voice who said his name was Abu Ossama from Tunisia.

"We are here for one of two things - victory or martyrdom, and both are great," he said.

"The most important thing is our religion, not Falluja and not the occupation. If the American solders came to me and converted to Islam, I won't fight them. We are here not because we want to liberate Iraq, we are here to fight the infidels and to make victorious the name of Islam."

He continued to explain his jihad theories: "They call us terrorists because we resist them. If defending the truth is terrorism, then we are terrorists."

Suddenly, there was a heavy burst of gunfire. The young Saudi teacher ran to fetch a machine gun. With ammunition belts wrapped around his neck, he and a young Tunisian carrying a rocket-propelled grenade launcher ran outside.

The Saudi reached a trench. Opening his Qur'an, he read for a while and then pointed his machine gun at the horizon, trying to release the safety catch.

He fiddled with the gun for a few minutes, then turned to me: "Do you know how to make these things work?"

Abu Yassir, a short, heavy-built, middle-aged Iraqi with a grey beard, was the "amir", or commander, of this group. He was a more experienced fighter and looked after the others.

When it was time to break their fast, the men poured food into a big tray and, exchanging jokes, scooped rice with their fingers. I had to keep reminding myself that these people blow up civilians every day in Iraq.

After the food, the amir told his story.

He was a retired military officer and ran a business making electric generators. He was happy to see the back of Saddam Hussein and to get rid of the Ba'athist regime.

But, he said, "as the time passed by and as the occupation became more visible, more patriotic feelings grew bigger and bigger. Every time I saw the Americans patrolling our streets I became more humiliated."

He described how locals from Falluja and other places started to organise themselves into small cells and to attack the Americans.

"We just wanted them to leave our cities. In the beginning I had a 'job' every month, setting IEDs [improvised explosive devices] or firing mortars, and would go back to my work most of the time. But then I realised I can't do any thing but jihad as long as the Americans occupied my country."

He closed his workshop, sold his business and used the money to sponsor the group of fighters.

"The world is convinced that we people of Falluja are happy to kill the innocents, that's not true, even when we execute collaborators and people working for the Americans, I feel sad for them and sometimes cry, but this is a war."

We slept in one of the many empty houses, but every few moments we heard the sound of an explosion. Suddenly, there was a huge blast. We ran outside.

The fighters were already in the street, shouting "Allahu Akbar" every time they heard explosions, believing it would divert the missiles away.

We walked in the darkness until we reached a mosque, were we spent the night listening to the heavy bombing and the shrapnel hitting the walls.

The next day, the mujahideen left the house where they had stayed for the last few days, believing they had been spotted by the Americans.

There they took their final fighting positions and designated one of them, a young Iraqi, as the unit's martyr - a fighter whose task is to explode himself next to the Americans.

The amir told me: "All we want is the Americans to leave, and then everything will be fine, the Kurds will stop talking about seceding from Iraq, the Shias will stop talking about settling scores with Sunnis and each province will elect a council and these councils will elect a president.

"That is the election we see democratic, not an American one."

But, he said: "We are besieged here now. It is a great emotional victory, but bad strategy. It is very easy now for the Americans to come and kill us all."


Falluja rebels may lie low, strike back later

BAGHDAD, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Most hardcore Iraqi insurgents and foreign fighters are likely to have left Falluja to evade a U.S. offensive and fight again another day, Iraqi security officials and politicians said on Monday.

Battle-hardened fighters may still strike back, even if American and Iraqi forces retake the Sunni Muslim city, they said, pointing to a recent revival in attacks by insurgents after a U.S.-led offensive on the city of Samarra last month.

"We don't expect to find many of them in Falluja. They are fighting a guerrilla warfare of attack and retreat," Ahmed al-Khafaji, a senior Iraqi official involved in counter-insurgency efforts, told Reuters.

Khafaji said the offensive would deny Saddam Hussein loyalists a key operating base and make it harder for them to coordinate with foreign fighters he says have infiltrated Iraq.

"They operate in cells, but we will get them. They lack the cover of topography and mass support," said Khafaji, who fought in an anti-Saddam uprising after the 1991 Gulf War.

U.S. forces advanced to the edge of Falluja on Monday and launched air and artillery strikes before an offensive aimed at rooting out insurgents and followers of al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his followers said to be in the city.

Some American commanders are facing a tough fight with up to 6,000 insurgents in a city seen as the epicentre of suicide bombings, kidnappings and beheadings.

But Falluja residents said the number of gunmen in the city had dwindled in the past week. "They know better than to remain under heavy bombing," said one.

Khafaji said the insurgents are well-financed and able to recruit suicide bombers, who have mounted almost daily attacks on U.S. troops and fledgling Iraqi security forces.


U.S. planes bombed an area north of Samarra on Monday, two days after insurgents mounted suicide bombings and attacks on police stations there that killed 34 people.

"There is a limit to what any country can do in face of suicide bombs. We cannot ban cars and people," Khafaji said, adding that the government was pressing neighbouring countries to stop supporting the insurgents and foreign fighters.

Neighbouring Syria denies U.S. and Iraqi charges that it lets fighters cross its border into Iraq. It said at the weekend it had agreed a border security pact with the Baghdad government.

Entifadh Qanbar, a spokesman for Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress party, said it was former senior officials of Saddam's Baath party who were driving the insurgency, not the foreign fighters they sometimes hired.

"The Baathists have slipped outside Falluja. What do you expect? The Americans have been threatening to storm the city for weeks," said Qanbar.

"The government must win over the tribes of Falluja and recruit security forces able to stand up to the terrorists. Otherwise it could have another Samarra on its hands."

Falluja and other cities in central Iraq's Sunni heartlands provided the backbone of Saddam's secular administration and security apparatus. But Islamic radicalism has gained ground there since Saddam was toppled in last year's U.S.-led invasion.

Mohammad al-Faidi, a spokesman for the Muslim Clerics Association, a Sunni group, said the insurgency would continue to find recruits while U.S. forces remain in Iraq.

"I would not be surprised if fighters have left Falluja. But the destruction the Americans are wreaking on the 60,000 civilians who remained there will only spark more resistance."

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45 Iraqi Policemen Killed in Attacks on Baquba Police Stations

Iraqi resistance attacks and clashes killed 45 people in the Iraqi city of Baquba on Tuesday, a hospital morgue official said. Guerrillas attacked three police stations and a river bridge in the city, 40 miles northeast of Baghdad, and fought gunbattles with Iraqi police and National Guards.

The attacks came as U.S.-led forces were storming into the resistance stronghold of Falluja, west of Baghdad.

Ahmed Fuad, in charge of the main morgue in Baquba, capital of Diyala province, said 32 people had been wounded, in addition to the 45 bodies he had received.

"We have taken back the labor union building from the resistance and we are regaining control of the city," police Major Mohammed Ghani told reporters.

Fuad said 25 policemen were killed when gunmen attacked the Tahrir and Mafraq police stations in Baquba. Another 20 bodies had come in after a similar attack on a police station in Buhriz, a village just south of Baquba, he said.

Iraqi resistance also attacked a Diyala river bridge on a road linking Baquba with the northeastern towns of Miqdadiya and Khanaqin.

They distributed leaflets warning people in Baquba to stay away from government offices and schools.


At least 200 Iraqi soldiers deserted before attack on Fallujah

by Hannah Allam and Tom Lasseter

U.S. military officials said Monday that at least 200 Iraqi troops had deserted their posts in the American-led offensive on Fallujah, illustrating the predicament faced by men who are torn between orders from commanders and outrage from their countrymen. Another 200 Iraqi troops were estimated to be “on leave.”

“Some people were afraid because they received threats,” said Sgt. Abdul Raheem, an Iraqi soldier. “They were afraid of death.”

Prominent Iraqi clerics, including influential Sunni Muslims and top aides to rebel Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al Sadr, condemned the Iraqi troops who were serving alongside Americans in Fallujah, the Sunni stronghold 35 miles west of Baghdad. In a statement, they called Iraqi troops “the occupiers’ lash on their fellow countrymen.”

Meanwhile, the insurgent council that has controlled Fallujah for the past six months threatened to behead Iraqi troops who entered the city to “fight their own people.”

Hundreds of Iraqi troops are playing a support role in Fallujah, mainly providing security for areas American forces have cleared.

To bolster Iraqi troops’ morale, interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi made a surprise visit Monday to the Camp Fallujah base. The men gathered around him and sang and danced to show their allegiance to Iraq and to him. In a rousing speech punctuated by their cheers, Allawi told the young men they were making history.

“The people of Fallujah have been taken hostage just like the people of Samarra, and you need to free them,” Allawi said. “Your job is to arrest the killers, but if you kill them, let it be.”

“May they go to hell!” the soldiers cried.

“To hell they will go,” Allawi answered.

Fallujah isn’t the first battle to elicit mass desertions by Iraqi troops. Hundreds were reported in the August standoff over Najaf, and many troops reportedly deserted the last time U.S. troops entered Fallujah, in April.

Despite the desertions, Iraq’s nascent security forces celebrated two apparent victories Monday. In the flash-point town of Iskandariyah, a deadly zone south of Baghdad, Iraqi police disguised as civilians ambushed a rebel checkpoint and killed 25 insurgents, according to Iraqi government officials.

A Babylon province intelligence officer, who wouldn’t give his name for security reasons, told Knight Ridder that 60 officers stormed the checkpoints and sustained no casualties. The all-Iraqi operation came after a string of large-scale attacks on Iraqi security personnel throughout the country.

“They were criminal, armed terrorists, and we destroyed them all,” the officer said.

The second success was part of the initial push into Fallujah late Sunday night. Men described as elite Iraqi commandos backed by U.S. troops stormed across a bridge and took over Fallujah’s main hospital amid enemy fire, according to a news release from the Iraqi government. Four suspected foreign fighters, including two Moroccans, were seized in the operation just outside the city on the western bank of the Euphrates River.

Just before the battle began, Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan addressed the Iraqi troops at Camp Fallujah.

“I swear by God we will fight until the last drop of our blood,” he said.

“When we came to Iraq with the coalition forces, our decision was to build Iraq through its sons. Today is your day, and jihad is for you — not for those rats.”


Thirteen US soldiers killed in Iraq

Ten US soldiers have been killed in Falluja with three other US military personnel killed in other parts of Iraq, according to the US military.

About a dozen US troops have been killed so far in the offensive against the Iraqi city of Falluja, US Lieutenant General Thomas Metz said on Tuesday without giving a precise toll.

According to Pentagon figures, some 10 soldiers were also wounded in and around Falluja.

"Friendly casualties are light," Metz said in a video teleconference briefing from Iraq.

The US military reported that two Iraqi soldiers of the interim army had been killed in the attacks on Falluja.

"Enemy casualties, I think, are significantly higher than I expected," Metz added, but declined to provide a number.

Mosul, Baghdad fighting

Three US military personnel were also reported killed in Mosul and Baghdad on Tuesday.

"One Task Force Olympia soldier was killed and a second service member later died of wounds following a mortar attack on a Multi-National Base in Mosul at approximately 100am (0700 GMT) today," a statement said.

"A civilian contractor also wounded in the attack was evacuated to the military hospital in Baghdad," the statement added.

Another US soldier succumbed to his wounds sustained during a firefight with Iraqi fighters in Baghdad, AP reported.

A total of 14 Americans have been killed in the past two days across Iraq - including five in and around Falluja.

The latest US deaths brings to 1140 the number of US troops killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion in March 2003, according to Pentagon figures.

Ramadi fighting

In a separate development, anti-US fighters took control of the centre of the Iraqi city of Ramadi after 24 hours of clashes with US forces, an AFP correspondent has said.

The US military could not immediately be contacted for comment.

US forces withdrew Tuesday around 20pm (1100 GMT) from Ramadi's main streets to their bases east and west of the city, the correspondent said.

Earlier, five US troops were wounded in Ramadi when marines shot at and destroyed two suspected cars killing seven fighters, the US military said Tuesday.

The attack occured in the city on Monday, located 113km west of Baghdad, where US troops have clashed with fighters for weeks, the military said. No other details were available.

Ramadi, and Falluja to the east, is a centre of anti-US fighters waging a 17-month campaign against US-backed interim authorities in Iraq.

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Opposition to Iraq war at new high

LONDON (Reuters) - The public's opposition to the war in Iraq has reached a record high, according to an opinion poll in the Times.

The survey published on Tuesday found 57 percent thought taking military action to oust former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was wrong, compared to 31 percent who supported it.

The same poll in April, 2003, a month after the U.S.-led invasion, found nearly two-thirds of Britons supported the war, compared to 24 percent who thought it was wrong.

Populus questioned 1,504 people over the weekend after three British soldiers died in a suicide bomb attack at a checkpoint near the Sunni Muslim rebel stronghold of Falluja.

Despite opposition to the war in Iraq, the poll found Blair's Labour Party is on course for a third general election win.

It put Labour on 34 percent, just ahead of the opposition Conservatives on 33 percent, a five point rise since early October.

Blair, who swept to power in 1997 with a huge majority, has seen his once sky-high poll ratings eroded over his staunch support for the United States in Iraq.

He faced renewed criticism in parliament last month after agreeing to dispatch 850 British troops from their relatively quiet sector in southern Iraq to volatile areas near the Iraqi capital.

Analysts say Iraq is Blair and his party's most vulnerable link in their bid to win a third term at an election expected in May or June next year.


Iraqi backup troops
back out of assault

WASHINGTON - Rambos they're not - yet.
Hundreds of troops from Iraq's new army that U.S. forces were relying upon to help in taking Fallujah have either failed to show up for the battle or deserted after they arrived.

"I do have reports of Iraqis not making the movement to Fallujah," said Army Gen. George Casey, overall commander of U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq.

In a phone link to the Pentagon, Casey said he could not confirm the accounts of journalists with U.S. forces at Fallujah that more than 300 troops from an Iraqi battalion of 500 deserted.

But without confirming the reports, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, "One ought to expect from time to time you're going to see this type of thing."

U.S. troops were leading the way into Fallujah, trailed by Iraqi units, Casey said. Iraqi forces took over a hospital and a railway station yesterday after U.S. troops drove off defenders.

Both Rumsfeld and Casey said Iraqi forces performed well in recent fighting in Najaf and other insurgent strongholds, but Rumsfeld said, "There have been incidents when they have not performed so well."

In April, Marines stopped their assault on Fallujah to allow a "Fallujah Brigade" of Iraqis to take control, but the Iraqi force dissolved or went over to the insurgents. Rumsfeld said it was "hard stuff" to develop noncommissioned and junior officers to instill morale and cohesion in new Iraqi troops.

The Iraqis also come under pressure from their ethnic and religious groups to reject cooperation with the Americans.

Iraq's Muslim Clerics Association issued a statement warning Iraqi troops outside Fallujah that "history will record every drop of blood you spill in oppressing the people of your nation."

Casey and Rumsfeld said training Iraqis to provide their own security is the cornerstone of U.S. policy in Iraq. Once the city falls to the coalition, Casey said, U.S. troops will patrol with Iraqis, but the goal is to have "Iraqi security forces take over the presence in Fallujah."


Aljazeera News Station Targeted

Fox News confirms it, truth first casualty of war.

by Jeff Hook

U.S. forces have begun the battle for Fallujah in a black of night, lightning attack. Bulldozers and tanks are crashing into the city from the north, through the back alleys -- a strategy designed to maximize 'night-vision' capabilities and avoid car bombs and improvised explosive devices believed to be planted along main roads.

Monday night, in an interview with a Fox News military analyst, Brit Hume reported that Aljazeera's Fallujah headquarters would be "one of the first targets" of the attack.

Leaning over a large satellite image of the city, Hume and the analyst plotted the two-pronged attack for the national television audience. While pointing to a specific location on the map, the retired general described Aljazeera as a "dirty little propaganda machine for the insurgents" and said, "Last time they showed pictures of civilian causalities; that's not going to happen this time."

Mr. Hume expressed no concern whatsoever about the apparent U.S. decision to, essentially, execute fellow journalists for revealing inconvenient facts. In fact, Hume did not react at all to the comments.

Although Aljazeera irked both the U.S. media and the Bush administration even before Washington invaded Iraq as the first step in its plan to remake the Middle East on a "democratic" model, the attacks turned vicious after the channel aired lived coverage of the U.S. military's heavy bombardment of Fallujah last April. Aljazeera was one of the only news networks broadcasting from the inside, relaying images of destruction and civilian victims -- including women and children.

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Iraqi insurgents seize centre of Ramadi

Insurgents jubilate in centre of Ramadi as US snipers withdraw from their positions following 24 hours of clashes.

RAMADI, Iraq - Rebel fighters massed in the centre of the restive Iraqi city of Ramadi Tuesday after US military snipers withdrew from their positions following 24 hours of clashes, an AFP correspondent said.

The US military could not immediately be contacted for comment.

US snipers left a hotel from where they were able to control most of Ramadi's main roads, but the military remained in its headquarters in the governor's office nearby, the correspondent said.

Other US soldiers left the city for their bases in the east and west of the city.

As the snipers departed, large crowds of armed insurgents, their faces hidden by scarves, began dancing in the street and shooting in to the air, yelling "Allah Akbar" (God is great).

Banners proclaiming solidarity with insurgents in Fallujah, where US-led forces launched a massive offensive to retake the city on Monday, were hung in the streets.

"The residents of Ramadi condemn the attack against Fallujah and we appeal to the inhabitants of Ramadi to wage jihad against the American occupants who want to eradicate Islam," said one man who did not want to be named.

Seven Iraqis were killed and 24 were injured during the previous day's fighting, said Dr Saad Dulaimi at Ramadi's main hospital, although he said it was unclear how many of the casualties were insurgents.


Iraqi insurgents mass in centre of Ramadi as US snipers withdraw

RAMADI, Iraq (AFP) - Rebel fighters massed in the centre of the restive Iraqi city of Ramadi after US military snipers withdrew from their positions following 24 hours of clashes, an AFP correspondent said.

The US military could not immediately be contacted for comment.

US snipers left a hotel from where they were able to control most of Ramadi's main roads, but the military remained in its headquarters in the governor's office nearby, the correspondent said.

Other US soldiers left the city for their bases in the east and west of the city.

As the snipers departed, large crowds of armed rebels, their faces hidden by scarves, began dancing in the street and shooting in to the air, yelling "Allah Akbar" (God is great).

Banners proclaiming solidarity with insurgents in Fallujah, where US-led forces launched a massive offensive to retake the city on Monday, were hung in the streets.

"The residents of Ramadi condemn the attack against Fallujah and we appeal to the inhabitants of Ramadi to wage jihad against the American occupants who want to eradicate Islam," said one man who did not want to be named.

Seven Iraqis were killed and 24 were injured during the previous day's fighting, said Dr Saad Dulaimi at Ramadi's main hospital, although he said it was unclear how many of the casualties were rebels.
In Fallujah, U.S. Declares War on Hospitals, Ambulances

US troops appear to be including the restriction of civilian health care services as a primary objective in the current assault on Fallujah, including the bombing and seizure of clinics and confiscation of ambulances.

In a series of actions over the weekend, the United States military and Iraqi government destroyed a civilian hospital in a massive air raid, captured the main hospital and prohibited the use of ambulances in the besieged city of Fallujah.

Saturday morning, witnesses in Fallujah reported that an overnight air strike by US fighter crews had completely razed a trauma clinic, which was recently constructed using Saudi donations. Also destroyed were two adjacent facilities used by health care providers.

A Reuters photograph of the devastation shows only a sign that reads "Nazzal Emergency Hospital" still standing. There have been mixed reports of injuries and deaths resulting from the bombing.

Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has ordered that everyone except Iraqi and US troops observe a strict curfew in Fallujah and nearby Ramadi, though it is unclear how well the directive has been conveyed to residents, or if an exemption has been made for medical personnel, in accordance with international law. It is also unclear how noncombatants will be able to observe a strict curfew when much of the city’s running water and electricity has been cut off, according to several witnesses including Fadhil Badrani, a Fallujah resident who is issuing regular reports to the BBC.

On Sunday, Marines said they would use the curfew to their tactical advantage, effectively designating any and all moving civilian vehicles to be free-fire targets. Normally, US troops are expected to establish that a target is hostile before engaging. But Colonel Mike Ramos told National Public Radio that US Marines have been relieved of meeting that requirement.

Saying invasion forces will order all vehicles off the streets of Fallujah for the duration of their offensive, Col. Ramos added, "If a Marine feels that it is necessary, to protect the lives of his fellow Marines, he is empowered to engage a moving vehicle; he’s empowered to destroy whatever needs to be destroyed."

In contrast, standard rules of engagement, which were written based on international law, dictate that troops determine a target is actually a threat, but make no mention of how the soldier feels.

Addressing reporters on Monday, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he expects minimal civilian casualties, and insisted US troops have been issued "rules of engagement that are appropriate to an urban environment."

In a May interview with The NewStandard a US Marine Corps spokesperson refused to explain specific incidents of US Marines attacking Iraqi emergency vehicles, but said any ambulances that Marines fired on must have been involved in carrying insurgents or arms, or else the Marines would not have opened fire.

US and Iraqi officials have not indicated whether ambulances will be allowed to move freely through the city, but during the siege of the city in April, US troops fired on Iraqi ambulances on a number of occasions. At least two were completely demolished prior to the current assault; one by Marines in April and another in a September air strike. A Fallujah General Hospital official told Arab News and other agencies that a driver, a medic and five patients died in the latter incident. Photographs reinforced those claims.

General Hospital Seized

Early Monday morning, Iraqi commandos stormed and seized the Fallujah General Hospital, the city’s main health care facility, in the first reported ground operation carried out against the city during the renewed offensive. During the raid they reportedly detained some 50 patients, about 25 of whom were arrested.

This is the second time Marines have sealed off the hospital. Fallujah General is located on the Western edge of the Eurphrates River, separating it from the rest of the city. Throughout the siege in April, Marines prevented ambulances and other vehicles from transporting sick or injured people to what was at that time -- and after Saturday night’s bombing is once again -- the city’s only trauma-capable health care facility.

Today, Dr. Salih Al-Issawi, the director of Fallujah General, told the South African Press Association that US Marines were again preventing ambulances from delivering patients to emergency care. Al-Issawi said that he believes the US military "thought that they would halt medical assistance to the resistance" by taking his hospital. "But," said Al-Issawi, "they did not realize that the hospital does not belong to anybody, especially the resistance."

The Fourth Geneva Convention plainly states, "Civilian hospitals organized to give care to the wounded and sick, the infirm and maternity cases, may in no circumstances be the object of attack, but shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties to the conflict."

Dr. Al-Issawi told Agence France-Presse that Marines would not let him or other hospital staff move to another facility inside Fallujah in order to be of actual help to the people of the city.

Of the estimated 30,000 to 100,000 who remain in Fallujah after most of its 280,000-strong population left during October in an exodus of terror, many are presumed to be infirmed, impoverished, or otherwise unable to escape the offensive. The entire city must now rely on two or three small clinics, if they can reach care at all, to provide for the sick and wounded.

Another physician, Dr. Hashem Issawi, who works at a clinic inside Fallujah, reported that a lack of water, electricity and ambulances has made providing emergency care all but impossible, according to AFP. Dr. Issawi reported that his clinic’s ambulance was destroyed during air strikes on Sunday. "Ambulances have also been confiscated," he said. "We lack material and equipment."

Another doctor at Fallujah General, Sami Al-Jumaili, told Reuters: "There is not a single surgeon in Fallujah. We had one ambulance hit by US fire and a doctor wounded.

"There are scores of injured civilians in their homes whom we can't move," Al-Jumaili continued. "A 13-year-old child just died in my hands."

The US military has not stated if it intends to destroy or capture any remaining health care facilities.

The Pentagon has made little attempt to explain its repeated attacks on medical personnel and infrastructure. Nevertheless, numerous reporters embedded with the Marines have been told that Fallujah General Hospital was seized to enable care providers to do their jobs unimpeded and to prevent hospital officials from providing inflated death counts to the media as the offensive is underway.

During the April fighting, hospital officials periodically informed the press that US Marines were killing massive numbers of civilians, who were then being counted by local clinics and the hospital. The United States government and media blamed those reports -- which were never shown to be inaccurate but have in fact been upheld by independent analysts -- as contributing to the widespread unrest that erupted across Iraq during the siege.

The Fourth Geneva Convention offers no provision permitting the seizure of health care facilities in order to prevent hospital officials from releasing statements -- whether true or false -- to the public.

In fact, the only relevant article states, "The Occupying Power may requisition civilian hospitals only temporarily and only in cases of urgent necessity for the care of military wounded and sick, and then on condition that suitable arrangements are made in due time for the care and treatment of the patients and for the needs of the civilian population for hospital accommodation."

Since the US military has established its own rear-area medical facilities, and since the seizure of Fallujah General marked the first objective of the ground invasion, it is unlikely that the criteria of "urgent necessity for the care of military wounded" has been met.

Additionally, The NewStandard has so far been unable to find reports that rebels or terrorists have inhibited the provision of health care to those in need at Fallujah General. The only reports of such obstruction cite constraints placed on the facility by US personnel.

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New York Times calls for more troops in Iraq

The lead editorial in Monday’s New York Times calls for an increase in US troop levels in Iraq by 40,000 soldiers.

The editorial begins with mild criticisms of the “ambitious political and military goals President Bush announced last week for Iraq,” which the Times worries may be unrealizable.

The newspaper proceeds to declare: “[I]f Mr. Bush intends to keep American troops in Iraq until his stated aims are achieved, he must face up to the compelling need to increase their strength, and to commit the resources needed to give present policies at least some chance of success. That would require a minimum of two additional combat divisions, or nearly 40,000 more American troops, beyond the just over 140,000 currently planned for the Iraqi election period.”

The editorial goes on to say, “If Mr. Bush feels he now has a mandate from the voters to stay the course until he creates a stable, unified Iraq, he owes it to the Iraqi people and Americans stationed there to commit enough additional troops to make that look like a plausible possibility.”

The Times’ editorial coincides with the American military’s launching of a massive invasion of Fallujah, a crime of immense proportions that will result in the deaths of thousands of Iraqis. It was written a day after the declaration of martial law by the Iraqi stooge leader Ayad Allawi, a measure intended to give the American military an even freer hand to carry out arbitrary arrests and the violent suppression of resistance.

The newspaper of American liberalism does not offer an ounce of criticism of these actions. On the contrary, it cites the “battle for Fallujah” as one of the challenges confronting the US military, whose “success” necessitates the introduction of more soldiers.

This position is entirely consistent the Times’ past support for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. It is also entirely consistent with the newspaper’s endorsement of Democrat John Kerry for president. During his campaign, Kerry repeatedly criticized Bush for not carrying out a full-scale invasion of Fallujah and called for an increase in the size of the American military and a doubling of Special Forces soldiers.

It is highly significant that one of the first post-election editorials on the war from the New York Times—the most influential newspaper of the liberal establishment—calls for an escalation of American involvement. It underscores the fact that in the elections the Democratic Party offered no alternative to Bush. The Times is articulating the positions that Kerry would be promoting had he won last week’s election.

The editors suggest that the sending of more troops to Iraq will serve a civilizing purpose. With more troops, “there might be fewer scenes of stressed and frightened patrols kicking in doors and conducting humiliating household searches. There might be fewer air strikes on populated neighborhoods and fewer prison abuses.”

This is a bare-faced lie. More troops in Iraq will serve one and only one purpose: to increase the efficiency and capacity of the American military to suppress though mass killing and terror what is a growing popular resistance to foreign occupation.

With more troops, there will be more household searches, more air strikes and more abuse. The devastation presently being inflicted on the people of Fallujah will be repeated elsewhere in an effort to crush all resistance. There is no doubt that these actions will likewise receive the support of the New York Times.

According to the newspaper, employing two more divisions in Iraq will require the addition of six active-duty divisions to the Army to allow for proper rotation. The Times declares, “There are more than enough potential fighting-age volunteers to do that without resorting to a draft.”

Another lie. The logic of the Times’position—and the policy of the Bush administration—leads precisely to the reintroduction of the draft. The launching of an illegal war against Iraq and the brutal methods employed by the occupation have generated enormous resistance. The only response that the American government has is an escalation of repression. But the escalation of repression requires more and more troops, and the military is already straining against the limitations of a volunteer army. When the time for a draft comes, the Times will lend its support.

The lies of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda—lies that the Times did much to promote—have been thoroughly discredited. The newspaper and the American media as a whole have resorted to simply repeating the propaganda that the American government puts out about defeating terrorism and ensuring “stability.”

The Times has published nothing that seriously analyzes the purpose of the American occupation or the nature of the opposition that it confronts. It has done nothing to justify its call for sending tens of thousands more American youth to kill and be killed.

The shameful position being staked out by the New York Times demonstrates once again the complete complicity of the media and the liberal establishment in the crimes that are being carried out in Iraq.


US faces stiff resistance in Fallujah

A United States tank company commander in Iraq says guerrillas are putting up a strong fight in the Jolan district of north-western Fallujah, a rebel stronghold.

US troops with crack Iraqi soldiers have surged towards the heart of Fallujah in a hail of explosions and gunfire, on the second day of the largest operation in Iraq since last year's US-led invasion.

Tank company commander Captain Robert Bodisch says troops are meeting fierce resistance.

"These people are hardcore," Capt Bodisch told Reuters. "They are putting up a strong fight and I saw many of them on the street I was on.

"A man pulled out from behind a wall and fired an RPG at my tank. I have to get another tank to go back in there," he added without giving details.

A high-ranking US officer has told AFP that troops have moved to less than one kilometre from the centre of Fallujah.

In a two-pronged assault, thousands of US troops poured into the Jolan neighbourhood and the Askari district in the north-east, where they took control of the city's railway station overnight.

"The offensive is from north to south," the high-ranking officer told AFP.

The troops "faced resistance at the beginning but there is almost no resistance now", the officer said.

Fearful of roadside bombs as they stormed the Jolan sector, seen as the heart of rebel activity in the city, US marines smashed through a railway line and ploughed through fields, an AFP reporter embedded with the unit said.

Knocking down walls, they moved house-to-house through the neighbourhood, spraying rounds of machine gun fire at buildings from where militants fought back with mortars.

A smattering of specially trained Iraqi forces accompanied the marines, while many more were poised on the outskirts of the city, preparing to enter.

Iraqi and US officials believe that Iraq's most wanted militant, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and his followers have turned Fallujah into an operating base.

They gave the residents an ultimatum to surrender the fighters or face assault but city leaders insist such people are not there.

Up to 90 per cent of Fallujah's 300,000 residents fled the city to surrounding camps or Baghdad as living conditions deteriorated and fears of the assault grew.

Doctors inside the besieged city painted a grim picture amid a chronic lack of medical equipment, trained staff, water and electricity.

Blair has departed from the rule of law, says his former adviser

Tony Blair's former senior diplomatic adviser on Europe has accused the Prime Minister, and George Bush, of acting illegally over the war on Iraq.

In a speech last night, Sir Stephen Wall, who served under Baroness Thatcher, John Major and Mr Blair before leaving Downing Street this year, questioned the Prime Minister's judgement and accused him of "departing from the rule of law".

The timing of Sir Stephen's remarks, as the battle for Fallujah begins, were seen as highly damaging for Mr Blair, who faced criticism yesterday for committing British troops to support the assault. Sir Stephen, well-known for his pro-European views, is widely respected in the diplomatic community.

One source said: "He is an ultra-loyalist mandarin. It is astonishing that he has done this." His comments also raised further questions about the number of senior civil servants who privately believed the war to be illegal.

Sir Stephen, speaking at Chatham House, formerly known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs, said it should have been possible for a common European view on Iraq to have been reached before Britain became committed to an "unstoppable course of action" by the United States.

"I believe that in Britain we allowed our judgement of the direct consequences of inaction to override our judgement of the even more dire consequences of departing from the rule of law," he said.

In a sideswipe at Mr Blair, he added that to portray the choice as between effective action American-style, and inaction European or UN-style, was a caricature.

Downing Street played down the remarks, saying: "Sir Stephen Wall is entitled to his opinion. This was not his area of responsibility when he worked for the Government."

Last week, Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, made an appeal for the Fallujah attack to be avoided. Mr Annan has also said the war was illegal.

Mr Blair rejected the UN letter calling for caution, when he was challenged about it by Labour MPs and Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader

"The secretary general in his letter said the Iraqi elections were the keystone of progress in Iraq. That is true. It is true also that he went on to express reservations about the action in Fallujah," Mr Blair said. "It is important we retain the moral high ground in fighting for elections in Iraq but part of us doing that is to keep emphasising [that] if the terrorists were to stop the elections would go forward. Why do the terrorists fear elections? Because they know that, given the chance, Iraqis would reject extremism and fanaticism."

How many dead innocent Iraqis is too many?

Surely we have not been reduced to arguing that we are not as bad as terrorists, writes Waleed Aly.

Too many innocent people are dying in Iraq. A recent report, in the medical journal The Lancet, estimates 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the beginning of the US-led invasion. Half of them are women and children. Almost all were killed by coalition air strikes.

Take a minute to think about the enormity of this human cost. Think of it as September 11, 30 times over.

Though it wildly exceeds all previous figures, The Lancet estimate is credible, and perhaps even conservative, according to independent statisticians who analysed the data and found the report's methodologically sound.

But what if it is not? Even the lowest estimate, unsurprisingly that of the British Foreign Secretary, places the number of civilian deaths at 10,000. The popular website puts the figure at a minimum of 14,000. We are still talking about four times the number of September 11 casualties. That's eight planes and eight towers.

Surely now, the governments that took us to this war and we, as people who are happy to re-elect them, must face up to our culpability for this carnage. We claim to hold that the lives of civilians are sacrosanct. We assert that the fabric of humanity is torn with every death of every innocent civilian. Indeed, that is why terrorism sickens us.

So why do we not think of these deaths as tragic in the same way we do those of September 11, Bali, Madrid or Beslan? For the Iraqis, we will hold no multi-faith services, no commemorative anniversary functions and we will give no human faces to them. Perhaps some innocent lives are more sacrosanct than others.
We are talking about four times the number of September 11 casualties. Eight planes and eight towers.

Of course, there is a crucial difference between the civilian deaths caused by terrorism, and those caused by the US-led coalition in Iraq. Coalition forces did not target the innocent as terrorists do.

True, we should not lose sight of this. But we should also not abuse it to dehumanise those we have killed, and evade the responsibility we rightfully bear. We speak of Iraqi civilians, even 100,000 of them, not as victims, but as collateral damage. We did not murder them as terrorists murder their victims, because there was no intention to kill them.

It is simply not good enough to hide our guilt in this way. Our actions were always destined to claim thousands of civilian lives. This was not merely probable; it was certain. We recognised that certainty and pressed on anyway. The fact that killing innocents was not the aim, but rather a guaranteed byproduct of our action, does not absolve us.

Australian lawyers call this reckless murder, and once stripped of euphemism, that is what collateral damage is. We own the responsibility for the foreseen, likely consequences of our actions.

Confronted with The Lancet's grotesque estimate, Defence Minister Robert Hill fell back on the standard defence that Iraqis would be better off without Saddam Hussein. This is the argument that killing is justified where it is necessary in defence of another.

However, on the basis of The Lancet estimate, it is ridiculous to suggest that justification applies here. It took Saddam several decades to kill 300,000 people. We have managed a third of that in just 18 months.

But whatever the death toll, if removing Saddam was really the goal, can we honestly say all this deadly "shock and awe" was necessary to achieve it?

Sergeant Scott, a soldier in Iraq, clearly did not think so when he told Britain's Daily Telegraph: "You could have sent two men in to kill Saddam. Why did we have to kill so many people?" He was speaking less than a month after the invasion began. I cannot imagine what he would say now.

This does not mean there is moral equivalence between al-Qaeda-style terrorism and our civilian killings in Iraq. But does there have to be? That our actions do not meet the depravity of terrorism does not justify them. Since when have terrorists provided the moral standard against which we judge ourselves? Are we really reduced to arguing that we are not as bad as them?

Our concern, as people whose governments are waging war in our name, should be for the legitimacy of our own actions. When it comes to our actions in Iraq, that legitimacy has been fatally eroded. We have now run out of excuses.

Waleed Aly is a Melbourne lawyer and a member of the executive of the Islamic Council of Victoria.

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Powerful explosion rocks south-eastern Baghdad

CAIRO, November 9 (Itar-Tass) - A powerful explosion rocked on Tuesday south-eastern Baghdad, eyewitnesses reported. A guarded residential area, where members of Iraq’s interim government live, is situated in that district.

There have been no early reports about casualties or destructions.

A powerful explosion rocked on Tuesday south-eastern Baghdad, eyewitnesses reported. A guarded residential area, where members of Iraq’s interim government live, is situated in that district.


'I got my kills ... I just love my job'

Toby Harnden in Fallujah observes American soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division taskforce avenging their fallen comrades as battle begins

After seven months in Iraq's Sunni triangle, for many American soldiers the opportunity to avenge dead friends by taking a life was a moment of sheer exhilaration.

As they approached their "holding position", from where hours later they would advance into the city, they picked off insurgents on the rooftops and in windows.

"I got myself a real juicy target," shouted Sgt James Anyett, peering through the thermal sight of a Long Range Acquisition System (LRAS) mounted on one of Phantom's Humvees.

"Prepare to copy that 89089226. Direction 202 degrees. Range 950 metres. I got five motherf****** in a building with weapons."

Capt Kirk Mayfield, commander of the Phantoms, called for fire from his task force's mortar team. But Sgt Anyett didn't want to wait. "Dude, give me the sniper rifle. I can take them out - I'm from Alabama."

Two minutes tick by. "They're moving deep," shouted Sgt Anyett with disappointment. A dozen loud booms rattle the sky and smoke rose as mortars rained down on the co-ordinates the sergeant had given.

"Yeah," he yelled. "Battle Damage Assessment - nothing. Building's gone. I got my kills, I'm coming down. I just love my job."

Phantom Troop had rolled out of Camp Fallujah, the main US military base, shortly before 4am. All morning they took fire from the Al-Askari district in Fallujah's north-east, their target for the invasion proper.

The insurgents, not understanding the capabilities of the LRAS, crept along rooftops and poked their heads out of windows. Even when they were more than a mile away, the soldiers of Phantom Troop had their eyes on them.

Lt Jack Farley, a US Marines officer, sauntered over to compare notes with the Phantoms. "You guys get to do all the fun stuff," he said. "It's like a video game. We've taken small arms fire here all day. It just sounds like popcorn going off."

Another marine stepped forward and began to fire an M4 rifle at the city. "He's a reservist for the San Diego police. He wants a piece of the action, too".

A Phantom Abrams tank moved up the road running along the high ground. Its barrel, stencilled with the words "Ali Baba under 3 Thieves" swivelled towards the city and then fired a 120mm round at a house where two men with AK-47s had been pinpointed. "Ain't nobody moving now," shouted a soldier as the dust cleared. "He rocked that guy's world."

One of Phantom's sniper teams laid down fire into the city with a Barrett .50 calibre rifle and a Remington 700. A suspected truck bomb was riddled with bullets, the crack of the Barrett echoing through the mainly deserted section of the city. The insurgents fired 60mm mortars back, one of them wounding a soldier.

There were 25mm rounds from Phantom's Bradley fighting vehicles, barrages from Paladin howitzers back at Camp Fallujah and bursts of fire from .50 calibre machineguns. One by one, the howitzers used by the insurgents were destroyed.

"Everybody's curious," grinned Sgt Anyett as he waited for a sniper with a Russian-made Dragonov to show his face one last, fatal time. A bullet zinged by.

Dusk fell and 7pm, "A hour", the appointed hour to move into the city, approached. The soldiers of Phantom all reflected.

"Given the choice, I would never have wanted to fire a gun," said Cpl Chris Merrell, 21, manning a machinegun mounted on a Humvee. "But it didn't work out that way. I'd like a thousand boring missions rather than one interesting one."

On his wrist was a black bracelet bearing the name of a sergeant from Phantom Troop. "This is a buddy of mine that died," he said. "Pretty much everyone in the unit has one."

One fear playing on the mind of the task force was that of "friendly fire", also known as "blue on blue".

"Any urban fight is confusing," Lt Col Newell, the force's commander, told his troops before the battle. "The biggest threat out there is not them, but us."

His officers said that the plan to invade Fallujah involved months of detailed planning and elaborate "feints" designed to draw the insurgents out into the open and fool them into thinking the offensive would come from another side of the city.

"They're probably thinking that we'll come in from the east," said Capt Natalie Friel, an intelligence officer with task force, before the battle. But the actual plan involves penetrating the city from the north and sweeping south.

"I don't think they know what's coming. They have no idea of the magnitude," she said. "But their defences are pretty circular. They're prepared for any kind of direction. They've got strong points on all four corners of the city."

The aim was to push the insurgents south, killing as many as possible, before swinging west. They would then be driven into the Euphrates.

• Tony Blair's problems over Iraq deepened still further last night when one of his most respected former advisers suggested the entire conflict had been illegal.

Sir Stephen Wall, who was head of the European Secretariat in the Cabinet Office, said: "We allowed our judgment of the dire consequences of inaction to allow us to depart from the rule of law."


Madonna Calls For US Troops To Leave Iraq


(AFP Photo) - Madonna calls for US troops to leave Iraq (Tue 09 Nov, 06:38 PM)

LONDON (AFP) - US pop star Madonna made a rare foray into politics, calling for her home country to withdraw its troops from Iraq during an interview with British radio.

"I just don't want American troops to be in Iraq, period," she said on BBC Radio.

"My feelings are 'can we just all get out?'," said the 46-year-old star, who lives mainly in London with British film director husband Guy Ritchie, who said she believes the US-led war will not help in the fight against terrorism.

"Global terror is everywhere. Global terror is down the street, around the block," she said.

"Global terror is in California. There's global terror everywhere and it's absurd to think you can get it by going to one country and dropping tons of bombs on innocent people."

Madonna's best known belief is her adherence to the Kabbalah, a faith based on the study of Hebrew texts which has become increasingly popular in recent years, notably among music and film stars.

On other subjects, the singer said the recent US presidential election had illustrated how US society was "becoming very divided".

"People are becoming very polarized," she said. "We have people who don't want to think, and who just want to guard what is theirs, and they're selfish and limited in their thinking and they're very fearful in their choices."

Madonna said that her personal choice for the presidency would have been Wesley Clark, the former four star general who was well beaten to the Democratic nomination by John Kerry.

"I thought very carefully about it. I thought Wesley Clark had the best leadership qualities," she said.

"If he had the same political experience as Kerry he could have bridged that gap."


Fresh fighting erupts in Falluja

US marines have taken the police station and mayor's office in central Falluja, on the second full day of an assault on the Iraqi rebel stronghold.

The BBC's Paul Wood says a battle is still raging for the heart of the city but the margins are under the control of US and Iraqi government forces.

The American officer in charge of the offensive, Lt Gen Thomas Metz, has warned the assault could intensify.

Relief groups say they are deeply worried about the fate of civilians.

'Sensitive stage'

The BBC's Paul Wood - who is with US troops in Falluja and whose reports are subject to military restrictions - says marines took the central compound without opposition, but then came under fire from a nearby mosque.

In the ensuing battle, insurgents at one point waved a white flag - but when marines stood up to take the surrender they came under fire from three directions, he says.

The marines then called in air strikes.

The US military says 10 US and two Iraqi soldiers have been killed so far.

Three relatives of the Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi are abducted in Baghdad

Roadside bombs near the northern city of Kirkuk kill six Iraqi national guardsmen

One US soldier is killed and another wounded by a roadside bomb north of Baghdad

'Tough urban fighting'

Lt Gen Metz, the multinational ground force commander in Iraq, said that troops were achieving their objectives on or ahead of schedule.

But the fight for the city was far from over, he said.

"I think we're looking at several more days of tough urban fighting," he told reporters at the Pentagon via a videophone.

But he added that he assumed that many of the insurgent leaders, including Abu Musab al-Zarqawi - the Jordanian militant blamed for car bombings, kidnappings and beheadings - had fled before the assault began.

In Washington, President George W Bush praised the US-led forces in Falluja.

"Our prayers are with the soldiers and their loved ones, as they're doing the hard work necessary for a free Iraq to emerge," he said.

However, Iraq's largest Sunni-led political party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, pulled out of the interim government in protest at the Falluja assault.

The main association of Sunni clerics also voiced its disapproval, calling for a boycott of elections due in January.

Concern for civilians

The United Nations refugee agency and the International Committee of the Red Cross have expressed concern about the civilians in Falluja.

Most of the city's 250,000 civilians fled the city before the offensive began, but up to 50,000 are estimated to remain there.

Our correspondent, Paul Wood, says that despite efforts by US forces to select targets carefully, their use of heavy artillery and tanks is bound to lead to civilian casualties.

On Tuesday night, BBC Arabic Service reporter Fadhil Badrani said the city was in complete darkness, with the rubble still smouldering from the day's artillery bombardment.

Residents say water, as well as electricity, have been cut off.

The assault on Falluja is aimed at stabilising Iraq ahead of January's poll.

The Sunni Muslim city has been a hotbed of resistance to US-led troops following the toppling of Saddam Hussein last year.

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[A poem by Ale Yasir]

O Muslims of America! Like you, we fast during the Day.
At Night we Watch your Shaitan’s F-16s Light up the Horizons.
Our Mosques are packed with Young People
Their beards are still green
They want to live, to die, for Allah, for Iraq under Islam.
We hear the Adhan: It is Peaceful, Reminding us of Paradise

We say to the Americans: Go back to your families.
This is not your land. Take Allawi with you.

Don’t we have the right to Fast, to Pray in Peace?
Do you, sons of Bush, know nothing sacred?
You bomb homes, hospitals, schools.
You desecrate mosques, burn the Qur’an, shred the Hadith of the blessed Messenger.

Are you not Afraid that the Cries of the Oppressed will Rise up to Heaven?
You break into our homes and “body search” our Maidens who fast and pray!
Have you no Shame? Have you no God?

You had to bomb us in Ramadan? You had to drown out our Adhan with Artillery?

You will never win.
Listen! we are Muslims, the followers of Muhammad (p).
You will never win.
Listen! we have the Qur’an.
You will never win.
Listen! we love Paradise.
The Houris are Waiting for us. Shame and Hellfire is waiting for you.

You will never win. We are the people of Fallujah!
We pray and fast in this blessed Ramadan.

Your big guns speak, your rockets smash our homes.
Yet we pray and fast and WE FIGHT BACK.
Ramadan 1425: The month in which the tyrants drowned decency in blood.


So the assault on Fallujah is underway, with the taking of the town's hospital, "a refuge for insurgents and a center of propaganda against allied forces," according to the Times.

Joining in the attack were "two companies from the Iraqi 36th Commando Battalion." It's a group that's mentioned constantly in war reports from Iraq -- most recently, in last month's (very temporary) taking of Samarra.

So who are these guys? Defense Tech recently spoke with an Army officer, present at the 36th's creation, to get the scoop.

"The 36th was originally known as the 'political battalion,'" he said. That's because it was formed from the militias of five major political groups in Iraq: Iyad Alwai's Iraq National Accord (INA), Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress (INC), the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which backs Ayatollah Ali Sistani, and the two main Kurdish groups, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). About 110 soldiers were originally culled from each group.

Because of the group's diverse roots, it's supposed to be the "most reliable" of the Iraqi forces. But, in reality, only a segment of the 36th has really been trustworthy – the Kurdish fighters known as pesh merga. In an early operation, the U.S. Army officer recalls, about 60 of SCIRI's soldiers fled; so did 30-40 each from the INA and INC. But between the two Kurdish groups, only 11 dropped out, total.

Further battles have, hopefully, hardened the 36th's resolve. But they likely haven't eased the resentment that Iraqi Arabs feel towards the Kurds, and their participation in the unit. "I will send my brothers north to kill the Kurds," a Fallujah insurgent told the Washington Post (via Iraq'd), after the April assault on the city, to which the 36th contributed.

"The 36th was supposed to grow and become the center of the [Iraqi] national armed forces, not beholden to the warlord leaders," the U.S. Army officer notes. But with these warlords jockeying for position in advance on the January elections – and with Arab-Kurd tension still running high – the 36th remains a fractured group, still loyal to their chieftains. "We're coming to depend on them," the American officer says, "And they're not beholden to the central government."

Fallujah: What Sort of Criminal Monsters Bomb Hospitals?

“A hospital has been razed to the ground in one of the heaviest US air raids in the Iraqi city of Falluja,” reports the BBC. “A nearby medical supplies storeroom and dozens of houses were damaged as US forces continued preparing the ground for an expected major assault.”

“Wounded or sick civilians, civilian hospitals and staff, and hospital transport by land, sea or air must be specially respected,” declares the fourth Geneva Convention ("Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War":
tml ).

The convention also regulates the treatment of civilians in occupied territories and forbids “grave breaches,” including the “willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment” of civilians,” but this is precisely what happened in Falluja last April. “All of the Middle East and indeed the whole world is now extremely suspicious that US Marine forces slaughtered civilians in Fallujah indiscriminately,” Joseph Arrieta wrote at the time. “Not only that, it appears Marine snipers did a lot of killing. This is not some errant bomb or missile that created ‘collateral damage,’ it’s the alleged deliberate, careful sighting of civilian targets with spotters targeting men, women, children and ambulances,” all war crimes. “According to the relatively few media reports of what took place there, some 600 Iraqis were killed during these two weeks, among them some 450 elderly people, women and children,” Orit Shohat reported for Haaretz on April 28th.

The sight of decapitated children, the rows of dead women and the shocking pictures of the soccer stadium that was turned into a temporary grave for hundreds of the slain—all were broadcast to the world only by the Al Jazeera network. During the operation in Falluja, according to the organization Doctors Without Borders, U.S. Marines even occupied the hospitals and prevented hundreds of the wounded from receiving medical treatment. Snipers fired from the rooftops at anyone who tried to approach.

Rahul Mahajan, who serves on the Administrative Committee of United for Peace and Justice, the nation’s largest antiwar coalition, writing for Counterpunch on April 19, provides details of massive U.S. war crimes in regard to Iraqi hospitals and ambulances ( ):

Although the first Western reports of U.S. snipers shooting at ambulances caused something of a furor, two days ago at a press conference the Iraqi Minister of Health, Khudair Abbas, confirmed that U.S. forces had shot at ambulances not just in Fallujah but also in Sadr City … He condemned the acts and said he had asked for an explanation from his superiors, the Governing Council and Paul Bremer. … There are also persistent claims that after an outbreak of hostilities American soldiers visit hospitals asking for information about the wounded, with the intent of removing potential resistance members and interrogating them. … By any reasonable standard, these hospital closings (and, of course, the shooting at ambulances) are war crimes. … In the case of Fallujah, it’s clear that one of the reasons the mujahideen were willing to talk about ceasefire was to get the hospital open again; in effect, the United States was holding civilians (indirectly) hostage for military ends

Now that Bush has received his “mandate” from the American people (or the 60% that bothered to vote), we can expect more war crimes. Bombing hospitals, more than likely with patients and staff, will now become routine as Bush “stays the course,” that is attempts to defeat the indigenous Iraqi resistance called “terrorists” by the Bush Ministry of Disinformation.

Americans should be ashamed of these war crimes. But the fact is most people are hardly even aware they occur. Of course, this is no excuse, for as Nuremberg Trials demonstrated the German people were responsible for allowing their leaders to engage in war crimes and crimes against humanity. As Telford Taylor said in the opening statement of the Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals under Control Council Law No.10 in 1946, “I do not think the German people have as yet any conception of how deeply the criminal folly that was nazism bit into every phase of German life, or of how utterly ravaging the consequences were. It will be our task to make these things clear.”

Hopefully, in the not too distant future, it will be the task of a likewise tribunal to make clear to the American people the “criminal folly” of Bush and his camarilla of Straussian neocon sadists. Unfortunately, in the meantime, it appears thousands of Iraqis, mostly innocent civilians, will pay the ultimate price, the same way Jews, Poles, Russians, Germans with the wrong political ideas, and millions of others paid the ultimate price.

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