'I don’t know if most people in the United States ever knew what Fallujah meant. It’s hard to believe the U.S. military would still exist if they did. But certainly it has been largely forgotten — a problem that could be remedied if everyone picks up a copy of The Sacking of Fallujah: A People’s History, by Ross Caputi (a U.S. veteran of one of the sieges of Fallujah), Richard Hill, and Donna Mulhearn.
allujah was the “city of mosques,” made up of some 300,000 to 435,000 people. It had a tradition of resisting foreign — including British — invasions. It suffered, as did all of Iraq, from the brutal sanctions imposed by the United States in the years leading up to the 2003 attack. During that attack, Fallujah saw crowded markets bombed. Upon the collapse of the Iraqi government in Baghdad, Fallujah established its own government, avoiding the looting and chaos seen elsewhere. In April, 2003, the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division moved into Fallujah and met no resistance.
Immediately the occupation began to produce the sort of problems seen by every occupation everywhere ever. People complained of Humvees speeding on the streets, of being humiliated at checkpoints, of women being treated inappropriately, of soldier urinating in the streets, and of soldiers standing on rooftops with binoculars in violation of residents’ privacy. Within days, the people of Fallujah wanted to be liberated from their “liberators.” So, the people tried nonviolent demonstrations. And the U.S. military fired on the protesters. But eventually, the occupiers agreed to be stationed outside the city, limit their patrols, and allow Fallujah a degree of self-governance beyond what the rest of Iraq was permitted. The result was a success: Fallujah was kept safer than the rest of Iraq by keeping the occupiers out of it.
That example, of course, needed to be crushed. The United States was claiming a moral obligation to liberate the hell out of Iraq to “maintain security” and “assist in transition to democracy.” Viceroy Paul Bremer decided to “clean out Fallujah.” In came the “coalition” troops, with their usual inability (mocked quite effectively in the Netflix Brad Pitt movie War Machine) to distinguish the people they were bestowing liberty and justice upon from the people they were killing. U.S. officials described the people they wanted to kill as “cancer,” and went about killing them with raids and firefights that killed a great many of the non-cancer people. How many people the United States was actually giving cancer to was unknown at the time.
In March, 2004, four Blackwater mercenaries were killed in Fallujah, their bodies burned and hung from a bridge. The U.S. media portrayed the four men as innocent civilians who somehow happened to find themselves in the middle of a war and the accidental targets of irrational, unmotivated violence. The people of Fallujah were “thugs” and “savages” and “barbarians.” Because U.S. culture has never regretted Dresden or Hiroshima, there were open cries for following those precedents in Fallujah. A former advisor to Ronald Reagan, Jack Wheeler reached for an ancient Roman model in demanding that Fallujah be completely reduced to lifeless rubble: “Fallujah delenda est!”'
Read more: Fallujah Forgotten
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