Fallujah: a nail in the coffin of the occupation

White House and Downing Street officials may be in denial about the strength of Iraqi liberation forces, but Fallujah has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the imperialist occupation’s days are numbered.

The Anglo-American invasion, and subsequent occupation, of Iraq, as well as the Iraqi puppet regime installed by the imperialist aggressors, lack all legitimacy. In order to confer the semblance of legality and legitimacy on its Iraqi quislings, the occupying authority has for some months planned to hold elections in Iraq, which, being conducted in the conditions of occupation and under the shadow of imperialist guns, can be expected to produce the results desired by US imperialism. The problem for the occupation regime, however, is that half of Iraq, including nearly two dozen of its towns and cities, are under the control of the resistance, where neither the writ of the imperialist aggressors nor that of their puppets, the Allawi interim government, runs.

All construction work has ground to a halt and oil production and infrastructure have been severely damaged. Baghdad, the headquarters of the occupation and the puppet government, is a city under siege. Even the safety of the Green Zone, which is one of the most fortified places in Iraq, cannot be guaranteed. Meanwhile, the towns of Fallujah and Ramadi in particular have become the centres and symbols of Iraqi national resistance against the occupation. The resistance in these places has to be broken, and the towns brought under the control of the occupying powers, if the enactment of the election farce is to go ahead.

Assault on Fallujah

On the evening of 7 November (just five days after the re-election of George W bush as US President), US forces launched a full scale assault on Fallujah under the code name Operation Phantom Eagle, just as the Allawi puppet government activated a state of emergency in the rest of Iraq. As the fighting began between US ground troops and the resistance on the outskirts of the city, US warplanes pounded it from the air. In fact, prior to the launch of this operation, and in preparation for it, US forces had subjected Fallujah to weeks of non-stop artillery and air raids, raining colossal death and destruction on it, the purpose of this saturation bombing being to soften the city up for the latest assault.

By way of preparing his troops for the cruelties they were soon to practise on their Iraqi victims, this is how Lt Col Gareth Brandle, the commander of one of the US battalions attacking Fallujah, sought to motivate his troops, by dehumanising the proud citizens of Fallujah: “The enemy has got a face. He is called Satan. He lives in Fallujah. And we are going to destroy him.”

Of course, we have been here before. Did not the US demonise the Vietnamese people with similarly pleasant epithets, only to suffer a most humiliating defeat at the hands of the latter? US imperialism is so tormented and haunted by the memories of that war that some of its most representative political and military spokesmen have already begun to equate the situation in Iraq with that which confronted it in Vietnam three decades ago. Even those half-crazed US soldiers who see the war in Iraq as a kind of macabre therapy for wiping out past humiliations cannot help returning to this legendary symbol of anti-imperialist resistance – Vietnam. One of these types, Sergeant Major Carlton Kent, referring to the 1968 Tet offensive, addressed his troops thus: “You’re all in the process of making history. This is another Hue city in the making. I have no doubt if we do get the word that each and every one of you is going to do what you have always done – kick some butt.” (Quoted in The Guardian, 9 November 2004)

Spiritually armed by enlightening pep talks of the above variety, and having watched hours of video war games for boosting morale, 15,000 US marines got on with the job of kicking Iraqi butts – killing thousands of innocent civilians, flattening the city through indiscriminate bombardment, and destroying its infrastructure. No crime was too big for these butt-kicking guardians of civilisation and purveyors of democracy. Hospitals, clinics, schools, residential districts and mosques were destroyed. Up to 150,000 of Fallujah’s citizens, who refused to leave their city, were subjected to the most inhumane conditions through deprivation of food, water, electricity and medicine. Refusing to let the Iraqi Red Crescent enter the town with supplies of food and water, the barbarous imperialist soldiery used Iraqi civilians as human shields and shot dead unarmed and wounded Iraqis.

One such incident was filmed by an NCB camera team, in which a badly wounded Iraqi, supposedly a member of the resistance, was sprayed with bullets by a US marine in a mosque. Thousands of people have been made homeless. Of the approximately 150,000 who fled Fallujah in anticipation of the US attack, several thousands are squatting in abandoned buildings in conditions of absolute squalor. Reports beginning to come out of Fallujah paint a picture of death and destruction on a massive scale. Although there are no actual figures available, several thousand innocent people have been cold-bloodedly murdered in the latest carnage perpetrated by the US-led forces. On a conservative estimate, at least one third of all homes have been destroyed.

All those bourgeois politicians who only yesterday outbid each other in finding words of condemnation for the ‘barbaric’ beheading of Ken Bigley, who was part of the occupation forces, remain cynically silent over the slaughter of thousands of Iraqi civilians and the destruction of a whole city. By what standard, may we ask, can a single beheading be described as more barbaric than wholesale slaughter through artillery fire and indiscriminate aerial bombardment? Only in the sense that the imperialist flying death machines, such as F16s, are far more devastating, and much more indiscriminating, instruments of death. They are, in addition, far more impersonal, for the killer can get on with his business of mass killing in the twinkling of an eye, without a twinge on his conscience, and without ever having to dirty his hands with the blood of his victims. How civilised!

Even the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Louise Arbour, no friend of the Iraqi people, was obliged to state that the US assault on Fallujah had violated international humanitarian law.

Strong resistance

For its part, the resistance gave a pretty good account of itself. Using AS47 rifles, explosive devices and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), it put out of action several American tanks, downed a few helicopter gunships, killed several dozen US soldiers and wounded several hundred more. All sections of the resistance have pledged to continue the fight until the rout of the armies of occupation and the destruction of the puppet interim government. In a statement issued on 16 November, the underground Ba’ath Party, while denouncing the Anglo-American attack as a “premeditated criminal act of revenge”, said that the heroic resistance of the people of Fallujah would serve as an “example to be followed in Iraq first, and then in Palestine”.

Spread of resistance

Although the resistance to the US assault on Fallujah was stiff, it was far less fierce that the US expected. The explanation for this is that a large number of the Iraqi fighters fled the city before the US attack, just as they had done during the US attack in October on the resistance-held city of Samarra, which fell to the advance of US and Iraqi puppet troops rather quickly as the guerrilla fighters slipped away to fight elsewhere another day. As US attention was focused on Fallujah, the resistance struck across Iraq in virtually every big city in central Iraq, including Ramadi, Samarra, Tikrit, Baquba, Beiji, Baghdad and Mosul, killing more than 150 of their enemies. The US lost more soldiers in these attacks than at the hands of the resistance in Fallujah.

On 10 and 11 November, hundreds of resistance fighters in Mosul overran nine police stations in co-ordinated attacks, while Iraqi soldiers deserted in droves. As a result, the US was forced to dispatch 5,000 of its own soldiers to restore its authority. Mosul is Iraq’s third largest city, home to Iraq’s pre-war officer corps, and now one of the major centres of resistance to the occupation. The US claims to have recaptured the police stations, but of the 4,000 Iraqi soldiers who deserted, only 800 have returned to work.

Although the resistance have raided police stations before, what distinguishes the November attacks on police stations is the sheer scale of the assaults, which are aimed at taking over entire neighbourhoods, even if temporarily.

In an apparent attempt to shut down Baghdad’s electricity supply, 50 members of the resistance from Latifiya stormed the capital’s Al Dura suburb and fought running battles with the police on 9 and 10 November. In addition, the resistance wreaked havoc with a car bomb in a central Baghdad square on 11 November, killing 10 people. Oil production and supply have been repeatedly disrupted in the course of these attacks by the resistance. A big oil storage tank at a pumping station on the pipeline to Turkey was blown up; four oil wells west of Kirkuk and a pipeline for carrying oil from Kirkuk to the Beiji refinery were bombed and set on fire. In Beiji itself, the residents fought street battles to drive the US soldiers out of their town. And on 14 November, the resistance attacked the Polish embassy. Earlier in the week (9 November), it abducted Allawi’s cousin, as well as the cousin’s wife and daughter-in-law, who have since been released.

No end to resistance

Although the US military claims that its operations in Fallujah have been ‘very successful’ with ‘hundreds and hundreds’ of resistance fighters killed or captured, it has nevertheless been forced to acknowledge that its alleged success will by no means mark an end to the resistance, a point underlined by widespread guerrilla attacks across vast areas of Iraq. In the words of General Richard Myers, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff: “If anybody thinks that Fallujah is going to be the end of insurgency in Iraq, that was never the hope.” (Cited in The Financial Times of 12 November 2004)

The situation in Iraq must be extremely catastrophic for the occupation regime if its chief military representative dares not entertain even the hope of an end to the resistance.

Taking Fallujah – the easy part

Undoubtedly, the resistance has suffered losses, but it has the ability to regroup and strike at a time and place of its own choosing. In April and August, the resistance launched costly offences, but after each one it regrouped and emerged to strike again. Considering the US advantage in fire power and personnel, taking Fallujah was the easy part of the operation. Equally, taking into account the near-universal hatred entertained by the Iraqi masses against the occupation forces, holding on to Fallujah and other cities is a hopelessly impossible task for the US.

“In many ways,” says the Financial Times of 10 November, “the current offensive in the Sunni-dominated city [Fallujah] is a microcosm for the entire war. The US-led forces had little trouble occupying the country … but have been vexed for more than a year in attempting to pacify the land they hold.”

The fighting in Fallujah has turned out to be one of the most intensive in urban warfare since the entry of the imperialist predatory armies into Iraq. Towns like Fallujah are scarcely the preferred battleground for the US military, where many of its technological advantages, for example reconnaissance drones and surveillance satellites, lost most of their effectiveness. Samarra and Baquba, both of which have been under period control of the resistance, furnish excellent examples of the problems facing traditional offensives in the untraditional landscape of guerrilla warfare in Iraq.

The US commanders hailed the Samarra offensive as an unqualified success, a forerunner and testing ground for the tactics since then used in Fallujah. But, barely a month after the much touted American success, the resistance has regrouped and claimed responsibility for a string of suicide bombings and attacks on police stations in the town on the weekend of 6/7 November, in which more than 30 Iraqi policemen were killed. Likewise, similar attacks on police stations killed 45 people on 10 November in Baquba, another place supposedly wrested from the control of the resistance forces.

Pre-planned guerrilla war

The US-led imperialist armies in Iraq find themselves engulfed in a war very different to the one they had in mind when they invaded Iraq. To their shock, they are encountering a guerrilla war “apparently planned from the moment the US threatened to invade”. This is the firm view of Shlomo Avinesi, professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He goes on to say that Saddam Hussein refused to play by the rules of “contemporary western linear warfare”, for he knew that Iraq stood no chance in such a contest. Instead, he made preparations “to wage the kind of asymmetrical war in which the weak and under-resourced would have the upper hand”. He adds:

“For what is now happening in Iraq is probably the war that Mr Hussein planned from the very beginning. The various military, paramilitary and security units did not ‘disintegrate’; they went underground, disappearing in the Maoist tradition of fish in water; weapons were distributed and stashed throughout the country …”

All these plans and preparations, he says, were “part of a deliberate strategy to defeat the Americans, and it appears to be working”. Avneri does not believe that the Iraqi puppet regime will be able to try Saddam Hussein for war crimes as this regime has “no judiciary, no reliable police force and no effective control of most of the country”, and thus “lacks both legitimacy and efficacy”. This being the case, he adds, depressingly for the occupying powers: “Is it impossible for Mr Hussein to stage some kind of comeback? At the moment this seems highly unlikely, but stranger things have happened.” (‘Playing into Saddam’s hands’, Financial Times, 10 November 2004)

Every town a Fallujah

If the assault on Fallujah was intended by the US to facilitate a smooth passage towards the Iraqi elections set to be held on 30 January 2005 by destroying the “command-and-control” centre of the resistance, these hopes now lie buried deep in the rubble of Fallujah. Instead, the resistance has spread far and wide, with not the slightest possibility that elections can be staged in central Iraq and many other parts of the country. Any election staged in such conditions will lack all legitimacy, will be a complete farce and will be seen clearly as such by the rest of the world.

With the assault on Fallujah, contrary to the assertions of the US military and political spokesmen, the security situation has worsened for the US. If the first siege of Fallujah in April acted as a recruiting agent for the resistance, the latest attack has served to spread the uprising even further. “Every Iraqi town shall become a Fallujah”, confidently declared a masked member of the resistance at the height of the battle of Fallujah, having returned that morning from a trip to transport armour-piercing rockets into the embattled city. What is destabilising and disturbing the occupation is that whole communities in the vicinity of Fallujah have put their members and private arsenals at the disposal of the resistance in Fallujah – a pattern only too likely to be repeated elsewhere. These communities regularly ambush and destroy US tankers and other vehicles, while guards at checkpoints on the roads leading to and from the city keep watch for anyone who might be a spy for the occupation.

Results of Fallujah assault

The attack on Fallujah, and the consequent near-total destruction of this city of 300,000 people, with huge loss of life, has caused deep divisions within the Iraqi puppet administration and accelerated the process of its disintegration. It has caused unease and furthered the divisions with the ruling classes of the US and Britain. It has enraged the Iraqi people and helped spread the resistance far and wide. It has angered the masses in the Arab world and served to strengthen the hatred of the people of the Middle East towards Anglo-American imperialism, which is correctly perceived as the number one enemy of the Arab people. Finally, it has served to strengthen the anti-imperialist sections of the anti-war movement in the US and Britain by highlighting the truth that the struggle against war is inseparable from the struggle against opportunism.

Elections unlikely

After Fallujah, the Iraqi elections are unlikely to be held in the coming January. Firstly, they would be widely boycotted. In all, 47 political parties and religious organisations in Iraq have announced their intention to boycott the elections under conditions of occupation, including the Iraqi Islamic Party, which has withdrawn from the puppet government in protest against the attack on Fallujah, and a leading member of which, Naseer Ayef, was arrested by the US military during a dawn raid on 16 November.

Second, half the country, including more than 20 towns and cities, is a no-go area for the US-led occupation and its puppets.

Third, those who participate in the elections held to legitimise the imperialist invasion and occupation of Iraq risk being targets of the resistance.

If, in these circumstances, the US insists on staging some kind of an election farce, it will lack all legitimacy and will be ignored and treated with well-deserved contempt by the people in Iraq and elsewhere. It will solve nothing.

Spreading democracy through mass slaughter

As the pretexts put forward for this predatory imperialist war on Iraq by the chief executives of Anglo-American imperialism, Bush and Blair, have been exposed to be the complete lies they always were by a raft of official reports in the US and Britain, this scoundrelly duo have increasingly relied on the spurious argument that their armies of occupation are in Iraq for the sole purpose of spreading democracy and freeing the Iraqi people from ‘tyranny’. The wholesale death and destruction wreaked on Fallujah has exposed the true nature of the democracy intended to be spread by Anglo-American imperialism. Deciphered, and shorn of all euphemism, Bush and Blair’s rhetoric amounts to this – if it amounts to anything: Anglo-American imperialism must subject huge numbers of Iraqis to merciless slaughter in order that they may appreciate and enjoy the benefits of democratic liberties showered on them by their kindly and altruistic occupiers.

Bush and Blair, and following them the imperialist propaganda machine, have endlessly harped on the theme that the invasion of Iraq had as one of its aims the freeing of the Iraqi people from a regime that allegedly killed 300,000 Iraqis. No proof has been furnished for this allegation, but accepting it for the sake of argument, even some bourgeois critics, such as Scott Ritter, a senior UN weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998, have been obliged to state that if it “took Saddam decades to reach such a horrific figure”, the US and UK have, it seems, reached a third of that figure in just 18 months.

Add to the 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed by the occupation forces since the invasion but before the latest assault on Fallujah, the 1.5m killed as a result of UN-imposed sanctions and all those killed during the first Gulf War, and you get the scale of imperialist savagery and the true meaning of its nauseating phrases about democracy, freedom and humanitarianism. The assault on Fallujah, and the attendant death and destruction, has served to enlighten the Iraqi masses concerning the savagery and barbarism that imperialism is. It has strengthened their resolve to fight to the finish the occupation forces. Far from being the successful operation that it is claimed to be by the US military, the assault on Fallujah will actually turn out to be a final nail in the coffin of the Anglo-American imperialist occupation of Iraq.

The Iraqi people are bound to wear down the will of their enemies to resist. US imperialism is already fully stretched. On top of the shortage of available troops for its long list of wars of aggression in pursuit of world domination, and outlined in the Project for a New American Century, its economy – appearances notwithstanding – is in dire straits. It has a crippling trade deficit, a crippling budget deficit and a crippling net foreign debt – all of which obliged Martin Wolf of the Financial Times to say: “Let us be blunt about it. America is now on the comfortable path to ruin.” (18 August 2004)

The war in Iraq, costing $5bn a month, is adding to the economic woes of US imperialism. The economies of Europe and Japan are hardly expanding. Each of the imperialist blocs is struggling to emerge stronger from the economic crisis at the cost of its rivals. Inter-imperialist contradictions are on the increase. On almost every issue, from trade to the war in Iraq, the US and the EU are at loggerheads. Held to patch up these differences, the recent international conference on Iraq at Sharm al-Sheikh (22-23 November) only managed to reveal the chasm dividing the two imperialist camps. The struggle between the dollar and the euro, with the latter striving to replace the former as the world’s number one currency, continues unabated. In this struggle, the Middle East occupies a special place, for by pricing oil in euros, the countries of this region could tip the balance – a fate that the US is fighting hard to avoid.

The Iraqi and other peoples are well placed to take advantage of these inter-imperialist contradictions and free themselves from the clutches of all imperialist exploitation and oppression.

Victory to the national liberation struggle of the Iraqi people!

Death to Anglo-American imperialism!