Not a single major voice has been raised in the American media against the ongoing destruction of Fallujah. While much of the world recognizes something horrifying has occurred, the US press does not bat an eye over the systematic leveling of a city of 300,000 people.
A journalist for the Times (London) described the scene the night the US onslaught began: “The districts comprising Fallujah’s perimeter—where most of the insurgents are concentrated—were already largely in ruins. The crumbling remains of houses and shell-pocked walls reminded me of my home town Beirut in the 1980s at the height of Lebanon’s civil war.... I began to count out loud as the bombs tumbled to the ground with increasingly monotonous regularity. There were 38 in the first half-hour alone. The bombing continued in waves until 5:15 a.m. as the American forces softened up their targets.”
And now? Buildings have been destroyed by the hundreds, corpses buried under many of them. A Christian Science Monitor reporter observes: “Some districts reeked from the sickening odor of rotting flesh, a stench too powerful to be swept away by a brisk breeze coming in from the sandy plain surrounding the city 40 miles west of Baghdad.
“A week of ground combat by Marines and some Iraqi troops, supported by tanks and attack helicopters, added to the destruction in a city where the homes and businesses for about 300,000 people are packed into an area a little less than 2 miles wide and a little more than 2 miles long. ... Cats and dogs scamper along streets littered with bricks, broken glass, toppled light poles, downed power lines, twisted traffic barriers and spent cartridges. Walls are full of bullet holes. Marines have blown holes in walls and knocked down doors to search homes and shops. Dead Iraqis still lay out in the open Monday.”
For all intents and purposes, the US military declared any male in Fallujah and any family unlucky enough to be caught in the hail of deadly fire legitimate targets for death. We will perhaps never know how many civilians have been slaughtered by US forces.
The chief United Nations human rights official, Louise Arbour, has called for an investigation of abuses, including the disproportionate use of force and the targeting of civilians. Arbour claimed that all violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws should be investigated, including “the deliberate targeting of civilians, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, the killing of injured persons and the use of human shields.” The American media either ignores or brushes this aside.
In none of the US media commentaries is there a single expression of concern about not merely the moral, but the legal issues involved in the attack on Fallujah. The American military operation in the city is an illegal act of aggression in an illegal, aggressive war.
As Marjorie Cohn, professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, executive vice president of the National Lawyers Guild and the US representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists, has noted, the attack began with an act contravening international law: “They [US forces] stormed and occupied the Fallujah General Hospital, and have not agreed to allow doctors and ambulances to go inside the main part of the city to help the wounded, in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions.”
Cohn continues: “Torture, inhuman treatment, and willful killing are grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, treaties ratified by the United States. Grave breaches of Geneva are considered war crimes under our federal War Crimes Act of 1996. American nationals who commit war crimes abroad can receive life in prison, or even the death penalty if the victim dies. Under the doctrine of command responsibility, a commander can be held liable if he knew or should have known his inferiors were committing war crimes and he failed to prevent or stop them. ... Bush’s aggressive war against the people of Iraq promises to kill many more American soldiers and untold numbers of Iraqis. Nuremberg prosecutor Justice [Robert] Jackson labeled the crime of aggression ‘the greatest menace of our times.’ More than 50 years later, his words still ring true.”
There has been nothing like the attack on Fallujah since the Nazi invasion and occupation of much of the European continent—the shelling and bombing of Warsaw in September 1939, the terror bombing of Rotterdam in May 1940. All the talk about precision bombing in Iraq is dust thrown in the public’s eyes. The purpose of the devastation in Fallujah is to terrorize the Iraqi people and the entire population of the Middle East. Large numbers of people have been killed in the assault on the city.
Nowhere in the American media do you find a word of protest. No one asks for verification that the city is being held “hostage” by criminals and “foreign terrorists.” No one questions an operation to “root out” a relative handful of terrorists that requires razing a city to the ground.
It is necessary to put this on record. In the future, people will ask: what did you do and say while Fallujah was being destroyed? If readers can find major newspaper or television editorials denouncing the murderous attack, by all means, send them in to the WSWS. We have searched in vain.