Sunday, July 13, 2008

War Crimes, Fallujah

The subject of war crimes in back in the news this week, thanks to the book by New Yorker writer Jane Mayer due out this Tuesday (The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals). In it, she details that an International Red Cross report given to the CIA in 2006 stated categorically that war crimes had been committed at Guantanamo, and that U.S. officials who approved these deeds were "in jeopardy" for prosecution as war criminals. Friday, George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley spoke with Rachel Maddow on Countdown about this news. In dismay he added that it may take the intervention of an international tribunal to bring us back "to the rule of law."

While the abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib have received some attention, the devastation of Fallujah and the on-going suffering of its citizens is barely acknowledged. In his recent memoir Lt. General Ricardo S. Sanchez recalls that Bush said the following via video conference to his national security team and generals just prior to the 2004 US Marine assault on Fallujah:

Kick ass! If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We can't send that message. It's an excuse to prepare us for withdrawal. There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!" (from Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story)

Operation Phantom Fury did just that. And while the US initially denied the same, it eventually was acknowledged that white phosphorous was used as an offensive weapon. Before the onslaught, men and boys 14 and older were turned away from checkpoints as they tried to leave the city. An estimated 6,000 civilians were killed in Fallujah; a fifth of its buildings destroyed outright, and between a half and two-thirds of its remaining structures suffered substantial damage. Since that time, Fallujah has become, in the words of McClatchy reporter Dulaimy,"a prison camp." Unemployment is rampant, and the spiraling cost of food is creating a crisis for many of its inhabitants.

These problem, though serious, do not reflect the magnitude of the suffering of the people of Fallujah, nor the magnitude of the culpability we Americans bear. For Fallujah has been poisoned and those who live there are in the midst of an environmental disaster. This brief film by journeymanpictures gives us a clear view of harm we have wreaked on this city and this nation. If these are not war crimes, what is? Please take the time to look at this film. Knowledge is power, even knowledge we hate to acknowledge. Let this power fuel our endeavors for a just peace.

(If you're a youtuber, subscribe to journeyman, they're wonderful).

Add note: See here for more re: war criminals (h/t PB)

1 comment:

janinsanfran said...

I was just musing this morning whether to make a post highlighting Dulaimy's vivid description of the prison that is Fallujah. Glad to see you have.

The longer this goes, the more all of us in the U.S. are implicated in our regime's crimes.