"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
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.
American forces sustained their largest single-day loss in six months, and the majority of these deaths were suffered in cities other than Fallujah. Does no one in Washington see a problem here? We crush the resistance in Fallujah, and it springs up in Ramadi and Baqouba and Baghdad. Of course, we are plenty able to crush the resistance in those cities as well, but only if we abandon Fallujah (we have nowhere near enough boots on the ground to consolidate our holdings in one city as we attack another). We're playing Whack-A-Mole, and we don't have enough hammers.
Meanwhile, the political fallout from the assault on Fallujah continues to fall:
A major Sunni political party has quit the interim Iraqi government and revoked its single minister from the Cabinet in protest over the U.S. assault on the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, the party's leader said Tuesday.
The Iraqi Islamic Party wields significant influence over the country's Sunni community and its withdrawal from the government will likely be a blow to Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.
"We are protesting the attack on Fallujah and the injustice that is inflicted on the innocent people of the city," said Mohsen Abdel-Hamid, head of the Iraqi Islamic Party.
Abdel-Hamid told The Associated Press the party leaders convened Monday and decided that their one minister in the Cabinet — Minister of Industry, Hajim Al-Hassani — should quit.
"We cannot be part of this attack," he said.
As the Boy King would say, the Sunnis are either with us or against us. I guess we know what side they're taking, eh?
Meanwhile, our actions are coming under scrutiny around the world, including places where we hoped to have a few remaining friends - Great Britain, for instance:
Muslim fundamentalist insurgents seeking to topple the government are holed up in a conservative city with little sympathy for secularism or pluralism. They raise the banner of Islam, and they call on the rest of the country to rise up and expel the oppressors. The government reacts by massing forces around the city. It demanded that the militants surrender or the city give them up. If not, the city would be destroyed. Fallujah this week? Yes, but it was also the Syrian city of Hama in the spring of 1982.
The fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood seized Hama as the first step towards its goal of a national uprising against the secular Baathist regime. The Syrian President demanded their surrender. His army shelled the city, and special forces went in to kill or capture the militants. The Syrians employed the same strategy that the US is using now. Its tanks and artillery waited outside the city; they fired on militants and civilians alike. Its elite units, like the American Marines surrounding Falljuah today, braced themselves for a bloody battle.
The US condemned Syria for the assault that is believed to have cost 10,000 civilian lives. The Syrian army destroyed the historic centre of Hama, and it rounded up Muslim rebels for imprisonment or execution. Syria's actions against Hama came to form part of the American case that Syria was a terrorist state. Partly because of Hama, Syria is on a list of countries in the Middle East whose regimes the US wants to change.
Iraq's American-appointed Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, declared a state of emergency on Sunday to assume powers reminiscent of those wielded by Saddam Hussein: to break up public gatherings, enter private houses without warrants and detain people without trial. Perhaps in waging war against the Iraqis who want to expel the Americans and topple America's chosen Iraqi leaders, the insurgents have compelled the US and its Iraqi allied regime to behave like the two Baathist regimes that they believed were so totalitarian they had to go.
Other Iraqi cities must now fear the use of what The New York Times correspondent Tom Friedman called "Hama rules" against them. Unrest in the northern city of Mosul, where relations between its Kurdish and Arab residents have deteriorated to the point where Arabs on the west bank of the Tigris and Kurds to the west rarely cross the bridges to each other's neighbourhoods. Already, because the autonomous Kurds of northern Iraq are the only ethnic group allied to the US in Iraq, Arabs have begun killing Kurds. And Kurds are seeking refuge in the Kurdish-controlled northern region.
Mosul was the social base [of the Baath], said the deputy leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Noshirwan Ali Moustafa, in Suleimania. "There were 24,000 military officers from Mosul. The city is very poor. People went into the army and government service."
With the army disbanded and most of the civil service unemployed, thousands of young men in Mosul have no work. The insurgents have made strong appeals to them to change their conditions by expelling the Americans. Religious appeals have turned against the Kurds.
Residents report that graffiti in Mosul has appeared saying: "Kill a Jew. Kill a Kurd."