portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reposts global

human & civil rights | imperialism & war | media criticism

Operation Iraqi Oil!

FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. aircraft and tanks pounded targets in the besieged Iraqi city of Falluja on Tuesday, just hours after an American deadline expired for rebels to hand over their heavy weapons, witnesses said.
Golan district in the Iraqi city of Falluja, April 27, 2004.
Golan district in the Iraqi city of Falluja, April 27, 2004.
A U.S. Marine searches an Iraqi truck driver outside the town of Falluja on Apri
A U.S. Marine searches an Iraqi truck driver outside the town of Falluja on Apri
The men were detained for helping wounded insurgents.
The men were detained for helping wounded insurgents.
U.S. Forces Blast Falluja Targets After Deadline
By Fadel Badran

FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. aircraft and tanks pounded targets in the besieged Iraqi city of Falluja on Tuesday, just hours after an American deadline expired for rebels to hand over their heavy weapons, witnesses said.

"I can hear more than 10 explosions a minute. Fires are lighting the night sky," one witness told Reuters as U.S. forces blasted sections of the Golan district of the city, scene of heavy fighting between Marines and rebels on Monday.

"The earth is shaking under my feet," he said. Television pictures showed two large fires some 150 meters (yards) apart.

The action, which lasted 30 minutes, followed hard on the heels of an assault by U.S. forces near the other Iraqi flashpoint city, Najaf, which spokesmen said killed dozens of fighters.

A terse U.S. statement said the fighting in Falluja, a city of 300,000 people, began with an attack on marine positions.

"Marines responded by directing precision weaponry against enemy forces in order to defend themselves," it said without giving any further details.

U.N. special envoy on Iraq Lakhdar Brahimi, speaking to the Security Council as the battle raged, urged the U.S.-led administration to bring the Falluja crisis to a peaceful end.

"The Coalition Provisional Authority is well aware that, unless this standoff is brought to a resolution through peaceful means, there is great risk of a very bloody confrontation," he said.

"They know as well as -- indeed, better than everyone else -- that the consequences of such bloodshed could be dramatic and long-lasting."

Local doctors say hundreds of people have been killed in the marines' siege of the town, a hotbed of insurgency against the U.S.-led forces, which began on April 5 following the murder and mutilation of four American contractors there.

HEAVY TOLL NEAR NAJAF


Near the holy city of Najaf, 64 fighters loyal to radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr were killed hours after Washington issued an ultimatum to him to clear his militia and their arms from mosques there, a U.S. spokesman said.
Officials said 57 were wiped out in a single assault against a lone anti-aircraft gun spotted during clashes on the ground. A Sadr aide said only 19 of those killed were members of the militia.

It was the bloodiest encounter since the firebrand preacher and his Mehdi Army launched a brief revolt against the U.S.-led occupation three weeks ago before taking refuge in the city among Shi'ite Islam's holiest shrines.

Staff at two hospitals counted at least 23 dead and 34 wounded and said some of them did not seem to be guerrillas.

At the funerals of five people killed, mourners chanted "Long live Sadr!" and slogans against the United States and its allies on Iraq's interim Governing Council.

Adding to the U.S. burden, most Spanish troops in the occupying force who had been based in and near Najaf left Iraq on Tuesday in a withdrawal ordered by the new government in Madrid, where opposition to the occupation runs high. U.S. troops have had to replace the Spaniards in Najaf.

A Spanish government source said Spain would ask anti-war allies Germany and France on Wednesday to join a proposal calling for a U.S. exit from Iraq and a new international presence in the country.

CHALLENGES

Washington is struggling to douse the challenges to the new order in Baghdad without inflaming anger at civilian casualties before the U.S. authority hands formal sovereignty to an appointed Iraqi government on June 30.

Mohsen Abdel Hamid, a member of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council, called for the Falluja attack to be halted and warned against any such move in Najaf.

"Peaceful means have not been used up and we have to do all we can to our efforts to reach a peaceful solution. Surrounding cities and pressuring people there is not a step in this direction," he told Al Jazeera television.

Najaf, south of Baghdad, and Falluja to the west, have provided acid tests among Iraq's two main Muslim communities.


The long-oppressed Shi'ite majority broadly welcomed the overthrow a year ago of Saddam Hussein, a Sunni.
But though few miss Saddam, impatience with disruption to daily life has angered many Iraqis, Shi'ite as well as Sunni.

In Falluja, U.S. commanders say they face up to 2,000 fighters -- some diehard Saddam loyalists, others trying to reassert Sunni dominance of Iraq, and maybe about 200 foreign Islamic radicals, some possibly linked to al Qaeda.

Open warfare in Najaf would carry even greater risks for U.S. efforts to win support among the Shi'ite majority. U.S. administrator Paul Bremer calls the situation there "explosive."

Sadr, 30, is wanted for the killing last year of another Shi'ite cleric. He has vowed to mount suicide attacks if the Americans try to get him.

(Additional reporting by Khaled Farhan in Najaf, Tom Perry and Nadim Ladki in Baghdad and Dan Trotta in Madrid)
What negotiations? 29.Apr.2004 00:00

politics as possible

I have the radio on in the background. The U.S. is saying that there are still negotiations, even though there is no cease-fire. What negotiations? With who? It seems to be all spin, trying to say that the U.S. is patiently pursuing all the options, even though --- of course --- the "coalition" could knock the "insurgents" out at will. The strategy of containing (or beseiging) an entire community in a guerilla war has precedents both in Vietnam and (more or less in the same era) in Malaysia (under British occupation). It's really a "starve them out" strategy, dressed up as restraint and negotiation. (Or "dry them out" if they can't get water.) In Vietnam and Malaysia, the contained areas were villages of maybe a few hundred inhabitants. The Iraqis have seized control of major cities --- two or possibly more --- although the Iraqis probably do not have much hope of success in the current battles over those cities. What seems to be inevitable is the slow destruction of the cities and death of many of the inhabitants. What next? The "G" word begins to loom ahead in the eerie gloaming of artillery and air bombing -- "Genocide".