“The bombs being dropped on Fallujah don’t contain explosives, depleted uranium or anything harmful – they contain laughing gas – that would, of course, explain [Pentagon chief Donald] Rumsfeld’s misplaced optimism about not killing civilians in Fallujah. Also, being a ‘civilian’ is a relative thing in a country occupied by Americans. You’re only a civilian if you’re on their side. If you translate for them, or serve them food in the Green Zone, or wipe their floors – you’re an innocent civilian. Just about everyone else is an insurgent, unless they can get a job as a ‘civilian’.”
– Riverbend, an Iraqi civilian girl, author of the blog Baghdad Burning
Once again the US has been caught in a giant spider’s web. Fallujah now is a network: it’s Baghdad, Ramadi, Samarra, Latifiyah, Kirkuk, Mosul. Streets on fire, everywhere: Hundreds, thousands of Fallujahs – the Mesopotamian echo of a thousand Vietnams. The Iraqi resistance has even regained control of a few Baghdad neighborhoods.
Baghdad residents say there are practically no US troops around, even as regular explosions can be heard all over the city. Baghdad sources confirm to Asia Times Online that the mujahideen now control parts of the southern suburb of ad-Durha, as well as Hur Rajab, Abu Ghraib, al-Abidi, as-Suwayrah, Salman Bak, Latifiyah and Yusufiyah – all in the Greater Baghdad area. This would be the first time since the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003, that the resistance has been able to control these neighborhoods.
Massive US military might is useless against a mosque network in full gear. In a major development not reported by US corporate media, for the first time different factions of the resistance have released a joint statement, signed among others by Ansar as-Sunnah, al-Jaysh al-Islami, al-Jaysh as-Siri (known as the Secret Army), ar-Rayat as-Sawda (known as the Black Banners), the Lions of the Two Rivers, the Abu Baqr as-Siddiq Brigades, and crucially al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (Unity and Holy War) – the movement allegedly controlled by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The statement is being relayed all over the Sunni triangle through a network of mosques. The message is clear: the resistance is united.
The mobile mujahideen
Fallujah civilians have told families and friends in Baghdad that the US bombing has been worse than Baghdad suffered in March 2003.
The Fallujah resistance for its part seems to have made the crucial tactical decision of clearing two main roads – called Nisan 7 and Tharthar Street – thus drawing the Americans to a battle in the center of town. Baghdad sources close to the resistance say that now the Americans seem to be positioned exactly where the mujahideen want them. This is leading the resistance to insist they – and not the Americans, according to the current Pentagon spin – now control 70% of the city.
There are at least 120 mosques in Fallujah. A consensus is emerging that almost half of them have been smashed by air strikes and shelling by US tanks – something that will haunt the United States for ages. The mosques stopped broadcasting the five daily calls for prayer, but Fadhil Badrani, an Iraqi reporter for BBC World Service in Arabic and one of the very few media witnesses in Fallujah, writes that “every time a big bomb lands nearby, the cry rises from the minarets: ‘Allahu Akbar’ [God is Great]”.
Badrani also disputes the Pentagon spin: “It is misleading to say the US controls 70% of the city because the fighters are constantly on the move. They go from street to street, attacking the army in some places, letting them through elsewhere so that they can attack them later. They say they are fighting not just for Fallujah, but for all Iraq.” The mujahideen tactics are a rotating web – Ho Chi Minh’s and Che Guevara’s tactics applied to urban warfare by the desert: snipers on rooftops, snipers escaping on bicycles, mortar fire from behind abandoned houses, rocket-propelled-grenade attacks on tanks, Bradleys being ambushed, barrages of as many as 200 rockets, instant dispersal, “invisible” regrouping.
Iraq’s borders with Syria and Jordan, all highways except a secondary road leading to the borders, plus Baghdad’s airport, all remain closed. Baghdad in theory has become an island sealed off from the Sunni triangle – but not for the resistance, which keeps slipping inside. Hundreds of Iraqis are stuck on the Syrian border trying to go back home.
Riverbend, the Iraqi girl blogger quoted above, writes of “rumors that there are currently 100 cars ready to detonate in Mosul, being driven by suicide bombers looking for American convoys. So what happens when Mosul turns into another Fallujah? Will they also bomb it to the ground? I heard a report where they mentioned that Zarqawi ‘had probably escaped from Fallujah’ … so where is he now? Mosul?”
He could well be in Ramadi, where hundreds of heavily armed mujahideen now control the city center – with no US troops in sight.
The Pentagon is pulling out all stops to “liberate” the people of Fallujah. According to residents, the city is now littered with thousands of cluster bombs. In an explosive accusation – and not substantiated – an Iraqi doctor who requested anonymity has told al-Quds Press that “the US occupation troops are gassing resistance fighters and confronting them with internationally banned chemical weapons”. The Washington Post has confirmed that US troops are firing white-phosphorus rounds that create a screen of fire impervious to water.
Dr Muhammad Ismail, a member of the governing board of Fallujah’s general hospital “captured” by the Americans at the outset of Operation Phantom Fury, has called all Iraqi doctors for urgent help. Ismail told Iraqi and Arab press that the number of wounded civilians is growing exponentially – and medical supplies are almost non-existent. He confirmed that US troops had arrested many members of the hospital’s medical staff and had sealed the storage of medical supplies.
The wounded in Fallujah are in essence left to die. There is not a single surgeon in town. And practically no doctors as well, as the Pentagon decided to bomb both the al-Hadar Hospital and the Zayid Mobile Hospital. So far, the International Committee of the Red Cross has reacted with thunderous apathy.
The Sunni revolution
When a few snipers are capable of holding scores of marines for a day in Fallujah – an eerie replay of the second part of Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket – and when eight of 10 US divisions are bogged down by a few thousand Iraqis with Kalashnikovs and grenade launchers, the fact is the US does not control anything in Sunni Iraq. It does not control towns, cities, roads, and it barely controls the Green Zone, the American fortress in Baghdad that is the ultimate symbol of the occupation.
In 1999, the Russians bombed and destroyed Grozny, the Chechen capital, a city of originally 400,000 people. Five years later, Chechen guerrillas are still trapping Russian troops in a living hell there. The same scenario will be replayed in Fallujah – a city of originally 300,000 people. All this destruction – which any self-respecting international lawyer can argue is a war crime – for the Bush administration to send a brutal message: either you’re with us or we’ll smash you to pieces.
The Iraqi resistance does not care if thousands of mujahideen are smashed to pieces: it is actually gearing up for a major strategic victory. The strategy is twofold: half of the Fallujah resistance stayed behind, ready to die like martyrs, increasing the already boiling-point hatred of Americans in Iraq and the Middle East and boosting their urban support. The other half left before Phantom Fury and is already setting fires in Baghdad, Tikrit, Ramadi, Baquba, Balad, Kirkuk, Mosul and even Shi’ite Karbala.
They may be decimated little by little. But the fact is Sunni Iraqis are more than ever aware they are excluded from the Bush administration’s “democratic” plans for Iraq. The only Sunni political party in interim premier Iyad Allawi’s “government” is now out. And the powerful Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) – the foremost Sunni religious body – is now officially boycotting the January elections. There are unconfirmed reports that Sheikh Abdullah al-Janabi, the head of the mujahideen shura (council) in Fallujah and a very prominent AMS member, died when his mosque, Saad ibn Abi Wakkas, was bombed.
The Sunni Iraqi resistance is now configuring itself as a full-fledged revolution. According to sources in Baghdad, the leaders of the resistance believe there’s no other way for them to expel the American invaders and subsequently be restored to power – especially because if elections are held in January, the Shi’ites are certain to win. Contemplating the dogs of civil war barking in the distance, no wonder Baghdad’s al-Zaman newspaper is so somber: “Iraq will remain a sleeping volcano, even if the state of emergency is extended forever.”