Saturday, September 12, 2009

"Inside Fallujah: The Unembedded Story" by Ahmed Mansour, al-Jazeera reporter

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"Inside Fallujah: The Unembedded Story" by Ahmed Mansour, al-Jazeera reporter
Live Branch Press, Interlink Publishing,
Softcover, 2009, 369 pages

For all the reasons that Americans rushed to war with Iraq, years following the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and for all the brutality of the insurgents and terrorists who migrated to Iraq to fight the March 19, 2003 invasion, none of that compares to the brutality of war crimes inflicted by the American forces in Iraq. And no single city or sequence of Iraq battles has come to symbolize more clearly the war crimes of the Bush administration that the events in Fallujah in 2004.

Ahmed Mansour, a journalist of impeccable credentials working for al-Jazeera Satellite Television -- which has been demonized in the pro-Iraq war propaganda fed to naive Americans stung by the devastation of the 9/11 terrorism and loss of nearly 3,000 American lives -- provides a firsthand account of the American war crimes committed not against terrorists, insurgents or even al-Qaeda disciples, but rather war crimes committed against the very civilian population the Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Iraq "Civil Governor" J. Paul Bremer, and others leading two military assaults against the civilian Iraqi city of Fallujah. Fallujah sits 35 miles west of Baghdad along the Euphrates River.

The United States military was transformed into a lynch mob vigilante organization sent in to punish the 300,000 citizens of Fallujah in early 2004 when four paid mercenaries employed by Blackwater, since described as a terrorist organization whose members that routinely murdered civilians and plundered Iraqi resources. The four killers arrogantly drove through the city one morning only to been targeted by the growing anger of Fallujah residents who had witnessed war crime after war crime in the prior year by American forces.

The four mercenaries of Blackwater -- which has since changed its name to shake-off its terrorist past -- were, once killed, mutilated and dragged through the city's streets in expression of citizen anger that had mounted for more than one year. The citizens of Fallujah, like many other Iraqi cities, despised the former dictator Saddam Hussein who also brutalized their country. But to have foreign soldiers come in and commit worse crimes from the theft of Iraq's resources to the outright murder of men, women and children -- and the rape of many women -- provoked some Fallujans to vent against the dead mercenaries.

The image of the mercenaries being dragged through the streets after being killed on March 31, 2004 prompted the United States military and Bush administration to inflict an assault driven by vengeance. But the actions of the citizens of Fallujah i desecrating the killed mercenaries was a direct to the war crimes committed by Blackwater mercenaries and US Marines in Fallujah and throughout Iraq over the prior year. In fact, most of the atrocities committed against Iraqis were either swept under a bureaucratic occupation rug, denigrated as untrue without investigation, or, when soldiers were identified after months and even years of foot-dragging investigation, the punishment was usually a slap in the hand with the killers championed and cheered in the American media.

But there never was any consideration for the feelings or rights of the people of Iraq and especially for the citizens of Fallujah.

Ahmed Mansour was in Fallujah when American forces surrounded the city, began their military sweep of the city firing on anyone on the street from adults to children, killing hundreds. But the Fallujans fought back and handed the American soldiers a devastating and embarrassing military defeat.

American forces returned months later with a determination to kill anyone who remotely looked like a terrorist threat, quoting one American military officer: "If I see someone who looks like a martyr driving at high speed toward my unit, I will send him to Allah before he gets close," explained Lt. Col. Mike Ramos as he prepared to lead his soldiers into the punitive revenge assault to reclaim American "honor" and control over the city. The outrageous language and disrespect for Islam reflected in Ramos' incendiary comments only fueled the civilians who fought to defend themselves against American war crimes.

Ahmed Mansour, who was singled out for invective by Rumsfeld and the Bush administration for his detailed and factual reporting that exposed the lie of the American "salvation of Iraq," details not only the two battles, but puts the war in a context that is more complete that the pro-military propaganda narrative advanced by many in the embedded and obsequious mainstream American media; many American journalists turned their cameras and professional journalism away from American military war crimes to protect the military invasion/occupation or maybe their own integrity.

In the months before and years after, Mansour has documented countless cases of war crimes, looting, and violations of the International Rule of Law that were skirted to allow the anger of American soldiers to drive them to achieve any goal in the phony war against "al-Qaeda." Al-Qaeda eventually did come to iraq but only at the invitation of the Bush Administration.

It is a painful book to read as Mansour spares no detail in putting the significance of Fallajuh in proper historical context. It may be one of the most significant battles fought in the Iraq War and it played a significant role in denying victory to American forces which have been mired there now for more than 6 years with little to show for their efforts except a continually growing casualty count in terms of deaths, disabilities and costs.

Americans who might want to know the truth about Fallajuh should read this book. Although the stories are powerful and shameful -- as an American who served in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War -- but Mansour was careful to balance the stories and put them in proper context. There was evil on all sides, but in many instances, actions took place that were the result of human failing. Not everything was on par with the war crimes committed by al-Qaeda or the Bush administration in Iraq.

Truth is the only foundation that guarantees a nation's security. You cannot have security based on a lie. The threat of terrorism will always remain against the United States as long as the American public refuses to acknowledge the truth of Iraq -- President Bush lying about the Weapons of Mass Destruction, the Nuclear Arms and threats from Saddam Hussein, and cloaking the war crimes of some members of the U.S. Marines and the Blackwater terrorist mercenary organization. 

Behind the smiles and pride they exude, deep down many American soldiers know the shame of this war. But of all the battles, the 2004 assault on the civilians of Fallujah stands as the symbol of the immorality of the American invasion of Iraq. And yet, the actions of the civilians of Fallujah also stand as an icon to resistance against tyranny, demagoguery, and war crimes, the worst the world has seen in this new millennium since Sept. 11, 2001.

The real threat that Bush and many defenders of the war crimes in Iraq fear is the truth that Ahmed Mansour and al-Jazeera present to the world that may one day reach the shores of the United States population and free the American mind from its own self-imposed imprisonment.

If nothing else, Mansours book should be entered in as the first batch of evidence in a war crimes tribunal that should, under the rule of international law, be convened to prosecute Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bremer and others who engaged in this outrage called the War in Iraq.

Ahmed Mansour represents the absolute finest in Middle East and Arab Journalism.

-- Ray Hanania

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