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Commentary Last Updated: Oct 17th, 2006 - 00:45:24

In your name
By Philip Primeau
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Oct 17, 2006, 00:42

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A new report by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health published in The Lancet alleges that "655,000 more Iraqis have died as a consequence of the March 2003 invasion . . . than would have been expected in a non-conflict situation." This far exceeds previous estimates which generally put the number somewhere around 50,000.

While the killing of even one innocent person is beyond tragic, more than half a million fatalities would rocket the Iraq War into the same league as Vietnam and Korea, where the dimensions of human suffering are hardly calculable. Even if the Johns Hopkins study is off, reason and simple math suggest that Bush's misadventure will have resulted in the deaths of at least one hundred thousand by the time it comes to a finish later this decade.

Alone, these statistics are chilling; they are downright upsetting -- perhaps unforgivable -- when one considers that, according to Human Rights Watch, fewer than 300,000 Iraqis were murdered by Saddam Hussein during his 20-year reign.

No matter how you cut it, Iraq has been the bloodiest and most costly mistake in American foreign policy since we dumbly stumbled into the jungles of Vietnam.

It would be redundant for me to continue so broadly criticizing the war. Everyone reading this article knows the heavy price of U.S. imperialism in the Middle East.

What many people are ignorant of, however, is the most gruesome show of unrestrained violence in the course of the war: the siege, shelling, and destruction of Fallujah. With the anniversary of that sad ordeal quickly approaching, it is important for the public to fully understand the crimes perpetrated there by our military.

Once an impressive city, home to 200 mosques and a quarter-million people, Fallujah is now a patchwork of graves and rubble. As of March 2005, only 30 percent of its antebellum population has returned to live within the sprawling urban wasteland, with some 150,000 former residents scattered across the country in shantytowns and impoverished tent villages.

What caused such a radical and sudden dispersion? Who destroyed Fallujah?

On April 28, 2003, soldiers of the 82nd Airborne massacred 15 Iraqis in the city during a protest against the American-imposed curfew. Soon after, four U.S. mercenary-contractors were surprised by a hostile crowd and beaten to death. Their bodies were burnt and dangled over the Euphrates from girders of a nearby bridge.

To avenge this mob violence and stymie growing insurgent activity in the area, American forces undertook a series of maneuvers in and around Fallujah.

The subsequent campaign makes the worst you and I know -- September 11th -- look like child's play.

Operations Vigilant Resolve and Phantom Fury kept the city targeted and besieged on and off for eight months. During that period, despite official reports of the contrary, U.S. soldiers killed thousands upon thousands of Iraqis, civilians and resistance fighters alike. So numerous were fatalities that the city's soccer stadium had to be converted into a cemetery.

The battle climaxed in early November 2004, when American forces stormed the city and fought pitched battles for more than a week. After nine days of furious combat, officials proclaimed the city captured -- only "mopping up" remained. Outbreaks of violence persisted well into December.

While the U.S. took relatively heavy losses and many pockets of resistance were annihilated, it was Fallujah and its people that suffered the most.

Of the city's 50,000 buildings, nearly 10,000 were destroyed. At least half of all homes experienced damage, with many being leveled altogether. Scores of mosques disappeared, their ancient plaster riddled with bullets and shattered by falling bombs.

The main hospital was captured and shut down early on, thus impairing medical aid for wounded civilians. A prolonged land blockade combined with seemingly indiscriminate shelling created hunger and clean water problems within the city limits.

It has since been revealed that, in direct violation of the international law, the U.S. military extensively utilized incendiary devices. White phosphorous (WP) and napalm-like substances showered Fallujah. Men, women, and children were consumed; faces were seared black, skin cooked from bone.

Initially denying the explosive allegations, officials have since verified such claims. Trading fiction for fiction, they now assert that their use was carefully restricted and had nothing to do with civilian deaths.

The amazing Italian documentary Fallujah, The Hidden Massacre provides footage which proves that statement completely false. The film is naturally horrifying but more than that, it evokes a sort of nauseous chagrin.

As I watched the smokey nightmare unfold on my screen, I wondered: Could this really be the work of our troops -- of our government? Are not we too in some way responsible for that child with a bloody stump where there once was a leg, or for that man whose finger bones have come through his chemically cooked flesh?

For those of you willing to glimpse the Fallujah massacre and watch for 30 minutes the numbing reality of the crisis in Iraq, click here. It is available at that location for free and legal download, courtesy of RAI.

Go check it out. Go see what is being done in your name.

Philip Primeau writes from Boston, Mass. His work has appeared in Dissident Voice, Online Journal, Next Left Notes, and elsewhere. Contact him via e-mail at

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