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Fulluja and the Tet Offensive


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#1 John Simkin

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Posted 09 November 2004 - 11:29 AM

Will Falluja prove to be the greatest military mistake in history? The stated objective is to destroy terrorists and insurgents in Falluja to enable free elections to take place in the city in January.

The civilian population of Falluja is around 250,000. The United States estimate that there are 3,000 insurgents. They also claim that only about 30,000 civilians remain. However, a report this morning from inside Fulluja estimates that around 200,000 civilians remain in the city. The reason for this is that the people are defending their property from potential looters.

A BBC reporter with the US troops claims that virtually house is being defended. As a result, the troops are having to blast their way in. The pattern that is emerging that the battle will cause massive casualties. Houses and religious buildings will be destroyed. Terrorist activity is being reported all over Iraq. I fully expert uprisings in several Sunni dominated cities. Iraq's largest Sunni-led political party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, this morning announced that it will pull out of the interim government unless the Falluja attack is stopped.

Even if the US takes control of Falluja, they will not be able to hold it. Anyway, by this time, they would have lost control of other cities in Iraq.

Only last month Major General John Batiste announced: “The operation in Samarra has been very successful. Anti-Oraqi forces have been defeated and the city has been returned to the people.” In reality the terrorists had carried out a tactical retreat. They later returned and on Saturday carried out terrorist attacks on police posts killing 39 people.

Sergeant Major Carlton Kent, the most senior enlisted marine in Iraq told the forces before the battle started that the objective was to “kick some butt”. Commanding officers were more diplomatic. According to reports they told the troops to think of the fight in historic terms, as another Inchon or Iwo Jima. There was even reference to Vietnam and the Tet offensive (the US military have always believed they won the Tet offensive).

The US will lose the war in Iraq in the same way they lost the Vietnam War. Let us hope they don’t take as long as they did in Vietnam to realise that.

#2 David Richardson

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Posted 09 November 2004 - 11:57 AM

The question is going to be whether most of the Iraqi population support (or at least acquiesce in) the American actions or not. If they do, then the deaths of a few thousand Sunni Muslims in Falluja will soon be explained away and smoothed over. If they don't, then the Americans will be facing the usual equation about fighting a guerrilla war. I forget what the numerical advantage the regular forces need is, but it implies that the USA is going to have send more troops to Iraq than it possesses.

In other words, if the Iraqis react in the way they've consistently reacted so far, the relatives and acquaintances of each person who is killed in Falluja will become supporters of the resistance. I'm sure that the Americans can blast their way into the centre of Falluja … but then they have to hold it for several years. It reminds me of the Afghan Wars in the late 1800s: the British could take Kabul … but then they got massacred a few months later either there or on the way back to India.

Edited by David Richardson, 09 November 2004 - 11:57 AM.


#3 Jack Ragsdale

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Posted 09 November 2004 - 10:55 PM

To Mr. George Mombiot’s references to Fascism, conspicuous consumption, etc, I would add appalling ignorance and fun as descriptive of our present circumstance. Vice President Cheney and Rumsfeld and to a lesser extent, those around them, are enjoying themselves immensely. The attention, the importance. The grip on power. But they are little men without any vision. Nothing they accomplish will endure. Their success is to have turned government away from its duty to protect and serve. They are crass businessmen.

War brutalizes all of us. I cannot deal with the day to day movements in this war which to me is madness. On TV, I have seen mothers and fathers of fallen troops express their approval of the war and its high aims. I believe we will “prevail” as they say, but I doubt that the time required will be less than our Vietnam experience.

For the soldiers in the field and for us at home, the reward is pain. Our unlearned lesson is that empire building is costly both in blood and money—and long out of date. Surely the Victorians were the last successful ones at that enterprise. We Americans had our best chance in our war with Spain. When we let the Philippines go half a century later, its vast riches and the permanent prosperity “the China trade” would give us had not materialized. We lost 5,000 dead and the Filipinos between one and two hundred thousand. Cuba slipped through our fingers as so much water but we still have not given up our obsession with it. We retain the same silly obsession with Nicaragua.

Did we learn any lesson from the Spanish-American War? Indeed we did not. Names like Hearst, Pulitzer and Mahan are not remembered in that context, and that of Rev. Josiah Strong and Senator Beveridge, not at all. Only Teddy Roosevelt, the instigator of that holocaust for Cuban and Filipino peasants, achieved heroic status. His effigy stands in the Black Hills of Dakota with Washington and Jefferson.

In the play Arsenic and Old Lace Roosevelt was portrayed as a war-crazed chowderhead. For all his bluster and literary output, I have never been able to see him in any other light.

Edited by Jack Ragsdale, 10 November 2004 - 01:26 AM.


#4 Raymond Blair

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Posted 10 November 2004 - 01:56 AM

I would think this is more likely to be compared to Dien Bien Phu if things go awry. The Americans are on the offensive and they think they are going to catch a large amount of opposition fighters on their turf. The French tried this and failed with more troops I believe. But personally I don't think things will go horribly wrong, I think the heart of the resistance in the area would evaporate and return when the strength of the American forces goes away.

#5 David G. Healy

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Posted 10 November 2004 - 02:21 AM

The question is going to be whether most of the Iraqi population support (or at least acquiesce in) the American actions or not. If they do, then the deaths of a few thousand Sunni Muslims in Falluja will soon be explained away and smoothed over. If they don't, then the Americans will be facing the usual equation about fighting a guerrilla war. I forget what the numerical advantage the regular forces need is, but it implies that the USA is going to have send more troops to Iraq than it possesses.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



6:1

David Healy

Edited by David G. Healy, 12 November 2004 - 07:30 AM.


#6 David Richardson

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Posted 10 November 2004 - 11:01 AM

I heard on Swedish radio this morning that the Americans are in control of 70% of Falluja, and have sustained 12 killed in action. They claim to have killed 72 of their opponents.

Does this mean that the 3 to 6 thousand resistance fighters the Americans were looking to kill and capture are cooped up in the remaining 30% of the city, for example?

I find the low rate of casualties on the resistance side to be quite interesting. I wonder if it will keep this low as more news gets out.

#7 Sami Ramadani

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Posted 10 November 2004 - 03:01 PM

George Bush and Tony Blair have apparently concluded that they can crush the Iraqi people's will to resist occupation and legitimise a puppet regime next January by occupying Falluja. Maybe they imagine they can emulate the British forces that terrorised Iraqi Kurdistan in the 1920s by obliterating recalcitrant villages.
The US generals will no doubt deliver Falluja to Bush and Blair after bombarding its neighbourhoods with artillery and rockets. But they are doomed to deliver neither the Fallujans nor the people of Iraq. Perhaps they are unaware that Fallujans defied Saddam's rule during his last years in power. Falluja - known as the city of a thousand mosques - attracted Saddam's wrath in 1998 when its imams refused to hail the tyrant in their Friday sermons. Many were imprisoned, and the city punished as a result.

But the generals certainly do know how resistance began in Falluja. On April 28 2003 US soldiers opened fire on parents and children demonstrating against the continued military occupation of their primary school - killing 18 of them in cold blood and injuring about 60 others. Until the killing of those demonstrators, not a single bullet had been fired at US soldiers in Falluja or any of the cities north of Baghdad. But, remorselessly, little-known Falluja became a world-renowned centre of defiance, where a poor and poorly armed people has courageously faced the military wing of the new empire.

The way Falluja's 300,000 people reacted to the April 28 massacre has made them a prime target for savage bombardment and conquest. Najaf was bombed into a ceasefire in August. Samarra was conquered in September. Sadr City in Baghdad was bombarded and negotiated into temporary silence in October. Now they want to crush the symbol of Falluja, to teach the rest of Iraq a bloody lesson. Another pyrrhic victory is likely to be added to an already long list.

http://www.guardian....1347354,00.html

#8 Mike Toliver

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Posted 11 November 2004 - 03:08 PM

It's Veteran's Day in the US - always an "interesting" day for me. Elsewhere in this forum I've heard US troops referred to (by several different people) as "war criminals". Certainly, some troops have behaved in a criminal manner (and some have been convicted by the US Military of that criminal behavior), but they are not "war criminals". I refer you to today's New York Times - the editorial printing portions of letters by US soldiers killed in Iraq. The motivation that shines through is not to teach the Iraqis a lesson - it is to help the Iraqi people.

I certainly agree that this intention may be misguided - but I think honest intentions make a difference. When I went to Vietnam, it was also with the intention of "helping" the South Vietnamese. One of the most devastating things about the war for me was the discovery that my presence was not going to "help" them - but that's what I wanted to do. And that's what most US soldiers in Iraq want to do. Please don't tar them with the "war criminal" brush - they don't deserve it. Apply it George W. Bush instead.

#9 Derek McMillan

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Posted 11 November 2004 - 10:10 PM

The massacre at Fallujah will backfire on the US whatever the outcome. The soldiers fighting for the richest nation on earth are indiscriminately killing some of the poorest. http://www.democracynow.org reported that the first targets were the hospitals and the reason given to the New York Times was that the hospitals were the source of false rumours of civilian casualties!

A hundred years from now there will still be revenge attacks against American targets to commemorate the massacre at Fallujah.

Unlike Vietnam the insurgents do not have the backing of the Soviet Union and there is far less sympathy for the aims of the resistance in the West than there was for the NLF. Nevertheless the comparison with Vietnam is not unreasonable. The dilemma is the same. What Gore Vidal christened "American imperialism" can neither withdraw (and admit defeat?) nor stay (and count the body bags coming home?). To use a phrase used at the time of the Vietnam conflict they can "declare victory and come home."

#10 David Richardson

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Posted 12 November 2004 - 05:45 AM

Elsewhere in this forum I've heard US troops referred to (by several different people) as "war criminals".  Certainly, some troops have behaved in a criminal manner (and some have been convicted by the US Military of that criminal behavior), but they are not "war criminals". 

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Is this the Nuremberg defence - "I was just obeying orders"?

I know that it's unpalatable to have the kinds of standards which we apply to soldiers from non English-speaking armies being applied to British and American soldiers, but, if we're to live in a world governed by laws and not by violence, how can we avoid it?

This is not to say that US soldiers are war criminals solely for *being* in Iraq in the first place. However, when you direct fire at civilian areas where there is a high and known risk of heavy civilian casualties, then international law labels you as a war criminal, no matter how noble your intentions are. So, those soldiers and airmen who have done this have at least a prime facie case to answer. Passing the buck up the chain of command was just the kind of defence which the Nuremberg trials ruled out.

#11 Mike Toliver

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Posted 12 November 2004 - 04:46 PM

NO - it is NOT the "Nuremberg defence". I ask you to put yourself in the place of an American soldier fighting in Iraq. You throw around the word "indiscriminate" pretty indiscriminately. In guerrilla war, you may well be killed by a woman, a child - anybody. That is the nature of guerilla war. When you are in that position, and your life depends on making split second decisions , you will quickly learn to regard EVERYBODY as potential "enemy". American soldiers do not have the ability to easily distinguish "friend" from "foe" - but I guarantee you (having been there myself) that the decision to fire on someone is NEVER an easy one - unless you're a psychopath or you're under attack. It is FAR from being "indiscriminate".

Why don't you apply the term "indiscriminate" to the insurgents - who CAN easily distinguish who the enemy is and yet employ car bombs and other "indiscriminate" means of attack - who are, in fact, killing some of their own people? Don't they fit the definition of "War Criminal"?

I applaud what the Nuremberg tribunal attempted to do - but guess what? Even that tribunal was selectively applied. "Strategic bombing" of German and British cities deliberately targeted civilians - why weren't those people tried? Palestinian suicide bombers deliberately target civilians - why aren't they called "war criminals"? The people who flew planes into the WTC deliberately targeted civilians? I haven't heard you folks call them "war criminals".

If you want to throw around words like "war criminal" and "indiscriminate" - at least do it in an even-handed way. Otherwise, I regard it as so much ideological BS.

#12 David Richardson

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Posted 12 November 2004 - 05:24 PM

NO - it is NOT the "Nuremberg defence".  I ask you to put yourself in the place of an American soldier fighting in Iraq.  You throw around the word "indiscriminate" pretty indiscriminately.  In guerrilla war, you may well be killed by a woman, a child - anybody.  That is the nature of guerilla war.  When you are in that position, and your life depends on making split second decisions , you will quickly learn to regard EVERYBODY  as potential "enemy".  American soldiers do not have the ability to easily distinguish "friend" from "foe" - but I guarantee you (having been there myself) that the decision to fire on someone is NEVER an easy one - unless you're a psychopath or you're under attack.  It is FAR from being "indiscriminate".

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And yet, the laws of war are very clear about this, which is why Serbs and Croatians are facing trial in The Hague.

Why don't you apply the term "indiscriminate" to the insurgents - who CAN easily distinguish who the enemy is and yet employ car bombs and other "indiscriminate" means of attack - who are, in fact, killing some of their own people?  Don't they fit the definition of "War Criminal"?

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I haven't yet made this application, but the shoe fits absolutely. The fact that your enemies are defending themselves against invaders (which has a certain legitimacy in international law) doesn't absolve them from charges of being war criminals.

I applaud what the Nuremberg tribunal attempted to do - but guess what?  Even that tribunal was selectively applied.  "Strategic bombing" of German and British cities deliberately targeted civilians - why weren't those people tried?  Palestinian suicide bombers deliberately target civilians - why aren't they called "war criminals"?  The people who flew planes into the WTC deliberately targeted civilians?  I haven't heard you folks call them "war criminals".

If you want to throw around words like "war criminal" and "indiscriminate" - at least do it in an even-handed way.  Otherwise, I regard it as so much ideological BS.

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Once again, you're right. One of the burdens we've had to carry since Nuremberg is that there was too much of 'victors' justice' about the process. Let's just hope that the USA finally approves of the International Criminal Court, so that we can start on making this process even-handed.

It may be that we need to find different terms for the actions of Ariel Sharon and the private soldier in the British Army, but we also need to make sure that we don't put either of their actions into the category of "things that are acceptable".

#13 Mike Toliver

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Posted 12 November 2004 - 05:43 PM

David -

Thank you for your response. It helps me to know that you agree that these terms should be applied in an even-handed way.

I agree that the US should abide by international law - including the World Court. However, there are many difficulties in the application of international law to war. I can pretty much guarantee that the insurgents in Iraq don't give a rodent's hind end about "Nuremberg" or "International Law". I think that, while at least some passing acquaintance with international law is a part of military training in the US, an American soldier isn't going to be thinking much about it when faced with the possibility of getting killed by a "non-combatant".

The obvious solution is to ban war - which is THE major crime here. Lotsa luck...

Failing that, I'd like to see a UN with some real teeth. When a George Bush says "We're going to invade (insert country here)", the UN says "Oh no you're not!" and George W. Bush HAS to listen. I don't know how to accomplish that, but I think that's the way we've got to go.

#14 David Richardson

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Posted 12 November 2004 - 10:03 PM

The obvious solution is to ban war - which is THE major crime here.  Lotsa luck...

Failing that, I'd like to see a UN with some real teeth.  When a George Bush says "We're going to invade (insert country here)", the UN says "Oh no you're not!" and George W. Bush HAS to listen.  I don't know how to accomplish that, but I think that's the way we've got to go.

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One place to start from is a recognition that the beginning of a war is a sign of failure … and that there are seldom any winners. A UN with some real teeth ought to be achievable - it just needs some backing from strong countries, like the USA. Amongst the less palatable phenomena of recent years have been Israelis complaining that the Palestinian Authority doesn't crack down - whilst killing as many Palestianian policemen as they can … and Americans moaning on about how weak the UN is - whilst withholding contributions (as was happening until fairly recently), and doing everything they can to undermine the institution.

Maybe the real peacekeepers of the 21st Century will be the Chinese. Perhaps they won't let their debtors squander their money on unnecessary wars! And since the USA is China's principal debtor … perhaps there's hope for us all.

#15 Mike Toliver

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Posted 12 November 2004 - 11:39 PM

Actually, most American I know moan about how strong the UN is - go figure. They really don't want anyone else telling the US what to do.

David, of course you are right about the US and its lack of support for the UN. I try and get my two cents in, but the UN is not a popular institution in the US. It needs to be....



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