FALLUJAH - Fallujah is quiet these days. After all the fighting and destruction
of 2004, U.S. and Iraqi forces call this success. Many residents are not so
Fallujah, 35 mi. west of Baghdad, produced some of the strongest resistance
yet to U.S. forces and their Iraqi collaborators. These forces led two severe
assaults on the city, in April and November of 2004. Three-quarters of the city
was destroyed, and massive numbers of people were killed.
There has been little in the way of reconstruction.
The city sees no more of the kind of resistance attacks of old, and no more
of the 2004 kind of crackdown. "We are so happy that our city is peaceful
and quiet after all the battling that killed thousands of our citizens,"
a captain in the local police force of Fallujah, speaking on the condition of
anonymity, told IPS. "We can patrol the streets without fear now and arrest
any person that we suspect to be a terrorist."
There has been a good deal of this, residents say. Hundreds of suspected resistance
fighters are now held at the Fallujah police station. Many have been killed
on the streets; the police speak of finding "unidentified bodies."
Several of those found dead had been arrested earlier, eyewitnesses and families
of several of the men killed have said.
"This is fascist behavior that shows the brutality of the Americans and
the so-called Iraqi government," a former member of the Fallujah city council
who asked to be referred to as Mahmood told IPS. "Those young guys were
executed without any trial. This brutality was not known in our city before
this occupation began."
Journalists inside the city are also quiet after a few of them were arrested
and held for several days.
One of the detained journalists spoke with IPS on condition of anonymity. Visibly
shaken, he said that a major in the Fallujah police force had told him that
freedom of the media had been misused and that the police would not allow it
any more. He said the major told him that "the news you transmit to the
world will be what we tell you, not what you pick up from the street."
Residents speak of other reasons why the city is relatively quiet.
"But of course the city is quiet," Rahemm Othman, a high school teacher,
told IPS. "They are banning car movement, and that would make it as quiet
as the dead. We are being subjected to slow death here, and the world is so
happy about it." The local police and the U.S. military banned car movement
Everything is costlier as a result. "A jar of propane gas costs over $20,
and the groceries are too much for us to afford," Um Muhammad, a mother
of four whose husband was detained four months ago told IPS. "I have no
income, and people who used to help me are not able to do so any more. Everybody
is getting poor because people cannot go to work."
Medical services also continue to suffer under the vehicle ban. Doctors at
Fallujah General Hospital told IPS that the government in Baghdad is not supplying
them with medicines and medical equipment.
"The officials of the Ministry of Health tell us we are terrorists, and
so we do not deserve their support," a doctor said. "As if they own
Iraqi money and it is up to them whether to give it or not."
The Ministry of Health was headed by Ali al-Shemari from the group of Shia
cleric Moqtada al-Sadr until Sadr withdrew from the government April 16.
"To say Fallujah is quiet is true, and you can see it in the city streets,"
said Sheik Salim from the Fallujah Scholars' Council. "The city is practically
dead, and the dead are quiet."
One after another, residents spoke of Fallujah finding the quiet of the dead.
The streets are empty except for the occasional person walking to clinic, or
at some of the few markets still open. Most shops remain closed; others open
only a few hours.
Residents say unemployment is above 80 percent. Most of the rest who have some
work are government employees. The huge industrial area has been closed by U.S.
and Iraqi army units.
"After sacrificing thousands of our beloved, Americans and their tails
want to kill the rest of us," said a 50-year-old woman at the football
field that was turned into a graveyard following the April 2004 U.S. siege of
the city, in which residents say at least 700 were killed.
Intent on demonstrating progress in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S.
commander in Iraq, is expected to recommend removing U.S. troops soon from several
areas where commanders claim security has improved, including Fallujah.
But resistance has not died altogether. Five U.S. soldiers were killed when
their helicopter was shot down Aug. 14 near al-Taqaddum airbase on the outskirts
At least 20 U.S. soldiers were killed in al-Anbar province to the west of Baghdad
in July, several of them in the Fallujah area. According to the U.S. Department
of Defense, 1,257 U.S. soldiers have died in al-Anbar province, more than in
any other Iraqi province.
(Inter Press Service)