Tuesday, November 07, 2006

November 7

327455On 7 November 2004, four years to the day after George W. Bush was first "elected" to the presidency, United States and Iraqi forces began pounding the Iraqi city of Fallujah in an operation known as Phantom Fury. As Marine Lieutenant-Colonel Gareth Brandl explained to an embedded BBC reporter, "the enemy has got a face. He's called Satan. He lives in Falluja. And we're going to destroy him."

It is unclear whether Satan was killed or captured during the second battle of Fallujah, but one of the other residents Fallujah offered the following account to independent journalist Dahr Jamail. Describing the aftermath of the attacks, "Ahmed" explained:
The Americans didn't care about us. All the medical people left the city and the only people in the city are Fallujans or from Ramadi or other cities who came to try to help us. Anyone who left their house would either be shot by American snipers or recruited by the Mujahideen. So we stayed inside most of the time and prayed. The more the bombs exploded the more we prayed and cried. Every night we said goodbye to one another because we expected to die. You could see areas where all the houses were flattened, there was just nothing left. We could get water at times, but there was no electricity ever. Even those of us who do not fight, we are suffering so much because of the U.S. bombs and tanks. Can't they see this is turning so many people against them?

Intended to root out and destroy several thousand insurgent fighters who had nested themselves inside the city, the nine-day barrage included the use of thermobaric ("fuel-air") and cluster munitions, as well as white phosphorous, which the US insisted was merely for illumination purposes and not -- as prohibited by the 1983 Convention on Chemical Weapons -- as an anti-personnel weapon. Operation Phantom Fury reduced a third of the city's 200 mosques to rubble; destroyed as many as 10,000 buildings; permanently displaced 150,000 residents, most of whom fled to squalid refugee camps; and killed thousands, hundreds of whom were numbered among the 50,0000 civilians without the means to leave the city prior to the seige. Although the US claimed to have killed over 1200 insurgent fighters, the main target -- a Jordanian known as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- managed to escape the city along with hundreds of other non-local fighters.

Two years after the completion of Operation Phantom Fury, nearly all of Anbar province -- with the sole exception of Fallujah -- was under the control of Sunni insurgents.