The story of Fallujah is yet to be written

Without question, the military offensive into Fallujah had a cost in innocent human life. That is a genuine tragedy and a genuine burden of conscience that all Americans must bear. However, I believe with genuine conviction that the Fallujah offensive was the lesser of two evils.

Some of the civilian refugees from Falluja are beginning to tell their stories, and the media coverage does not seek to minimize the terror that they experienced caught between the fighting. For example, aBoston Globe article begins with the face of innocence - a girl wounded in the fighting. I see my own daughter's face in hers. The article also describes how civilians had mostly fled the city, but one journalist embedded with the Marines stumbled inside a house to find a woman huddled in fear with her children as bombs exploded outside.

However, these refugees have been finding that the role of saviour and oppressor have not been as black and white as they were led to believe. Here's another anecdote from the Globe article:

Salehma Mahmoud, 43, and her four daughters fled Fallujah on Tuesday after her husband was killed fighting against the Americans. They walked 4 miles only to be confronted by Iraqi soldiers who insulted and harassed them, grabbing at Mahmoud's oldest daughter.

"He grabbed Fatima's hand and tried to kiss her. I was trying to stop him with all I had," she said. "He beat me and pushed me to the ground, and his friends were laughing at us loud. He tore the right sleeve of my daughter's dress and lay her on the ground."

To Mahmoud's surprise -- because she had been told that US troops would beat and rape her -- a US patrol rescued them. An American soldier pulled the Iraqi soldier away and yelled at him.

Mahmoud's daughter, who speaks some English, told her that the American called the Iraqi names and said, "If you had really come to save the people of this city, you would not have done such a thing."

The reality of life in Fallujah was not an idyllic paradise, free from Amereican oppression. It's clear from reports like this from the Times of London that the girl in the photo may now have a more positive future, despite her present pain:

Mutilated bodies dumped on Fallujah's bombed out streets today painted a harrowing picture of eight months of rebel rule.

As US and Iraqi troops mopped up the last vestiges of resistance in the city after a week of bombardment and fighting, residents who stayed on through last week's offensive were emerging and telling harrowing tales of the brutality they endured.

Flyposters still litter the walls bearing all manner of decrees from insurgent commanders, to be heeded on pain of death.
Another poster in the ruins of the souk bears testament to the strict brand of Sunni Islam imposed by the council, fronted by hardline cleric Abdullah Junabi. The decree warns all women that they must cover up from head to toe outdoors, or face execution by the armed militants who controlled the streets.

Two female bodies found yesterday suggest such threats were far from idle. An Arab woman, in a violet nightdress, lay in a post-mortem embrace with a male corpse in the middle of the street. Both bodies had died from bullets to the head.

For individual liberty to truly take root in Iraq, the tyranny of extremists over the civilians of Iraq must end. Such liberation cannot occur without cost. I am a classical liberal when it comes to human liberty - and Thomas Jefferson's legendary dictum "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure" is an expression of pragmatic principle, not vacant idealism, so neccessary to success in the endeavour at hand.

The girl in the photo above is a patriot of Iraq. Margaret Hassan (see sidebar) is a martyr of Iraq. Both patriots and martyrs cannot be in short supply if Iraq is to become free.
Margaret Hassan's murder by foreign insurgents, widely denounced by the Iraqi people, inspires moral clarity in the Arab News, commenting, "Humanity, Islam and brotherhood � the appeal fell on deaf ears." However, for Robert Fisk, the question of who murdered her remains unanswered. Fisk, unlike the Arab News writer, cannot conceive that evil plays a role in this conflict, firmly in denial that those who oppose marauding American myrmidons might not be pure of motive.

The truth is, however, that this evil predates Islam, it is the evil against which Islam itself was founded to fight against and against which we must all (muslim or otherwise) maintain vigilant jihad.

I am honest enough to admit that my support for these policies means I share the burdden of blame for the sufferring of innocents. But those who repeatedly reserve their concern for civilian Iraqis until only after American operations begin have far worse crises of conscience than I to face in the mirror.

ADDENDUM. Juan Cole, no friend to the Bush Administration or booster of the Iraq War, comments with crystal moral clarity:

the Marines at Fallujah are operating in accordance with a UNSC Resolution and have all the legitimacy in international law that flows from that. The Allawi government asked them to undertake this Fallujah mission.

To compare them to the murderous thugs who kidnapped CARE worker Margaret Hassan, held her hostage, terrified her, and then killed her is frankly monstrous. The multinational forces are soldiers fighting a war in which they are targetting combatants and sometimes accidentally killing innocents. The hostage-takers are terrorists deliberately killing innocents. It is simply not the same thing...

...the basic idea of attacking the guerrillas holding up in that city is not in and of itself criminal or irresponsible. A significant proportion of the absolutely horrible car bombings that have killed hundreds and thousands of innocent Iraqis, especially Shiites, were planned and executed from Fallujah. There were serious and heavily armed forces in Fallujah planning out ways of killing hundreds to prevent elections from being held in January. These are mass murderers, serial murderers. If they were fighting only to defend Fallujah, that would be one thing; even the Marines would respect them for that. They aren't, or at least, a significant proportion of them aren't. They are killing civilians elsewhere in order to throw Iraq into chaos and avoid the enfranchisement of the Kurds and Shiites.

Those who seek to equate the mission of the Marines who liberated Fallujah and the Islamist thugs who tyrannized the city and all of Iraq beyond, are the same ones who breathlessly invoke the Lancet study purporting 100,000 civilian deaths because of the US occupation, having been utterly silent during the genocide against the Shi'a during Saddam's rule. To them, I have nothing to say. Their agenda is quite clear, and it has nothing to do with true compassion for the citizens of Iraq.

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