-- - Now receded into distant memory for many, the
battle for the Iraqi city of Fallujah, accompanied by
the al Sadr uprising in the south, was a decisive
turning point in the Iraq occupation. These battles
demonstrated to much of the world that the occupation
was deeply unpopular among many Iraqis, who were willing
and able to fight the occupation to a stalemate. These
battles both ended in standoffs, as the U.S. forces felt
constrained from unleashing their full military
capabilities to crush the resistance. New insights into
the thinking of the U.S. military are available from a
U.S. army intelligence analysis -- by the Army's
Intelligence Center -- of the first Fallujah
Environments: Battle of Fallujah I, April 2004
that was leaked this week on the Wikileaks web
battle for Fallujah (the second, in November 2004,
resulted in the city's capture by occupation forces)
began when images circulated of four contractors being
lynched from a bridge in the city. This new document
confirms that the attack on Fallujah was designed to
crush a symbol of resistance to the U.S. occupation of
"On 31 March
2004, four American Blackwater contractors were killed
and images of their bodies being burned and mutilated
were broadcast on television around the world. Secretary
of Defense Rumsfeld, CENTCOM Commander GEN Abizaid, and
Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) Ambassador Bremer
decided a military response was needed immediately.
Fallujah had become a symbol of resistance that
dominated international headlines."
As befits a
symbolic battle, the analysis makes clear that the
information war was primary. The failure of the Marines'
attack to retake Fallujah was caused, the authors claim,
by resistance ("insurgents" in their lingo) forces'
success in getting their message out to the world.
demonstrated a keen understanding of the value of
information operations. IO was one of the insurgents'
most effective levers to raise political pressure for a
cease-fire. They fed disinformation [sic] to television
networks, posted propaganda on the Internet to recruit
volunteers and solicit financial donations, and spread
rumors through the street."
echo's the concern of American leaders about the
influence of Al Jazeera and other Arab media at
conveying the rebel's side of the story:
satellite news channels were crucial to building
political pressure to halt military operations. For
example, CPA documented 34 stories on Al Jazeera that
misreported or distorted battlefield events between 6
and 13 April. Between 14 and 20 April, Al Jazeera used
the "excessive force" theme 11 times and allowed various
anti-Coalition factions to claim that U.S. forces were
using cluster bombs against urban areas and kidnapping
and torturing Iraqi children. Six negative reports by
al-Arabiyah focused almost exclusively on the excessive
force theme. Overall, the qualitative content of
negative reports increasingly was shrill in tone, and
both TV stations appeared willing to take even the most
baseless claims as fact.
first week of April, insurgents invited a reporter from
Al Jazeera, Ahmed Mansour, and his film crew into
Fallujah where they filmed scenes of dead babies from
the hospital, presumably killed by Coalition air
strikes. Comparisons were made to the Palestinian
Intifada. Children were shown bespattered with blood;
mothers were shown screaming and mourning."
also makes clear that, in the military's opinion, the
Western press is part of the U.S.'s propaganda
operation. This process was facilitated by the embedding
of Western reporters in U.S. military units. The U.S.
failure in this battle was largely attributable, the
authors claim, to the absence of embedded reporters to
convey the military's story.
of Western media in Fallujah allowed the insurgents
greater control of information coming out of Fallujah.
Because Western reporters were at risk of capture and
beheading, they stayed out and were forced to pool video
shot by Arab cameramen and played on Al Jazeera. This
led to further reinforcement of anti-Coalition
propaganda. For example, false allegations of up to 600
dead and 1000 wounded civilians could not be countered
by Western reporters because they did not have access to
reporters were also not embedded in Marine units
fighting in Fallujah. In the absence of countervailing
visual evidence presented by military authorities, Al
Jazeera shaped the world's understanding of Fallujah."
however, is false. There were at least two "Western
reporters," as well as other Western civilians, inside
Fallujah giving detailed information on the effects of
the fighting on civilians. While briefly detained by
rebels, they were quickly released, rather than
beheaded. The report ignores these reporters as they
were independents, neither embedded with the U.S.
military nor bound by the implicit rules of the
mainstream media to give special consideration to U.S.
military claims and perspectives. Further, the accounts
of these reporters and observers contradicted American
at that time a reporter for the now defunct New
Standard, felt obligated to
go into the besieged
"As I was
there, an endless stream of women and children who'd
been sniped by the Americans were being raced into the
dirty clinic, the cars speeding over the curb out front
as their wailing family members carried them in.
and small child had been shot through the neck -- the
woman was making breathy gurgling noises as the doctors
frantically worked on her amongst her muffled moaning.
child, his eyes glazed and staring into space,
continually vomited as the doctors raced to save his
minutes, it appeared as though neither of them would
the army report's claim that no cluster bombs were used
in the attack, Jamail saw wounds suspiciously like those
from that weapon:
been reports of this, as two of the last victims that
arrived at the clinic were reported by the locals to
have been hit by cluster bombs -- they were horribly
burned and their bodies shredded."
these nonexistent Western reporters was Rahul Mahajan,
who wrote for various alternative news sites, as well as
Fallujah on April 11, 2003. Since Mahajan was
in the same group with Jamail, it is perhaps not
surprising that he also reported extensive civilian
course of the roughly four hours we were at that small
clinic, we saw perhaps a dozen wounded brought in. Among
them was a young woman, 18 years old, shot in the head.
She was having a seizure and foaming at the mouth when
they brought here in; doctors did not expect her to
survive the night. Another likely terminal case was a
young boy with massive internal bleeding. I also saw a
man with extensive burns on his upper body and wounds in
his thighs that might have been from a cluster bomb;
there was no way to verify in the madhouse scene of
wailing relatives, shouts of 'Allahu Akbar' (God is
great), and anger at the Americans."
intelligence report claims that "Red Crescent ambulances
transported fighters" yet does not discus how this
alleged situation was dealt with by the U.S. troops.
Mahajan, like other Westerners in the city, provides
elucidation of this gap by reporting that the Americans
were firing on ambulances, including ones containing
"I had heard
these claims at third-hand before coming into Fallujah,
but was skeptical. It's very difficult to find the real
story here. But this I saw for myself. An ambulance with
two neat, precise bullet-holes in the windshield on the
driver's side, pointing down at an angle that indicated
they would have hit the driver's chest (the snipers were
on rooftops, and are trained to aim for the chest).
Another ambulance again with a single, neat bullet-hole
in the windshield. There's no way this was due to
panicked spraying of fire. These were deliberate shots
to kill people driving the ambulances.
"The ambulances go around with red, blue, or green
lights flashing and sirens blaring; in the pitch-dark of
a blacked-out city there is no way they can be missed or
mistaken for something else). An ambulance that some of
our compatriots were going around in, trading on their
whiteness to get the snipers to let them through to pick
up the wounded was also shot at while we were there."
Jo Wilding, a
British observer also among the Westerners in Fallujah,
was in one of the ambulances fired upon, on a trip to
pick up a pregnant woman and transport her to the
hospital. She and the ambulance staff hoped that the
presence of Westerners would help protect from American
attack. They were wrong:
driving, Ahmed in the middle directing him and me by the
window, the visible foreigner, the passport. Something
scatters across my hand, simultaneous with the crashing
of a bullet through the ambulance, some plastic part
dislodged, flying through the window.
turn off the siren, keep the blue light flashing, wait,
eyes on the silhouettes of men in US marine uniforms on
the corners of the buildings. Several shots come. We
duck, get as low as possible and I can see tiny red
lights whipping past the window, past my head. Some,
it's hard to tell, are hitting the ambulance I start
singing. What else do you do when someone's shooting at
you? A tyre bursts with an enormous noise and a jerk of
outraged. We're trying to get to a woman who's giving
birth without any medical attention, without
electricity, in a city under siege, in a clearly marked
ambulance, and you're shooting at us. How dare you?"
Even back in
Baghdad, Mahajan and Jamail were the only Western
reporters who attended a
press conference of
the Iraqi Minister of Health, who confirmed
that the Americans had fired upon ambulances in Fallujah
(and also in Sadr City in Baghdad):
questions, when asked about shooting at ambulances,
Abbas confirmed that U.S. forces shot at ambulances, not
only in Fallujah and the approaches to Fallujah, but
also in Sadr City. He agreed that the acts were criminal
and said he has asked the IGC ([Interim] Governing
Council) and Bremer [U.S. governor of occupied Iraq] for
Fallujah, Jo Wilding also saw civilians fired upon by
U.S. troops, illustrating the "Coalition's concern for
collateral damage" that the intelligence analysis refers
man, face down, in a white dishdasha, a small round red
stain on his back. We run to him. Again the flies [h]ave
got there first. Dave is at his shoulders, I'm by his
knees and as we reach to roll him onto the stretcher
Dave's hand goes through his chest, through the cavity
left by the bullet that entered so neatly through his
back and blew his heart out.
weapon in his hand. Only when we arrive, his sons come
out, crying, shouting. He was unarmed, they scream. He
was unarmed. He just went out the gate and they shot
him. None of them have dared come out since. No one had
dared come to get his body, horrified, terrified, forced
to violate the traditions of treating the body
immediately. They couldn't have known we were coming so
it's inconceivable tat anyone came out and retrieved a
weapon but left the body.
unarmed, 55 years old, shot in the back."
to the issue of "collateral damage" is the way in which
the U.S. forces divided civilians into potential
"insurgents" -- all males considered to be of "military
age" -- and all others. The others were allowed to leave
the city or areas of active combat ("Throughout the
fight Coalition forces allowed nonmilitary-age men,
women, and children to exit through the cordon"), but
males considered to be of fighting age -- many tens of
thousands in a city of perhaps 250,000 population --
were not allowed to leave and were thus subject to being
shot, as was the man described above by Wilding, upon
the least suspicion. Wilding describes the
implementation of this policy as a group of volunteers
attempted to evacuate civilians before a planned
to be going through soon clearing the houses,' the
senior one says.
that mean, clearing the houses?'
every one searching for weapons.' He's checking his
watch, can't tell me what will start when, of course,
but there's going to be air strikes in support. 'If
you're going to do t[h]is [evacuate] you gotta do it
seem to pour out of the houses now in the hope we can
escort them safely out of the line of fire, kids, women,
men, anxiously asking us whether they can all go, or
only the women and children. We go to ask. The young
marine tells us that men of fighting age can't leave.
What's fighting age, I want to know. He contemplates.
Anything under forty five. No lower limit."
forcing tens of thousands of mostly noncombatant
civilians to stay in a war zone under siege is obviously
not putting the reduction of civilian casualties
(reduction of "collateral damage") high on its list of
priorities. Not surprisingly, an
analysis by Iraq
Body Count concluded that almost 600
("between 572 and 616 of the approximately 800 reported
deaths") civilians were among the dead in Fallujah.
intelligence report also contains chilling phrases that,
while subject to multiple interpretations, suggest both
the difficulties of fighting a guerilla resistance in a
city and the possibility of horrifying actions. Thus, in
describing the structure of homes in Falluja, the report
also are all made of brick with a thick covering of
mortar overtop. In almost every house a fragmentation
grenade can be used without fragments coming through the
walls. Each room can be fragged individually."
striking that, for all its emphasis on claims that U.S.
troops followed the "Laws of War" in the battle,
avoiding, they claim, extensive "collateral damage"
(i.e., civilian casualties) there is no discussion of
any strategies designed to accomplish this in the
"complex environment" of a city with tens to hundreds of
thousands of residents in place. Of course, the accounts
of Jamail, Mahajan, and Wilding suggest that the claim
that collateral damage was largely avoided is
exaggerated at best.
providing useful analyses of the nature of the Fallujah
fighting, and of the information war, this intelligence
report demonstrates yet again the difficulties that U.S.
occupation forces, including intelligence analysts, have
in coming to terms with the nature of nationalist
opposition to occupation. While it contains interesting
discussions of the organization of the Fallujah
resistance, including their decentralized command and
control structures which were hard to destroy, the
authors cannot resist repeating the Marine attackers
description of the resistance fighters as " an "evil
Rotary club" rather than a military organization."
also illustrates American blinders in analyzing the
political context of the Fallujah battle. The report
does refer to the growing opposition to the assault
among the Iraqi Governing Council, a group of Iraqi
officials hand-picked by the United States:
Governing Council began to unravel. Three members quit
and 5 others threatened to quit.... The Sunni
politicians considered the operation 'collective
intelligence analysis, however, doesn't mention the
extreme unpopularity, at the time of the Fallujah
battle, of the occupation among many Iraqis as part of
the context that hampered the U.S. in its assault. For
poll of Iraqis taken in late March and early April 2004
"Only a third
of the Iraqi people now believe that the American-led
occupation of their country is doing more good than
harm, and a solid majority support an immediate military
pullout even though they fear that could put them in
whether they view the U.S.-led coalition as 'liberators'
or 'occupiers,' 71% of all respondents say 'occupiers.'
reaches 81% if the separatist, pro-U.S. Kurdish minority
in northern Iraq is not included....
"53% say they
would feel less secure without the coalition in Iraq,
but 57% say the foreign troops should leave anyway.
Those answers were given before the current showdowns in
Fallujah and Najaf between U.S. troops and guerrilla
In failing to
come to terms with the unpopularity of the occupation,
the report continues the American blindness to the
difficulties of sustaining an occupation as opposition
mounts. The report thus pays insufficient attention to
the extent to which the Fallujah population supported
the resistance fighters. Perhaps, however, the absence
of any discussion of "winning hearts and minds" is an
implicit recognition that this was an impossible goal,
and one irrelevant to the U.S. desire to crush Fallujah
as a symbol of organized opposition to occupation.
In the end,
the most surprising aspect of this leaked report is the
absence of any information or analysis in the classified
document that was not readily available in the public
domain. Its failure to deal with the real situation the
U.S. faced in Iraq during the Fallujah assault raises
the question as to why, even in a classified
intelligence analysis, the military, and perhaps the
entire U.S. government, did not analyze reality, rather
than relay propaganda. Many possible explanations can be
contemplated: a fear of the document being leaked,
military leaders and even intelligence analysts being
infected with the same propaganda being fed to the press
and the public, or systems for relaying information that
reward those who support the prevailing ideology. Most
likely is some combination of these factors. But the
result, this report illustrates, is that, as with prewar
intelligence, the intelligence during the Iraq
occupation has in many cases reinforced existing beliefs
rather than provide new insights designed to allow the
U.S. forces to adapt to the real conditions they faced.
for November Attack
provides several glimpses into the tactics used to
prepare for the later November 2004 attack in which
Fallujah was captured by the Americans at the cost of
thousands of damaged buildings, many tens of thousands
of refugees, and an unknown number of both rebel and
civilian casualties. In preparing for the November
attack, U.S. forces had more time for pre-attack
operations that clear civilians from the battlefield
offers [sic] many positive second-order effects. In
Fallujah in April 2004, IMEF [I
Marine Expeditionary Force] only had a few
days to shape the environment before engaging in
decisive combat operations. The remaining noncombatants
provided cover for insurgents, restrained CJTF-7's[Coalition
Joint Task Force 7] employment of combat
power, and provided emotional fodder for Arab media to
for the November attack, the U.S. engaged in months of
massive bombing and artillery strikes, perhaps in order
to terrorize into leaving many of the population who
were not of military age and hence allowed to leave. As
reported October 31, 2004:
and artillery pounded targets in the city amid prolonged
clashes with insurgents. A marine at a nearby US base
described the strikes as the heaviest artillery
bombardment he had heard in two months. At least a dozen
airstrikes hit a southeastern district of the Sunni
Muslim city during the afternoon, witnesses said."
"shaping operations" largely worked, as
reported on October 26, 2004:
"'Three-quarters of the people have fled to other towns
to avoid the American air strikes, especially the women
and children,' said Abdel Aziz Ibrahim, a teacher.
"Bank employee Mohammed al-Alwani said: 'Whoever looks
around Falluja now can only feel saddness. The damage is
so heavy the suburbs look like they were hit by an
to destroy Fallujah as a symbol of resistance to
occupation in April, the U.S. designed the November
attack to accomplish this goal once and for all, as the
explained on the eve of the attack:
going around now is: "Why doesn't Iraq look like
[post-World War II] Germany or Japan, which knew they
had been defeated?"' says John Pike, a military analyst
who heads Globalsecurity.org in Alexandria, Va. 'One of
the challenges we are facing now is these people don't
know they have been defeated,' he says. 'Fallujah will
be an opportunity for them to be crushed decisively and
for them to taste defeat.'"
explained by another Western analyst in the same
is: You flatten Fallujah, hold up the head of Fallujah,
and say "Do our bidding, or you're next,"' says Toby
Dodge, an Iraq analyst at the International Institute of
Strategic Studies in London."
The U.S. also
learned from its perceived failure in the information
war during the April attack, which led, in the view of
the intelligence report, to calling off the attack
before victory. In November they got many reporters,
even Iraqi reporters,
to embed with U.S. troops, so that they could act, in
the words of the intelligence report, as the propaganda
arm of U.S. forces.
success in manipulating the information war in November
was offset, however, by the U.S.'s inability to hide
from reporters and thus, from the world the country's
descent into full-scale civil war. It remains to be seen
if the relative lull in civil war currently occurring as
the various factions reevaluate the situation will allow
the U.S. greater success in the information war, if not
in the real war of occupation.
is a psychoanalyst, psychologist, public health
researcher, and faculty member at the
School of Psychoanalysis. He maintains the
Peace and Justice web site and the
Psyche, Science, and