Fallujah: Unpacking the press destroying the myths By William Bowles

12 November 2004

Western press coverage of the horror that is Fallujah has with the odd exception been nothing short of outrageous in its distortions and blatant propagandising. Even where it purports to be critical of the US in its destruction of Fallujah and its inhabitants, the sub-text continues to push the Western line of ‘foreign militants’, ‘mistakes’ and in the case of the following story, as some kind of retribution for the deaths of four US mercenaries and the beheadings by the mythical Abu al-Zarqawi.

The following report by Justin Huggler from yesterday’s Independent (11/11/04) is typical. I’ve highlighted the sections that either accept as fact the situation in Fallujah (without substantiation) or that omits background and context thus rendering the story essentially meaningless. Moreover, this ‘news’ report is anything but news, as it is full of opinion and assertions about events and their causes without an iota of support. And indeed, the story contradicts itself a number of times as you can see.

My comments are in brackets following the sections (the bold words are my emphasis).

Odds Heavily Against U.S. Counter-Attack Succeeding

By Justin Huggler

The Independent U.K.

Thursday 11 November 2004

There was something familiar in the muddy reports from Fallujah.

Just as during the invasion of Iraq last year, television pictures provided drama, but little hard information. Nobody was really sure how the American assault was going.

A city still packed with civilians has been subjected to a withering assault of United States air strikes and artillery. But outside the Arab world, international criticism of the US attack on the city was unexpectedly muted.

[The fact that censorship has effectively blocked news about the real conditions is not mentioned]. There was a sense among many observers that this latest ratcheting of Iraq’s agony had become inevitable. [Inevitable? If the information is blocked, then how are people expected to react? And the subtle racism of the comment about ‘outside the Arab world’ as if criticism from within is somehow less valid, in other words, it only means something if Europeans make a fuss.]

The Americans painted themselves into a corner. The mistakes that led to yesterday’s fighting were made long ago, in the invasion of Iraq and the woeful failure to administer the country that followed. The US could not stand by and do nothing as the country descended ever further into anarchy.

[Mistakes or policy? Once more the article leaves the reader with the impression that US strategy in Iraq is the result of some kind of ‘mistake’. Huggler compounds the misrepresentation by asserting the US were somehow ‘forced’ to destroy Fallujah and Huggler transforms resistance to the occupation into an allegation of anarchy!]

The insurgents are able to operate at will, striking where and when they please. The wave of beheadings of Westerners and Iraqis who work for the West has wrecked any vestigial hope of rebuilding the country.

[Wave? Wrecked? How does Huggler conclude that the ‘wave’ of beheadings has wrecked any chances for rebuilding Iraq? What exactly, is the connection between beheadings and anarchy? And compared to the daily destruction of life by the occupation forces, the beheadings are anything but a wave.] The last aid agencies are fleeing.

Unless the Americans were to admit defeat and leave – which they won’t, yet – they had to try to strike back at the insurgents.

[What makes Huggler think that the US have any intention of leaving? And so ‘striking back’ is what? A fit of pique? And on what basis does Huggler make the assertion that the US has to strike back and at what, the civilian population of a city of 300,000? And the continual use of the word ‘insurgent’ masks the reality of nation-wide (and growing) resistance to the occupation.]

Fallujah’s defiance has come to symbolize the insurgency, and it appears to have become a major base for foreign militants such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian al Qaeda ally who is accused of being behind many of the beheadings.

[Again, where is the evidence for Fallujah being a major base of ‘foreign insurgents’? There is not a shred of evidence to back up this claim. Furthermore, Huggler connects the beheadings to the resistance in Fallujah. Again, where is the evidence?]

But every indication is that the odds are heavily against this US counter-attack succeeding. There is no doubt the Americans have the military strength to take Fallujah, or raze it. But that is not their aim. They need to stem the insurgency, and the omens are not good.

[‘Take Fallujah’ when even the biased and censored coverage shows a city already pretty well razed. So what is their aim and how does Huggler know this is not their aim? Does it not occur to Huggler that the ‘aim’ is to make an example of Fallujah in the belief that the Iraqi people will give in and surrender to being occupied?]

But the Americans have more fundamental problems. The truth is they don’t know how many insurgents there are, who they are or where they are. If they did they could launch more pinpoint attacks. They are mounting a full-scale assault that risks massive civilian casualties which would only turn Iraq against them more completely than ever.

[How Huggler squares this paragraph with his earlier (unsubstantiated} comments about Fallujah being a “major base for foreign militants’ such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi” is not explained nor the reality (rather than the ‘risk’ as Huggler puts it) of the wholesale loss of life. And is Huggler saying that the US would actually use ‘pinpoint’ attacks because it wants to minimise ‘collateral damage’ even as it seeks ‘retribution’?]

The Americans have made much of Zarqawi, but all the signs are that he is really only one among many insurgent leaders. The Americans have not even named another.

[Again, the assumption is that resistance to foreign occupation can only come from ‘foreign militants’. Moreover, on what does Huggler base his claim that Zarqawi is a leader? The only ‘evidence’ we have are some fuzzy videos and endless claims by the US and the British. It is just as likely, based on the complete lack of concrete evidence that ‘al-Zarqawi’ is a Western invention if not an actual ‘asset’.]

The assumption that Fallujah is a city of Iraqis under the control of foreign militants is wrong. There may be foreign militants there, but they are allied with Iraqi insurgents.

[Now we have Huggler telling us that there ‘may be foreign militants’ and rather than it actually being a ‘major base’, Huggler now tells us that it is an assumption as opposed to Fallujah being a ‘major base’.]

Fallujah is a microcosm of the problem the US has created in Iraq. The invasion has blurred the lines between the Islamic extremist movement – the likes of Zarqawi – and Iraqi nationalists protecting their land from foreign occupation. The “war on terror” has become hopelessly blurred with nationalist resistance against occupation.

[Blurred the line? The only ‘blurred line’ is the one that has been drawn by Huggler. and how does Huggler come to the conclusion that some kind of line has been blurred between the ‘war on terror’ and the war on the Iraqi people?]

The chances are that most foreign militants will slip out of Fallujah and the Americans will find themselves fighting local Iraqis trying to defend their city. If the Americans were to strike it spectacularly lucky, they might kill or capture Zarqawi and other foreign militants, and manage to avoid inflicting heavy casualties. But the odds are against it. The likes of Zarqawi are probably long gone.

[The myopia is staggering! Huggler of course, assumes that the Americans have not been fighting an Iraqi resistance from the get-go. Conveniently, the ‘foreign militants’ will ‘slip away’ and after dropping 2000 lb bombs on the city the miracle will be if only a few civilians are murdered.]

Or the Americans may have another aim in mind: To respond to the nightmare videos of Westerners being beheaded in kind. They may feel “putting Fallujah to the torch”, as it has been described in the American press, will put the insurgents on notice that they can expect horror in exchange for horror.

[What are we to make of this comment? What of the nightmare onslaught on Fallujah Justin Huggler? Is Huggler saying that the destruction of an entire city and its inhabitants is equivilent to the deaths of four Americans? Is it some kind of admission that the US may have some other objective than the one they put out? So the destruction of Fallujah is to punish hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and destroy their city in retribution for the deaths of four US mercenaries (never mind that Huggler refuses to identify the four dead Americans as mercenaries)? I might add that the corporate press in many of its stories about the then impending invasion of Fallujah made sure to include the fact that four US nationals died in Fallujah. Coincidence?]

I plucked this story pretty well at random from the slew of stories that allegedly inform the reader of the situation in Fallujah. There is something deeply obscene about the sub-text of this story, that in all likelihood the writer is not even aware of. But then self-deception is the starting point for self-censorship let alone the intervention of the dead hand of the editorial staff.

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