By Clive Bradley
"There is a man, face down, in a white dishdash, a small round red stain on his back... 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. There is no 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... No one had dared come to get his body, horrified, terrified, forced to violate the traditions of treating the body immediately... He was unarmed, 55 years old, shot in the back." (From a report by Jo Wilding from inside the city of Fallujah, 13 April 2004 - describing the victim of an American sniper.)
Between 600 and 700 have been killed in the ferocious fighting in Fallujah, after US forces decided to go into the city following the murder of contract security guards by insurgents. At the time of writing, a negotiated settlement seems possible. To the south, around Najaf, negotiations continue between the occupation and the "Army of the Mahdi" of radical Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
"The Fallujah problem and the Sadr problem are having a wider impact than we expected," an American official in Baghdad told The Washington Post (17 April). Addressing "these problems", they thought, would not have much effect on the majority of Iraqis. Instead, he commented, "the effect has been profound."
It seems reasonably certain that the US took a decision deliberately to provoke al-Sadr. Similarly, in Fallujah and the surrounding area, there was a decision to "get tough". Their intention was to crush, or marginalize, the most serious actual or potential armed opposition in time for the planned dissolution of the occupation government at the end of June. Iraq is swamped with militias: al-Sadr's is by no means the only one (indeed, the militia of SCIRI, which is part of the Interim Governing Council, has been used to police public events), but it was one the USA most wanted to see disbanded.
They were playing with fire. We condemn the actions of the occupation forces, their massacres of hundreds of civilians. they must not be allowed to get away with repeating such massacres.
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