- Fearful residents are now pouring out
of Ramadi after the US military has been assaulting the city for months
with tactics like cutting water, electricity and medical aid, imposing
curfews, and attacking by means of snipers and random air strikes. This
time, Iraqis there are right to fear the worst - an all out attack on the
city, similar to what was done to nearby Fallujah.
- It has always been just a matter of time
before the US military would finally get around to destroying Ramadi, the
capital city of al-Anbar province. After all, Ramadi is not far from Fallujah,
and so similar to Fallujah both tribally and in their disdain towards the
idea of being occupied, that many people in Ramadi even refer to Fallujah
as "Ramadi." I know many people from Ramadi who lost relatives
and friends during both US assaults on Fallujah, and the level of anti-American
sentiment has always been high there.
- By now, we all know the scene when the
US military in Iraq decides to attack an entire city ... we've seen this
standard operating procedure repeated, to one degree or another, in Haditha,
Al-Qa'im, Samarra, parts of Baghdad, Balad, Najaf and Fallujah twice ...
so far. The city is sealed for weeks if not months, water and electricity
are cut, medical aid is cut, curfews imposed, mobility impaired, air strikes
utilized, then the real attack begins. Now in Ramadi, the real attack has
- Warplanes are streaking the sky as bombings
increase, loudspeakers aimed into the city warn civilians of a "fierce
impending attack," (even though it has already begun), and thousands
of families remain trapped in their homes, just like in Fallujah during
both attacks on that city. Again, many who remain in the city cannot afford
to leave because they are so poor, or they lack transportation, or they
want to guard their home because it is all they have left.
- Sheikh Fassal Guood, a former governor
of al-Anbar said of the situation, "The situation is catastrophic.
No services, no electricity, no water." He also said, "We know
for sure now that Americans and Iraqi commanders have decided to launch
a broad offensive any time now, but they should have consulted with us."
- Today, a man who lives in Fallujah and
who recently visited Ramadi told me, "Any new government starts with
a massacre. That seems like the price that we Iraqis must pay, especially
in the Sunni areas. Ramadi has been deprived of water, electricity, telephones
and all services for about two months now. US and government forces frankly
told people of Ramadi that they will not get any services unless they hand
over 'the terrorists!!' Operations started last week, but it seems that
the Marines are facing some problems in a city that is a lot bigger in
area than Fallujah. (Ramadi also has at least 50,000 more residents than
Fallujah.) Killing civilians is almost a daily process done by snipers
and soldiers in US armored vehicles. The problem that makes it even more
difficult for the Ramadi people than for those of Fallujah back in 2004
is that they cannot flee to Baghdad, because there they'll face the government
militia assassinations. Nevertheless, the US Army is telling them to evacuate
the city. On the other hand, the government and the US Army made it clear
that they will bring militias to participate in the wide attack against
the city. The UN and the whole world are silent as usual, and nobody seems
to care what is going to happen in Ramadi."
- Thus, the stage was set and now Iraqis
brace themselves for yet another staggeringly high civilian body count
in Ramadi. This, amidst recent news from the Department of Defense that
over $19 million has been paid out in compensation by the US military in
Iraq to families who have had loved ones killed by US troops. The average
payout is $2,500 per body, and nearly half of the $19 million was paid
out in the province of al-Anbar. Reflective of the drastically increased
levels of violence in Iraq, the total amount of compensation payouts for
2005 is nearly four times what it was the previous year.
- The fact that the 1,500 US troops who
were recently brought into Iraq, specifically to Ramadi, went unreported
by most, if not all, corporate media outlets didn't come as a surprise
to the residents of Ramadi, however, as street battles between troops and
resistance fighters have been raging for months now.
- The media blackout on Ramadi is already
rivaling the blackout on the draconian measures employed by the military
during the November 2004 siege of Fallujah, if not surpassing it. Thus
far, the military have remained reluctant to allow even embedded reporters
to travel with them in Ramadi. With each passing US assault on an Iraqi
city, the media blackout grows darker - and with Ramadi, it is the darkest
- Most of what we have, aside from sporadic
reports from sources inside the besieged city, is propaganda from the US
military spokesman in Baghdad, Major Todd Breasseale, who only spoke of
moving the newly arrived 1,500 troops in from Kuwait into positions around
Ramadi. "Moving this force will allow tribal leaders and government
officials to go about the very difficult task of taking back their towns
from the criminal elements."
- Similar to Fallujah, thousands of frightened
residents of Ramadi are fleeing the city, then being turned away from entering
Baghdad. With no tents, food, or aid of any kind being provided to them
by the military, which is a war crime, they are left with nothing but what
they carry and no place to go. These refugees are now adding to the horrific
statistic of over 100,000 displaced families within Iraq, the majority
of whom are so as the result of massive US military operations which have
a tendency to make entire cities unlivable.
- Reports from sources within Ramadi for
weeks now have been that US soldiers have been inhabiting people's homes
in order to use their rooftops as sniper platforms, innocent people are
being shot daily, and people are confused - do they risk leaving and having
nowhere to go, or risk staying in their homes and possibly being killed?
- Hassan Zaidan Lahaibi, a member of the
Council of Representatives in the Iraqi parliament, told reporters recently,
"If things continue, we will have a humanitarian crisis. People are
getting killed or wounded, and the rest are just migrating aimlessly."
- He could just as easily be describing
much of the rest of Iraq, where the majority of people struggle to survive
under the weight of an increasingly brutal occupation, US-backed death
squads, sectarian militias, staggering unemployment and a devastated infrastructure.
- (c)2004, 2005 Dahr Jamail.
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