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[casi-analysis] Falluja: Down the memory hole

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Since November, the New York Times[1], Washington Post[2], Los Angeles Times[3],
and the Guardian[4] have all published reports from Falluja, Iraq, examining the
motivations of anti-Coalition violence there. All the reports omitted
significant causative background, and it's depressing to see journalism wherein
recent history is so strenuously, and consistently, ignored.

The rancor goes back a decade.  On February 14, 1991, an RAF Tornado bombed
Falluja's shopping area, killing perhaps 200 civilians and wounding hundreds
more. Britain "very much regretted" the losses[5].  As CASI's Felicity Arbuthnot
wrote of her pre-war experiences in the town[6,7]: "To visit Fallujah is to be
shamed - and stoned. The only place in Iraq I have ever experienced hostility.
It is a hostility easy to understand. A tour of the re-established market - or
anywhere else, reveals traders with amputated limbs who survived the attack -
and not a person, seemingly, who has not lost one or more of their family."

More recently:
- On April 28, 2003, U.S. troops used excessive force against demonstrators near
a school in Falluja.  Most sources report 13 or more civilian deaths in the
confrontation.   The protesters likely posed no threat, and American actions
have been criticized by both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. HRW's
findings were based on ballistic evidence gathered at the scene.[8,9]

- American troops engaged Fallujan police on Sep. 12 in a confused firefight,
and U.S. forces killed eight police officers at a checkpoint.  An American
statement later said, "We deeply regret this incident".[10]

- Witnesses said six civilians traveling to work in a minivan were killed on
Oct. 27 when U.S. soldiers sprayed the street with bullets after a bomb exploded
near their convoy.[2]

- Iraq Body Count's database lists many additional incidents near Falluja.[11]

Of the newspapers above, the NYTimes mentions only the school incident (and that
in passing).  The Post report (lengthiest and perhaps the best) notes the school
and van tragedies (though deep in the story).  The LATimes includes annecdotes
only, as does the Guardian.

Fear and frustration are felt on both sides, as the violence cycles.  Attacks on
occupation forces include the downing of a Chinook that killed 16.
Reconstruction faces frustration of a different sort.  One annecdote: "Military
engineers recently cleared garbage from a field in Fallujah, resurfaced it with
dirt and put up goal posts to create an instant soccer field. A day later, the
goal posts were stolen and all the dirt had been scraped from the field.  A
Captain from the 490th Civil Affairs Battalion wondered, 'Is this animosity,
crime or both? What kind of people loot dirt?'"

This criticism isn't directed at frontline reporters making the dangerous trip
to Falluja (and who aren't, after all, traveling with Google and a research
staff).  But back at the home office, there are editors within walking distance
of the archives.  These editors consistently fail to provide historical balance
and detail to stories that cried out for both.

Ironically, reporter Tracy Wilkinson of the LATimes visited Falluja safely [3]
only to be wounded in the Baghdad restaurant terror blast last week.

Drew Hamre
Golden Valley, MN USA

November 4, 2003
In Die-Hard City, G.I.'s Are Enemy

'The Battlefield for All Iraq'
Intense Resistance Mounted in Fallujah
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Vernon Loeb
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, November 4, 2003; Page A01

In Sunni Bastion, They Are Ready for a Fight
Even with Hussein in custody, anti-American sentiment fuels Iraqi midsection's
By Tracy Wilkinson
Times Staff Writer

Yesterday's attack created jubilation in Falluja, the pro-Saddam city where
attacks on US forces are increasingly frequent and deadly
Michael Howard in Falluja Monday November 3, 2003 The Guardian

[5] HRW's report on the 1991 RAF incident

Fallujah - A Shooting Too Far?
by Felicity Arbuthnot
Samarra - Another Falluja?
by Felicity Arbuthnot

[8] HRW report on 2003 school incident
[9] Amnesty concern on 2003 school incident

[10] AP report on friendly fire police incident

[11] Compilation of Falluja entries from
Incident        Date    Time    Location        Target  Weapons Reported Minimum        
Reported Maximum        Sources
x214    11 Nov  9:00 PM entrance to Fallujah    chicken-farmer's truck; 8-year-old boy
among the dead  gunfire 5       5       REU 12 Nov
                                                                AP 12 Nov
                                                                AFP 12 Nov 
                                                                AFP 13 Nov
                                                                KR 13 Nov
x208    31 Oct  -       municipal offices, Fallujah     local resident shot by police during
protest 'when brawl broke out'  gunfire 1       1       AFP 31 Oct
                                                                AAP 01 Nov
x204    02 Nov  -       near Fallujah   11-year-old boy caught in
crossfire       gunfire 1       1       REU 03 Nov
                                                                DT(AU) 04 Nov
x202    28 Oct  -       outside power station, Fallujah -       car bomb        5       6       
AFP 28 Oct
                                                                AP 28 Oct
                                                                LAT 29 Oct
                                                                REU 28 Oct
x200    27 Oct  7:30 AM just west of Fallujah   civilian vehicles passing by during
bomb attack on US convoy        gunfire 6       6       NYT 29 Oct
                                                                OBS 09 Nov
x182    19 Oct  3:00 PM eastern Fallujah        -       gunfire and/or ammunition truck
explosion       1       1       AFP 19 Oct
                                                                AP 19 Oct
x181    20 Oct  -       Fallujah        Syrian truck driver and handcuffed
Iraqi   gunfire 2       2       REU 20 Oct
                                                                AP 21 Oct
x164    26 Sep  10:45 PM        eastern entrance to Fallujah    cars and a
motorbike       gunfire 4       4       GUA 28 Sep
                                                                AFP 26 Sep
                                                                AP 27 Sep
x157    17 Sep  PM      Falluja town centre     possibly wedding
celebrants      gunfire 1       1       AFP 18 Sep
                                                                REU 18 Sep
                                                                AP 23 Sep
                                                                WP 23 Sep
x150    12 Sep  PM      residential compound, outskirts of Fallujah     3-year-old
bystander       gunfire 1       1       Times 15 Sep
                                                                REU 13 Sep
x149    11 Sep  PM      US checkpoint outside Fallujah  occupants of
car     gunfire 2       2       ABC[AU] 13 Sep
                                                                AFP 12 Sep
x148    10 Sep  PM      near Fallujah   Iraqi policeman hit in US troops' reaction to
explosion       gunfire 1       1       DTA 11 Sep
                                                                AFP 10 Sep
x129    03 Aug  AM      near Fallujah   car     gunfire 1       1       AFP 03 Aug
                                                                NZH 04 Aug
x110    29 Jun  PM      near Fallujah   US army vehicle rocket-propelled
grenade 1       1       SMH 07 July
                                                                MHS 08 July
x105    30 Jun  PM      Al-Hassan mosque complex, Falluja       -       explosion       7       10  
    KR 01 July
                                                                MEO 02 July
                                                                AFP 02 July
                                                                REU 03 July
                                                                LAT 04 July
x101    29 Jun  late PM near Fallujah   -       collision with US armoured personnel
carrier 3       3       CNN 30 June
                                                                AP 30 June
x091    08 Jun  -       Fallujah        gun-shop owner cleaning rifle mistaken for an
assailant       gunfire 1       1       CNA 09 June
                                                                GDN 09 June
                                                                AFP 09 June
x080    21 May  PM      Fallujah        -       tank rounds     2       2       AP 22 May
                                                                REU 22 May
x069    30 Apr  10:30 AM        Fallujah, 50km west of
Baghdad demonstrators   gunfire 2       3       GUA 30 Apr
Photos...                                                               IND 01 May
                                                                AFP 30 Apr
                                                                DM 01 May
x066    28 Apr  10:30PM +       outside school in Fallujah, 50 km west of
Baghdad demonstrators, including pre-teen children      gunfire 13      15      CNN 29 Apr
Details...                                                              PBS 29 Apr
                                                                AFP 29 Apr
                                                                REU 29 Apr

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