Per fallujah alive
Michael Schwartz on America’s Fallujan dystopia
"...With a few notable exceptions the media has accepted the recent virtual news blackout in Falluja. The ongoing fighting in the city, especially in "cleared" neighborhoods, is proving an embarrassment and so, while military spokesmen continue to announce American casualties, they now come not from the city itself but, far more vaguely, from "al Anbar province" of which the city is a part.
Intrepid independent and foreign reporters are doing a better job (most notably Dahr Jamail, whose dispatches are indispensable), but even they have been handicapped by lack of access to the city itself. [Dahr Jamail’s Iraq Dispatches
News From Inside Iraq http://dahrjamailiraq.com/]
...A report by Katarina Kratovac of the Associated Press (picked by the Washington Post) about military plans for managing Falluja once it is pacified (if it ever is) proved a notable exception to the arid coverage in the major media. Kratovac based her piece on briefings by the military leadership, notably Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, commander of the Marines in Iraq. By combining her evidence with some resourceful reporting by Dahr Jamail (and bits and pieces of information from reports printed up elsewhere), a reasonably sharp vision of the conditions the U.S. is planning for Falluja’s "liberated" residents comes into focus. When they are finally allowed to return, if all goes as the Americans imagine, here’s what the city’s residents may face:
* Entry and exit from the city will be restricted. According to General Sattler, only five roads into the city will remain open. The rest will be blocked by "sand berms" — read, mountains of earth that will make them impassible. Checkpoints will be established at each of the five entry points, manned by U.S. troops, and everyone entering will be "photographed, fingerprinted and have iris scans taken before being issued ID cards." Though Sattler reassured American reporters that the process would only take 10 minutes, the implication is that entry and exit from the city will depend solely on valid ID cards properly proffered, a system akin to the pass-card system used during the apartheid era in South Africa.
* Fallujans are to wear their universal identity cards in plain sight at all times. The ID cards will, according to Dahr Jamail’s information, be made into badges that contain the individual’s home address. This sort of system has no purpose except to allow for the monitoring of everyone in the city, so that ongoing American patrols can quickly determine if someone is not a registered citizen or is suspiciously far from their home neighborhood.
* No private automobiles will be allowed inside the city. This is a "precaution against car bombs," which Sattler called "the deadliest weapons in the insurgent arsenal." As a district is opened to repopulation, the returning residents will be forced to park their cars outside the city and will be bused to their homes. How they will get around afterwards has not been announced. How they will transport reconstruction materials to rebuild their devastated property is also a mystery.
* Only those Fallujans cleared through American intelligence vettings will be allowed to work on the reconstruction of the city. Since Falluja is currently devastated and almost all employment will, at least temporarily, derive from whatever reconstruction aid the U.S. provides, this means that the Americans plan to retain a life-and-death grip on the city. Only those deemed by them to be non-insurgents (based on notoriously faulty American intelligence) will be able to support themselves or their families.
* Those engaged in reconstruction work — that is, work — in the city may be organized into "work brigades." The best information indicates that these will be military-style battalions commanded by the American or Iraqi armed forces. Here, as in other parts of the plan, the motive is clearly to maintain strict surveillance over males of military age, all of whom will be considered potential insurgents.
In case the overarching meaning of all this has eluded you, Major Francis Piccoli, a spokesman for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, which is leading the occupation of Falluja, spelled it out for the AP’s Kratovac: "Some may see this as a ’Big Brother is watching over you’ experiment, but in reality it’s a simple security measure to keep the insurgents from coming back." Actually, it is undoubtedly meant to be both; and since, in the end, it is likely to fail (at least, if the "success" of other American plans in Iraq is taken as precedent), it may prove less revealing of Falluja’s actual future than of the failure of the American counterinsurgency effort in Iraq and of the desperation of American strategists. In this context, the most revealing element of the plan may be the banning of all cars, the enforcement of which, all by itself, would make the city unlivable; and which therefore demonstrates both the impracticality of the U.S. vision and a callous disregard for the needs and rights of the Fallujans.
These dystopian plans are a direct consequence of the fact that the conquest of Falluja, despite the destruction of the city, visibly did not accomplish its primary goal: "[To] wipe out militants and insurgents and break the back of guerrillas in Falluja."
...Like a mental hospital or a prison, Falluja, at least as reimagined by the Americans, will be a place where constant surveillance equals daily life and the capacity to interdict "suspicious" behavior (however defined) is the norm. But "total institution" might be too sanitized a term to describe activities which so clearly violate international law as well as fundamental morality. Those looking for a descriptor with more emotional bite might consider one of those used by correspondent Pepe Escobar of the Asia Times: either "American gulag" for those who enjoy Stalinist imagery or "concentration camp" for those who prefer the Nazi version of the same. But maybe we should just call it a plain old police (city-)state.
Where will such plans lead? Well, for one thing, we can confidently predict that nothing we might recognize as an election will take place in Falluja at the end of January. (Remember, it was to liberate Fallujans from the grip of "terrorists" and to pave the way for electoral free choice that the Bush administration claimed it was taking the city in the first place.)...
The Falluja police-state strategy represents a sign of weakness, not strength. The new Falluja imagined by American planners is a desperate, ad hoc response to the failure of the battle to "break the back of the guerrillas." Like the initial attack on the city, it too is doomed to failure, though it has the perverse "promise" of deepening the suffering of the Iraqis."