Tuesday, November 16, 2004

No civilian casualties?

The US is claiming that there have been no civilian casualties from their massacre in Fallujah. They've been able to do this because almost all journalists are embedded and subject to military censorship, and because they have specifically targeted hospitals and medical clinics as "propaganda centers" to be captured (propaganda in this case being any report of civilian deaths or injuries). Fortunately, not all journalists were under US control; an AP photographer was staying with his family in the city. He recounts the story of his escape:

In the hours and days that followed, heavy bombing raids and thunderous artillery shelling turned Hussein's northern Jolan neighborhood into a zone of rubble and death. The walls of his house were pockmarked by coalition fire.

"Destruction was everywhere. I saw people lying dead in the streets, wounded were bleeding and there was no one to come and help them. Even the civilians who stayed in Fallujah were too afraid to go out," he said.


Hussein moved from house to house - dodging gunfire - and reached the river.

"I decided to swim ... but I changed my mind after seeing U.S. helicopters firing on and killing people who tried to cross the river."

He watched horrified as a family of five was shot dead as they tried to cross. Then, he "helped bury a man by the river bank, with my own hands."

"I kept walking along the river for two hours and I could still see some U.S. snipers ready to shoot anyone who might swim. I quit the idea of crossing the river and walked for about five hours through orchards."

How will the US explain away these civilian deaths? Their answer is simple. Any male of "military age" is an insurgent. Any female or old man is probably an insurgent. And children are potential insurgents ("nits make lice" redux). In other words, they deny that there are civilian casualties by denying that there is any such thing as a civilian. There's a name for people who refuse to make any distinction between soldiers and civilians: "terrorists". But isn't that what the US is supposed to be fighting against?