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November 1, 2004 (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

The interim president of Iraq, Ghazi al-Yawar, is reported to have said he totally disagrees with plans by the US-led coalition to launch a full-scale attack on the Iraqi city of Fallujah. . . . He likened it to shooting a horse in the head to kill a fly that had landed on it.

Tony Kevin, a former Australian diplomat, is a visiting fellow at the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, Canberra.

. . . Falluja is now to be brought to heel by overwhelming military power. As I write this, the US attack on the city has begun. The message to Falluja from the US armed forces in Iraq and from Allawi was brutally simple: submit now to Baghdad’s authority or face attack. . . .

What I believe is then likely to be done to Falluja will be a war crime and crime against humanity, morally indefensible by any civilised standard or for that matter, by the Statute of the International Criminal Court (to which, conveniently, neither the US nor Iraqi Government adheres).

This will be no neat, surgical strike. To get the measure of this, think of the Warsaw rising in 1944, or the Russian Army’s destruction of the Chechen capital, Grozny. In 1999 this already battered city (of originally 400,000 people) was finally destroyed by massive Russian bombardment. Today, insurgents still fight it out with Russian troops among the ruins.

Eighteen months ago, before the US-led invasion of Iraq, Falluja was a living city of 300,000 people. Now – depopulated of most of its civilians by intimidation and fear – what is left looks like it is about to be blasted out of existence, simply as a demonstration of overwhelming US
power in Iraq. . . .

The truth is that this city, which has become a symbol of Sunni-Iraqi political resistance to the occupiers, is to be made an example of, to deter others. The message the siege of Falluja sends is brutally simple: resist us and we will destroy you. It is the same message that the Wehrmacht sent in Warsaw in 1944, and the Russian Army in Grozny in 1999.

This attack will also violate the rules of war and the Geneva conventions in having grossly indiscriminate effects on civilians and civilian homes and infrastructure. . . .

Eventually, the attackers will flatten the city and kill everyone that still resists in it. Falluja will be the Iraqi people’s Masada, and it will sow seeds of deep anti-Western hatred in the Middle East for decades to come.

The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, understands all this, in pleading for a negotiated solution. And as usual, Washington is summarily ignoring his pleas. . . .

An unnamed US military commander in the tightening military ring around Falluja proudly boasted (as heard on ABC Radio yesterday) that this battle will go down in US military history as another Hue. Indeed it will – who can forget the wholesale artillery destruction of that sacred, historic Vietnamese city? “We had to destroy it in order to save it” was the line at the time. . . .