The Unending Punishment of Fallujah, Iraq

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported last week that the residents of the Iraqi town of Fallujah are starving due to a siege imposed by the U.S.-backed Iraqi government which has intentionally cut off all supply routes and is not allowing anyone or anything (including food or medicine) into the town. Meanwhile, ISIS fighters are not allowing anyone out of the besieged city to seek basic necessities elsewhere.

As HRW explains, "people are reduced to eating flat bread made with flour from ground date seeds and soups made from grass. What little food remains is being sold at exorbitant prices...In late March 2016, a Fallujah medical source told Human Rights Watch that each day starving children arrive at the local hospital and that most foodstuffs are not longer available at any price." As a result, "140 people, many elderly and young children...ha[ve] died over the past few months from lack of food and medicine."

Meanwhile, over the past year and a half, government aircraft have engaged in numerous attacks on the city, bombing Fallujah's children's hospital and killing approximately 3,500 individuals, roughly one-fourth women and children.

HRW explained that "the humanitarian picture is bleak and getting bleaker," and that "[g]reater international attention to the besieged towns and cities of the region is needed or the results for civilians could be calamitous."

Of course, this plea for more "international attention" is largely falling on deaf ears, with very few mainstream media outlets willing to report on this story.

This is a repeat of the media's refusal to give proper attention to the U.S.'s brutal assault on Fallujah in 2004 which decimated the city and its civilian population back then.

Another major crime with very serious persisting effects is the Marine assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah in November 2004.

Women and children were permitted to escape if they could. After several weeks of bombing, the attack opened with a carefully planned war crime: Invasion of the Fallujah General Hospital, where patients and staff were ordered to the floor, their hands tied. Soon the bonds were loosened; the compound was secure.

The official justification was that the hospital was reporting civilian casualties, and therefore was considered a propaganda weapon.

Much of the city was left in "smoking ruins," the press reported, while the Marines sought out insurgents in their "warrens." The invaders barred entry to the Red Crescent relief organization. Absent an official inquiry, the scale of the crimes is unknown.

Medical researchers have found dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukemia, even higher than Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Uranium levels in hair and soil samples are far beyond comparable cases.

One of the rare investigators from the invading countries is Dr. Kypros Nicolaides, director of the fetal-medicine research center at London's King's College Hospital. "I'm sure the Americans used weapons that caused these deformities," Nicolaides says.

Indeed, the U.S. did use prohibited weapons during its 2004 assault on Fallujah. As the Monitoring Net of Human Rights in Iraq, a coalition of Iraqi human rights groups, concluded:

[I]nternationally prohibited weapons were used in the bombing of the city, such as phosphoric weapons, Napalm, bombs containing unknown gases, causing the blood to explode out of bodies. Twenty four carbonized bodies have been found in the area of the military neighborhood. Surviving civilian eyewitnesses stated that the soldiers of the occupation forces entered the area wearing gas masks. Furthermore, cases of deformed newly born increased as a consequence of the use of such weapons. In a press conference, which took place during the battle, Mr. Khaled Al-Sheikhali, official of the Ministry of Health, confirmed the use of such weapons.

In addition, just as is happening now, the U.S. also laid siege to Fallujah back in 2004, prohibiting much needed food and medical assistance to the town. Indeed, according to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, the U.S. illegally used "hunger and deprivation of water as a weapon of war against the civilian population."

While the U.S. media gleefully reports on such war crimes when alleged to have been carried out by Bashar al-Assad or Vladimir Putin, it is silent when it comes to covering such war crimes when committed by the U.S. or allied governments. And, this enables such crimes to continue. Human Rights Watch confirms this in its plea for "greater international attention" to stop the current siege of Fallujah. Indeed, it is the media's silence and utter lack of attention which has allowed the poor city of Fallujah to be battered on and off over the course of the past 12 years.

As a final note, this story is very personal to me. Back in 2006, I worked with No More Victims and Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh to help bring a 7 year-old boy named Abdul Hakeem to Pittsburgh to receive treatment for injuries he sustained from a U.S. bomb which hit his home in Fallujah. Abdul Hakeem's face was badly mutilated from the bomb shrapnel, and he lost his left eye. Thanks to some very dedicated doctors and a talented man who hand-painted his prosthetic eye, Abdul Hakeem's appearance was markedly improved. However, he went back to Fallujah, and, as far as I know, is there now. I have no idea what is happening to him and whether he is alright.

For me, Abdul Hakeem, who became very close to my son of the same age, is the face of this brutal war which the U.S. started needlessly and based upon lies which the media has been more than happy to peddle. This war of terror waged by the U.S. must end, and it is only the exposure of the truth which can make this happen.