“What About Fallujah?”

by David Paxton

What do you have to say about Fallujah, let’s talk about Fallujah, what do you have to say about Fallujah? Since you care so much on the Left… What have we done in Fallujah Nick? WHAT HAVE WE DONE? Have you even bothered to find out?

-Yasmin Alibhai Brown

When they say ‘Fallujah’ they refer to the Second Battle of Fallujah from Nov/Dec 2004. For commentators with an engrained anti-American perspective it is almost impossible to write about any combat, anywhere, without name checking Fallujah. Usually it comes in handy as whataboutary, ‘you think X are bad guys? Yeah? Well what about Fallujah?’. For them it proves we are no better than our enemies, it proves what the Coalition did in Iraq was evil, it is the unarguable catchall to show just how sick we are as people and how sophisticated in their self-criticism those that deploy it are.

A classic of this type can be seen in this show (04:00-04:30) with Nick Cohen cross-examined by Yasmin Alibhai Brown and Iain Dale. Although in this, like the Douglas Murray one, Dale generally sits back and laughs while Alibhai Brown is humiliated. It really is worth watching in full just for giggles. For now though watch the specified section and examine the moral outrage. The word ‘Fallujah’ is nothing less than an accusation to be spat at people, you can positively feel the indignant anger.

To further demonstrate the contempt many have for the actions in Fallujah you can look to its common inclusion in a list, such as: ‘what about Abu GhraibHaditha, Fallujah?’ These lists come out in people’s comments daily. There are countless examples, try googling the three together and you’ll see.

It is in strange company there as both of the other two were out of policy. The abuses in Abu Ghraib were indeed disgusting, though barely comparable to the systematic barbarism Saddam’s goons undertook as official policy there. However, they were admitted as wrong and 11 of the perpetrators were convicted. Everyone’s favourite villain Donald Rumsfeld said of the scandal:

They are human beings. They were in U.S. custody. Our country had an obligation to treat them right. We didn’t do that. That was wrong.

To those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of U.S. armed forces, I offer my deepest apology. It was un-American. And it was inconsistent with the values of our nation.

The killings at Haditha were also out of policy. It could certainly be said that the legal follow up was not to a standard one would hope for, but illegal killings by soldiers are notoriously hard to prove. The action was however condemned and very much appears to be an exception.

With these two incidences, does one choose to claim them as an indictment of officially malign U.S. policy and morality or does one use it to show that such behaviour is not the norm, not the intention and not condoned? When making a moral comparison is it not strange to compare an action by the U.S. but condemned by the U.S. with an action by the enemy which is in policy and actively encouraged? I say it is and yet it so often occurs.

So why is Fallujah included? What is it about this three syllable word that has transformed it into a four letter one? Beyond the fact that a U.S. led coalition were victorious in the battle? It is very hard to ascertain as it is rarely spelt out by those that use it. The word has just seemed to pass without fight or enquiry into the debit column in the ledger of morality. But surely something terrible must have happened for it to be casually included in lists of criminal atrocities? If there was something I am yet to find out what it is.

I suggest a mistake has been made by the people unwilling to contradict those that use it, so that it has now been commonly and unthinkingly accepted as a stain on the record of the Allies. Even in that Nick Cohen exchange he readily concedes that it is legitimate to say ‘a plague on all your houses’ regarding it. Fallujah is asserted as a wrong and very little counter argument is ever provided. It seems to be accepted with a shrug that says ‘you might be onto something there but look at the wider picture…” This is a mistake and it will take some effort to restore some sanity regarding it.

We can take for granted that those who use Fallujah as a pejorative were against the invasion of Iraq. Fine. Accepting however that the invasion occurred and once it had there was a responsibility to try and do the best possible by Iraq, the first question is ‘should anything have been done in Fallujah at all?’

Before the Second Battle, Fallujah’s defences had been handed over, on request by the Iraqi government, to local Iraqi forces. In the proceeding months they had utterly failed in their task and according to U.S. intelligence a takfiri gang, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had taken de facto control of the city. His forces numbered up to 5,000 (probably closer to 3,000-4,000) and were mostly foreign fighters. This group was the direct predecessor of ISIS.

Their control of the region was not only to be considered a current and increasing disaster for the inhabitants but it was also beginning to be the home base for wider Islamist and Baathist disruptions. I posit that to leave these people in place would not only be immoral but tactically insane. After taking the city Coalition troops found torture rooms, IED factories and a calendar for video beheadings. Both the inhabitants of the city of Fallujah and the new Iraq as a whole required their removal if there was to be any chance at all at a better future. Unless you disagree with this the requirement for action to rid the city of this force is overwhelming.

As I am yet to hear any serious argument that when confronted with the situation as it was at the end of 2004 Fallujah should have been left to rot, we can begin to look at what actually happened.

Indulge me in a thought experiment:

Imagine a city with up to 300,000 civilian inhabitants. Inside there are un-uniformed enemy fighters that need to be removed but are hard to distinguish from the civilian population. They have had substantial preparation time and have set up IEDs and ambush points on all routes into the city.

Now imagine you control a military force with almost unimaginable might. You are charged with removing the enemy force inside. You have it within your power to obliterate the entire city without losing any of your own forces and the costs will amount to little more than jet fuel and bombs.

I propose that in this scenario the number of civilian deaths incurred says a great deal about your morality as a leader and as a society. Let us try and estimate a number for them.

Try these:

1: You’re Gengis Kahn born again. I would suggest the civilian deaths would number fairly close to 300,000. Perhaps some will be allowed to live for slavery and rape purposes. Sound reasonable?

2: You’re of the moral level of ISIS. About the same.

3: You’re an Assad Jr. or a Saddam. You’d kill as many as necessary and probably a few more and you’d surely use poisoned gas and barrel bombs no? Assad Senior was faced with a similar number of Islamist combatants in a city with a similar population in Hama in 1982. He managed to kill between 20-40,000 civilians. In his own country.

4: You’re a modern Russian. Perhaps the best comparison is the Battle of Grozny. There the Russians faced a similar problem with similar numbers. But the civilian dead were never reliably counted and the corpses merely stuffed into unmarked, mass graves. It was certainly in the thousands, most probably in the 10s of 1000s. What would you have done in a totally foreign, Arab city?

5: You’re part of an evil corporate American empire that simply doesn’t care about Iraqi lives at all and are comparable in morality to others mentioned but have to make some effort for the cameras. What, 10,000 dead? Minimum?

Well, according to the Red Cross, who I have no reason to suspect are good friends of Dick Cheney and George Bush, 800 civilians died. And it is by no means clear that all were killed by the allies. 800 out of 300,000. 1,500 insurgents were captured and 1,200 – 1,500 were killed.

800 civilian deaths is 800 we can wish had not occurred. 800 deaths is though, by many orders of magnitude, a smaller number than if the equivalent action had been taken by our enemies or more tellingly by the moral actors the apologists and anti-Americans pretend exist in the U.S. Still the question, ‘how many fewer could it still have been?’, should be asked.  I suggest not very many. Not realistically, not without massively increased risk to allied forces and not when compared to any other combat of similar nature. I contend this is a remarkably low figure.

The allies surrounded the city and painstakingly passed through their lines up to 90% of the entire population. Thus leaving perhaps 30,000 in pockets in the city. The insurgents knowing that civilians were good cover for them (it seems the insurgents had a higher understanding of their enemy’s care for civilians than the moral equivalence monkeys do), prevented as many leaving as they could. It was only after this was complete that the U.S. Marines began systematically moving through the city at great risk to themselves. In total the Coalition forces lost 107 killed and over 650 wounded. Overwhelmingly from the U.S.M.C.

A colleague of mine told me of a lecture he attended when in the British Army, given by a WW2 veteran on the subject of fighting through Western Europe. The veteran spoke of the orders to protect civilian housing and of the restraint they were ordered to show. He said however, that no matter who you are, when you lose a good friend the previous day going house to house, the urge to ignore the orders, sit back at a distance and shell and machine gun the target building to the ground is overwhelming. I mention this to suggest the coordinated, controlled and relatively restrained actions of the U.S. Marines go against every sensible instinct of self-protection and speaks to an enormous degree of professionalism. Professionalism in this case being the reflection of Coalition command’s intention to do the least damage practical and to show the highest care and attention to civilian lives.

Combat is ugly and messy. The results rarely perfect. Once such a grim undertaking as clearing Fallujah of insurgents is deemed necessary it must be judged on its merits, with relevant comparisons to relevant examples. It can’t be judged against a bland pacifism or with no counter-factual beyond an assumption of zero deaths. Sam Harris’ ‘perfect weapon‘ thought experiment is important here and worth the read. Yes 800 civilian deaths is 800 deaths but if the perfect weapon existed the number would have been zero. Do you think we could say the same if those that we are compared to undertook the mission?

A note on chemical weapons:

The example of Fallujah is oft heard in comparisons of illegal warfare with specific reference given to chemical weapons. This week it was mentioned in a very confused piece by Owen Jones where he wrote:

But the Assad regime does not flaunt its cruelty. It does not make videos with Hollywood effects – slo-mo, closeups, haunting music, the aftermath in high definition. Instead, it adopts the same regretful tone of western powers, like when the US dropped flesh-burning white phosphorus over Falluja. We regret any civilian casualties (or “collateral damage”, as the west prefers). We do not target civilians, unlike our opponents – and so on. The scale of death may be far greater, but the claimed intentions are different: unlike our opponents, we do not aim to kill civilians, they say, so we retain our moral superiority.

I think he is being sneaky here. Even if he honestly means to simply compare the tone, he is wrong. I read nothing regretful in the U.S. admitting the use of WP. Nor should they had to have been. If there is any regret it is simply because it contradicts earlier reports. The U.S. denied it killed civilians with it so its use here is irrelevant. It strongly whiffs of an attempt to tar them with the same atrocity brush he uses against Assad.

I quoted more than required by Jones there because as a side note I want you to look at his final use of ‘they say’. I think he is hinting at a claim he isn’t actually willing to make. Yes Owen, all things being equal, not aiming to kill civilians makes you morally superior to those intending to kill them. Argue this case explicitly or don’t at all. As I say, sneaky.

But other’s apart from the Orwell of Our Generation use the WP incident and usually in more brazen terms. It was repeated many times during the debate about striking the Assad regime for its use of chemical weapons in order to show that we are no better than they and have no high ground from which to launch our strikes. This form of masochism is worth little even with solid examples. Fallujah is not a solid example.

White Phosphorus is not a chemical weapon. When not used as a smoke screen it can be used as an incendiary weapon. This is not illegal. The U.S. used it in Fallujah in highly specific attacks to push the enemy out of cover due to the heat and then kill them with high explosive shells. The very nature of the tactic requires highly specific and accurate use of artillery fire. At worst, some claim that the generation of heat when the WP meets moisture is a chemical weapon because this amounts to toxicity. But it isn’t asphyxiating, it is burning. This may be a small distinction for some. But the distinction remains. It was effective and it was legal.

In the interest of fairness I recommend George Monboit’s article from the time, I don’t agree with it but it is worth a read and he is more responsible there than many. He also provides reasons why the execrable Italian documentary on Fallujah, which still appears to be at the root of so many feelings about Fallujah, can be dismissed.

The use of incendiary weapons against civilians is illegal. However, seeing that it was used in areas cleared of civilians and no credible evidence of it causing civilian deaths has been presented, I suggest this charge can also be dismissed. Its use in combination with HE rounds was highly effective. That’s why it was used, both sparingly and deliberately. And as much as this may offend those of the Pansy Left, killing the insurgents was the point of the exercise and of benefit to the the vast majority of civilians who remained unharmed. To do so efficiently is a moral act.

So what is the actual complaint? If it is that the U.S. used chemical weapons it is false. If it is that it used incendiary weapons against civilians, it is false or at least entirely unproven.

If it is that that the deaths of 800 civilians from a population of 300,000 is an example of callousness, incompetence, bloodthirstyness, or a lack of care comparable with our enemies or reasonable expectations, then the complainant is ahistoric, ignorant and frankly, silly.

There are tradeoffs in military operations. Risk to property, risk to civilians, risk to your own forces, effectiveness in dealing with the enemy. Each army and society has to make rules and undertake the training to reflect their own operational and moral priorities. Some like Monboit won’t be happy unless the risk to civilians is non-existent and all of that risk is placed on our armed forces. This is not realistic and at some point becomes its own form of immorality. Regardless of how much moral wrangling is done around the legality. I look at the decisions of the Coalition in the Second Battle of Fallujah and see a set of moral tradeoffs that put us in stark and favourable contrast to those who apologists seek to compare us to. Even if one accepts the worst versions of accounts from the most unreliable of sources, the Coalition still comes out on top in any reasonable moral comparison.

We can’t allow this military action to be used as rhetoric against our society or our armed forces. I won’t because I don’t think it merely not a crime, I think it a startling military undertaking which clearly indicates our moral superiority over those we fight.
As an isolated action it should be mentioned with pride and placed firmly in the credit column of the moral ledger. And yes, I am comfortable expressing moral superiority.

What about Fallujah? Good question, what about it?

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29 thoughts on ““What About Fallujah?”

  1. Pingback: “What About Fallujah?” | Canyouflybobby

  2. Surely you can understand why Alibhai-Brown might be annoyed in that clip. Cohen has lied to her twice (once misrepresenting an article she wrote, then lying about the central thesis of his book), as well as insulting her by claiming she’d not done research prior to the interview (Cohen, of course, is really vert bad at research – google the name ‘Hassan Butt’ if you doubt that).

    He then gives a dreadful answer to her question about Fallujah, ducking the events there entirely before coming up with ‘well I know who I’d rather support, America rather than al-Qaeda’ – that level of argument wouldn’t win a debate in a primary school.

    Also:

    The U.S. used it in Fallujah in highly specific attacks to push the enemy out of cover due to the heat

    Where’s your evidence for this?

    In any case, you admit that it was used not as a smokescreen but specifically to inflict injury, ie the burning of flesh or indeed partial suffocation (which you euphemistically group together under the word ‘heat’ – what would Orwell say to that?). All of this happens as a result not of its stated function – to generate smoke – but as a result of its chemical properties.

    you might even have a point with the ‘relatively low civilian casualties’ thing, but to claim that the use of WP as a weapon was admirable, is preposterous.

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    • “Surely you can understand why Alibhai-Brown might be annoyed in that clip. Cohen has lied to her twice”

      Disagree he did that and don’t think that is relevant to the point in any way.

      “He then gives a dreadful answer to her question about Fallujah, ducking the events there entirely before coming up with ‘well I know who I’d rather support, America rather than al-Qaeda’ – that level of argument wouldn’t win a debate in a primary school.”

      He doesn’t really answer it at all and she barely pushes it. I don’t think she even knows what she means.

      “Where’s your evidence for this?”

      Having spoken to people who were there, by reading reports and accounts from the battle and knowing that that is a recognised tactical use of WP rounds.

      “In any case, you admit that it was used not as a smokescreen but specifically to inflict injury, ie the burning of flesh or indeed partial suffocation (which you euphemistically group together under the word ‘heat’ – what would Orwell say to that?). All of this happens as a result not of its stated function – to generate smoke – but as a result of its chemical properties.”

      This is wrong on several counts.

      1: I didn’t say to inflict injury, I said to drive them out of cover.
      2: Heat is not a euphemism here.
      3: It has more than one stated function. Smoke, illumination, incendiary.
      4: Incendiary weapons tend to work from chemical properties. So do explosives. What are you trying to say there?

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  3. what would Orwell say to that?

    Indeed, and fans of Orwell might also like to take a look at words and phrases like “abuses”; “out of policy”; “…legal follow-up… not to a standard one would hope for”; “removal”; “insurgents”; “The US denied it killed civilians with (WP)”; “not a chemical weapon”; “This is not illegal”; “areas cleared of civilians”; “trade-offs in military operations” and “moral wrangling… around the legality”.

    All of which strike me as being rather strange ways of putting things, in a piece that’s theoretically all about condemning “apologism” while invoking Orwell.

    And that’s before we get to “the Pansy Left”.

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    • Go through them each please. Tell me your objections and I will defend myself. As it stands I see no issue with my language choices there at all. If you have a proper objection I will grant you a proper justification.

      “And that’s before we get to “the Pansy Left”.”

      What’s the problem there? Have I misused it do you think?

      In short, stop flirting. Penetrate or go home.

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      • Go through them each please. Tell me your objections and I will defend myself.

        Gladly. To pick just a few, then:

        “Abuses” re:Abu Ghraib prison – Describes crimes that would, had they happened to British people, definitely be described as “torture”, “rape” and “murder” whenever they were referenced, rather than as “abuses”.

        (This is a big issue in itself but it’s enough to note that you immediately and favourably contrast these “abuses” to Saddam’s “systematic barbarism”, presumably because we’re to understand that unlike the Ba’athist goons, our torturers bum-rape their prisoners in good faith, or something).

        “Out of policy”: A way of avoiding responsibility for the inevitable outcome of our own actions. If we e.g. send a huge army to go jamming themselves into nations where they’re not wanted, we can’t claim to be surprised when some of them do terrible things there. We don’t extend this level of understanding of atrocities to the armed forces of nations we dislike, you’ll notice.

        “Legal follow-up… not to the standard one would hope for”: Not how we’d describe e.g. a judicial inquiry that let off Iranian soldiers who massacred civilians with few or no serious punishments.

        “Not a chemical weapon”: Argumentative quibbling over whether a chemical used as a weapon is a “chemical weapon”.

        (At this point, please don’t go thinking up ways to repeat the same argument and instead, just note that this is a level of charity that we would never extend to the armed forces of other nations).

        “This is not illegal”: The criminal’s first line of defence – if you look under clause (c) of Section 322 of the Mealy-Mouthed Apologism For Criminality Act you will find that “this is not illegal”. Note that all manner of terrible behaviours may, technically speaking, be legal.

        “Areas cleared of civilians”: It was widely reported at the time and since that men of fighting age were not permitted to leave the city and that many civilians chose to stay, for whatever reason.

        When you say “cleared of civilians” you mean “cleared of many or most civilians”, and the use of the former rather than the latter is the repetition of propaganda. I don’t imagine that we’d let e.g. fans Vladimir Putin get away with blurring the distinction.

        “Trade-offs in military operations”: Translation – I have to defend US soldiers shooting and bombing civilians to death, but since “shooting and bombing civilians to death” sounds bad, I will instead describe this as “trade-offs in military operations”.

        “Moral wrangling… around the legality”: Precisely the tone of Why do these whining fannies insist on getting so upset about our unimpeachable Wall Street corruption that has so endeared the banking industry to the people.

        —-
        And these are just a few examples, not exhaustive by any means.

        Now, if “political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”, which of us would you say has engaged in euphemism and slippery speech?

        Which of us is using terms of art to grant charity to the claims of a large and extremely powerful political/military entity?

        Or does it not count, if it’s the Americans that we’re intentionally propagandising for?

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  4. TL;DR. Anyhow, I notice people say the Chinese can only do stir-fry. Bullshit. Have you ever been to a Chinese bakery? Have you tasted the roast duck in Chinatown? People are beyond stupid.

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  5. Re: pansy left – it’s instructive to see that in the Nick Cohen clip linked to here, our Nick specifically says that he supports the Falluja onslaught because it was carried out by the Americans who ‘share our values’.

    Good to know that calling people ‘pansy’ is part of Our Shared Values which were protected and reinforced by the Iraq war.

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    • “our Nick specifically says that he supports the Falluja onslaught because it was carried out by the Americans who ‘share our values’.”

      Right, why did you support the ‘Fallujah onslaught’? If you didn’t what was your superior alternative?

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  6. Good to know that calling people ‘pansy’ is part of Our Shared Values which were protected and reinforced by the Iraq war.

    Also noticeable that the Fallujah barbecue may have been very moral indeed, although apparently not moral enough to be argued for on its own merits.

    Instead, it seems to be necessary to favourably contrast it against a series of horrific atrocities committed by the world’s leading murderous despots and terror groups, in order to fully appreciate its many merits. You can always tell that a thing is right and just, if you have to compare it to Islamic State to emphasise its essential goodness*.

    And I see this is another issue that’s seemingly impossible to discuss without endless reference to the supposedly appalling views of allegorical anti-Americans. You’d think that if a military operation was correct and defensible in itself, it’d be possible to speak in its favour without also issuing various wails and screeches about the foul opinions of e.g. Guardian columnists, but that’s apparently not the case here.

    *Although, perhaps it’d be wise to avoid mentioning ISIS in a piece arguing in favour of a military campaign that was explicitly planned and publicised as aiming to decisively end the threat of violent jihadist terror groups in Iraq.

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    • What a bizarre comment. The whole point is arguing against it being used as general rhetoric by anti-americans. It is very difficult to make that argument without referring to how they use it.

      As for arguing it on its own merits, that is exactly what I have done in describing its necessity. However, seeing that all war is messy and will have nasty side effects it is required to make comparisons in order to judge it.

      “*Although, perhaps it’d be wise to avoid mentioning ISIS in a piece arguing in favour of a military campaign that was explicitly planned and publicised as aiming to decisively end the threat of violent jihadist terror groups in Iraq.”

      It wasn’t an argument in favour of the Iraq invasion.

      I think you’re another that struggles with very basic comprehension.

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      • I think you’re another that struggles with very basic comprehension.

        The second Fallujah offensive was sold and fought explicitly as a campaign to decisively bring an end to Jihadist terrorist activity in Iraq.

        You are telling us that it was necessary, moral and successful. Okay, then.

        Looking at the history of Iraq following the second Fallujah offensive, it doesn’t look to me like a country that is untroubled by Jihadist terrorist activity. That would at very least call the usefulness, morality and supposed success of the operation into question. I notice that you don’t much address this glaringly obvious point, however.

        And there’s no reason at all to frame this piece by reference to the awful Guardianistas, or to compare it to the horrors of IS. A thing is either good or it isn’t, and while it may help to illlustrate the situation for background, by comparison with other things that are worse, everyone is aware that any argument that deliberately compares (x) to the hijinks of the Islamic State is fairly likely to be doing so in an effort to downplay and justify acts that most people would otherwise disapprove of.

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  7. I love the ending of this piece too. It’s the worst thought-through, most confused mess I’ve ever read.

    I think it a startling military undertaking which clearly indicates our moral superiority over those we fight.

    I’m guessing this is just poor-quality writing and that you meant ‘fought’ – but maybe not.

    Also:

    Even if one accepts the worst versions of accounts from the most unreliable of sources, the Coalition still comes out on top in any reasonable moral comparison.

    So – America is better in terms of morality than al-Qaeda. Way to go on the ‘low expectations’ front. I also note you’ve cited precisely none of the ‘apologists’ who claim America is as bad as al-Qaeda – probably because they don’t exist.

    But to move from ‘we are better than Bin Laden’ immediately into ‘everything we did in Falluja should be viewed with pride’ doesn’t even come close to working. Aren’t you a ‘Gerasite’? Prof Norm would at least have attempted to use ‘logic’ in his writing, even if it was usually bollocks.

    But lol @ teh pansies!

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    • “I think it a startling military undertaking which clearly indicates our moral superiority over those we fight.

      I’m guessing this is just poor-quality writing and that you meant ‘fought’ – but maybe not.”

      Wrong guess. Fallujah is used currently in multiple circumstances almost regardless of who the West is up against. I replying to that and am using it as evidence of moral superiority over our current enemies as well as the specific ones in 2004. Hence reference to how the Russians or Assad would have got along in the same circus. Sorry you find this so complicated.

      “So – America is better in terms of morality than al-Qaeda. Way to go on the ‘low expectations’ front. I also note you’ve cited precisely none of the ‘apologists’ who claim America is as bad as al-Qaeda – probably because they don’t exist.”

      Again, you really struggle with a simple thing here. The comparison is less to the enemy on the day than to how others would have managed the situation. If I did write the ‘the worst thought-through, most confused mess’ you’ve ever read, then I would need to think again, however I am beginning to think the problem is yours and not mine.

      Ugh. Just read your final paragraph. How silly.

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      • I wanted to “like” your comment, but the website seems to require me to set up my own blog to do that. I thought this was an excellent article, and the best objections so far seem to be purely semantic.

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  8. Thank you for this valuable article defending the coalition’s 2nd operation in Fallujah. We need more like it, patiently explaining the hazards of fighting asymmetric warfare in urban areas and emphasising the lengths that democracies like America and Israel go to to avoid civilian casualties as they attempt to destroy theo-fascist terror organisations.

    Anti-war writers need to engage with the realities on the ground before criticising operations like these and try, where possible, to demonstrate that civilian casualties could have been further reduced with alternative tactics without compromising the goal of defeating and destroying insurgent strongholds.

    Instead, what we tend to get are defamatory articles comparing liberal democracies to Assad et al and describing their political leaders as war criminals.

    It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the perverse idea is simply to weaken the ability of said democracies to fight these battles at all.

    By the way, David doesn’t mention the issue, but on twitter I notice that some are trotting out the claim about birth defects being caused by WP. A response to that canard can be found here: http://www.hscentre.org/…/the-truth-behind-birth-defects-i…/

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  9. Flying Rodent:

    Can’t reply any further directly below your comments so will do so here.

    —-“Abuses” re:Abu Ghraib prison – Describes crimes that would, had they happened to British people, definitely be described as “torture”, “rape” and “murder” whenever they were referenced, rather than as “abuses”.

    (This is a big issue in itself but it’s enough to note that you immediately and favourably contrast these “abuses” to Saddam’s “systematic barbarism”, presumably because we’re to understand that unlike the Ba’athist goons, our torturers bum-rape their prisoners in good faith, or something).—-

    ‘Abuses’ is a catch all. I have oft heard them described as ‘Abu Ghraib Prisoner Abuses’. This is an aside in the piece and the lack of detail is for that reason. I do though refer to them as ‘disgusting’, illegal and a ‘criminal atrocity’. I don’t believe I intended to diminish them. Atrocity is pretty strong I’m sure you will agree.
    You say ‘murder’ which is a legally defined term. I don’t think a ‘murder’ occurred there. A negligent homicide perhaps. I’m no lawyer, but I draw a distinction. Either way, a horrible crime. But accuracy is important.
    A negligent homicide (or fill in an other legal term below murder), rape, torture. These are all disgusting abuses. They are criminal atrocities. I have not been slippery in the language there.

    Where you do perhaps have a point is in my use of ‘systematic barbarism’ but it is a different point. Here I could have perhaps been more exact as both words could be applied to the US abuses as well as Saddam’s. The contrast I tried to make and seemingly failed to, was that under Saddam what occurred there were sanctioned, planned, systematic, widespread and barbaric acts almost beyond comprehension. Being raped by a broom handle is barbaric too. And yet Saddam still managed to be much worse. There were countless deaths there at the hands of experienced and savage torturers. I think it fair to say given the choice, one would have rather been a prisoner of the US there, in the middle of the worst abuses, than a prisoner of Saddam. That I think was a relevant aside because moral equivalences were constantly drawn via whataboutary. I think there is a different moral judgement to be made about the systems that choose to do the most horrific crime en masse and as policy and those that had isolated incidents that were called criminal and punished. If you disagree or think that irrelevant then fair enough but I don’t buy that I have attempted to be euphemistic there or hide anything. So I reject that here too. Though as said, I could have written it better.

    —-“Out of policy”: A way of avoiding responsibility for the inevitable outcome of our own actions. If we e.g. send a huge army to go jamming themselves into nations where they’re not wanted, we can’t claim to be surprised when some of them do terrible things there. We don’t extend this level of understanding of atrocities to the armed forces of nations we dislike, you’ll notice.—-

    Speak for yourself. I think I look at the reactions to such things from all armies and governments. Regarding your actual point, if all I had said was ‘out of policy’ this might hold some water. But I said more, as established above. ‘Out of policy’ is therefore simply a statement of fact.

    It wasn’t condoned, it was punished and it was condemned. This says something. It doesn’t mean this isn’t a stain against the US Army, I am clearly saying it is but that Fallujah is different. I am however saying that there is still a moral difference between relatively isolated and illegal abuses and relatively widespread and sanctioned ones. So again, I don’t see anything wrong with how I have used this.
    Perhaps this would have been clearer if I had merely said these were wrong and Fallujah was different and not try and make more than the one point in the piece. However, that doesn’t make me wrong, it just means I could have been simpler for some people who require simplicity.

    And I can claim to be surprised at some things regardless of what you say. Not as you simply put it that ‘terrible things happened’. It was a large war, of course some things that were terrible would happen as policy and also, being that we are talking about humans in extreme circs, some that were ‘out of policy’. But the severity, the frequency, the reaction, all these I reserve the right to be surprised at. And more to the point, different degrees of surprise depending on which army, in which war, at which time and in which circumstances.

    —-“Legal follow-up… not to the standard one would hope for”: Not how we’d describe e.g. a judicial inquiry that let off Iranian soldiers who massacred civilians with few or no serious punishments.—-

    Who is ‘we’ here? Anyway, I have no idea how ‘we’ would because Iran wouldn’t even have the bloody inquiry. I have nothing to compare it to. How many did they have during Iran/Iraq War? Also, the US systems are far more open and trusted than theirs. Or shall we pretend they are all just as secretive and corrupt as each other?
    We know of Haditha because it is the US in the frame. It is a relative rarity and therefore shocking. Can you not see the fundamental difference here?

    —-“Not a chemical weapon”: Argumentative quibbling over whether a chemical used as a weapon is a “chemical weapon”.—-

    It’s a legal issue. That’s the whole fucking point. It isn’t a quibble. Guardian types will say both sides were ‘illegal’ to remove the moral highground. People are not just saying ‘X country gassed a load of civilians’, they are bringing forward the more formal and legal claim of ‘using chemical weapons’. Then they will say, like during the Assad debate, ‘Fallujah’ or ‘Gaza’. They don’t tend to point out the difference in weapons, their effect and intention, they say both sides ‘used chemical weapons’. The deliberate gassing of civilians and the use of WP on insurgents are not morally the same. But putting them under the same legal umbrella term goes some way to making them appear so. Therefore it isn’t a quibble. It is a big big deal. So I totally reject your point here. It is bollocks.
    And all weapons are chemical at some level. A high explosive round is chemical. But there is a legal definition for ‘chemical weapons’ and their use is a crime. It is vital to that part of the argument. You seem to be complaining that people are trying to avoid confusion here. This is an utterly ridiculous complaint.

    —-(At this point, please don’t go thinking up ways to repeat the same argument and instead, just note that this is a level of charity that we would never extend to the armed forces of other nations).—-

    If that is true is it because it is parochial bias or because of a bias based on them being much worse generally? In rhetoric, in policy, in history etc. Anyway…

    —-“This is not illegal”: The criminal’s first line of defence – if you look under clause (c) of Section 322 of the Mealy-Mouthed Apologism For Criminality Act you will find that “this is not illegal”. Note that all manner of terrible behaviours may, technically speaking, be legal.—-

    That’s so silly. Of course ‘this is not illegal’ SHOULD be the first defence if the matter is legal. That means you are by definition innocent. I can’t even believe you wrote this. I was clarifying the facts. This was a fact.
    I also very clearly pointed out that I thought the so called terrible act was effective AND moral. So even from the other angle this makes no sense. I have not tricked any language here or tried to get out of anything. I said A: it is moral. B: It is legal. That really isn’t ‘mealy mouthed’. You screwed up here. Again.

    —“Areas cleared of civilians”: It was widely reported at the time and since that men of fighting age were not permitted to leave the city and that many civilians chose to stay, for whatever reason.—-

    Yes, I wasn’t assuming because most civilians had gone initially that the areas where ‘shake and bake’ were used were de facto ‘cleared’. I was saying ‘cleared’ because for those actions they made assessments on the ground specifically as to risk of civilians. It was part of the SOPs. I didn’t specify that because I didn’t need to. But now you know.

    —-When you say “cleared of civilians” you mean “cleared of many or most civilians”, and the use of the former rather than the latter is the repetition of propaganda. I don’t imagine that we’d let e.g. fans Vladimir Putin get away with blurring the distinction.—-

    See last. However, ‘cleared as best as practically possible’ would be accurate but I think from the background in the piece that is implied. I will add that there hasn’t been evidence of civilian deaths from the WP that I have seen. I also made that clear in the piece which is further evidence that it was effectively cleared. Do you have some reliable evidence? So taken in context this is splitting hairs. But this latter point is the best you’ve made. I could have been more explicit. Thank you.

    —“Trade-offs in military operations”: Translation – I have to defend US soldiers shooting and bombing civilians to death, but since “shooting and bombing civilians to death” sounds bad, I will instead describe this as “trade-offs in military operations”.—-

    I wouldn’t write that because it does sound bad. But not to the reputation of the coalition, bad just as a bit of writing. I can’t even imagine how I would write that into the sentence. So no, I mean ‘trade offs’. I wrote ‘risks to civilians’ and because I had specifically written about the number of civilian dead it is clear what I was talking about. You can insist I write something like ‘the risk to civilians getting their pretty heads smashed open by big fucking bullets so their brains splash across the street’ or some such but now we are both being silly. It was already utterly clear.
    There are trade offs. Force protection against civilian risk is one of them. This is not a euphemism. It is plain English. It is accurate. You are scraping the barrel with this. Nothing to see here.

    —“Moral wrangling… around the legality”: Precisely the tone of Why do these whining fannies insist on getting so upset about our unimpeachable Wall Street corruption that has so endeared the banking industry to the people.—

    Don’t know what you mean. And frankly getting past the point of caring. These objections are pitiful.

    —And these are just a few examples, not exhaustive by any means.—-

    I can assume they were your slam dunkers, no need to bother with the dregs.

    —-Now, if “political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”, which of us would you say has engaged in euphemism and slippery speech?—

    Neither. But yours has been far more silly.

    —Which of us is using terms of art to grant charity to the claims of a large and extremely powerful political/military entity?—

    Neither.

    —Or does it not count, if it’s the Americans that we’re intentionally propagandising for?”—

    Hypothetically? Yes it counts. Specifically aimed at me? Fuck you.

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  10. Your second comment:

    —-The second Fallujah offensive was sold and fought explicitly as a campaign to decisively bring an end to Jihadist terrorist activity in Iraq.—-

    What? No. It was about getting control back of a city and not letting that particular city be used as a launch pad later. It by no means was going to bring a ‘decisive’ end to Jihadist activity in all Iraq. I mean how could it stop tensions with Shia groups in Basra for example? You’re shamelessly setting up a straw man here. Stop it. It’s beneath you.

    —-You are telling us that it was necessary, moral and successful. Okay, then.—–

    Yes.

    —Looking at the history of Iraq following the second Fallujah offensive, it doesn’t look to me like a country that is untroubled by Jihadist terrorist activity.—-

    Seeing as you just made up from whole cloth the claim it would pacify the entire country this point is worth nothing whatsoever

    —-That would at very least call the usefulness, morality and supposed success of the operation into question. I notice that you don’t much address this glaringly obvious point, however.—–

    I don’t address it because it’s not even a point. Let alone a glaringly obvious one. Are you trolling me? Its purpose and morality was about regain the city and saving its inhabitants. That was achieved. It’s secondary purpose was to stop it being used as a launch pad. That doesn’t preclude all other activity in Iraq.
    This is so idiotic that I think you’re being disingenuous. But it’s enough to make me wish to stop conversing with you. This is beneath both of us. I’ll answer this final point.

    —-And there’s no reason at all to frame this piece by reference to the awful Guardianistas, or to compare it to the horrors of IS. A thing is either good or it isn’t, and while it may help to illlustrate the situation for background, by comparison with other things that are worse, everyone is aware that any argument that deliberately compares (x) to the hijinks of the Islamic State is fairly likely to be doing so in an effort to downplay and justify acts that most people would otherwise disapprove of.—-

    A thing isn’t just either good or not. A thing can be a lesser of evils but on it’s own, it is merely an evil.
    In this case however I AM saying it is good.
    Your final bit misses the possibility that if the comparison to Islamic State, or Assad, or Saddam or Russia or whomever is being compared, my response is in direct reaction to those that are already seeking to make it.

    Anyway, I have wasted enough time replying here. At least though, this time you actually wrote something beyond a pointless bit of snark and scoffing. However, it still wasn’t worth my effort. Your arguments were lost in their making.

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  11. No. It was about getting control back of a city and not letting that particular city be used as a launch pad later.

    However I try to respond to this it’s going to end up an essay, so I’ll focus on the key points I was making, and your responses:

    When I said “The second Fallujah offensive was sold and fought explicitly as a campaign to decisively bring an end to Jihadist terrorist activity in Iraq”, I was thinking of the political and press coverage at the time, rather than the US military’s immediate goals.

    Even so, I accept that this is a grand overstatement and that the specific objectives were reclaiming the city, as you say. I’m out of practice bickering on such topics these days, and so I forgot that you have to be absolutely 100% precise when speaking about them or you invite a five hundred word victory lap full of boo-yah’s and hoo-ahs, culminating with regal levels of dismissal.

    The point that I was trying to make was that for all the 2nd Fallujah assault’s apparent success, the main achievements were to utterly alienate the sections of the Sunni population who might – or might not – have been amenable to political reconciliation and to tilt them decisively towards the insurgency instead. Fallujah was one of the main reasons, if not the main reason, why the Sunnis boycotted the next election, as it confirmed their view of the US as savage occupiers and their Shiite and Kurdish countrymen as collaborators*.

    Which is to say that it was a tactical victory but a strategic disaster, the results of which are parading across the nightly news on your TV waving severed human heads. I draw your attention to this because you seem to be so busy saluting the immense morality of the assault that you seem to have missed the fact that its success on a regional level was, shall we say, short-lived and quickly counterproductive.

    And back on morality, with your points about all these “out of policy”, “isolated and illegal” “abuses” that were only brought to light because of the Americans’ innate goodness:

    I do have to point out that the government had to be forced at political gunpoint to address these issues, which emerged because not because of goodness but because of human stupidity and press perseverence; that the security services are all over the abduction and torture of people in Iraq and beyond (including Abu Ghraib) and they have consistently refused to be held accountable to civilian authorities on the matter, which renders your “out of policy”, “isolated and illegal” assertions somewhat moot; that activities at Abu Ghraib and Haditha and every other secret prison site have been hidden behind the maximum level of official secrecy and arse-covering that the government could get away with at every stage, rather than openness; that every CIA agent and contractor involved that I’m aware of has been granted full immunity from prosecution, rather than facing justice; and that the very, very few people who were punished for even for the best-known, most public forms of torture were the very lowest-ranking, toilet-scrubbing mooks that they could find to string up.

    But as you say, better to be forcibly bummed by a US guard or a CIA agent who faces the spectral prospect of theoretical prosecution than to be subjected to the whims of Saddam’s torturers, eh?

    Put like this, you can perhaps see why I’d say that you probably wouldn’t be receptive to the “This was bad but Saddam was worse” argument, if it involved certain other countries’ armies and security services. But of course, your aim is all about moral clarity here, and not apologism at all… Although you apparently still believe that e.g. “Legal process… not to the standard one might hope for” is a reasonable description for men who intentionally murdered civilians being let off without so much as a slap on the wrist.

    I’ll spare you further boredom by answering what appears to be your main question here: What would you Pansies have done about Fallujah? I’ll answer as honestly as I can.

    Had the decision been mine, I wouldn’t have attacked Fallujah – I’d have packed up the troops and gone home. You might find that immoral but I’d urge you to consider the fact that you won’t be booking any tourist trips to the city any time soon, and to ponder upon why that is.

    Further, I wouldn’t have invaded Iraq in the first place. Even if I’d inherited the occupation, I’d have packed up and gone home immediately. I wouldn’t have put any soldiers in Fallujah to get in fights with the locals, so we’d have no dead protestors. I wouldn’t put contractors in it to be ripped up on TV by a baying mob and I wouldn’t smash half the city with the first retaliatory attack. I’d have packed up and gone home before that, too.

    And you might say, that’s all well and good, but what would you be saying right now about the hypothetical horrors that may have ensued?

    And I’d point out that whatever I’d be doing, I wouldn’t be typing up blog posts angrily explaining to people why our torture chambers are vastly more moral than theirs, or fulminating upon how our combined arms assaults on cities that we may never be able to visit without being murdered are so much more awesome than theirs.

    (And on your general complaint that lots of lefty types talk shit about the assault on Fallujah, I think it’s also worth noting that a Hollywood movie about it, featuring a main character whose attitude to the wellbeing and rights of civilians was somewhat controversial to say the least, just ended 2014 as one of the planet’s top-grossing pictures and was nominated for a ton of Oscars. So I’d say you’re probably winning this argument with popular support, rather than a lone voice in the dark, railing bravely against an overwhelming array of Guardian columnists and commeners).

    *Note here that you don’t have to agree that the US were savage occupiers or whatever. You only have to note the undeniable fact that after Fallujah, the Sunni population of Iraq definitely did.

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    • “You only have to note the undeniable fact that after Fallujah, the Sunni population of Iraq definitely did.” Wow. An undeniable fact is rare in this type of discussion! Perhaps you can find evidence that it was the events of Fallujah that brought about this decisive change in Sunni sentiment? For it to be relevant, of course, you would also have to demonstrate that the insurgency was about to lose ground, physically and metaphorically, before the US operation to clear Fallujah took place.

      I think important evidence that lots of lefty types talk shit about Fallujah was the reception to the film “American Sniper”. Not particularly bloodthirsty, or original, and certainly not a very forceful purveyor of “pro-war” ideas, this relatively unremarkable film was bitterly attacked, only because of the war in which it was set and because of the main character’s certainty (not shared by other characters nor necessarily by the film itself) that he was doing the “right thing.”.

      As to your determination, were you to travel back in time and inherit the US presidency in 2004, to instantaneously pull out of Iraq, I’m not sure if you’d be doing so on the basis of a Sam-Harris-style utilitarianism, whereby you’d be attempting to make the choice that caused the least misery to the smallest number of human beings, or whether you’d be doing so on the basis of a morally absolute pacifism, or whether you’d be doing so on the basis of a morally absolute anti-imperialism. If the first, then we’ll never know whether the pansies or the respectable left had the “right” policy prescription, but we do know that both actions, to retake Fallujah or to high-tail it outta there, would be equally moral in intention. If the second, then, well, that’s all very pure for an individual, but for a man responsible for the welfare of others it’s a little bit scary. If your reason for choosing withdrawl is the third rationale, then why is it that you perceive America as the “imperialist” agent, when it only wants to set up a stable government and to get out, while the people it fights against clearly want to dominate others, both within and without their immediate communities?

      But we’ve really left the core of the discussion, which is whether the events of Fallujah mean that Coalition (or Western? Or “Anglosphere’?) countries can never criticise the conduct of other governments nor act in any way to stop them. The answer is, of course, that, no, Fallujah doesn’t mean that. And the secondary argument, which is, can Fallujah be considered morally equivalent to the behaviour of Assad or of IS, the answer is also that no, it can’t.

      It would maybe be equivalent to the bombing of Gaza, although, then again, maybe it wouldn’t, but such an equivalency wouldn’t make criticism of Israeli behaviour more or less valid.

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  12. Perhaps you can find evidence that it was the events of Fallujah that brought about this decisive change in Sunni sentiment?

    You mean aside from the fact that most of Sunni Iraq boycotted the election that immediately followed, with – a quick Google tells me – only 2% of eligible ballots being cast in Anbar province, including Fallujah? (This meant the Sunni had little voice in the country’s governance or constitution and, even if you think that’s their own fault, it’s the main reason why a murderous civil war was underway within a year).

    You could take e.g. the pronouncements of Sunni politicians at the time, or the fact that thousands of Sunni police resigned en masse in protest while the assault was ongoing, or the fact that Anbar became and remained the epicentre of anti-US & anti-government terrorism and protest from that point on. If you know any, you could ask British soldiers who served in Iraq – the Black Watch were stationed at Camp Dogwood patrolling the area for escaping insurgents, and some of the squaddies are happy to tell you exactly how well the assault went down with the locals. The two I’ve spoken to indicate it was “very badly indeed”.

    I suppose we could assume that it’s a coincidence that a massive combined armed assault on a local city by an occupying power led to a huge increase in insurgent activity in the surrounding area rather than a decline. We can test this by imagining how well a huge attack on, say, Birmingham by a foreign power with the assent of Westminster would go down in the West Midlands. If you think “In a reasonable and proportionate manner”, I’d have to disagree.

    Not particularly bloodthirsty, or original, and certainly not a very forceful purveyor of “pro-war” ideas, this relatively unremarkable film was bitterly attacked, only because of the war in which it was set and because of the main character’s certainty (not shared by other characters nor necessarily by the film itself) that he was doing the “right thing.”.

    The main reasons why that film wasn’t popular with us Pansies had more to do with the fact that

    a) The man on whom the main character is based released a book which demonstrated his, shall we say, open and inclusive interpretation of who was and wasn’t an insurgent. Even if you think the war was just great, I’d say that this person in particular might not be the best example to highlight, and

    b) There’s been very little reckoning with what our governments did in Iraq, as evidenced by the fact that the coalition could kick over the government, smash hell out of the infrastructure, preside over a murderous civil war and then step over the vast pile of corpses and sod off home to bitch and whine about how people don’t say it was heroic enough. See also, your view on this film and the wider conflict, which I’d say is fairly reductive.

    Taking Zero Dark Thirty together with American Sniper, I’d also point out that releasing films which respectively include morally ambiguous depictions of US forces torturing the piss out of various Arabs and shooting women and kids and then nominating them for Oscars is, to say the least, not very good public relations.

    As to your determination, were you to travel back in time and inherit the US presidency in 2004, to instantaneously pull out of Iraq, I’m not sure if you’d be doing so on the basis of a Sam-Harris-style utilitarianism, whereby you’d be attempting to make the choice that caused the least misery to the smallest number of human beings, or whether you’d be doing so on the basis of a morally absolute pacifism, or whether you’d be doing so on the basis of a morally absolute anti-imperialism.

    It’d be on the basis that wherever possible, unless it’s absolutely essential, you should avoid invading and occupying other nations and let the people who live there deal with their own difficulties as best they can, without the assistance of our bombs. In fact, let’s just broaden that out to war generally and say that in almost every case, war is best avoided unless it’s absolutely necessary.

    To take the example of Iraq, it’s always possible that it might have been just as hideously violent and insane today had we not occupied it, but it’s difficult to see how it could possibly have been much worse.

    As an added bonus, no war would also mean that there would be no need for this precise re-enactment of post-Vietnam blubbing about how our soldiers were totally awesome, how they never lost a battle and how all the goddamn pansy hippies just won’t acknowledge how very, very moral our horrific and pointless war was.

    But we’ve really left the core of the discussion, which is whether the events of Fallujah mean that Coalition (or Western? Or “Anglosphere’?) countries can never criticise the conduct of other governments nor act in any way to stop them.

    Somehow, I imagine that our governments will feel free to criticise, bomb or invade other countries as they please, without ever feeling the slightest intimidation about the opinions of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, yo.

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    • Hi Flying Rodent. Just a belated reply. There’s no evidence, then, that you can present, that the assault on Fallujah had a particularly negative effect, apart from some anecdotal evidence from some soldiers you spoke to. I put it to you, that the Sunni population of Iraq were already generally inclined to resent both American intrusion and the resulting increase in power for the Shia and Kurdish populations in Iraq, and that – even if there were somehow no negative results from leaving Fallujah alone – this antipathy was likely to harden as a result of the ongoing conflict in the country.

      This point that you make, about the operation being counterproductive, is really secondary to the whole original point of the article, which is the assertion in some circles that the Fallujah operation was in itself some terrible crime against humanity, and how the author of the article believes this attitude to be wrongheaded. In that, he’s surely right. Warfare is often pretty brutal for civilians, but that doesn’t render all acts in a war zone morally equivalent. There’s a difference between the Russians smashing their way through Berlin, and the British “de-housing” the population – only the latter could reasonably be seen as, in itself, a war crime. Fallujah was an army which was really pretty well meaning (in terms of wanting not to cause civilian casualties), even by its own quite respectable historical standards, fighting an armed force that was amongst the most brutal and ruthless in history and which felt that the murder of civilians was entirely legitimate. Sneering at the Americans is really quite unwarranted and is, actually, an insult to the dead.

      All the rest of the points you make, while interesting, are really irrelevant.

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  13. 800 or more civilians killed in one town in six days is a huge number. The comparison with Grozny is a poor one. The battles over Grozny were protracted and involved more combatants on both sides as well as high casualty rates for both sides. It’s hard to make a sensible comparison one way or the other. Indeed it’s difficult to think of any battle of recent years that involved civilians being killed with such intensity.

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    • Thank you.
      They weren’t all killed in 6 days. The 5/6 days is just the most intense period.
      If you can get a better example for a modern Russian assault please provide it, I agree comparisons are difficult. I would still however invite people to pick a number for the Russians. I can’t see it being lower than the US or even close myself. Although how reliable this is is obviously an issue.

      “Indeed it’s difficult to think of any battle of recent years that involved civilians being killed with such intensity.”

      Indeed it is difficult to think of any intense urban combat of comparable size recently.

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      • I believe the Red Cross estimated 800 civilian deaths as a lower bound on the 14th November. Without looking at the details it is clear that horrific things were happening during that first week. I doubt the Russians would have done any worse, but who knows? Have you studied how the Russians performed in Chechnya? Have you read Russian accounts of how decisions were made? They were taking heavier casualties than the Americans were in Iraq and faced tougher decisions. You should read up on what Russian apologists say. This ground and these techniques have been covered before.

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  14. Very silly suggestion that the use of white phosphorus is the only complaint being made, by the way.

    You’d do well to study how other apologists diminish war crimes as this post lacks even prime facie appeal. We don’t know for a fact that civilians were killed by white phosphorus (ie we don’t know one way or the other) and Genghis Khan would have done worse so why worry? That’s it. A small word of advise: use arguments which at least appear logical and don’t invite comparisons with the likes of ISIS. Dismissing your opponents as anti-West just makes you look politically illiterate outside of a very defined political ideology and smacks of sect-speak. The pansy jibe was probably the strongest aspect of this article. I give it 2/10.

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    • “Very silly suggestion that the use of white phosphorus is the only complaint being made, by the way.”

      It would be. I didn’t suggest it. As you are well aware of because you have mentioned the civilian death complaint. It is the only chemical weapons complaint.

      “We don’t know for a fact that civilians were killed by white phosphorus (ie we don’t know one way or the other)”

      Yes. I know we don’t. I clearly state it is unproven that they were.

      “Genghis Khan would have done worse so why worry? That’s it.”

      No. That’s not it. You’re really struggling.

      “Dismissing your opponents as anti-West just makes you look politically illiterate outside of a very defined political ideology and smacks of sect-speak.”

      I guess I’ll have to live with that. But thanks for the advice.

      “The pansy jibe was probably the strongest aspect of this article.”

      Interesting. Thanks. I’ll aim for more of that in the future.

      All in thanks very much for the feedback.

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      • No problem. I just wish the standard of the debate were raised. It’s an historical matter now, not many people still think the war was a good idea. Propaganda is a bit old hat.

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  15. Pingback: “What About Fallujah?” | David Paxton

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