A U.S. journalist's firsthand account from inside Fallujah.
April 11, 2004 1:58 PM   Subscribe

A U.S. journalist's firsthand account from inside Fallujah. Rahul Mahajan, a U.S. citizen, author, and a contributor to papers such as USA Today and the Baltimore Sun, snuck inside Fallujah yesterday with a humanitarian convoy. He reports on a city under the gun of U.S. snipers, with intentional targeting of ambulances and the death of women and children. His conclusion? That Fallujah's fighters *ARE* supported and fully representative of the people there, and that "nothing could have been easier than gaining the good-will of the people of Fallujah had the Americans not been so brutal in their dealings. Now, a tipping-point has been reached. Fallujah cannot be "saved" from its mujaheddin unless it is destroyed." So, it's not Al-Jazeera reporting on this one -- will the mainstream media touch this story?!
posted by insomnia_lj (44 comments total)

Not the content, per se, but your phrasing.
posted by Gyan at 2:07 PM on April 11, 2004

Hmm really maybe this won't be touched because the author is a bit skewed? Look at the "articles" this guy writes.

No wonder no one will touch this.
posted by bitdamaged at 2:10 PM on April 11, 2004

Believability Index: 0
Troll Factor 110.

Move along. Nothing to see here.
posted by darren at 2:18 PM on April 11, 2004

Mahajan certainly appears to have an agenda, and it is clear that he made up his mind about the war long before it even began, but even if you discount his analysis, if you believe want he saw and heard in Fallujah, this is very bad news indeed.
posted by gwint at 2:24 PM on April 11, 2004

side from the fact tht the guy with the blog is an anti-war activist, we never learn why out of the blue, Americans suddenly began sniping (his words) etc etc--and just before the Iraqui intifada, thee was tranquility mostly, till some loud-mouth clerics, afraid they would not gain control of Iraqui power, decided to decalre Americans out, and the heck with June 30 withdrawal and we want what we want and now...why must we always get stories about how bad the one side is and total neglect of what the other wside may or many not have been up to? fair and balanced?
posted by Postroad at 2:28 PM on April 11, 2004

will the mainstream media touch this story?!

The mainstream media seems to want to talk about Fallujah as little as possible, so I doubt it.

Does anyone have any links from another source inside Fallujah?
posted by homunculus at 2:51 PM on April 11, 2004

...even if you discount his analysis, if you believe want he saw and heard in Fallujah, this is very bad news indeed.

Should I believe? Judging from his bias, how much did he embellish or omit?

Second the request for a better link, if available. Without one, I don't see enough credible information to base a discussion on.
posted by Krrrlson at 3:13 PM on April 11, 2004

I think one of the reasons why there are so few first person accounts of the hot spots around Iraq from the U.S. media right now is simply that Western journalists are terrified that they will be killed or kidnapped if they so much as step foot outside of their hotels.
posted by gwint at 3:20 PM on April 11, 2004

I am not sure why I should put aside this authors obvious bias and then assume anything he recounts as an "event" is accurate.

Let's be honest, this authors credability index is at zero, his recounting of event may even be honest insofar as he will maybe recount it as he believes it happened... but I doubt it is a complete picture of whats happening or why.
posted by soulhuntre at 3:30 PM on April 11, 2004

How reliable is MediaChanel.org? Found this: Misreporting the Uprising in Iraq: How Media Misses the Story
posted by ao4047 at 3:36 PM on April 11, 2004

skallas, thanks for that link. Damn.
posted by homunculus at 3:43 PM on April 11, 2004

The mainstream media seems to want to talk about Fallujah as little as possible, so I doubt it.

All I heard about this morning was Fallujah. Every single morning news show. Just checked out the major new sites on the web. All mention Fallujah on the front page, even pro bush fox.
posted by justgary at 3:43 PM on April 11, 2004

why must we always get stories about how bad the one side is and total neglect of what the other wside may or many not have been up to? fair and balanced?

Actually - I hear this over and over again - from both the left and the right. Some far right (or - as is usually the case on MeFi - far left) piece will get a bit of attention. The extremes will glomp on to it, and complain that the "mainstream media" isn't broadcasting it all over the place (because, it is implied, they want to supress "the truth"). People will then bemoan the fact that there is no "objective" reporting out there - and ask why we can't get "balanced" reporting.

IMO ... an individual consumer of news can get balanced reporting - or at least arrive at a fairly complete understanding of what is going on in any particular situation - if they are willing to expend their own effort to do so. The major news organizations are businesses. Every individual reporter is simply a human being - who by definition will bring their own angle of vision and predispositions to any situation. Further, in the case of volitile situations (like war) the individual's (at best) partial vision will be further constrained by the selected few people s/he talks to, and the limited places they have access to.

No one person is capable of achieving a full, complete, objective view of any large, volitile situation - even if they try (let alone if they enter it with a pre-determined perspective that will vigorously try to only see one side of things). This is not a critique of reporters, but is just a fact of human perception (as any attorney will tell you, five people witnessing the same auto accident will often tell quite different - and even completely contradictory - versions of the accident - and that's just a single, small event ... the same difficulty is increased by orders of magnitude when you are talking about something like military action throughout an entire city - or region - of a country).

Thing is ... as consumers of news, it is wrong to expect that any single source is going to tell "the true story". What is possible, I think, is to come to a fairly comprehensive understanding of situations ... but only with work. By delibrately seeking out perspectives from the mainstream media, as well as voices from everything from the far left to the far right. In other words, by gathering a wide variety of perspectives, and weighing them with an open mind (i.e., with the thought that each might contain at least a tiny element of truth).

I don't think it's wrong for news sources to be one-sided, or to report partial, biased viewpoints ... because I've never believed it possible for them not to. I do think it is wrong to:

1. Post single news items (or in some cases, even opinion pieces) and claim they are the "truth" (to the point of even denigrating all other news sources for not widely broadcasting the "truth"); and

2. To be a lazy consumer of news. People on the right or left that only look to find sources who's perspectives agree with their own biases are not educating themselves about the world - they are merely buying ammo for their debate guns.

To insist that any single news source provide a complete, objective view of a large situation is to abdicate responsibility - to expect that someone else do the work that it is really our own duty to do. No single source can ever deliver anything but a partial, biased view. What the internet, and other modern distribution channels give us is the ability to look at any situation from multiple angles of vision, through the eyes of many reporters, and from that, to extract something that probably can be considered a fair idea of the reality of a situation.

But those that do not wish to put the effort into doing so should not complain that someone else isn't doing it for them.

[PS. Not being snarky here Postroad ... really just trying to make a point.]
posted by MidasMulligan at 3:46 PM on April 11, 2004

All I heard about this morning was Fallujah.

I stand corrected, then. I haven't watched any TV news today, but over the last few days I thought they were avoiding the issue, considering its severity.
posted by homunculus at 3:51 PM on April 11, 2004

Well said, Midas.
posted by gwint at 4:10 PM on April 11, 2004

Believability Index: 0

It seems as if many USians are unduly dismissive of the many stories of the US employing artillery and sniping tactics for the seige of Fallujah. As the experience of the Serbs showed in Sarajevo, if you are unwilling to expend your own troops going door-to-door, and to eliminate the city population through massed bombardment, you end up with an inconclusive, protracted exchange of fire and relatively static positions. I note that the US beach head in Fallujah has been small and static for days.

Why wouldn't the Marines use snipers? In this situation they are one of the few tactics that "work". Reuters seems confident the US is using snipers...
The U.S. military says its operations are precise and it does not target civilians or women and children ... An assessment by five international non-governmental organisations on Friday said 470 people had been killed in Falluja. Of 1,200 injured, it said 243 were women and 200 children. The groups said their estimate may be conservative. "Dead bodies are lying in the streets. Ambulances are being shot at by snipers. Medical aid and supplies have been stopped by U.S. occupation forces," a statement from the NGOs said ... Residents say the Marines shoot without concern for their targets. One doctor pointed to an ambulance outside the clinic whose windscreen and side was riddled with bullet holes. "We went close to Abdulaziz mosque and evacuated some wounded, when a sniper fired at us," he said. "Our driver was killed and some of the wounded died."
posted by meehawl at 4:18 PM on April 11, 2004

Well said, Midas.

Lengthily said, at least.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:10 PM on April 11, 2004

Don't tread on me.
posted by the fire you left me at 6:22 PM on April 11, 2004

how many terrorists did you create today mr. bush?
posted by specialk420 at 6:44 PM on April 11, 2004

I find the use of helicopter gunships, 500lbs bombs in a built-up area such as Falluja morally objectionable. Tactically it seems massively disproportionate and strategically, well it's just plain bovine. What is the utility of recapturing a city by such means, when the only result except for nominal control of real estate is the grief and the humiliation of a proud and already antipathetic population?

Compare this to the recapture of the town hall in Basra by the British Army - yes different insurgents, yes different levels of support - but nevertheless, a qualitively different approach. For the British the perceived nature of the unrest is extreme public disorder (not some affront to Coalition lèse-majesté or a challenge to its monopoly on violence). As a consequence, except for self-defence and the protection of others, violence is the last resort; negotiation the first and often successful tactic.

Perhaps some of this reasoning is hitting home. I really hope so.
posted by pots at 6:53 PM on April 11, 2004

"......Let's be honest, this authors credability index is at zero" - Previous bias only demonstrates possible present bias. But such doesn't, a priori, reduce Mahajan's credibility index to zero.

Many here on this post seem very eager to dismiss - out of hand - reports of considerable civilian death in Fallujah.

I tend to trust the NGO's cited in Meehawl's linked Reuter's report (above) far more than I would trust the "embedded" reporters scribbling whatever the hell they would scribble from their perspective on other side of the "trenches" - outside Fallujah with the US soldiers shooting into the city, that is.

"The dead include small children, women and old men, a new born baby. Beside the corpses, there is a pile of body parts which no one has had time to deal with.

The U.S. military says its operations are precise and it does not target civilians or women and children.....Marines say they are only firing back when under attack and do not target women and children, but wounded civilians still fill the limited hospital beds.

....An assessment by five international non-governmental organizations on Friday said 470 people had been killed in Falluja. Of 1,200 injured, it said 243 were women and 200 children. The groups said their estimate may be conservative.

"Dead bodies are lying in the streets. Ambulances are being shot at by snipers. Medical aid and supplies have been stopped by U.S. occupation forces," a statement from the NGOs said.

"The thousands of families who remain trapped in Falluja are running out of basic necessities like food and potable water. Hospitals and medical staff are overwhelmed, and are asking desperately for blood, oxygen and antiseptics."

...."We were driving in the car and we got wounded, me in the shoulder, her in the head, her in the hand," said one small girl, pointing to other wounded children sitting around her in the clinic.

"Why are they doing this to us? We are a family, they shouldn't treat us like this." "

This seems to me to be both a human tragedy and a PR debacle for the US - and a potent symbol which will, unfortunately, help to galvanize resistance against the US occupation.

Who is in charge of this disaster, anyway?

Let me get this straight : the mutilation of the bodies of those four murdered contractors required a military response so intense that hundreds of Iraqi civilians - the elderly, women, and children included - have been killed and wounded ?

Call those casualties to American pride. I feel this American response has been wildly inappropriate and - if national pride demands the killing of children even, then national pride is surely an evil thing.

Whatever happened to national wisdom? Or national compassion ? Or national mercy ?

Did these values - the best of Christian values, and surely the values most central to the core teaching of jesus - all go out the window with the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks?
posted by troutfishing at 7:31 PM on April 11, 2004

*waves hand*
Me! Me! I wanna answer troutfishing's rhetorical questions!!!

1) I think the "Vulcans" are solidly in charge and in control.

2) It's a proven strategy going way back. Of course, during WWII, it was mostly the OTHER side who practiced it.

3) All those qualities are counterproductive when you're waging war against a fictional enemy. (On the one day of September 11, 2001, more than twice as many people died from AIDS as died from terrorist attack... get some perspective.)

4) Those kind of "Christian values" went out of style when the Roman Empire converted... but, as for the last remnants of them, remember that horrible picture of the guy falling from an upper floor of the WTC? He had them in his briefcase.
posted by wendell at 7:47 PM on April 11, 2004

Well, remember, we're in this war because Saddam slaughtered his own people.
posted by Slagman at 8:35 PM on April 11, 2004

Whatever happened to national wisdom? Or national compassion ? Or national mercy ?

trout, your funny man, these "values" were written down long before Christ came along.

The World According To Troutfishing
posted by clavdivs at 8:40 PM on April 11, 2004

clavdivs - I should have been blunter, I suppose. The US has historically called itself - the separation of powers notwithstanding - a Christian nation. But, please look again at what I wrote - I didn't imply that Christianity invented these timeless values.

I was merely taught, as a youngin', that Christianity embodied them. I suppose, too, that I still believe that.
posted by troutfishing at 8:51 PM on April 11, 2004

Trout--I don't think the Christian values went out the window on 9/11. I think they were hocked as down payment for a '53 Buick years ago.

National wisdom has become the spin of a vast wasteland of brain dead consumers.

The real playground terorists never used chalk . . . and they were never the ones who liked to read. They were the stupid brutal paranoid ones so worried about perceived weakness that they lost their childhoods.

Wisdom? Howzabout Jefferson: "Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual."

Or maybe Johnny Cash: "It don't mean nuthin, drive on"
posted by ahimsakid at 9:12 PM on April 11, 2004

A couple of points that are nagging at me: The opening post, presumably in an attempt to prop up this guy's mainstream credentials, lists Rahul Mahajan as "a contributor to papers such as USA Today and the Baltimore Sun." A quick nexis search shows that Mahajan has made all of one contribution to the Sun: a short opinion piece on an inside page of the paper's sunday Perspective section -- essentially a letter to the editor. And his USA Today contribution is similar -- a single short opinion piece. So to be fair, he's not a freelance reporter for these newspapers. He's a guy who submits opinion pieces to newspapers to further causes he believes in. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's is an important distinction to make when considering his press credentials.

Mahajan may very well be accurately decribing what's going on in Fallujah, but it would be foolish to accept the "reporting" of a self-described antiwar activist without at least a degree of skepticism.
posted by TBoneMcCool at 9:27 PM on April 11, 2004

Well, remember, we're in this war because Saddam slaughtered his own people.

huh? that isn't what bush, cheney, wolfie, and powell told us a year plus ago ... sounds like you have swallowed whole their cover their ass line for killing over 10,000 iraqi civilians, and the deaths of hundreds of american servicemen, though ...
posted by specialk420 at 9:42 PM on April 11, 2004

While it can be safely said that Mahajan is against the war (and generally against war in general) what isn't pointed out is that his statement regarding what he saw in Fallujah essentially is supported by relief organizations, Reuters, and the reporters from Al Jazeera who are the only other reporters on the scene.

Given that most mainstream reporters would fear for their lives (rightfully so...) in Fallujah *AND* supposing that the U.S. is targeting ambulances, what kind of witnesses would we really need to feel that this is likely?

Can anyone point out any example from Mahajan's previous articles where what he reported was clearly not true? Can he be an antiwar activist and still be a credible reporter?
posted by insomnia_lj at 11:13 PM on April 11, 2004

Great post Midas.
posted by weston at 11:14 PM on April 11, 2004

Others are mentioning the U.S. attacking ambulances and their use of snipers, btw, such as Paola Gaspiroli, an aid worker with Bridges to Baghdad:

"Falluja is under siege. 470 people have been killed, and 1700 injured. There has been no ceasefire. They (Americans) told people to leave, and they have 8 hours to do so. People began to leave, but became trapped in the desert. The Americans have been bombing with B52s .... The Americans have been firing on ambulances and snipers are following them. The ambulances cannot get in."

Or Reuters:
"An assessment by five international non-governmental organisations on Friday said 470 people had been killed in Falluja. Of 1,200 injured, it said 243 were women and 200 children. The groups said their estimate may be conservative.

"Dead bodies are lying in the streets. Ambulances are being shot at by snipers. Medical aid and supplies have been stopped by U.S. occupation forces," a statement from the NGOs said."

Or Al Jazeera:
"Ambulances arriving from Baghdad to evacuate the seriously injured had difficulty in gaining access to the town. US soldiers opened fire, forcing six of the ambulances to retreat as they attempted to reach the Talib al-Janabi clinic."

Or the L.A. Times, quoting several women who fled from Fallujah:
"The women, some of whom had just fled the city that morning, spoke of small victories, such as having stockpiled enough water, and painful defeats, like the sight of neighbors shot dead in the street and ambulances pockmarked with bullet holes."
posted by insomnia_lj at 1:06 AM on April 12, 2004

While others are mentioning that ambulances are a proven favorite tactic to exploit the vulnerabilities of an army who conducts war with a conscience:

Additional reports indicate that ambulances and other medical convoys were used to deliver military orders and transport Fedayeen paramilitary fighters. On March 31, three U.S. soldiers were wounded after Iraqi Fedayeen fighters used a Red Crescent ambulance to attack them near Nasiriya, according to military reports.
In addition to the wanted terrorist in the ambulance, another man, a woman and three children aged 6 months, 3 years and 4 years were present in the ambulance. The explosives belt was composed of 16 pipes containing 10 kilograms of explosive materials. The belt was concealed under the mattress of the stretcher upon which one of the children lay.

This is not the first time an ambulance has been used for the transfer of terrorists and weapons, and workers of the Palestinian Red Crescent have been sent on missions by terrorist organizations - for example, Wafa Idris, am employee of the Palestinian Red Crescent, who perpetrated a suicide bombing on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem, last January.

The organizations operate on a basis that ambulances and medical crews are not being checked and examined thoroughly at IDF checkpoints, thus cynically exploiting the instructions given to soldiers regarding their behavior towards civilians, the ill, and children.
Here's a pretty good history lesson in the use of ambulances by Palestinian terrorists against Israel.
Now, can anyone tell me why there might be a good reason that a random Iraqi woman might have seen an ambulance pockmarked with bullet holes?
posted by David Dark at 2:03 AM on April 12, 2004

Ahh, I see now David - because those ambulances could have been carrying insurgents about the place, they become legitimate targets, all ambulances indeed. Those referenced in the Reuters report where the hospital driver was killed are unfortunate collateral damage too.

I suppose one could then link to stories of children carrying ammunition, which in itself makes all children legitimate targets for snipers/bombs. And let's not forget that women can carry weapons too! Who knows if that woman is actually pregnant, or carrying a load of explosives?

Then again, it's their own fault that they're in Falluja - if they happen to get injured, they should know better than to use the terrorist supplying ambulances - far better to walk to hospital, toughens one up.
posted by Mossy at 3:27 AM on April 12, 2004

I emailed Rahul Mahajan directly, and this was his reply:

Dear Mark,

Thanks for the link -- I noticed that it brought in over 1000 readers. Pretty remarkable.

I'm an antiwar activist and have been, in an active way, for the past six years. I don't try to hide it. I'm not going to lie because of it, but these days people (well, half the people in the US) seem to believe that anyone who says anything that reflects badly on Bush or America's role in the world is simply by virtue of saying that biased and therefore to be dismissed.

As for staging, that's really silly special pleading. What can I say? It's theoretically possible, although the ambulance my friends were in definitely came under fire, while they were in it, from U.S. snipers. But it's also, I suppose, theoretically possible that Bush planned 9/11. I think both claims are absurd and carry a much heavier burden of proof than the claim the other way around. Personally, I don't think the muj are that sophisticated at PR, judging from the video of the Japanese tourists they put out.

I ran out of memory on my card before we saw the ambulances. A friend has pictures and I'm going to try to get them. Dahr Jamail also witnessed what I did, as well as many other Westerners. We're all antiwar people. Not a lot of Bush supporters in Fallujah at the moment.

At the moment, apparently, even staying in Baghdad is a risk, and I'm not sure how much longer I will be here.


Rahul Mahajan

posted by insomnia_lj at 6:37 AM on April 12, 2004

Nice to see an actual e-mail exchange with the author, instead of semi-idle speculation about the author's motives.
posted by FormlessOne at 7:28 AM on April 12, 2004

insomnia - great idea. So simple : ask.

What a shame Mahajan didn't have a laptop, in Fallujah, with a functioning wireless link. Then we could have seen for ourselves.
posted by troutfishing at 8:20 AM on April 12, 2004

It's great that Mahajan responded to an e-mail. And it's great that he seems like a smart guy. But I'll say it again: To take his word about what's happening without a little skepticism is quite frankly naive. It's great to have somebody inside fallujah offering reports of the situation, but just keep in mind who this guy is and what his slant is. That's all I'm saying. This guy is an antiwar activist first and a journalist second. His reporting is going to be vastly different from a journalist whose primary goal is to put political biases aside and report the facts as much as possible. (And just so you know my slant in all of this: I'm as opposed to this war as much as is possible.)
posted by TBoneMcCool at 9:22 AM on April 12, 2004

why must we always get stories about how bad the one side is and total neglect of what the other wside may or many not have been up to?

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we are the occupying force. It doesn't really matter what the other side does; our "army" is on shaky moral ground just being there, and has to behave well so we can more easily justify our presence there as a humanitarian project.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:27 AM on April 12, 2004

Nice strawman, Mossy.
posted by David Dark at 4:53 PM on April 12, 2004

I'd tend to trust this story - mostly - given that it syncs with reports coming from five different NGO's

But - David Dark - I've no doubt there has been various questionable behavior on both sides of the Fallajuh conflict lines.

This doesn't matter an awful lot though - the onus of the blame for the dead women and children of Fallujah, some of whom (one of your recently posted links informed me) were shot neatly through the head, will be heaped on the Americans. Misbehavior, on the part of the defenders, will be quickly forgotten.

Fallujah has become a monumental PR disaster for the US - and the sad fact of the matter is that there's little the US can do in the Iraq conflict without creating more PR disasters.
posted by troutfishing at 9:25 PM on April 12, 2004

The sad fact of the matter is that there was little to no chance that the US could have accomplished the Iraq conflict without creating a myriad of PR disasters, real or imagined, because the media cast its vote before the US made a move or the UN even voted on the matter.

Misbehavior by the defenders is always quickly forgotten. Misbehavior by American forces are always put under a microscope. Fallujah is just the same shit on a different cracker.

I'm not belittling the deaths or the actions. I know how it looks, and I linked to the information myself. I said in the thread you're referring to that if the Marines are targeting innocents in the city, they should be court-martialed and tried for war crimes. I'm not condoning the behavior, but just like in the other thread, my comment here about the ambulances is simply offering possible explanations based on my accrued knowledge of the situation.
posted by David Dark at 10:49 PM on April 12, 2004

"the media cast its vote before the US made a move or the UN even voted on the matter." - You're referring to the media's rooting for the impending US invasion of Iraq, right? Or have you forgotten all those major TV network variants on the "Showdown - Iraq !" riff - complete with theme music ?

It was quite a little production - like a presidential election really, except with the theme : "Showdown with Saddam !" : quite theatrical, really.

Oh, the American media cast it's vote allright - with a blaring fanfare to the triumphal march towards war which was marred only by the wee scandal, at the time, as the media downplayed and ignored the size and scope of the US and world antiwar protests.

During the invasion, the media's newly deputized, paramilitary-like "embedded" reporters did a stellar job of conveying the precise and sanitized nature of the invasion. People in islamic countries watched a rather different war on Al Jazeera, a war which involved extensive use of anti-personnel weapons, such as cluster bombs, which tend to kill and maim lots of civilians. The US media, in it's sage role as an information prophylactic, determined that the US public needn't be exposed to such disturbing imagery, of dead and wounded women and children.

You're confusing American and western media with Islamic media, aren't you ? I've seen precious few pictures of Iraqi civilian casualties in the US media. Al Jazeera and other Islamic media organs are the media organs which have been dedicated to a ceaseless airing of images of Iraq civilian wounded and dead.

In fact, on my very own "liberal" public radio station - WBUR, they've been referring to the casualties from the siege of Fallujah in terms of X number of "Iraqis" dead and Y number of American troops killed. "Liberal" public radio has not seen it fit to mention that the majority of Iraqi deaths in Fallujah, probably, have been civilian deaths.

"Misbehavior by the defenders is always quickly forgotten. Misbehavior by American forces are always put under a microscope." - This is the eternal "injustice" which has plagued occupying armies throughout history, hasn't it ?

"The sad fact of the matter is that there was little to no chance that the US could have accomplished the Iraq conflict without creating a myriad of PR disasters" : The logical import of this statement, which I agree with, is that there was from the onset little to no chance - or only a slim chance - that the US could have overcome it's inherent PR disadvantages to accomplish the mission of democratizing Iraq. So - since Democracy is about consent - the Iraqi terrorist objective, of undercutting the democratization project by forcing the Americans to rule Iraq with the heaviest possible hand - was an easy one.

But - as has been mentioned a number of times now - the British troops have fared much better in Iraq. I would think the American military commanders would want to make a study of the relative British success. I hope they are.
posted by troutfishing at 5:15 AM on April 13, 2004

this article in the Jakarta Post says that an Indonesian-run ambulance donated by a group called Mer-C was fired on near Fallujah by a missile from a U.S. plane, killing four people. A translation of the Mer-C website on the subject says the following:

A year ago, when the second Gulf War started, MER-C sent their first paramedic team to the conflict area in Iraq. Four MER-C volunteers travelled to Iraq via Jordan, bringing aid donated from the Indonesian community. The MER-C team operated in the heart of Baghdad, helping victims of the war. When the majority of the volunteer team left Iraq, they gave the ambulance to those members of the team who chose to stay on in Iraq.

One of the volunteers that had been given the task of operating the MER-C ambulance was Abu Ibrahim. Ever since the formation of MER-C's Middle Eastern team based in Palestine, Abu Ibrahim was active in MER-C's activities, especially those involving the conflict in Iraq. He was also active in Palestine, where MER-C had previously donated an ambulance to the Palestinian people.

Although the US has declared the end of the war in Iraq and Saddam Hussein has been captured, in reality the conflict in Iraq continues to this day and continues to take the lives of both US and Iraqis. The US has increased its troop presence in several regions of Iraq, including that of Fallujah. As has been reported by the world's media, US troops are currently involved in combat near Fallujah.

MER-C based its volunteer, Abu Ibrahim, in Fallujah. On Friday, April 9th, Abu Ibrahim was driving the ambulance with 3 patients on board. The victims were on their way to Fallujah's main hospital to receive futher medical treatment, but their lives came to an end when their ambulance was hit by a US jet fighter.

Since the formation of MER-C, this is the first time that a volunteer has died while serving in the field. This is a risk that every individual who has volunteered for MER-C has to take and is aware of. However, this tragedy has not diminished MER-C's goal of sending a second team to Iraq in the near future.

MER-C accepts donation for the war victims in Iraq. Please send all donations to:

Bank Muamalat Indonesia -- Sudirman
Atas nama MER-C
No. Rek. 301.00522.15


Also, there are now pictures from an American who was in Fallujah documenting the attacks on ambulances.
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:36 AM on April 15, 2004

Looks like the Jakarta Post doesn't use static news links, so here is a reprint of the article which is on a French website.
posted by insomnia_lj at 11:03 AM on April 15, 2004

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