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Old 02-05-2021, 02:17 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Timeline: 1976

The Soweto Uprising ( 16 June 1976)

Era: Late twentieth century
Year: 1976
Campaign: None, as such, but essentially part of the fight against Apartheid, the struggle for the right to be treated with dignity and respect
Conflict: Apartheid
Country: South Africa
Region: Soweto, Johannesburg
Combatants: South African Police and black protesting students
Commander(s): (Students) Teboho "Tsietsi" MacDonald Mashinini (very nominally) Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Police - no name given of the commander so blame must fall on the heads of) Prime Minister (later State President) B.J. Vorster, Minister for Bantu Education J.G. Erasmus, Deputy Minister of Bantu Education Punt Janson. Probably the Minister of Justice too, but I can't find out who he was at the time.
Reason: A protest against the forced imposition of the Afrikaans language in schools
Objective: To force authorities to rethink their position and allow children to learn in their own native languages
Casualties: From 176 to 700
Objective Achieved? Yes
Victor: Technically, South African Police and State, though in the long term the protest (and the brutal crackdown) was seen as a watershed moment in South African politics and the beginning of the end of Apartheid
Legacy: A massacre that shocked even white South Africans, to say nothing of the world at large (even though we, as usual, made a lot of noise but did nothing) and which began the slow process of dismantling the system of Apartheid in South Africa, leading eventually to the triumphant release of Nelson Mandela.

Well, I said when I began this journal that it would not only focus on battles and wars, but all areas of human conflict, as it says in the title, and while this was not a battle as such - unarmed children against heavily-armoured police - it does cover one of the most shameful periods in man’s history, when too much innocent blood was shed for reasons of repression and racism.

To understand the reason behind this protest, and the resultant confrontation with police, it’s necessary to understand what apartheid was. Thankfully now, we can say this in the past tense, as when I was growing up apartheid was a factor of daily life for black South Africans, and we heard about it on the news all the time. With the eventual release of Nelson Mandela that all changed, but it took over thirty years for it to happen.


Apartheid: It Did Matter If You Were Black or White

I have no intention of trying to write a treatise on the system of social and racial segregation instigated in South Africa for over four decades, as it would be both presumptuous of me, as a white, to try to do so, and, more importantly, would require almost another journal to cover it as it deserves to be. But I’ll do my best to quickly explain, for anyone who isn’t familiar with the term - and if so, thank god or the absence of a god that you are - what this entailed. As usual, it stemmed from the conquest and occupation of a country, in this case South Africa by the Dutch who, being largely white by ethnicity, regarded the natives as little more than slaves. The Dutch East India Company arrived in 1652, establishing a trading colony at the Cape of Good Hope, and members were allowed to settle and farm the land there, much to the anger and resentment of, and resistance by the native African tribes. Many of these settlers would end up fighting the British in the Boer Wars a few centuries later, as Britain took over the colony in 1798, having fought the French (now in control) for passage to India.

Britain’s abolition of slavery in South Africa in 1834 irked the Dutch settlers, the Boers, and their dislike for the natives led to their own Boer Republics around the Transvaal and the Orange Free State passing laws that promoted racial segregation. With the rise to power of the Afrikaaner-led National Party (Afrikaaners being mostly Boers and other whites) in 1948, the practice of apartheid, or separateness, was installed as policy, and South Africa came under white rule. As more and more anti-black laws were passed (The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act a year later, The Immorality Amendment of 1950, which expanded on the 1949 Act by prohibiting sexual relationships, not just marriage, between races, and the Population Registration Act of the same year, which officially and legally divided all South Africans into one of four groups - Black, White, Coloured and Indian) - the days of slavery were back in South Africa in all but name. Blacks lost the right to vote, to hold any sort of meaningful or well-paid job, were relegated to live in the poorest towns and villages, and were forbidden to run for any sort of public office.

Opposition, though, was growing against the regime during the 1970s and 1980s, led internally by Nelson Mandela’s Africa National Congress, though he himself was jailed in 1962, and the world constantly protested (although did not intervene), holding benefit concerts, placing embargos on South African imports and exports, and boycotting events there. Eventually, inevitably, the pressure would tell and the tide would turn, and Soweto was one of the events on which this seachange depended.

Dirty Rotten Afrikaants…

I suppose it would be similar to a country conquered by Nazi Germany being forced to use German as their only language, or the Roman Empire insisting everyone spoke Latin. It was the language of the enemy, the tongue of the oppressor, and while we Irish may have been pushed into speaking English as our own national language slowly died out, the South Africans weren’t standing for it and they protested. The trouble was that back in the bad old days of apartheid-driven South Africa, protests were not allowed, not by blacks, and were met with unbelievably disproportionate violence. White South Africans, especially the hated and feared South African Police, barely recognised blacks as human, and did not consider them to have any rights.

The Deputy Minister of Education pronounced the edict without any sort of consultation with the black community, even the respected Bishop Desmond Tutu spoke out against it, but the policy was to be installed in the schools and nobody was allowed to say anything against it. The Africa Teachers Association of South Africa objected to it on logical grounds, pointing out that few of the students even knew Afrikaans, so it was a language they would have to learn first, which would take the focus off their attention to the subject. Like learning maths in Spanish I guess, if you can’t speak Spanish. Ridiculous. But that was South Africa in the seventies for you. All about tightening the hold of white supremacy over the black population and removing the cultural and traditional supports they relied upon. English was also allowed as an acceptable alternative by the authorities, but this wasn’t much help as most of the indigenous population didn’t speak that either.

Faced with an intractable, uncaring government who wanted to stunt their educational development and further limit their almost laughable opportunities in this world run by the white man, students went on strike at Orlando West Junior School, refusing to go to school. This protest quickly spread, until the Soweto Students Representative Council met on June 13 1976 and organised a mass rally to make their voices heard. This was set for three days later, on June 16.

Load Up, Load Up, Load Up, With, um, Real Bullets

On the morning of June 16 an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 children, students and teachers began the march to the rally, but police, somehow aware of the event, blocked the road with barricades. Reluctant to provoke them, the protesters took another route, their numbers having dropped to from 10,000 to 3,000 by the time they reached the wellspring of the revolt, Orlando West Junior School. As the peaceful protesters chanted slogans and demanded equal treatment, police turned their dogs loose on the crowd. The protesters killed the dogs, and the police began to shoot.

Okay, let me just make that very clear, because in these days of more enlightened thinking it’s almost impossible to contemplate such a thing, but yes, the South African Police, facing a crowd of protesters, most of which were children of school-going age, opened fire. With live ammunition.

One more time, in case you don’t get it.
Police. Shot. And killed. Children.

As panic swept through the crowd and it began to break up, the police kept shooting, until 23 people lay dead. That night, violence erupted as shops and government buildings were targeted, and the police responded with lethal force. By the end, estimates of deaths range from 176 to 700, with thousands wounded. A measure of the arrogance and ignorance of the apartheid regime for blacks was an order sent by the South African Police to the hospitals for the names of any wounded found to have bullet holes in them to be sent to them, so that they could later prosecute them for rioting! Thankfully, doctors treated this request/order with the contempt it was due, and no names were passed back to them.

Legacy


There are always watershed moments that can lead to revolution, and it’s usually a case of the oppressed being pushed just too far, and deciding they’re no longer going to take it. In America, the former colony was furious at the government tax on tea, and this led to the American War of Independence, resulting in the creation of the United States of America, a huge step towards breaking England’s status as a major power. In Ireland, the Easter Rising quickly led to the establishment of the Irish Free State, and here the Soweto Uprising stunned people with the force of the ferocity and inhumanity with which it was put down. Central to the problems that began to beset the South African government was that even white people were outraged, and a day later white students marched in protest. They couldn’t be shot and cowed into submission, and as other black townships rebelled, international pressure on the regime grew and the stranglehold of the National Party began to slip, and the Rand devalued in the wake of economic depression, the troubled and bloody walk towards a new and brighter horizon had begun.

The massacre also helped the ANC to rise as a real force for protest and change, as student rallies and protests were coordinated under its banner, strikes organised and resistance channelled through their offices, but a slow and painful march it would be. Ten years later police would again massacre up to 25 people in a raid intended to evict them for non-payment of rent, and tear gas would later be dropped on mourners at a mass funeral for these same victims. The USA, meanwhile, making plenty of noise from the safety of the White House, declined the opportunity to bring up the Soweto massacre when Secretary of State Henry Kissinger met President B.J. Vorster a week afterwards in Germany, steering well clear of the subject. I guess with the US’s record on civil rights, even now, he may have felt that was a step too close towards the pot conversing with the kettle about its colour.

It would take another fourteen years before Mandela would be freed, in a new climate of change and (kind of) acceptance of the rights of blacks, and indeed he would go on to become South Africa’s first black president, dying in 2013, having experienced a mere thirteen years freedom. June 16 is now forever commemorated as Youth Day, a holiday in South Africa, honouring and remembering the children and youths who died at Soweto.

Why will this conflict be remembered?

How could it not? It may not have been the first time, but it’s the first time I ever heard of armed police opening fire on children. They may have shot unarmed protesters before, probably did, but I think shooting children brought the apartheid regime to a new low, and it could really sink no lower. Nevertheless, it seems the government did not learn its lesson easily or quickly, as related above with another massacre in 1986. However the tide was turning by then, and four short years (not to him, I’m sure, but in relative terms) later Nelson Mandela would secure his freedom and walk from Robben Island a national hero and icon. It all started with a bunch of kids who decided they’d had enough, and took on a gargantuan, immovable relic of their past which clung grimly and determinedly to power as the world changed around it, and took the unthinkable final step that would eventually bring it crashing down in the dust.

Suffer the children, indeed. Lends new and chilling meaning to the words from the Bible, “and a child shall lead them.”
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Old 02-05-2021, 05:53 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I think shooting children brought the apartheid regime to a new low, and it could really sink no lower.
You are incorrect, sir. Cause after Soweto the SA government realized they weren't going to able to keep the black population under control forever so they started coming up with some straight up Final Solutions, starting with a chemical weapons program, moving on to a forced sterilization program, and ending with a plan to dose the black population with ecstasy to keep them docile. Luckily none of this worked out (though there is a body count) but the doctor in charge of all this would end up stealing all the ecstasy and becoming a drug lord lol.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Coast
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There is only one bright spot and that is the growing habit of disgruntled men of dynamiting factories and power-stations; I hope that, encouraged now as ‘patriotism’, may remain a habit! But it won’t do any good, if it is not universal.
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Old 02-05-2021, 06:24 PM   #13 (permalink)
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I stand corrected, sir. I am sorry to hear that it was so. Man's inhumanity to man truly knows no bounds.
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Old 04-17-2021, 01:11 PM   #14 (permalink)
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I just heard about your country's greatest battle at the Siege of Jadotville and you should totally do an entry on that. There isn't enough highlighted about African conflicts anyway.
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There is only one bright spot and that is the growing habit of disgruntled men of dynamiting factories and power-stations; I hope that, encouraged now as ‘patriotism’, may remain a habit! But it won’t do any good, if it is not universal.
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Old 04-17-2021, 07:17 PM   #15 (permalink)
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I just heard about your country's greatest battle at the Siege of Jadotville and you should totally do an entry on that. There isn't enough highlighted about African conflicts anyway.
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Old 04-17-2021, 08:07 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Bro look it up it's good ****. It involves Irish soldiers asking for more whiskey in the face of overwhelming odds.
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Originally Posted by J.R.R. Tolkien
There is only one bright spot and that is the growing habit of disgruntled men of dynamiting factories and power-stations; I hope that, encouraged now as ‘patriotism’, may remain a habit! But it won’t do any good, if it is not universal.
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Old 04-17-2021, 08:26 PM   #17 (permalink)
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That is pretty cool.
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Old 07-02-2021, 04:07 PM   #18 (permalink)
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the SA government realized they weren't going to be able to keep the black population under control forever so they started coming up with a chemical weapons program, moving on to a forced sterilization program, and ending with a plan to dose the black population with ecstasy to keep them docile.

Luckily none of this worked out (though there is a body count) but the doctor in charge of all this would end up stealing all the ecstasy and becoming a drug lord lol.
This would make quite a movie script
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This thread reads like the synopsis of a tv series, in a good way
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Old 08-29-2021, 08:27 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Timeline: 2016

The Siege of Fallujah (February - June 2016)


Era: Twenty-first century
Year: 2016
Campaign: Anbar Campaign
Conflict: Iraq War/War on Terror
Country: Iraq
Region: Fallujah, Anbar Province
Combatants: ISIS, Iraqi Security and Armed Forces (with air support from Coalition Forces - USA, UK, Australia) and also Iran
Commander(s): (Iraqi/Iranian) Haidel al-Abadi, Suhaib al-Rawi, Issa Sayyar al-Isawi , Major Sayeer al-EsIsawie, Qaem Soleimani (ISIS) Abu Waheeb, Hussein Alawi, Ayad Marzouk al-Anbari
Reason: To retake the city after its fall two years previously
Objective: Regain control of the city and thus the province, push ISIS back
Casualties (approx): Very roughly about 5,000 on both sides
Objective Achieved? Yes
Victor: Iraqi army and its allies
Legacy: A major defeat for ISIS and secured the safety of Baghdad. Many top-level leaders killed; a demonstration that the Iraqi army could defend its own country without (too much) intervention by or help from the USA or other outside allies. Created a humanitarian disaster and left thousands of people homeless and destitute, and set the template for later conflicts.

Like most battles in the Iraqi War, this one was heavily connected to others and was in fact also known as the Third Battle of Fallujah. In Iraq, control of this territory or that territory was contested almost on a monthly basis, with one side gaining the upper hand only to lose it soon after, and the whole thing taking on the aspect of a deadly game of tag. One day, the local Iraqi forces were “it”, the next, they were chasing ISIS. One is reminded, grimly, of a nevertheless funny scene in Star Wars (or if you prefer, A New Hope, though it will always be the former to me, the original) where Harrison Ford, seized by a sudden sense of either courage or madness, charges a squad of stormtroopers on the Death Star and they run off, with him in hot pursuit. Off-camera, someone eventually realises this is just one man, and they turn and begin chasing him, back the way he came.

So it would seem was the case with Iraq, where ground won, rather like the trench warfare stage of the First World War, was rarely held, and everything was in a perpetual state of flux, including the government. Fallujah was an important and strategic town, and I’m about to tell you why, but in order to do so, I need to take you back two years, to the original Battle for Fallujah, which did not go the west’s way.

To understand why this city became such a focal point for resistance (even if, in the end, the actual citizens became nothing more than a cross between cannon fodder and prisoners) we need to look back to almost the very beginnings of the Iraq war, the 2003 invasion. Fallujah had been a stronghold and powerbase of the powerful Ba’ath Party, which was, yes, the party of soon-to-be-deposed-and-later-hanged President Saddam Hussein. It was primarily a Sunni city, this being the ethnic group Hussein belonged to, the other being the Shi’ites, and each hated the other with the kind of revulsion and anger you might have seen on the streets of Belfast on the Twelfth, when the Unionist Orangemen marched through the Republican areas where lived those loyal to the IRA.

As usual, the coalition forces almost literally shot themselves in the foot from the start, “accidentally” bombing a market and killing hundreds of civilians. Quite how, with the supposed “infallible” computer-aided guidance systems we’re supposed to have now, a bomb can go so spectacularly off target is something I find hard to understand, but you kill civilians at your peril, and so the resistance against George W. Bush’s coalition forces hardened, and it never really thawed, as Fallujah became a rallying call for then-Al Qaeda fighters, and for those who had lost everything when their leader had been deposed. Before March 2003, the most profitable and cushiest jobs went to members of the Ba’ath Party only, so with the ousting of Saddam Hussein also went their meal ticket, and things changed radically as their city, and their country, was taken over by foreign invaders.

And let’s not make any mistake about it: this was an invasion. Not a response to a cry for help, not a strategic and necessary moving in of assets, not a pre-emptive strike to forestall an attack. Iraq, while certainly ruled by a despot, was no threat at all to the USA, to the west or to the world outside of the Middle East. Hussein’s posturing had proven to be just that, empty braggadocio spouted by a windbag who, when someone actually stood up to him, when he met a bully as big and powerful as he was, went scurrying home and hid under his bed. The First Gulf War, barely deserving of the name, was over in a matter of a month, and over decisively. Hussein knew he could never take on the mighty powers of the west - especially USA and Britain - on his own, and he had few allies that were willing to step up and help him, and thus alienate not only the Americans but also the rich and powerful Saudis, who were nominally allies of the US (despite almost all of the 9/11 attackers being from there, but that’s another story).

So there was zero chance of Iraq launching any sort of offensive at the west, and the best it could do would be to throw shapes at Iran - as it did, and was again beaten - and fume to itself, impotent and unimportant. The idea of Saddam Hussein possessing WMDs - weapons of mass destruction, such as biological and chemical weapons or even nuclear bombs - was as ludicrous as the idea Donald Trump actually won the 2020 Presidential election. It just could never happen. But fear is a great motivator, and most of the time you just have to say the right words to make people shit themselves and demand action (let’s not forget Hitler’s dire warnings about the “international Jew”, shall we?), action you’ve just been waiting to be asked to take.

So there was no basis - no true basis - on which the USA and its allies invaded Iraq, on the face of it and being entirely fair, a peaceful country which threatened nobody and had as much to do with 9/11 as I did. But they did it anyway. The USA has been used to “intervening” in any conflict in which they believe they should get involved, whether on grounds which are ideological, religious, financial or territorial. In the case of Iraq, it was money, pure and simple. Iraq had oil, America wanted it, and what America, the biggest bully in the world’s playground, wants, it takes.

This time, however, it was about to bite off a whole lot more than it could chew.


The American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.” President Barack Obama, The White House, August 31 2010

The Fall of Fallujah, December 30 2013 - January 4 2014

After seven years in Iraq following its invasion by the US-led coalition forces in ostensible response to the terror attacks of September 11 2001 which brought down the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, a new president was in office and Barack Obama had been elected partially on a promise of bringing the troops home, and ending an occupation America was getting increasingly dissatisfied with, seeing another Vietnam unfolding before their eyes. As the words of former President George W. Bush at the outset of the invasion, that there would be no US casualties, rang hollow in the wake of over 4,000 coffins arriving in American airports during the period up to 2008, the new president realised the US was never going to win this war, and it was time to exit as gracefully as possible. To that end, he began preparations to reduce, and finally remove all US troops from Iraq, and by 2010 the last brigade had departed.

While this decision is easy to criticise, especially with the benefit of hindsight, and while its historical repetition is being played out in Afghanistan as I write this, a permanent presence in Iraq was never going to be of benefit to the US government, and at some point the question had to be faced: what were all these young men and women dying for? Given that the Iraq War had been predicated on a bald-faced lie, or two actually - that Saddam Hussein was somehow tenuously and nebulously responsible for 9/11, and that he was amassing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) for use against his enemies - there really was no reason for America to be there at all. They weren’t guarding or protecting any US interests (unless you count peace in the Middle East, which had totally failed as an endeavour, and was always doomed to), there weren’t any American citizens in Iraq who needed their protection (other than those in the US embassy, who could easily be evacuated) and nobody really wanted them there. Over seven years they had destroyed the country, plundered it of its riches, forced it to pay big American corporations such as Haliburton to rebuild what its countrymen had destroyed, and made the situation there much worse than it had been before the first bombs had fallen.

However, without an effective US presence there, insurgents became emboldened and moved in. The Islamic State - variously also known as ISIL, Daesh or ISIS - gathered followers and pointed to the weakness of their opponents, citing American withdrawal from Iraq as their victory over the crusaders (just what Randy Crawford had to do with it I don’t know) and pushed to take advantage of the power vacuum. The government set up by the US, essentially the normal puppet power installed by the invader, was weak and shaky, and with their protectors gone back home were easy prey, though this did not mean they would not fight hard to retain what they had already struggled for, and what had been built, with the help of Uncle Sam. Nevertheless, they were fighting a lost cause when the forces of ISIS hammered into the city of Fallujah in Anbar Province (it’s a trap! Oh no wait; that’s Admiral Ackbar, isn’t it?) and took it in a few days.

This was a great victory for ISIS, and Al-Qaeda, the capture of their first city in Iraq, and a base from which they could launch an attack against the capital, Baghdad, only forty kilometres away. It was clear this could not be allowed to happen, and so an offensive was launched to recapture the city. It began with the taking of Al-Karmah, 15 kilometres from Fallujah, in May 2015, which gave them something of a base from which to plan and prepare their attack on Fallujah. However later that month ISIS forces took Ramadi, another town in the Al Anbar province, which was not recaptured by Iraqi forces until the following February. Having captured several villages around Fallujah in the same month, the stage was now set for the siege of the ISIS-occupied city.

“There is a volcano of resentment boiling inside Fallujah.” Iraqi military, February 19 2016

“If those groups inside aren’t supported, Daesh will have huge revenge. There will be the biggest bloodshed ever.” - Issa al-Issawi, Fallujah Mayor-in-exile, February 19 2016


Siege of Fallujah

If there’s one thing you can be guaranteed in any siege - at least, one of any appreciable length - it’s that civilians will suffer. As the Iraqi forces took all of the neighbouring Khalidiya Island and effectively cut off the city of Fallujah, the supply lines feeding the city were completely severed, and it was estimated that from 30,000 to 60,000 people would starve, but the siege went ahead as planned. Inside the city, unrest bubbled. This was no siege by an army protecting its citizens, supported by them and concerned for their welfare. There was no attempt at negotiating the release of any of the civilians, not even the women or children, and as what food there was was reportedly hoarded by the ISIS militia, leaving the ordinary folk to starve, and with repressive action being taken against the citizens, an uprising was being born.

Reports emanated from the city (impossible to corroborate, as ISIS had, as per standard procedure, cut off all communications with the media and the outside world, destroyed mobile telephone networks and cut off internet access), of elderly men being “humiliated” when they asked for food, women being beaten, and Sunni tribesmen inside the city finally had enough and attacked the headquarters of the hisbah, the ISIS moral police, for want of another word, they who rigidly enforced Sharia law on the streets. The building was burned and everyone inside killed. The uprising quickly spread, but it was obvious that the tribesmen would need assistance from outside the city if they were to retake it and put ISIS to flight. The revolt however did not succeed and was crushed ruthlessly (why ruthless I often wonder? Does anyone ever do something with ruth? What is ruth anyway? Sorry) and took 180 prisoners, but just then the Iraqi military began shelling the city, and moved troops towards the city in preparation for its storming. The siege was about to become a battle.
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Old 08-29-2021, 08:37 PM   #20 (permalink)
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The Third Battle of Fallujah

Having retaken the town of Al-Kharmah on February 23 and with a coalition airstrike taking out 30 ISIS militants in the town of Karama, Iraqi forces moved into Fallujah on February 25.The battle did not go well for ISIS and it was reported over 600 of them had fled to neighbouring Mosul. This left, according to sources within the city, less than 400 militants defending it.

Of these, an estimated 150 were killed on April 4 as the Iraqi forces pushed further into the city, backed up by air support from the coalition forces. As usual, civilians fared badly as artillery shells and missiles from aircraft landed in markets and residential areas, however on April 21 the top commander in the city was killed as airstrikes took out most of his command structure, including his base and six of his officers. Three more leaders died on April 28 as a result of airstrikes, a fight broke out over money between two ISIS factions on May 5 (so much for their lofty ideals, huh? When it came down to it they killed each other over gold just as any westerner would) which resulted in the deaths of 10 militants, and another headquarters was destroyed on May 5, taking another 25 enemy combatants with it.

From here on in it was pretty much bad news constantly for the defenders, and the villagers in Albu Huwa and Haisa began to be employed by the surviving ISIS fighters as human shields. As more fell every day, they did have the odd victory, such as the suicide attack in which a reported 100 Iraqi soldiers died, but as May began to wind down the Iraqi military stepped up their attacks, preparatory to a full-scale assault on the city. They advised civilians to be ready to leave through pre-prepared routes they had somehow made for them (don’t ask me how; had they spies inside the city? Was this the remnants of the Sunni tribesmen who had survived the rising trying to help the families?) but ISIS warned that anyone who tried to leave would be killed. As Iraqi forces took town after town and village after village, it was announced on May 25 that their forces were almost at the eastern gate of Fallujah.

By May 31 the city had been breached from three directions, but even so there was a lot of street-fighting yet to be done. ISIS did not, seldom ever do, go quietly, and they seldom if ever surrender, preferring to die and, if possible, take their enemies with them. Fighting continued on through June as the Iraqi army and its allies moved slowly through the shell of a city, street by street and house by house clearing Fallujah of ISIS militants. On June 12 they secured the first escape route for civilians, evacuating about 4,000, and despite what I said above (which just goes to show how much I know!) 546 militants were arrested the next day trying to leave the city disguised as civilians. By June 16 ISIS was in full retreat and flight, as those who could broke and made their way out of the city, although Iraqi forces had at this time recaptured a mere quarter of the city. They had, however, secured the barrage (dam), various bridges, tunnels and all exits from Fallujah. From then on, the Iraqi forces met little to no resistance, and by the end of the day the city was theirs.

Small pockets of resistance remained as die-hards were dealt with in various parts of the city, but by June 26 the battle was over and the city was completely under Iraqi control. Clearly the estimates of how many militants remained in the city in April and May were way off, as Brigadier General Haider al-Obeidei reported the enemy casualties over the period of the siege as 2,500, while as the militants retreated from the city and its outskirts another 2,000 were killed by Iraqi forces while coalition air support took out a further 250, and destroying more than 600 vehicles.

The mopping-up operation included disarming IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices, as if you didn’t know) and destroying a laboratory wherein explosives and vehicles intended for use as booby-traps had been manufactured.

Twenty-first Century Stalingrad: The Ordinary People’s Suffering

I mentioned earlier that in any siege, the locals come off worst, or to put it another way, if you live in a town or city that gets besieged, don’t expect it to end well. Usually this is due to outside forces - the army attacking or at least surrounding the city or town or castle, and denying the ordinary folk escape. But in some cases it also comes from within the siege, as defenders may be worried that any who leave the siege may share important secrets such as the town or city’s defences, weak points, personality clashes between leaders and so on, information the enemy can use to gain access to the city and around which they can plan, or reshape their strategy. It’s generally not considered, either by the defending army or the one attacking, that the safety, or even lives of the inhabitants are worth worrying about. Nine times out of ten, they’re thought of as the enemy anyway, so why lose sleep over their predicament? They could have left, if they had wanted, before the siege began, but now they’re stuck there and it’s their own fault.

Such often goes the logic of the commander of a besieging army - if he even thinks about the civilians at all - and it seems Fallujah was no different, with both sides causing mayhem for the villagers and townsfolk. First, the siege was not telegraphed to them in any way by the Iraqi forces: they just cut off the supply lines without making any provision for those within the city who would be trapped there. The many airstrikes conducted by coalition forces made the lives of the citizens unbearable: schools, hospitals, shops and homes were bombed, more or less indiscriminately, and what they missed, the artillery finished off. Power quickly went out. There was no electricity, little water, and without these two vital necessities for life, disease and starvation began to stalk the city. People were forced to sleep outside, with no way to heat or light their homes (assuming those homes still stood) and as mentioned already, food was only for fighters and sympathisers, so if you were neither, then tough, and that very much included children and babies.

No help was forthcoming from within the city either. ISIS did not hold Fallujah to protect its citizens. They gave less of a fuck about them than did the Iraqi forces. They were merely in the way. They could be used as human shields, but other than that they were an annoyance, entirely and eminently expendable, and no use to them whatever. They kept them inside the city by threats and force, promising to kill anyone who tried to leave, while at the same time watching them starve and sicken, without a compassionate bone in the body of even one of the fighters. Estimates of how many innocent civilians were trapped in Fallujah varied from 50,000 to almost 200,000; efforts by the Red Cross to gain access to the city for humanitarian purposes were rebuffed by ISIS, and even though the Iraqi army itself had tried to get food in to the citizens they had been thwarted and thrown back by the defenders.


Far from helping the citizenry, ISIS began executing people for the heinous crime of trying to save their lives, and those of their families, by attempting to escape the city. Some of these were burned alive publicly, a report unfortunately accompanied by the above picture as confirmation of the savage punishment . As in all such executions, it’s more the warning it sends than the death of the people involved that is important. The more who saw how brutally ISIS treated those who tried to leave the city, the less would be inclined to copy them. Other citizens, who were accused of collaborating with the enemy and passing information to them (no idea if they were or not; I’m sure no evidence was needed or presented, nor likely any sort of trial held at all) were electrocuted, while many women were killed for trying to escape.

All of this is bad enough, but even some of those who actually made it out of the city - estimated at around 80 families - were detained and later executed by the Iraqi military forces, who accused them - often falsely - of being ISIS fighters, when really they were prosecuting the ongoing sectarian agenda which had and continues to pit Sunni against Shi’ite. Many were abducted but their whereabouts remain unknown to this day, just more of the disappeared.
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