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As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Life Goes On in Fallujah's Rubble

Inter Press Service
Dahr Jamail

SAN FRANCISCO, California, Nov 23 (IPS) - A year after the U.S.-led
"Operation Phantom Fury" damaged or destroyed 36,000 homes, 60 schools
and 65 mosques in Fallujah, Iraq, residents inside the city continue to
suffer from lack of compensation, slow reconstruction and high rates of

The Study Centre for Human Rights and Democracy based in Fallujah
(SCHRD) estimates the number of people killed in the city during the
U.S.-led operation in October and November 2004 at 4,000 to 6,000, most
of them civilians. Mass graves were dug on the outskirts of the city for
thousands of the bodies.

Last week, the Pentagon confirmed that it had used white phosphorus, a
chemical that bursts into flame upon contact with air, inside Fallujah
as an "incendiary weapon" against insurgents. Washington denies that it
is a chemical weapon, as charged by some critics, and that it was used
against civilians.

Compensation payments promised by Iyad Allawi, the U.S.-backed interim
prime minister at the time of the operation, have failed to materialise
for many residents in the city, who lack potable water and suffer
electricity cuts on a daily basis.

"People were paid almost 20 percent of what they were promised by
Allawi, which was just 100 million dollars," said Mohamad Tareq
al-Deraji, a resident of Fallujah and spokesperson for the city's
governing council.

According to Deraji, who is also a biologist and co-director of the
SCHRD, Iraq's current prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, had agreed to
continue with the second and third compensation payments to people
inside Fallujah who had suffered the loss of a loved one or damaged
property during the fighting, after he was pressured by the U.S. embassy.

"But now he [Jaafari] has stopped the payments," Deraji told IPS. "So
now there is no payment to the people and we all continue to suffer."

This month, U.S. Marine Col. David Berger, who is commander of the 8th
Regimental Combat Team and responsible for Fallujah, told reporters,
"[Fallujah's residents] don't see any progress, they don't see any
action. They hear a lot of words, a lot of promises, but not a lot of

Deraji estimates that up to 150,000 of the 350,000 residents of Fallujah
continue to live as internally displaced persons due to the lack of
compensation, and therefore, lack of reconstruction.

Reports from inside the city indicate that residents are increasingly
angry at the situation.

"When I was recently in Fallujah, I didn't see any reconstruction," said
Rana Aiouby, a freelance journalist from Baghdad. "Some of the people
are rebuilding their own houses, but I'm still finding people outside
Fallujah who are refugees from the April attack on the city."

Aiouby, who has been in Fallujah many times, said that she was finally
allowed to visit the Shuhada district this past April, after having been
previously barred from the area by U.S. forces.

"This is the poorest district of Falluah and where there was some of the
worst destruction," she added. "It was at least 95 percent destroyed."

Both Deraji and Aiouby said that the power supply is erratic, and that
random bursts of fighting continued on an almost daily basis. As
recently as Nov. 16, the U.S. military confirmed that a Marine was
killed by a car bomb in Karmah, a small city near Fallujah.

"So many schools are either destroyed or occupied by the Americans even
now," Abu Mohammed, a resident of Fallujah, told IPS in a telephone
interview. "Our children are either going to school in tents or staying
at home because we are too afraid to have them outside."

Abu Mohammed, a carpenter and 30-year-old father of five, said that
countless residents were sick from drinking dirty tap water. Others were
falling ill from the lack of electricity coupled with cold nighttime
temperatures that sink as low as 10 degrees Celsius now that winter has
arrived in Iraq.

Deraji agreed, saying there were "many new diseases, especially cancers
with children and with people who stayed in Falluah during the assault".
He told IPS, "Maybe they took big doses from radiation and pollution
inside the city during that time, so we have so many medical problems now."

This is complicated by the fact that hospitals in the city are not at
full operating capacity.

"Some reconstruction is going on with our hospitals," added Deraji, "But
it is very slow and the government is taking some of the money
themselves that we've had for it."

Mohammed Khadem, a 55 year-old engineer in Fallujah, expressed
frustration at the tight military checkpoints in the city. "With retina
scans and fingerprinting still being carried out by the U.S. military at
times in order to issue bar-coded identification badges for certain
residents, lines waiting to get into the city are quite long," he said.

During a phone call from inside Fallujah, Khadem told IPS that security
remained a large problem and fighting occurred "nearly every day at times".

Deraji, speaking for the SCHRD, complained that the "Americans are not
letting our police reestablish themselves. They've only allowed 200
Iraqi police to be established from inside Fallujah and this is not enough."

According to the SCHRD and other NGOs operating in Fallujah, a sore spot
for residents in the city are members of the Iraqi Army who are with
U.S. soldiers.

With Fallujah being primarily Sunni and members of the Shia Badr
Organisation militia and Kurdish Peshmerga militia comprising most of
the Iraqi Army in Fallujah, reports of humiliating and brutal treatment
of residents are common. "Now there are many Iraqi Army men with the
Americans and this is a big problem because they are always shooting and
taking people as detainees," said Deraji. "They are acting like cowboys
in films."

(c)2004, 2005 Dahr Jamail.
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