Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld launched the failed April 2004 assault on the Iraqi town of Fallujah before marines were ready because it had become “a symbol of resistance that dominated international headlines” and similar considerations eventually destroyed the operation — both according to a highly classified U.S. intelligence report into the defeat.
“During the first week of April, insurgents invited a reporter from Al Jazeera, Ahmed Mansour, and his film crew into Fallujah where they filmed scenes of dead babies from the hospital, presumably killed by Coalition air strikes. Comparisons were made to the Palestinian Intifada. Children were shown bespattered with blood; mothers were shown screaming and mourning day after day.”
Coalition air strikes were conducted during the three week cease-fire, which was a “bit of a misnomer” and the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal contributed to the politically driven final peace settlement. The settlement left Coalition Provisional Authority chief Paul Bremer “furious”.
By the end of April, 600-700 Iraqis and 18 marines had been killed inside the town with 62 marines killed in the broader operational area and 565 wounded in action.
Fallujah’s 2,000 defenders were diverse but united to oppose the U.S. offensive. They included former regime soldiers, “nationalists, local Islamic extremists, foreign fighters and criminals” together comprising not so much a military organization, but “an evil Rotary club”.
The revelations come from a highly classified report on the attack released today by the open government group Wikileaks, which has in the past month released a number of sensitive U.S. documents including manuals for Guantanamo Bay, Camp Bucca prison and Department of Defense detainee operations.
The Fallujah assault was initiated when on March 31 2004 four private military personnel from the U.S firm Blackwater were killed in the town and photos of their burnt bodies received international coverage.
The report said the coverage had prompted Rumsfeld, General Abizaid and the then Coalition Provisional Authority Chief Paul Bremer to order an “immediate military response”.
The report not only blames media driven political pressures for launching the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force before it was ready, but states similar political considerations led to a cease-fire five days later.
The three week official cease-fire was “a bit of a misnomer”, with Coalition air strikes continuing and snipers on both sides making movement hazardous. On the town’s resistance, the report claims the number one “enemy strategy” was “to gain media attention and sympathy” in-order to push political pressure “to a boiling point.”
Contributing to the peace settlement at the end of the month was British opposition to the battle, an Iraqi Shia uprising over the forced closure of the newspaper “al-Hawza” and Abu Ghraib.
Paul Bremer was “furious when he found out about it, but he was in little position to overturn it since he had insisted on the cease-fire in the first place. Complicating matters was the fact that the Abu Ghraib scandal broke on 29 April, consuming the attention of senior leaders in the U.S. government. Bremer could not organize a consensus to overturn the Fallujah decision.”
During the battle U.S. psychological operations loud speakers “blasted rock music or taunted the insurgents into attacking with insults about their marksmanship.”
Marines used the M1A1 Abrams tank as bait, to lure defenders out into the open, however this ruse didn’t work for long as “The enemy.. would initiate an ambush with small-arms fire on one side of a tank in order to get the tank crew to turn its armor in the direction of fire. They would then fire a coordinated 5 or 6 RPG [rocket propelled grenade] salvo into the exposed rear of the tank”.
The report states “Approximately 150 air strikes destroyed 75 buildings, including two mosques” and that the operation “stirred up a hornets nest across the Al Anbar provence”.
Concluding, the report states “Information operations are increasingly important in a 21st Century world where cable television runs 24 hours a day..the Iraqi government was nascent and weak and they offered no political cover for U.S. commanders to finish the operation in a reasonable time period… Abu Ghurayb.. and the Shia uprising further enflamed a politically precarious situation and could not have happened at a worse time for Coalition forces.”
U.S. forces retook Fallujah during November 2004 in what was to be the most bloody battle of the occupation.
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