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EuroObserver Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-24-05 10:30 AM
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Notes on the Fallujah context of the Bush-Blair 'Bomb al-Jazeera' Memo
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Edited on Thu Nov-24-05 10:32 AM by EuroObserver
This is the rough start of a work-in-progess. I'm posting it now since I'm obliged to be doing other work for a while, and hopefully in order to stimulate further research, observations and comments meanwhile from the team at DU. At the start of the siege, for example, much media attention focussed on humanitarian relief efforts including a supply 'caravan' from Baghdad... I apologise for length, rough formatting and other time-constraint-imposed limitations.

Question: What further information could the 'bomb al-Jazeera memo' contain that Blair is adamant should not be revealed? The abortive April Siege and Assault (still ill-resolved at the time of the Bush-Blair meeting) was undoubtedly discussed. Were plans also begun to be laid for the eventual November Assault? Including PR-control / media suppression?

The Mirror article is here:


1. The 'memo' is a transcript of a face-to-face meeting between Bush and Blair at the White House on April 16 2004.

2. The two men apparently discussed Bush's desire at the time to "bomb al-Jazeera in Qatar and elsewhere."

3. At the time, the US was launching an "all-out assault on insurgents" in Fallujah, according to the Mirror. This is not strictly correct, since by April 15th the April assault by the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade on Fallujah was well on the way to being halted, and 'Coalition' authorities had started to negotiate a cease-fire and hand-back of the city to local Iraqui representatives. A 'unilateral ceasefire' had been declared by the Marines on April 10th, and a cease-fire agreement with Iraqui representatives was in place on April 19th.

4. The transcript "also included details of troop deployments," and is apparently five pages long (


--> It is highly likely that a large part, if not all, of the Bush-Blair meeting on April 16th 2004 was a discussion of the (ill-conceived and eventually aborted, as it turned out) April assault on Fallujah. Quite possibly the real story that Downing Street would like not to emerge from sources such as this memo or transcript would concern a Bush-Blair decision to order the suspension of this attack, almost certainly in the light of the negative media attention it had been receiving and therefore its negative consecuences - indeed, a 'public relations disaster' - in the 'battle for hearts and minds'. A decision may at that time have been discussed or taken to return to Fallujah later in the year (as was the case in November 2004).

--> It is in this context that Bush's (half-joking or deadly serious) desire to 'take out' unfriendy media sources such as Al-Jazeera would have most likely arisen. The April assault had to be aborted largely due to bad preparation and even worse publicity. The November assault would have to be planned more carefully and the media spin more tightly controlled.

--> It is instructive to observe that some of the most damning reports to emerge at the time from the April assault on Fallujah quoted doctors at the city's hospitals reporting numbers such as at least 50% civilians among at least 600 dead, attacks on ambulances, etc., all accompanied by photographs and video from the scene - much obtained by Al-Jazeera reporters but also by eg. Reuters. On the other hand, one of the first actions taken at the start of the November assault on Fallujah was to occupy or otherwise take out the city's hospitals, prevent ambulances from operating, and impose an almost total news blackout.

Fallujah April Timeline:

Wednesday March 31st: Killing of five soldiers north of Fallujah, March 31, and the murder and mutilation of four American private security specialists in Fallujah the same day.

Monday April 5th: "Operation Vigilant Resolve began on April 5, 2004 in and around the Fallujah and was designed to pacify violent elements in the area. The operation was conducted by U.S. Marines and Coalition forces. Coalition forces began preparations for Operation Vigilant Resolve following the March 31st killings of four contractors in Fallujah, and the five soldiers near Habbaniya." -

Tuesday April 6th: "Marines waged a fierce battle for hours Tuesday with gunmen holed up in a residential neighborhood of Fallujah. The military used a deadly AC-130 gunship to lay down a barrage of fire against guerrillas, and commanders said Marines were holding an area several blocks deep inside the city. At least two Marines were wounded. U.S. warplanes firing rockets destroyed four houses in Fallujah after nightfall Tuesday, witnesses said. A doctor said 26 Iraqis, including women and children, were killed and 30 wounded in the strike. The deaths brought to 34 the number of Iraqis killed in Fallujah on Tuesday." -,2933,116262,00.html

Thursday April 8th: PRESS BRIEFING: Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, Commander, Coalition Ground Forces - : "Today in Fallujah, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and the with the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps continue Operation Vigilant Resolve. They have made tremendous progress in restoring legitimate authority to Fallujah. There has been enemy resistance but fellow Iraqis and coalition forces continue the relentless pursuit of key targets in the heart of Fallujah. But the progress has been measurable.
"The Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and the coalition forces will conduct a deliberate, sustained operation that will eventually transition to stability operations once are objectives have been achieved. The Marines are making great progress, and I am totally confident that we will succeed. The security situation will improve over the days and weeks ahead.
"Once the security situation in Fallujah is stabilized, the citizens in Fallujah will find no better friend than the Marines of the 1st Expeditionary Force. They are experts at civil military operations, and they have substantial resources available to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Fallujah. That has been our commitment to the people of this country as long as we have been here, and we definitely intend to fulfill that promise. There is a new dawn approaching that will bring a bright, secure future to those Iraqis who have chosen to support freedom and democracy. That is what we stand for, that is what Iraqis expect, and that is what we are committed to in this country."

Friday April 9th (Easter: Good Friday): Coalition forces unilaterally suspended offensive military Operations in Fallujah - : "Sporadic gunfire continues in Iraq despite the coalition's offer of a cease-fire in Fallujah, coalition officials said today at a Baghdad news conference. "In Fallujah, the situation is under control," said Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations director for Combined Joint Task Force 7. "The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force is responding to enemy provocations and attacks, although suspension of offensive operations on the part of the MEF continues.""

"At noon on April 9, Marines and Coalition forces unilaterally suspended combat in Fallujah in order to hold meetings between members of the Governing Council, the Fallujah leadership and the leadership of the anti-coalition forces, to allow the delivery of additional supplies by the relevant departments of the Iraqi government and to allow residents of Fallujah to tend to their wounded and dead." - Official Website for United States Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton -

Friday April 16th: U.S. OFFICIALS, IRAQIS NEGOTIATE IN FALLUJAH: "U.S. military and civilian officials met with leaders from Fallujah, a city ringed by U.S. Marines working to root out insurgents operating there, for the first time Friday since the siege of the central city began April 5." -

Monday April 19th: Cease-Fire Agreement Reached in Fallujah; 13 U.S. Troops Killed By Gerry J. Gilmore / American Forces Press Service WASHINGTON, April 19, 2004 - : "U.S., coalition and Iraqi officials have agreed "to implement a full and unbroken cease-fire" in the city of Fallujah, chief Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor said today in Baghdad. The agreement, Senor told reporters at a press briefing, was reached over a series of meetings over the past several days. The cease-fire agreement, he noted, features several points: Coalition forces will allow "unfettered" access to Fallujah General Hospital for treatment of sick and injured."

April 24th: Hostilities continuing... "The Marines divided Fallujah into four quadrants. The Order of Battle on 24 April 2004 consisted of 2/1 in the NW, 3/4 (ME) w/2 tanks in the NE, 1/5 w/6 tanks in the SE, and 2/2 w/4 tanks in the SW. The Marines were supported by AC-130 at night, F-15s and Cobra's in the day. However, the Cobra's were limited in their ability because of the threat from ground fire. The Marines were equiped with Advanced Combat Optical Gunsights (ACOGs) on only a quarter of their weapons. The US approach was to isolate via cross-streets, tanks, and back-clear. The insurgents fought from hard points, vehicle QRF, IEDs, rigged houses, and melted away to fight again." -


October 26th: No longer unknowable: Fallujah's April Civilian Toll is 600
Press Release, Iraq Body Count, 26 October 2004 - : "Today the Iraq Body Count (IBC) website has published its analysis of the civilian dealth toll in the April 2004 siege of Falluja. This analysis leads to the conclusion that betweeen 572 and 616 of the approximately 800 reported deaths were of civilians, with over 300 of these being women and children."

Now studying / Highly recommended: Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches: Vigilant Resolve


The targeting of ambulances by the US military was practiced with enough vigilance in Fallujah that the Iraqi Minister of Health on April 17 publicly pressed Paul Bremer to account for it. Bremer explained that the US authorities believed ambulances to have been used by fightersoffering, as a response, the very definition of collective punishment.33 Obstructing medical care, however, in some cases may have required more vigilance, as the following two medical accounts demonstrate:

The Americans shot out the lights in the front of our hospital, they prevented doctors from reaching the emergency unit at the hospital, and we quickly began to run out of supplies and much needed medications.34

One of my doctors in Falluja asked the Americans there if he could remove a wounded patient from the city. The soldier wouldnt let him move the victim, and said, We have dead soldiers here too. This is a war zone. The doctor wasnt allowed to remove the wounded man, and he died. So many doctors and ambulances have been turned back from checkpoints there.35

Such vigilance, too, is substitutable with the right hardware, if used illegally. A widely understood US military practice among the residents of Fallujah was the use of cluster bombs and flechettes.36 At Fallujah General Hospital, two orthopedic surgeons, Dr. Abdul Jabbar and Dr. Rashid spoke testified to this. Dr. Abdul Jabbar reported that Many people were injured and killed by cluster bombs. Of course they used cluster bombs-we heard them, as well as treated people who had been hit by them. Dr. Rashid agreed, saying, I saw the cluster bombs with my own eyes. We dont need any evidence. Most of these bombs fell on the families. The fightersthey know how to escape. But not the civilians.37

He added that of the 800-1200 estimated Iraqi deaths in Fallujah, not less than 60%...were women and children. You can go see the graves for yourself. At Noman Hospital in Al-Adhamiya, a doctor there too said of the people who came in from Fallujah from ten days earlier, that mostwere children, women and elderly.38 At Yarmouk Hospital, a lead doctor reported that he saw American soldiers killing women and children, calling the situation in Fallujah a massacre. The New York Times preferred the designation tremendously precise.39 And it was an apt one, according to one Fallujah resident, who after having escaped to Baghdad testified that US warplanes were bombing the city heavily prior to his departure, and that Marine snipers continued to secure residents of the besieged city, shot by shot. There were so many snipers, anyone leaving their house was killed.40 In the New York Times, this was called an acute willingness among insurgents to die.41

A doctor working in a temporary emergency clinic in Fallujah during Aprils siege posed a question on Democracy Now!, which he repeated:

When you see a child five years old with no head what can you say? When you see a child with no brain just an open cavity what can you say? When you see a mother just hold her infant with no head and the shells are all over her

The doctors question is a good one: in April of 2004, as a city was invaded and its residents were fleeing, hiding, or being massacred, there was considerable public awareness in the United States of human beings whose bodies had been mutilated in Iraq, thanks to our news media. But among thousands of references to mutilation in that month alone, we have yet to find one related to anything that happened after March 31st. Feckless, such a search denies that mutilation is something that happens to Blackwater-hired mercs and other professional, American killers, not to Iraqi babies with misplaced heads. So, today, we pose the Iraqi doctors question once again, this time looking backward: when you saw an Iraqi baby feeling for her shell-splattered head, what did you say? If youre the New York Times, you said, well, nothing;43 if youre Paul Bremer, you said vigilant resolve.


More sources:

Remember Fallujah:

Pending: Document Fallujah November Assault (Operation Phantom Fury)

- Wikipedia - : "Operation Al-Fajr ("The Dawn" in Arabic), also known as Operation Phantom Fury, was a joint U.S.-Iraqi offensive against rebel strongholds in the city of Fallujah, authorized by the Iraq interim government. The U.S. military called it "some of the heaviest urban combat Marines have been involved in since Hue City in Vietnam in 1968." <1> It was the second major operation in Fallujah; in April, Operation Vigilant Resolve was an abortive attempt to capture the city. That earlier operation was terminated when local leaders promised to curb the rebels."

- The Nation -
"While the North American news media have focused on the military triumph of US Marines in Falluja, little attention has been paid to reports that US armed forces killed scores of patients in an attack on a Falluja health center and have deprived civilians of medical care, food and water.

"Although the US military has dismissed accounts of the health center bombing as "unsubstantiated," in fact they are credible and come from multiple sources. Dr. Sami al-Jumaili described how US warplanes bombed the Central Health Centre in which he was working at 5:30 am on November 9. The clinic had been treating many of the city's sick and wounded after US forces took over the main hospital at the start of the invasion. According to Dr. al-Jumaili, US warplanes dropped three bombs on the clinic, where approximately sixty patients--many of whom had serious injuries from US aerial bombings and attacks--were being treated.

"Dr. al-Jumaili reports that thirty-five patients were killed in the airstrike, including two girls and three boys under the age of 10. In addition, he said, fifteen medics, four nurses and five health support staff were killed, among them health aides Sami Omar and Omar Mahmoud, nurses Ali Amini and Omar Ahmed, and physicians Muhammad Abbas, Hamid Rabia, Saluan al-Kubaissy and Mustafa Sheriff. "
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