Rumsfeld 'ignored Fallujah warnings'

Click to follow
The Independent US

Warnings by the US military commander of last April's operation in Fallujah on the consequences of attacking the city were ignored by the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and not passed to President George Bush, an American newspaper has claimed.

Warnings by the US military commander of last April's operation in Fallujah on the consequences of attacking the city were ignored by the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and not passed to President George Bush, an American newspaper has claimed.

After weeks of fighting, and with 600 Iraqis dead, not only did the assault fail, leaving Fallujah in the hands of the rebels, but it also triggered the bloody insurgency still sweeping Iraq. The city has now become the headquarters of Jordanian militant leader Abu Musab Zarqawi whose fighters have mounted relentless attacks, the latest of which claimed the lives of 49 Iraqi army recruits.

Yesterday US forces continue to mass around Fallujah in preparation for another attack, and British troops set off from Basra today, amid bitter controversy back home, to help in the operation to storm the city.

The April attack by the US followed the lynching of four American security guards in Fallujah, when their burnt and mutilated bodies were strung up over a bridge. The White House, and Paul Bremer, then the US administrator of Iraq, wanted to punish the attackers and this is what Mr Rumsfeld and General John P Abizaid, the head of the US forces in the Middle East, promised to deliver.

President Bush declared: "Our military commanders will do whatever necessary to secure Fallujah." Mr Bremer promised the "human jackals" responsible for the guards' deaths" will not go unpunished".

But the man given the assignment, Lieutenant General James T Conway, of the US Marines, strongly urged against the immediate military option. He said later: "We felt we ought to let the situation settle before we appeared to be attacking out of revenge." He also stressed that premature action would destroy the relationship he and his men had been trying to build with the people of Fallujah through reconstruction projects.

But, an investigation by the Los Angeles Times has discovered, Mr Rumsfeld and his advisors did not agree and General Conway's views failed to make it to the White House. But a Pentagon spokesman said it was proper that the dispute was settled at a lower level.

Having ignored the civilian casualties which would inevitably result from such a huge military operation, the US government also appeared to be oblivious to the likely international consequences around the world of women and children being killed.

As the attack intensified, members of the Iraqi Governing Council threatened to resign, and the United Nations envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, and even Tony Blair urged an end to the offensive.

Four days later, with the city only half-taken, the marines were told to halt, then pull out. Before doing so, they hurriedly assembled a local force, the Fallujah Brigade, to take over. Most of those who enlisted turned out to be insurgents, and it took five months to disband the brigade which, by then, had brought many other fellow militants into the city.

Comments