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Fixing Australia

Australia is broken. Democracy has holes in it, cracks in it, and it needs fixing. Since the 2004 Federal election we know that our government is not going to fix it. I think we need to do that fixing, and this blog is a start of getting some ideas together.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Falluja: All the makings of a war crime

All the makings of a war crime - with Australia silently onside

Sydney Morning Herald
Opinion - Tony Kevin
November 9, 2004

A US-led attack on the Iraqi Sunni-stronghold will breach the Geneva conventions, writes Tony Kevin.

We need to be clear on what is about to happen in the Iraqi city of Falluja, about 64 kilometres west of Baghdad and a key centre of Sunni population in Iraq. This city has for many months held out as a centre of Sunni-based political-military resistance, refusing to accept the authority either of the former US-led occupying authority nor, since July, of the interim Iraqi administration led by the Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi.

Falluja is now to be brought to heel by overwhelming military power. As I write this, the US attack on the city has begun. The message to Falluja from the US armed forces in Iraq and from Allawi was brutally simple: submit now to Baghdad's authority or face attack.

It is still possible that resistance in Falluja will melt away in the face of US attack. While this would be a more optimistic scenario, I think it more likely at this point that the insurgents will fight, because too much is at stake politically for them to accept a bloodless Allawi victory. I look here at the - in my judgement, now more likely - scenario that Falluja insurgents will dig in and defy the invasion force.

What I believe is then likely to be done to Falluja will be a war crime and crime against humanity, morally indefensible by any civilised standard or for that matter, by the Statute of the International Criminal Court (to which, conveniently, neither the US nor Iraqi Government adheres).

This will be no neat, surgical strike. To get the measure of this, think of the Warsaw rising in 1944, or the Russian Army's destruction of the Chechen capital, Grozny. In 1999 this already battered city (of originally 400,000 people) was finally destroyed by massive Russian bombardment. Today, insurgents still fight it out with Russian troops among the ruins.

Eighteen months ago, before the US-led invasion of Iraq, Falluja was a living city of 300,000 people. Now - depopulated of most of its civilians by intimidation and fear - what is left looks like it is about to be blasted out of existence, simply as a demonstration of overwhelming US power in Iraq.

Of course, the US Army has been for weeks "humanely" encouraging women and children to leave the encircled city through checkpoints while there is still time to save their lives.

The Russians did the same before and during the destruction of Grozny. In a few days, as the battle and the flight of civilians expands, there may be tens of thousands of new refugees in tent cities, and tens of thousands of women left without husbands, and children left without fathers.

If this attack goes ahead as appears inevitable, it will obviously breach the laws of war and the Geneva conventions. First, it will grossly exceed proportionality in terms of ends and means. What intended political or military objective could justify so much death, the creation of so many new refugees, and wholesale destruction of homes?

What threat does the city of Falluja pose to the Iraqi state at this point? Allawi has claimed that free elections cannot take place unless Falluja is subdued. What a spurious argument.

The truth is that this city, which has become a symbol of Sunni-Iraqi political resistance to the occupiers, is to be made an example of, to deter others. The message the siege of Falluja sends is brutally simple: resist us and we will destroy you. It is the same message that the Wehrmacht sent in Warsaw in 1944, and the Russian Army in Grozny in 1999.

This attack will also violate the rules of war and the Geneva conventions in having grossly indiscriminate effects on civilians and civilian homes and infrastructure. America's largely untrained in battle but over-armed forces will start their attack "humanely", but as they inevitably take numbers of lethal casualties, their tactics will quickly escalate to indiscriminate bombing and shelling of the city using their WMD armouries.

Eventually, the attackers will flatten the city and kill everyone that still resists in it. Falluja will be the Iraqi people's Masada, and it will sow seeds of deep anti-Western hatred in the Middle East for decades to come.

The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, understands all this, in pleading for a negotiated solution. And as usual, Washington is summarily ignoring his pleas.

As a military ally with our troops in Iraq, Australia is morally implicated in this. While Australian former SAS commanders, the Governor-General, Major-General Michael Jeffery, and the Australian Christian Lobby's executive chairman, Brigadier Jim Wallace, moralise about abortions and gay marriages, Australia's military ally is about to destroy a living city and its families.

An unnamed US military commander in the tightening military ring around Falluja proudly boasted (as heard on ABC Radio yesterday) that this battle will go down in US military history as another Hue. Indeed it will - who can forget the wholesale artillery destruction of that sacred, historic Vietnamese city? "We had to destroy it in order to save it" was the line at the time. Now it looks like our military ally in Iraq is about to do it all over again in Falluja.

What are Australian political leaders - Government or Opposition - saying to Washington at this point? Are they saying anything at all? We reap what we sow.

Tony Kevin, a former Australian diplomat, is a visiting fellow at the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, Canberra.

From The Sydney Morning Herald


  • At Tuesday, November 09, 2004 10:10:00 PM, Blogger Project_SafeCom said…

    This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At Tuesday, November 09, 2004 10:18:00 PM, Blogger Project_SafeCom said…

    Letter from the people in Fallujah to Kofi Annan

    Letter from the people in Fallujah calling for help to end the bombardment and prevent the threatened assault.

    His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan Secretary General of the United Nations New York

    Fallujah 14 October 2004

    Your Excellency

    It is very obvious that the American forces are committing crimes of genocide every day in Iraq. Now, while we are writing to Your Excellency, the American forces are committing these crimes in the city of Fallujah. The American warplanes are dropping their most powerful bombs on the civilian in the city, killing and injured hundreds of innocent people. At the same time their tanks are attacking the city with heavy artillery. As you know, there is no military presence in the city. There had been no actions taken by the Fallujah resistance in recent weeks because the negotiations between representatives of the city and the Government which were going well. In this atmosphere, the new bombardment by America has happened while the people of Fallujah have been preparing themselves for the fast of Ramadan. Now many of them are now trapped under the wreckage of their demolished houses, and nobody can help them while the attack continues.

    On the night of the 13th October alone American bombardment demolished 50 houses on top of their residents. Is this a genocidal crime or a lesson about the American democracy? It is obvious that the Americans are committing acts of terror against the people of Fallujah for one reason only: their refusal to accept the Occupation.

    Your Excellency and the whole world know that the Americans and their allies devastated our country under the pretext of the threat of WMD. Now, after all the destruction and the killing of thousand civilians, they have admitted that there no weapons were found. But they have said nothing about all the crimes they committed. Unfortunately everybody is now silent, and will not even dignify the murdered Iraqi civilians with words of condemnation. Are the Americans going to pay compensation as Iraq has been forced to do after the Gulf war?

    We know that we are living in world of double standards. In Fallujah, they have created a new vague target,: AL ZARQAWI. This is a new pretext to justify their crimes, killing and daily bombardment of civilians. Almost a year has elapsed since they created this new pretext, and whenever they destroy houses, mosques, restaurants, and kill children and women they said "we have launched a successful operation against Al-Zarqawi." They will never say that they have killed him, because there is no such a person. And that means the killing of civilian and the daily genocide will continue.

    The people of Fallujah assure you that this person, if he exists, is not in Fallujah and is probably not anywhere in Iraq. The people of Fallujah have announced many times that any person who sees Al-Zarqawi should kill him. Now everybody realises that this man is just a hypothetical hero created by the Americans. At the same time the representative of Fallujah, our tribal leader, has denounced on many occasions the kidnapping and killing of civilians, and we have no links to any groups committing such inhuman behaviour.

    Excellency, we appeal to you, and to all world leaders to exert the greatest pressure on the American administration to stop their crimes in Fallujah and withdraw their army far away from the city. The city was very quiet and peaceful when its people ran it. We didn't witness any disorder in the city. The civil administration was going well given its limited recourses. We simply didn't welcome the occupation forces. This is our right according to the UN Charter, international law and the norms of humanity. If the Americans believe in the opposite, they should first from the UN and all its agencies before acting in a way contrary to the Charter they signed.

    It is very urgent that your Excellency, along with the world leaders, intervenes in a speedy manner to prevent a new massacre.

    We have tried to reach your representatives in Iraq, so as to ask them to be more active in this regard, but as you know they are living in the Green Zone where we cannot contact them. We want the UN to be involved in the situation in Fallujah so as to avoid a new massacre.

    We have tried to reach you through different channels and by asking our friends to convey this letter to your office in New York or Geneva with the hope that it will reach you. At the same time we appeal to you to urge the UN agencies in Iraq to take an active role in protecting civilians and preventing the new massacre which the Americans and the puppet government are planning to start soon in Fallujah as well as many part of our country.

    Best regards,

    Kassim Abdullsattar al-Jumaily
    President, The Study Center of Human Rights & Democracy

    On behalf of the people of Fallujah and for:

    Al-Fallujah Shura Council
    The Bar Association
    The Teacher Union
    Council of Tribes Leaders
    The House of Fatwa and Religious Education

    International Action Center

  • At Tuesday, November 09, 2004 10:22:00 PM, Blogger Project_SafeCom said…

    Kofi Annan's letter: Falluja warning

    BBC News | Middle East
    Saturday, 6 November, 2004

    UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has sent a letter to the leaders of the US, UK and Iraq expressing concern that the planned assault on the Iraqi city of Falluja could undermine elections due in January.

    Here are excerpts from his letter:

    "Iraq is approaching a decisive moment in its history - the elections which, as you know, are due to be held in three months' time.

    The United Nations is committed to doing everything possible, as circumstances permit, to support Iraqi efforts to hold credible elections and, more broadly, to assist with Iraq's political transition...

    I believe that the forthcoming elections are the keystone in a broader process to restore stability and legitimacy in Iraq.

    If the January 2005 elections are to contribute to this critically important objective, and not to fuel further divisions and instability, it is essential that current efforts to attract a broader spectrum of Iraqis to join the political process should succeed.

    Inclusiveness 'key'

    Persuading elements who are currently alienated from, or sceptical about, the transition process to compete politically is key to creating a political and security context that will inspire confidence among all Iraqis in the process and allow the full participation of all segments of society in the elections...

    Against this backdrop, I wish to share with you my increasing concern at the prospect of an escalation in violence, which I fear could be very disruptive for Iraq's political transition.

    I have in mind not only the risk of increased insurgent violence, but also reports of major military offensives being planned by the multinational force in key localities such as Falluja.

    I wish to express to you my particular concern about the safety and protection of civilians. Fighting is likely to take place mostly in densely populated urban areas, with an obvious risk of civilian casualties...

    Of course, I understand that there is an imperative need to restore security throughout Iraq. But I equally believe that, ultimately, the problem of insecurity can only be addressed through dialogue and an inclusive political process.

    Willing to help

    The threat or actual use of force not only risks deepening the sense of alienation of certain communities, but would also reinforce perceptions among the Iraqi population of a continued military occupation.

    I believe that these concerns are particularly relevant in light of the various initiatives that are being taken to address, through political dialogue, the grievances of certain Iraqi constituencies... It seems to me essential that the interim Iraqi government and the coalition should seize such opportunities...

    I, and all my colleagues at the United Nations Secretariat, want to help. But we need a conducive environment if elections are to produce a positive effect.

    This is the moment for redoubling efforts to break the cycle of violence and open a new chapter of inclusiveness and national reconciliation...

  • At Wednesday, November 10, 2004 6:13:00 AM, Blogger Nayano said…

    What does Tony Kevin envisage should happen in Fallujah?
    Fighting terrorists cannot be 'clean'. There are no front lines, no uniforms, no 'rules of engagement'.
    Fallujah has been a terrorist strong hold. I hate that innocent lives will be lost in the assault, but I also am disgusted by the scores of Iraqis mown down by terrorists as they queue for a job in the police force. I am horrified by the kidnapping and killing of workers, especially those from aid organistions.
    How should these terrorists be defeated? Should the rest of Iraq just hand over Fallujah to criminals?

  • At Wednesday, November 10, 2004 7:46:00 AM, Blogger Tony Kevin fan said…

    Nayano, who's told you they are "terrorists"? The Murdoch press, in collaboration with the Bush regime and their "embedded" journalists? And - why would you accept this secondary and agenda-driven reporting? Read the letter of the people of Falluja above; remember, that hundreds of "Saddam-linked 'terrorists'" were in Abu Ghraib prison - to suddenly get released, hundreds at a time, when the news about the torture in Abu Ghraib got too hot earlier on this year.

    On that note: the same neo-conservative agenda that drives the US government, drives also the Australian government: you've also been told that there are "people-smugglers" in a West Australian jail, right? Ask Al Jenabi, who was proudly extradited to Australia, and sentenced a few weeks ago. Under the people smuggling convention, which stipulates that you need to make a profit from the venture to fit the bill, but that has been conveniently sidelined by the Oz government.Not for nothing is this web log also reporting on major issues concerning press freedom and accountability - and it seems you're walking straight into the framework set by the US government.

    "If you have a plane, you're called a pilot. If you don't have one, you're called a terrorist".

  • At Wednesday, November 10, 2004 9:20:00 AM, Blogger Nayano said…

    Hi Tony Kevin Fan,
    I was asking what the alternative is to the attack on Fallujah. I am interested to know what you suggest. I don't want to get into discussions along the vein of 'I'm right and you're wrong', rather I am seeking to understand more. I don't think your comment about people-smugglers in detention has much to contribute to the discussion about Fallujah. Did you mention it to imply that I would agree with the government on this one?

  • At Wednesday, November 10, 2004 11:52:00 AM, Blogger Project_SafeCom said…

    Tony Media Release
    10 November 2004

    Technical disruption of a CNN interview with Tony Kevin, regarding what is happening in Fallujah

    This morning, sophisticated technical means were used to disrupt a scheduled and pre-announced CNN International television news interview with me at 11.35 am Australian time, that had been requested and arranged yesterday by CNN Hong Kong, following the publication of my controversial opinion piece in yesterday?s Sydney Morning Herald, 9 November 2004:

    "All the makings of a war crime - with Australia silently onside", by Tony Kevin

    The text is still accessible on-line (capture it while you can) at

    [see also above -JHS]

    I do not know whether Australian or United States technical security agencies, or a combination of the two, were involved in or sanctioned this interference, which left the technical staff of CNN Hong Kong and of the ANU Video-Conferencing Facility entirely non-plussed.

    Both offices have extensive and sophisticated fail-safe systems in place, including multiple channels and numbers. Nothing worked, though they tried for over an hour to establish a two-way video connection. ANU technical staff told me they had never encountered a problem like this before - it was outside their normal experience.

    The managerial response at CNN Hong Kong was disturbing also. Initially, CNN staff in Hong Kong set up a fall-back audio telephone link which I was happy to use.

    That link was working perfectly, but then it appears that the CNN Head Office in Atlanta, USA instructed the Hong Kong Station Managing Editor, Paul Cutler, that station policy was not to do telephone-audio recording.

    I was flatly told by Cutler, personally and with apologies, that the interview was cancelled.

    I resisted this strenuously, noting that the interview had already been announced on CNN a few minutes before I was due to go on air (I heard the pre-announcement) and that the station?s reputation as a free public broadcaster was at stake.

    As a result, CNN Hong Kong tried unsuccessfully to re-establish the video connection for the 12.35 pm slot. Again, the connection was inoperable.

    The initial program producer, Natalie Jacob- Scharli, then left me a phone message saying that CNN Hong Kong would try to reschedule the interview in coming days. We shall see.

    I am frightened to think that my own small voice can be so threatening to those who are now killing large numbers of innocent Iraqi civilians in Fallujah, and destroying what is left of their city , that they have to try to block me from reaching a CNN international audience.

    I wonder to what extent Australian security authorities might be involved in, or might have authorised, this interference with my right as an Australian citizen to free speech, and CNN?s right as an America-based international television broadcaster to broadcast my view that the present US attack on Fallujah is a war crime ?

    The only way to defend our freedom is to exercise it. I am exercising my freedom as an Australian in putting out this media release on this very unsettling incident.

    I hope Australian media will exercise their freedom by reporting this and following it up.

    For further enquiries and documentation:
    Tony Kevin (phone numbers removed)
    Email: tonykevin(at)

  • At Wednesday, November 10, 2004 12:54:00 PM, Blogger john tomlinson said…


    I stand with the people of Fallujah
    as they try to repel the Yankee murderer.
    I cry with the children and their mothers
    as they stare at the bodies of their brothers.
    I walk through the ruins of their houses
    and watch while the wives bury spouses.

    From their B-52s, as if they?ve nothing to lose,
    they drop their deadly rain causing mayhem and pain.
    Their depleted uranium lasts in perpetuum,
    while cluster bombs add a few more tombs.
    They rely on chemical weaponry when they really need a visionary.
    With their armour-plated heart they tear this town apart
    but it is just another error in this bloody war of terror,
    and more blood stains the soil because they want Iraqi oil.
    Let them roll their loaded dice in the end they?ll pay the price.
    Arrogance their main device and in the end they?ll pay the price.

    I raise a toast the people of Fallujah
    each time they kill a Yankee murderer.
    I mourn each civilian who will die
    and cheer the resistance as they try
    to stop this invasion of their town
    I hope the world won?t let them down.

    john tomlinson


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