BAGHDAD - The anger building up in Baghdad over the imminent attack on Fallujah is a warning that U.S. forces could start off more than they can handle.
The sharp increase in attacks on U.S. and allied forces has been only the most violent form of rising hostility. But it is not an extremist few that are becoming more and more strongly opposed to the occupation and now a U.S. assault on Fallujah.
What Iraqi people are saying could be even more worrying to the occupation forces than the attacks.
”The Fallujans should fight for their city,” says Mahmoud Shakir, 80, former commander of the Iraqi police in Baghdad. ”They are not terrorists, and there has been no proof of foreign fighters in Fallujah. And if there are Arabs there, they are more accepted than the Americans and coalition forces. In the name of liberty, they must fight.”
Shakir was deeply concerned what the results of the siege might be. ”It will end in a disaster,” he said at his son's home at Ramadan breakfast. ”Fallujah will be completely destroyed and the people will be killed because they are asking for independence and to be rid of the Americans.”
Ali al-Mishidani who returned to Iraq after the overthrow of the regime of Saddam Hussein said at the crowded al-Khulifa'a mosque in Baghdad that ”the Americans did something good by getting rid of Saddam Hussein. I believe there are terrorists there who are killing Fallujans and the Americans. But there are also Fallujans there who are fighting for their houses and their honour, and it is their right to do this.”
His views are mild compared to those of many others in Baghdad.
”The people of Fallujah have the right to fight for their city, because if the Americans are invading their city they have to defend it,” said Nisan al-Samarra'i, a 55 year-old trader in the Karrada district of Baghdad.
Al-Samarra'i said the bombings in Samarra were not related to the U.S. aggression in Fallujah. ”I believe that the fighting in Samarra is because so many people in Samarra have been killed by the occupiers,” he said. ”Their family are fighting against them now because their sons have been killed by the Americans.”
Like many others in Baghdad he does not believe members of Abu Masab al-Zarqawi's group are working inside Fallujah. Al-Zarqawi is a Jordanian suspected to have links with al-Qaeda, and involved in several beheadings and suicide bomb attacks in Iraq.
”There are accusations that al-Zarqawi is there, but nobody can prove this,” he said. ”Some say there are Arabs there fighting -- and if that is true, it is their right to help their brothers in Fallujah to defend their city.”
Hamad Abdulla Raziz, an unemployed electrician doing odd jobs at a hotel in central Baghdad said the U.S.-led coalition fails to see that ”we are having now to fight for our liberation against them.”
Many people in Baghdad express concern that the U.S. military operations in Fallujah are already leading to increasing violence around the country.
Ibrahim Mikhail who drives his car as a taxi now because he is afraid to join the Iraqi police force believes that if the U.S. military would stay in their bases there would be less violence.
”Why can't the U.S. Army leave our cities,” he said. ”If their tanks will stay off our streets and the soldiers will stop raiding our homes, people would stop attacking them, especially Fallujans.”
U.S. forces say al-Zarqawi is in Fallujah, ”but Fallujans and now more people in Baghdad view the Americans as terrorists,” he said.
”An Americans attack on Fallujah will be a disaster,” said Haydr Raid, a 22-year-old college student at Baghdad University. ”To try to rescue the people of Fallujah from the Arab mujahideen, it is okay then to kill the civilians with the fighters?” he asked. ”The Americans won't let men out of the city who want out, so they will kill them with the fighters? Is this justice?”
© Copyright 2004 IPS - Inter Press Service