I am sorry for the role I played in Fallujah
As a US marine who lost close friends in the siege of Fallujah in Iraq seven years ago, I understand that we were the aggressors.
Thursday 22 December 2011 10.00 GMT
S soldiers return to their barracks at a military base outside Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004.
It has been seven years since the end of the second siege of Fallujah
– the US assault that left the city in ruins, killed thousands of
civilians, and displaced hundreds of thousands more; the assault that
poisoned a generation, plaguing the people who live there with cancers and their children with birth defects.It has been seven years and the lies that justified the assault still perpetuate false beliefs about what we did.
The US veterans who fought there still do not understand who they fought against, or what they were fighting for.
I know, because I am one of those American veterans. In the eyes of many
of the people I "served" with, the people of Fallujah remain dehumanised
and their resistance fighters are still believed to be terrorists. But
unlike most of my counterparts, I understand that I was the aggressor,
and that the resistance fighters in Fallujah were defending their city.
It is also the seventh anniversary of the deaths of two close friends of
mine, Travis Desiato and Bradley Faircloth, who were killed in the
siege. Their deaths were not heroic or glorious. Their deaths were
tragic, but not unjust.How can I begrudge the resistance in
Fallujah for killing my friends, when I know that I would have done the
same thing if I were in their place? How can I blame them when we were
the aggressors?It could have been me instead of Travis or Brad.
I carried a radio on my back that dropped the bombs that killed civilians
and reduced Fallujah to rubble. If I were a Fallujan, I would have
killed anyone like me. I would have had no choice. The fate of my city
and my family would have depended on it. I would have killed the foreign
invaders.Travis and Brad are both victims and perpetrators. They
were killed and they killed others because of a political agenda in
which they were just pawns.
They were the iron fist of American empire, and an expendable loss in the
eyes of their leaders.I do not see any contradiction in feeling sympathy for
the dead US Marines and soldiers and at the same time feeling sympathy for
the Fallujans who fell to their guns.
The contradiction lies in believing that we were
liberators, when in fact we oppressed the freedoms and wishes of
Fallujans. The contradiction lies in believing that we were heroes, when
the definition of "hero" bares no relation to our actions in Fallujah.What
we did to Fallujah cannot be undone, and I see no point in attacking
the people in my former unit. What I want to attack are the lies and
false beliefs. I want to destroy the prejudices that prevented us from
putting ourselves in the other's shoes and asking ourselves what we
would have done if a foreign army invaded our country and laid siege to
I understand the psychology that causes the aggressors
to blame their victims. I understand the justifications and defence
mechanisms. I understand the emotional urge to want to hate the people
who killed someone dear to you. But to describe the psychology that
preserves such false beliefs is not to ignore the objective moral truth
that no attacker can ever justly blame their victims for defending
themselves.The same distorted morality has been used to justify attacks against
the native Americans, the Vietnamese, El Salvadorans, and the Afghans.
It is the same story over and over again. These people have been
dehumanised, their God-given right to self-defence has been
delegitimised, their resistance has been reframed as terrorism, and US
soldiers have been sent to kill them.History has preserved these
lies, normalised them, and socialised them into our culture: so much so
that legitimate resistance against US aggression is incomprehensible to
most, and to even raise this question is seen as un-American.History
has defined the US veteran as a hero, and in doing so it has
automatically defined anyone who fights against him as the bad guy. It
has reversed the roles of aggressor and defender, moralised the immoral,
and shaped our societies' present understanding of war.I cannot
imagine a more necessary step towards justice than to put an end to
these lies, and achieve some moral clarity on this issue. I see no issue
more important than to clearly understand the difference between
aggression and self-defence, and to support legitimate struggles. I
cannot hate, blame, begrudge, or resent Fallujans for fighting back
I am sincerely sorry for the role I played in the second siege of Fallujah, and
I hope that some day not just Fallujans but all Iraqis will win their struggle.
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