With the liberation of Fallujah and the fall of the jihadist regime in the town, it is apparent that American media intend to keep their story on message: the message being that the U.S. military operation there has failed and that Fallujans, and Iraqis in general, still hate the intervention forces.
At the same time, other reports tell a more significant and eloquent story: the jihadists had set up a Taliban-style dictatorship, in which women who did not cover their entire bodies, people listening to music, and members of spiritual Sufi orders -- that is, ordinary Fallujans -- were subject to torture and execution.
The Fallujans have learned the same lesson the Shias learned before them, and the Afghans before them: U.S. boots on Muslim soil may be onerous, but American military action is preferable to the unspeakably vicious criminality of Islamist extremists financed, recruited, and otherwise encouraged by Wahhabism, the state religion in Saudi Arabia.
When Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge almost 30 years ago, Western media reported it as the liberation of a city. Noam Chomsky hailed the forced evacuation of Cambodian towns as a noble social experiment. But many journalists were soon forced to record the truth about Khmer Rouge cruelty.
It took longer for Western, and especially American media, to stop glamorizing the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the Stalinist guerrillas in El Salvador, and to admit that the masses of people in those countries rejected their claims to represent them. An editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, where I worked, on the day after Violeta Chamorro (remember her?) won election in Managua in 1990, told me, "Nicaragua is no longer a news story for us." I asked, "is that because there will be no more violence?" He said, "No, it's because the U.S. is no longer a target." I am sure he meant "a target of our reporting."
Since the Vietnam era, American journalists seem to operate by an ethic reversing the infamous slogan of antiwar demonstrators, who chant "media lies, people die." Much more accurate would be to say "people die, media lies." American media lied about Vietnam, telling us the Communists won the Tet offensive when they were defeated -- and when, by the way, the recapture of the traditional capital city of Hue disclosed that the Communists had rounded up and executed some 6,000 people. American media lied about Central America, as noted; American media still lie about Cuba, portraying the Castro regime, which has driven the average standard of living of the people drastically down, as the most progressive in Latin America.
Much of American media lied about the wars in Yugoslavia, depicting Slobodan Milosevic, early on, as a reformer in the style of Gorbachev. They continued by "explaining" Serbian aggression against Slovenes, Croats, Bosnian Muslims, and Albanians by the alleged wholesale collaboration of the victims' great-grandparents with the Nazis. Presumably, the 1,100 children killed in the siege of Sarajevo were all members of a Bosnian Waffen SS division about which much propagandistic ink has been spilled over the years. And they repeated ad nauseam the false charge that equal atrocities were committed on all sides, when the great majority of mass murders, rapes, deportations, and expulsions were carried out by the Serbs.
Where the ink of lies is spilled, the blood of victims soon follows. Media liars are sharks; they gather at the smell of blood. And in this deadly cycle of untruths, Iraq has set new standards for media mendacity. President Bush and his team are reviled because the Iraq war was described by one adviser as a "cakewalk;" well, the conquest of Baghdad was a cakewalk, remember? Then the administration was defamed because the Iraqis did not strew roses in the path of our service personnel. Terrorism suddenly became "insurgency" and "resistance," with the veteran fabricators of The New York Times -- who lied about Stalin's famine in the 1930s and on numerous occasions thereafter -- adopting the propaganda vocabulary of al-Jazeera.
Strangely, throughout the Iraqi struggle, Western media have joined Western politicians in a reluctance to name the "foreign fighters" in Fallujah as what they are -- mostly Wahhabis, and mainly Saudis. Those who monitor Arab media know this to be true because when jihadists die in Fallujah, their photographs and biographies appeared in newspapers south of the Iraq-Saudi border. Western media "analysts" added to the fog of disinformation by alleging that the Shia rebels of Moqtada ul-Sadr would join the Wahhabis in Fallujah. But Islamic media around the world began to produce curious items: Moqtada ul-Sadr issued an order for the execution of any Wahhabis caught infiltrating the Shia holy cities; Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in turn, supervised the beheading of an Iraqi Shia accused of spying for the Americans. Top Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali Sistani issued a fatwa saying that anybody who obstructed the U.S.-sponsored elections in Iraq is destined for eternal fire. And the 26 leading Wahhabi radicals in Saudi Arabia published an open letter to the Iraqis calling for stiffened resistance in Fallujah and forbidding any cooperation with the U.S. forces. Little of this was reported in or digested by American media, which stuck to their story: Americans bad, terrorists in Iraq good.
Most Western journalists seem to have fled Fallujah as the fighting there heated up. But news is now trickling out of the liberated city, and it is fascinating to read. The London Times on Monday, November 15, described Fallujah as "terrorized" by the jihadists, who posted notices ordering death sentences on walls and poles throughout the streets. "Mutilated bodies dumped on Fallujah's bombed out streets today painted a harrowing picture of eight months of rebel rule," it began. The characteristically arbitrary, if not insane tone of Wahhabi/Taliban "governance" was clearly in evidence: An order dated November 1 "gives vendors three days to remove nine market stalls from outside the city's library or face execution. The pretext given is that the rebels wanted to convert the building into a headquarters for the 'Mujahidin Advisory Council' through which they ran the city."
Orders to conform to Wahhabi "virtue" were backed up by graphic examples: "An Arab woman, in a violet nightdress, lay in a post-mortem embrace with a male corpse in the middle of the street. Both bodies had died from bullets to the head… Many of the residents who emerged from the ruins welcomed the U.S. marines, despite the massive destruction their firepower had inflicted on their city. A man in his sixties, half-naked and his underwear stained with blood from shrapnel wounds, cursed the insurgents as he greeted the advancing marines on Saturday night.
"'I wish the Americans had come here the very first day and not waited eight months,' he said, trembling. Nearby, a mosque courtyard had been used as a weapons store by the militants. Another elderly man, who did not want his name used for fear the rebels would one day return and restore their draconian rule, said he was detained by the militants last Tuesday and held for four days before being freed… 'It was horrible,' he told an Agence France-Presse reporter. 'We suffered from the bombings. Innocent people died or were wounded by the bombings. But we were happy you did what you did because Fallujah had been suffocated by the Mujahidin. Anyone considered suspicious would be slaughtered. We would see unknown corpses around the city all the time.'"
The account continues, "Even residents who regard themselves as observant Muslims lived in fear because they did not share the puritan brand of Sunni Islam that the insurgents enforced. One devotee of a Sufi sect, followers of a mystical form of worship deemed heretical by the hardliners, told how he and other members of his order had lived in terror inside their homes for fear of retribution.
"'It was a very hard life. We couldn't move. We could not work,' said the man sporting the white robe and skullcap prescribed by his faith. 'If they had any issue with a person, they would kill him or throw him in jail.'"
There are, perhaps, some Western Islamophobic ideologues who, from the safety of their suburban homes, would love to tell these Muslim victims of terrorism that their torment was their own fault for not changing or altering their traditional Islamic faith. Some people have no shame. But sooner or later Americans will understand what Iraqis are learning: that our troops went there to free Islam, not to destroy it; that in a choice between American supervision and Taliban atrocities, the ordinary Sunnis and the mystical Sufis and the majority Shias will opt for our help.
Meanwhile, the body count is encouraging: in Fallujah, 38 Americans and five Iraqi regulars lost; 1,200 terrorists killed. Long live free Fallujah!