Monday, June 12, 2006

U.S. Offensive in Ramadi Threatens to Trigger a Humanitarian Crisis

(Cross-posted at Blanton's and Ashton's.)

Yesterday's Los Angeles Times reported that residents of Ramadi are fleeing the city by the thousands to escape an impending American invasion. War supporters have already begun spinning this exodus as proof that the military authorities care about Iraqis and are making every effort to spare civilian lives; but the truth is somewhat different.

Fears of an imminent offensive by the U.S. troops massed around the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi intensified Saturday, with residents pouring out of the city to escape what they describe as a mounting humanitarian crisis.

The image pieced together from interviews with tribal leaders and fleeing families in recent weeks is one of a desperate population of 400,000 people trapped in the crossfire between insurgents and U.S. forces. Food and medical supplies are running low, prices for gas have soared because of shortages and municipal services have ground to a stop.

U.S. and Iraqi forces had cordoned off the city by Saturday, residents and Iraqi officials said. Airstrikes on several residential areas picked up, and troops took to the streets with loudspeakers to warn civilians of a fierce impending attack, Ramadi police Capt. Tahseen Dulaimi said.

U.S. military officials refused to confirm or deny reports that a Ramadi offensive was underway.

Thousands of families remain trapped in the city, those who have fled say. Many can't afford to leave or lack transportation, whereas other families have decided to wait for their children to finish final examinations at school before escaping.

"The situation is catastrophic. No services, no electricity, no water," said Sheik Fassal Gaood, the former governor of Al Anbar province, whose capital is Ramadi.

"People in Ramadi are caught between two plagues: the vicious, armed insurgents and the American and Iraqi troops."

Residents have been particularly unnerved by the recent arrival of 1,500 U.S. troops sent to reinforce the forces already stationed at the city. Street battles between troops and insurgents have been raging for months, but the troops' deployment left residents bracing for a mass offensive to take the town back from insurgents.

"It is becoming hell up there," said Mohammed Fahdawi, a 42-year-old contractor who packed up his four children and fled to Baghdad two weeks ago. "It is unbelievable: The Americans seem to have brought all of their troops to Ramadi."

All emphasis is mine.

So let's review what we've learned here:
  • We have a city of 400,000 people who are already severely at-risk because of severe shortages of food and medical supplies. There are no utility services, no electricity, no water.
  • In the midst of these catastrophic conditions, the U.S. military decides that it's going to launch a full-scale offensive against Ramadi to "root out insurgents." Thinking they are being really kind and considerate, the Americans go through the streets with loudspeakers, warning civilians to leave. This results in the aforesaid flood of Iraqis fleeing in utter panic and terror from the city -- which of course threatens to turn the already compromised humanitarian conditions into a full-blown humanitarian crisis.
  • After making those nice little public service announcements for a little while, the military authorities, on Saturday, cordoned off the city, with thousands of civilians still inside.

So now, tell us again how the Bush administration wants to help Iraqis and relieve their suffering?

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