A People’s History of Fallujah Digital Archive is not just about myth-busting or offering a counternarrative to the official history. This project seeks to be informative, transformative, and reparative. That is, our goal is to collect and create documentation of this conflict, address and transform the underlying causes, and repair the harm done to the extent that we are capable. To that end, we approach history and story telling in a strategic way to address certain challenges unique to this topic and to meet specific goals.
The US-led operations in Fallujah in 2004, and the Iraqi-led operation in 2016, have been valorized in the media, obscuring the many crimes committed and the harm done to Fallujans. Information warfare (military propaganda) has created pervasive myths that depict these operations as heroic battles against terrorism. The historical record, however, reveals numerous human rights violations in the course of each operation. This project is dedicated to documenting these human rights violations and raising awareness about the disparity between the way US military actions are portrayed in the media and the way they are experienced by civilians living in our war zones.
We believe that this disparity is a necessary feature of empire. The US is able to maintain global military hegemony because US citizens are misinformed about the means by which it has obtained its dominant position in the world. We intend to challenge this aspect of US empire through sound historical scholarship, multimedia storytelling, community engagement, and forms of accountability that include reparations and legal actions.
The scope of this digital archive is broad. We include materials on the historical context of US intervention in Iraq, and the Middle East more generally, media studies, US social movements, military actions in Iraq between 1991 and 2018, US diplomatic and military history, and oral history. What strings these various sources and perspectives together is a focus on collective wrongdoing. We believe that war is a societal effort and we seek to document the ways in which military violence is facilitated and normalized by an entire society.
In doing this work, we are committed to the principles of grassroots reparations. We believe that the US, as a society, owes reparations to Fallujans, and Iraqis more generally, and each individual American bears some responsibility for holding our government accountable and initiating a process of repair with Fallujah. We hope to mobilize Americans to join us in bringing reparations to Fallujah by raising awareness about the impact of US military actions in Iraq and how we, as citizens of empire, are implicated in the harm wrought by our military around the world. Reparations, we believe, is a form of accountability that could help prevent future tragedies like the assaults on Fallujah from every happening again.
People's history as a genre has a long tradition, with many different ideological approaches. Today, due to the enormous popularity of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States (1980), most people associate the genre of people's history with progressive interpretations of history, told from the bottom up—that is, from the perspective of ordinary individuals. While we actively try to avoid imposing any sort of ideologically partisan perspective on this history, we take a similar methodological approach to Zinn's. Rather than relying on the framing and analysis of experts and on official sources, we try to let the experiences of ordinary people shape the way we craft historical narrative. That doesn't mean that we dismiss all other sources, just that we try to be aware of the way powerful institutions shape history through official narratives and documentation and we carefully measure these accounts against the testimonies of ordinary people.
We are, in principle, skeptical of any account of this conflict that pretends to be the single, authoritative truth on the matter. Again, the context of information warfare weighs heavy on our methodology, since the "official" sources of information on this conflict were part of a broad U.S. government propaganda apparatus that curated its portrayal of the war to Americans to secure their support. But we're not here to tell you that the official history is wrong and our version is right. We want to provide our readers with the knowledge and resources they need to apply their own critical thinking, not only to the history of this conflict, but to the daily official truths and narratives that we hear from our leaders.
While many scholars are skeptical about applying notions of truth to historical narratives, which are always subjective and perspectival; we believe that excessive skepticism of truth stands in the way of accountability. It is important to establish that people were in fact hurt, that human rights were in fact violated, and that certain people were responsible. As difficult as it may be to say exactly what happened when, without any human bias, a commitment to truth can serve as an important guide to historical scholarship.
Ultimately, the goal of this project is to obtain justice for the people of Fallujah. Their losses and suffering deserves to be recognized and they deserve to be compensated. We hope that by documenting, preserving documentation, and fighting for government accountability; we might help facilitate a long march towards justice.
One way in which we try to engage with the community is through crowdsourcing labor and resources. Rather than seeking institutional funding, we want to cultivate a culture of responsibility in our society by encouraging individuals to engage with the complex ethics of being a citizen of empire. In a world more globally connected then ever, in which consumer choices can have life and death consequences on the other side of the planet, in which one’s patriotic duty means another’s death, in which providing for ones family can produce toxic pollution that harms a stranger’s family, our position as citizens of empire is fraught with both privilege and responsibility. Volunteering labor or resources is one way that we can start to acknowledge this responsibility and begin to tear down the power dynamics that implicate us in the global harm of empire. By giving reparations we can each contribute to a reparative and transformative process that helps Fallujans rebuild and helps us create a more ethical society.