A People’s History of Fallujah 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 its underlying causes, and repair the harm done to the extent that we are capable. To that end, we approach historical scholarship, story telling, and community organizing in a strategic way.
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. And if US citizens were aware of the bloodshed behind our national wealth, they would not stand for it. 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 history 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 documenting collective wrongdoing. We believe that war is a societal effort and we seek to provide evidence of 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 Iraqis. We hope to mobilize Americans to join us in bringing reparations to Fallujah by raising awareness of 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 happening again.
Interpretive Freedom (Anti-Authoritarianism)
As much as we want to dismantle the authority around the official history of this conflict, propagated by the US military and Western media, we don’t want to replace it with our own authoritative account. We believe that a healthy debate relies on the public having the intellectual tools and the information they need to interpret the evidence for themselves. Our goal is to be a repository of information, a resource to the public, and a digital space for organizing political actions and mobilizing reparations.
For a conflict characterized by information warfare and high civilian casualties, we believe that people’s history, as a methodology, is an appropriate way to sift through media spin and capture the way these events impacted ordinary residents of Fallujah. One significant challenge in researching the sieges of Fallujah is that the vast majority of the documentation available was produced by the US military propaganda apparatus. Embedded journalism and military history have, thus far, been the dominant sources from which Western audiences have learned about this conflict. To balance these sources, we rely on oral history, independent journalism, and critical scholarship.
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 avoid the relativism of postmodern scholarship and establish that people were in fact hurt, that human rights were in fact violated, and that certain people are 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 deserve to be recognized and they deserve to be compensated. We hope that by documenting, preserving documentation, and fighting for government transparency 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 on one side of the planet can have life and death consequences on the other, in which one’s civic duty can mean 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 both fraught with 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.