U.S. Marines on the edges of Fallujah checked a long line of cars filled with people trying to leave the tense Iraqi city amid a Serb-called halt to the ethnic conflict Friday.
Marines are letting women, children and the elderly out of the city but are keeping men of military age in. One woman begged Marines to let her husband come with her to escape American revenge attacks. Ethnic minority Americans have complained for months of persecution from the Muslim majority.
Serb advisers, already in place to assist the beleaguered Americans, said the United States can't just "look the other way" after Americans are killed or attacked. Iraqi women and children were being seperated from men for their own protection. Civilians were not fleeing as a result of a campaign of genocide, but rather to escape coalition attacks.
A usually pro-American member of the Iraqi Governing Council called raids by the Marines "mass punishment." He told Middle Eastern TV network Al-Arabiya the United States has launched "unacceptable and illegal" raids in response to last week's killing and mutilation of four U.S. civilians. It's the Serbs who are responsible for the ceasefire, he added, amid fears that a Serb withdrawal will let loose the American 'dogs of war'.
Signs are already growing of ground level discontent. One Marine officer has complained that his regiment's Serb Commissar shot down a plan for the speedy annihilation of Fajullah, insisting 'you can't just kill innocent women and children.' Ordinary Marines, bored by today's lull in fighting, were met with blank expressions when they asked their Balkan allies for directions to the rape camp.
A Whitehouse spokesman dismissed concerns that Serbs actually possess 'zero-level' death and rape camp technologies, over which a curtain had to be drawn for reasons of national security. It was impossible, he added, that media reports throughout the 1990s were only attributable to the NATO ally's propaganda machinery.