Update: The fundraiser’s goal has been reached!
I just donated to the “Fear Not the Path of Truth: A Fallujah Veteran’s Documentary” kickstarter. And I hope you will too. Within 24h of its launch, the kickstarter raised 1,500$. A few days later, they reached 3,500$.
Now, 2,700$ is needed to reach the fundraising goal of 7,500$.
So in the hope of helping, I’m letting the creator of the project, Ross Caputi himself, tell you his story.
I’m Ross Caputi, and I’m a veteran of the 2nd siege of Fallujah, which was one of the largest and bloodiest operations of the Occupation of Iraq. This documentary is about my life after my experience in Fallujah, and my struggle to learn the truth about what I participated in amidst all the propaganda. But it is also a documentary about Fallujah, the people who live there, and the human consequences of US foreign policy in their city.
The 2nd siege of Fallujah was fought in November of 2004. The US military and the mainstream media framed the operation as a historic and heroic battle against terrorism. This is what most Americans remember about Fallujah today, if they remember anything at all.
However, this narrative is inaccurate for many reasons (and I will explore those reasons in the documentary). But for right now, the important thing to focus on is that this operation caused tremendous human suffering. Thousands of civilians were killed (over 700 were killed in the 1st siege in April, 2004, and estimates range between 3,000 and 6,000 for the 2nd siege). Large sections of Fallujah were completely destroyed. And 200,000 civilians were forced to become refugees.
Possibly the most heart wrenching consequence of these sieges is the public health crisis that emerged a couple years after the fighting. All of the scientific research on this topic suggest that the weapons that were used in the two sieges of Fallujah polluted the city to such an extent that there are now enormous rates of birth defects and cancers in Fallujah. Today, 14% of all children born in Fallujah are born with birth defects. And the cancer rates in children are 12 times the expected rates in a healthy population. These figures have led many people to compare Fallujah with Hiroshima. So not only did the sieges of Fallujah hurt people in 2004, but they are still hurting people today, and unless we do something about it they will continue to hurt the future generations as well.
This information might seem shocking to you. That’s because it isn’t being discussed in the US. And that’s why I’m making this documentary. I feel strongly that America needs to know about the human consequences of our foreign policy. So what I did was I took a camera and interviewed 10 of the best experts on the topic of Fallujah.
The facts and the analyses given by the experts I interviewed challenge the narrative told by the US military and the mainstream media about what happened in Fallujah in 2004 and what the consequences were. Beyond that, I think this documentary also offers a fresh perspective on issues that veterans struggle with, particular issues that don’t get enough attention.
There have been plenty of documentaries that deal with the horrors of combat, or the struggles that veterans have with PTSD, or their difficulties with reintegrating into society. But few have dealt with the moral injury that veterans incur from having participated in something that violates their sense of right and wrong. Moral injury from war is only starting to get the attention it deserves.
Many veterans can attest to feeling tainted after coming back from Iraq or Afghanistan. It was an incredibly confusing experience for me to come back home and have everyone calling me a hero and thanking me for my service, when all I could feel about my so-called service was guilt. I’ve known many veterans who have struggled with the automatic and unconditional hero-status that is imposed on them. And I’ve known many veterans who, after war, found themselves coming to believe in higher principles that extend to all human beings, even those outside of US borders, but were afraid to take a stand for fear that they would be called a “traitor” or “unpatriotic.” These veterans’ voices are rarely heard.
What if the mission itself was the source of the moral injury? How do we balance our duty to our country and our duty to humanity? If there is blood on one’s hands, how does he redeem himself? My life since Fallujah has been a fumbling attempt to grapple with these questions. And I hope that addressing them in this documentary will be consoling to the veterans who have felt like I have.
This is what I hope to do with the documentary. But I’m talking to you here on Kickstarter because I need your help.
I’m currently in the post-production stage, and I need to cover past expenses for the camera, the microphones, and a few travel expenses. But the most important expense that we face right now is for archive footage and the license we need to use that footage, which all together is $6300.
You may have noticed that in the trailer I used the low-quality still photographs that I took with a disposable camera in Iraq. The documentary will be so much more informative and powerful if the viewer could see the buildings in Fallujah crumbling under machine gun fire, or the civilians of Fallujah frantically digging mass graves to burry the dead before the mounting number of bodies begin to rot, or the tents that the refugees had to live in in the desert. My personal photos can’t come close to capturing that reality.
Our total budget is a modest $7,500.
I really care about this project. I don’t want America to just know what I’ve gone through. I want America to know what Fallujah has gone through as well. I want to do whatever is within my power to help Fallujah. And I don’t want the next generation of Americans to know only a sanitized version of American history and to walk as naively as I did into a war that never should have happened. So please help me make this possible.
If we reach our funding goal, we will make the documentary free for all to download off the internet. We hope to be able to make the documentary available this coming November.
- I am sorry for the role I played in Fallujah
- Research links rise in Falluja birth defects and cancers to US assault
- The Justice for Fallujah Project
We’re off to a great start! Thank you all so much for your support!
If you want to know more about the public health crisis in Fallujah, check out this VICE episode that I was interviewed in. The part on Fallujah begins at the 15 minute mark. This episode is just a primer on the topic. Our documentary will cover in more depth the scientific research into the public health crisis, its possible causes, and the political barriers that prevent anything from being done about it.
Also, check out this article about the World Health Organization study on birth defects in Iraq, the results of which have been classified.
As Syria is on our minds, and the potential use of chemical weapons there, many people are making a connection to the weapons used by the US in Fallujah.
Many people are saying that the US used white phosphorous in Fallujah as a chemical weapon. The US did use white phosphorous (I saw it with my own eyes), but I think it is important to point out that white phosphorous is illegal as an incendiary weapon, according to the Geneva Conventions, not as a chemical weapon. There are legal uses of white phosphorous, but when used offensively, as it was in Fallujah (see page 26 of this report), it becomes illegal. I think it can also be argued that, in urban combat, white phosphorous is an indiscriminate weapon, since it is fired from the sky and floats down to the earth, covering a large target area. This is especially problematic in a situation like Fallujah, where up to 50,000 civilians were trapped in the city when it was used.
Many people are also claiming that the US used depleted uranium weapons in Fallujah. However, there is actually no evidence of this, and the reason for that is that the US refuses to be transparent about when and where it used these weapons. This is a real problem, since there is mounting scientific evidence that depleted uranium (DU) is radioactive and chemically toxic, and that it causes lingering health problems in the civilian populations who live near where it was used. It seems plausible that the US could have use DU in Fallujah, since the US used DU extensively all throughout Iraq during the 1st Gulf War. But we have no proof that it was used in Fallujah after the invasion in 2003.
In fact, one study on the public health crisis in Fallujah found “slightly enriched uranium” in hair, soil, and water samples from Fallujah, rather than depleted uranium. There is also evidence that there is a new class of weapons that could use slightly enriched uranium (see the report beginning on page 35). Thermobaric weapons are one class of weapons that may use slightly enriched uranium. During the 2nd siege of Fallujah, a new shoulder-fire thermobaric weapon was tested in combat for the first time ever (the SMAW-NE).
All of this is far from conclusive. We don’t yet have sufficient evidence to condemn the US for using chemical weapons, but the US government’s unwillingness to investigate the potential health consequences of its weapons, or to even be transparent about what weapons it used, or to even take the weapons in question out of use until it is determine that they do not cause lingering health effects, is very irresponsible, and we should all be troubled by that. It throws into question our government’s moral opposition to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, when it isn’t concerned at all to know whether the weapons it used in Fallujah have poisoned the environment and have cause one of the most serious pubic health crises in history.
This should all be part of the current debate on Syria. But most Americans know nothing about any of this, because the US media has failed to report it, and Obama and Kerry are happy to focus on the wrongs of others and forget about the wrongs we may have committed in the past.
I hope that this documentary will inform the American public on these issues, since the mainstream media has clearly failed to do so.
We’re half way to our fundraising goal, and our Kickstarter isn’t even a week old! That’s due entirely to the tremendous support from all of you. This project means a lot to me, and I couldn’t be more thankful for all of your support.
But Kickstarters have a way of losing their momentum and fizzling out. Lets not let that happen. Please, if you have access to a listserv, or a Facebook group, or a Twitter account, or anything that could help get the word out about this project, please share our Kickstarter page.
Just $3500 to go with 3 weeks left to our campaign! We can do this.
Thank you so much,
I thought I’d take this opportunity to discuss the past documentaries that have been done on Fallujah and what this documentary has to offer that the others do not.
To my knowledge, the first documentary to come out on Fallujah was Toshikuni DOI’s Fallujah 2004. This documentary was shot in Fallujah shortly after the 1st US siege in the spring of 2004. DOI interviews residents, doctor’s, and resistance fighters. He presents a complete picture of the consequences of that particular operation (the civilian casualties and bereaved families) and of the motivations of the resistance for fighting back against the Americans.
Next was Fallujah: The hidden massacre which focuses on the US militaries use of white phosphorous as an offensive weapon (which is illegal according to the Geneva Conventions) during the 2nd siege of Fallujah in November of 2004. This documentary was produced by Sigfrido Ranucci and Maurizio Torrealta, and it was aired on the Italian Television channel RAI. All together, this was not a great documentary. There were some factual inaccuracies―white phosphorous is described as a chemical weapon in this documentary, which it is not, and charred corpses of Fallujans are presented as evidence that this weapon did in fact maim people. However, those charred corpses could have been caused by other weapon systems. For example, thermobaric weapons, which were used extensively by the US military in Fallujah, produce an extremely high heat blast.
Deep Dish TV made a half-hour documentary, simply titled Fallujah in 2006. This documentary showed some heart-wrenching footage of the combat during the 2nd siege, and of civilians trying to survive in a city under siege. It also shows some interviews with Fallujah residents after the siege ended. The first signs of the public health crisis are evident, as residents discuss the strange symptoms they are noticing in their children. And they also discuss the extreme security measures they were subjected to, making their city like an open-air prison.
The Road to Fallujah was released in 2009. This documentary offers analyses from a line up of experts and scholars (including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Dahr Jamail, and Dennis Kucinich) about the events leading up to the 2nd siege of Fallujah and how to create peace in the wake of such destruction. Although this documentary is sincere in its outrage at the suffering caused by the US operation in Fallujah and in its desire to promote peace, I believe this documentary is lacking something in its analysis. The take home message seems to be that the occupation of Iraq was conducted poorly. However, I think it is important to stress that the occupation was fundamentally immoral. The US simply had no right to invade and occupy another country, no matter how gracefully they conducted themselves.
Finally, Fallujah: a lost generation? was directed by Feurat Alani (who is interviewed in my documentary) in 2011. This documentary focuses on the public health crisis in Fallujah. Feurat Alani investigates what residents, local doctors, US veterans, and researchers are saying about the astonishing rates of birth defects and cancers in Fallujah.
All of these documentaries focus on one piece of the story of US operations in Fallujah and their human consequences. What I hope to do with my documentary is to tell a complete story, beginning with the resistance in Fallujah against British colonialism in the 1920’s, to the two US sieges in 2004, to the years of lockdown from 2005 to 2010, to the public health crisis, and finishing with the current political and security situation in Fallujah. I believe that the story that my documentary will tell is more complete, and it offers an analysis that previous documentaries did not. Also, I think my documentary will raise a unique set of questions that are relevant to US veterans, including: How do veterans go about deciphering fact from fiction when there is so much propaganda thrown at us about the wars we fight in? How do we balance our duty to our country and our duty to humanity? How do we cope with ugly truths about the human costs of our wars? And is there such a thing as redemption?
WARNING: Shocking photos at the bottom of link
Today the World Health Organization (WHO) released a summary of the results from their long awaited study on the prevalence of birth defects in Iraq. This study was begun in June 2012 with the collaboration of Iraq’s Ministry of Health, and was expected to publish its findings in November of 2012. The delayed release of this study caused many concernsabout possible suppression of evidence due to pressure from its member states.
Some leaks early on offered us a glimpse into the results of the study, including the admission in a BBC documentary of an Iraqi Minestry of Health official that the study showed “with damning evidence” that there was a dramatic raise in birth defects since the American invasion.
But the summary just released by the WHO seems to be a retreat from these initial statements. In fact, the summary states that “[t]he rates for spontaneous abortion, stillbirths and congenital birth defects found in the study are consistent with or even lower than international estimates. The study provides no clear evidence to suggest an unusually high rate of congenital birth defects in Iraq.” This is at odds with much of the previous researchbeing done on the public health crisis in Iraq. And it flies in the face of the situation on the ground that Iraqi doctors see every day. The following are just a sample of some the horrific birth defects being seen at the Fallujah General Hospital. To see the log kept by the maternity ward, visit this Facebook page.
In a previous update, I reviewed all (or so I thought) of documentaries that had been done on the conflict in Fallujah, but I overlooked one important documentary.
This documentary, The November War, just came out this summer. It was done by another veteran of the 2nd siege of Fallujah, and it tells the story of a single day of fighting from the perspectives of the men from his former platoon.
The testimony given by these veterans is gripping. The trauma that they still carry with them is evident in their stares, the pauses in their speech, and the tension in their bodies as they tell their story. This is a heart-wrenching documentary about what these men endured and the friends they lost. I think it would be hard for anyone who watches this to not feel sympathy for them.
However, what this documentary is not about is Fallujans and how the 2nd siege of Fallujah effected them. In fact, I only noticed one mention of civilians, when one veteran commented that they had all evacuated the city. This is not true. The Red Cross estimated that up to 50,000 civilians were trapped in Fallujah at the time of the 2nd siege. And the US military was not allowing military aged males (defined very loosely as between 15 and 55 years of age) to flee the city, regardless of whether there was any evidence that they were resistance fighters or not. But this is not an uncommon belief amongst the Marines in Fallujah at that time. I remember that my command told us that all the civilians had left the city and that only combatants remained.
In a way, this documentary is apolitical and ahistorical. None of the stated justifications for the 2nd siege or any of the events that led up to it are mentioned. The viewer is just dropped into this single day of combat with no background knowledge and no context. On the other hand, the story is framed in a particular ideology. The resistance fighters are referred to as “terrorists” and “insurgents”. The documentary begins with commentary by one of the veterans that “freedom isn’t free”. And there is a lot of discussion about the Marines that died, what they believed in, and what they think their friends died for. What can we expect the viewer to take from this? The message seems to be that these veterans suffered tremendously for a good cause. There isn’t even a hint that harm came to anyone but them.
For me, this documentary represents everything that made me want to make the documentary that I’m making now. I wanted to fight against this version of the story of Fallujah that puts all the focus on the Marines and their alleged heroism and sacrifices, and ignores the historical context and the perspectives of Fallujans. I wanted to offer a balance of facts and perspectives that to me seemed crucial for Americans to know about. I felt that there was no way Americans could understand our current foreign policy without knowing about what we did to Fallujah. And this couldn’t be truer with the current debate over Syria.
Let me be clear, that I’m not against these veterans telling their stories. It seemed like a very therapeutic thing for them, and I wouldn’t want to take that away. However, their stories need to be balanced with the stories of Fallujans. Their recollection of what was told to them by their command needs to be balanced with documented facts. And the historical context needs to be made clear.
The November War discusses the horrors of war. But when the mission is presumed to be just, as it is in this documentary, then the more horrible the war becomes, the more heroic the soldiers became as a result. Ultimately, this documentary glorifies these Marines and their mission. I believe that documentaries, films, and books of this sort do more harm than good. When I enlisted at 18, I believed in the heroism of the US military, because I had absorbed similar movies, documentaries, and books when I was a kid. Stories of this sort do little to educate the next generation and to keep them from fighting the future wars for empire. Instead it just reenforces common misconceptions about the automatic glory, heroism, righteousness of fighting wars for America, regardless of the facts, irrespective of the historical context.
Some say that truth is the first casualty of war. But in fact, the truth is sacrificed before the war even begins. The truth is killed off in our cultural depictions of war. This what I hope that my documentary will do differently.
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