The United States is bringing "democracy" to Iraq on the same terms that Russia imposed its federal mandate on Chechnya, a region that has Iraq's future written in its rubble. The advocates of intervention in Iraq and the epigones of Paul Wolfowitz should take a walk through Grozny and measure against its ruins the fate of their proclaimed ambition to bring democracy to Fallujah and other cities in Iraq.

In the waning weeks of the U.S. election campaign, the antiwar movement here in the United States was largely corralled into the Kerry campaign and strangled by the bizarre contradiction of supporting a candidate whose "peace plank" was continuing war. Will it now turn out that for many Kerry supporters their interest in the U.S. war on Iraq was in fact mostly its utility as a rationale for attacking Bush? Now that the race is over, will they forget the war along with Kerry's disastrous campaign?

If there is anything that should fuel the outrage of the antiwar movement and of all people of conscience, it is surely the destruction of Fallujah and the methodical war crimes being inflicted on its population, the most extensive thus far being denial of the most basic and essential source of life, water.

This is not the first time that U.S. forces have cut water supplies, something explicitly forbidden under Article 14 of the second protocol of the Geneva Conventions, which reads as follows:

"Starvation of civilians as a method of combat is prohibited. It is therefore prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless for that purpose, objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population such as food-stuffs, agricultural areas for the production of food-stuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works."

Back in 1991, the U.S. war planners targeted and destroyed the infrastructure of Baghdad's water supplies, and the sanctions thereafter denied new equipment necessary to repair it. In consequence, civilians, particularly babies and young children, died in vast numbers.

I am in receipt of a compelling dossier of the denial of water to Iraqi civilians, assembled by Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq (CASI), based in the United Kingdom.

"Water supplies to Tall Afar, Samarra and Fallujah were cut off during U.S. attacks in the past two months, affecting up to 750,000 civilians. This appears to form part of a deliberate U.S. policy of denying water to the residents of cities under attack. If so, it has been adopted without a public debate, and without consulting Coalition partners. It is a serious breach of international humanitarian law, and is deepening Iraqi opposition to the United States, other Coalition members, and the Iraqi interim government."

On Sept. 19, 2004, the Washington Post reported that U.S. forces "had turned off" water supplies to Tall Afar "for at least three days" and that that the U.S. army failed to offer water to those fleeing Tall Afar, including children and pregnant women.

"Water and electricity [were] cut off" during the assault on Samarra on Friday Oct. 1, 2004, according to Knight Ridder Newspapers and the British Independent. The Washington Post explicitly blamed "U.S. forces" for this.

On Oct. 16, the Washington Post reported that: "Electricity and water were cut off to the city [Fallujah] just as a fresh wave of strikes began Thursday night, an action that U.S. forces also took at the start of assaults on Najaf and Samarra." Residents of Fallujah have told the U.N.'s Integrated Regional Information Networks that "they had no food or clean water and did not have time to store enough to hold out through the impending battle." The water shortage has been confirmed by other civilians fleeing Fallujah Ö Fadhil Badrani, a BBC journalist in Falluja, confirmed on Nov. 8 that the water supply had been cut off.

In light of the shortage of water and other supplies, the Cambridge group reports, the Red Cross tried to deliver water to Fallujah. However, the U.S. refused to allow shipments of water into Fallujah until it has taken control of the city.

Fallujah has now supposedly been "won." For how long? Sometimes the parallels drawn between Iraq and Vietnam have seemed a bit theatrical. Not anymore. No hearts and minds have been won in Fallujah any more than they were won in the Vietnamese countryside around My Lai. The city is being destroyed in order to save it. The language of the U.S. military commanders, and of the journalists who relay their press releases, echoes with eerie and horrible fidelity those press releases from U.S. military headquarters in Saigon 35 years ago. LBJ handed the quagmire on to Nixon. It's Bush's poisoned chalice bestowed by his first to his second term, the cup he'll be hoisting on Inauguration Day.

Alexander Cockburn is coeditor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.