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Monday, April 04, 2005

Iraq--A Brutal Ongoing Disaster

Independent journalist Dahr Jamail was interviewed by Socialist Worker Magazine. Some excerpts:
I was in Falluja during the April siege last year for a couple of days, and then I went back in May several times to report on what happened. But I didn’t go in November, because the military cordoned off the city and maintains that cordon to this day. They’re not letting any journalists in there. I’ve been getting information by interviewing refugees, or through some of my colleagues who have been in and out of the city several times.

Life there is horrendous. At least 65 percent of the buildings have been bombed to the ground, and what’s left has been severely damaged. There’s no water, no electricity and, of course, no jobs. And when people go back into the city, they have to get a retina scan and get fingerprinted, and then they’re issued an ID card.

Then they go inside to find what’s left of their homes, and in a really horrible situation in which the military remains in total control of the town. There are snipers everywhere, and the ambulances aren’t able really to run--they’re still being targeted by the military. The one remaining hospital--Falluja General Hospital--is barely functioning, because people have to go through checkpoints to get there.

Life in Falluja is really a horror story. Most of the city’s residents are refugees and will continue to be refugees for quite some time. They’re scattered in small towns on the outskirts of Falluja, as well as Baghdad and other cities. The last estimate I heard was about 25,000--maybe a little bit more than that--had returned back to a city that once had a population of 350,000.
ER-MEANWHILE, ONE of the things missing from the U.S. media is reporting on the increasingly frequent bombing of Iraq by the U.S.

DJ-THAT’S A very important point. It definitely is one of the most underreported things in Iraq. Daily, there are many, many air missions being flown, and huge amounts of bombs being dropped. In fact, the vast majority of Iraqi civilians killed have died as a result of U.S. warplanes dropping bombs.

For example, in Falluja, it’s pretty safe to say that a large percentage of the estimated 3,000 people killed there were killed by U.S. warplanes. I can’t tell you how many reports I heard from refugees discussing how entire houses, entire blocks of houses, were bombed to the ground by U.S. warplanes. Even to this day, bodies lay under the rubble of houses because of this.

This is without a doubt the leading cause of the civilian casualties. They think that they’re bombing fighters, and they think that by doing this, they’re sending a message that if you continue to resist the occupation, you will be bombed, and anyone around you will be bombed.

It’s a form of collective punishment, and it is definitely intended to send a clear message that if you mess with the U.S. military, you and anyone around you is going to be blown out of existence. More often than not, it’s the case that when these bombs drop, it’s civilians who are caught in them, not the fighters.

For example, several people reported to me that the way the U.S. military was getting its intelligence on where to bomb in Falluja prior to the siege of the city in November was that any Iraqi could literally go up to the U.S. base outside of Falluja and say, “Yes, in this house, there’s a fighter.” They were paid between $100 and $500, and then that house was bombed. So this was a method that many people used to settle old scores and make some cash.
That's the same crap that's been going on in Afghanistan for three years. In the past, a feud between two clans might result in a patriarch being shot or something. Now, all the opposing clan has to do is tell the US military that their opponents are "al Qaeda" or "Taliban" and it's bombs away.