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The US has no idea what it has gotten itself into

Dahr Jamail 

01/18/04: (ICH) BAGHDAD:- Yesterday we get the news of a US military convoy north of Baghdad hit by a huge IED. A US convoy is searching for IED’s, when a huge bomb explodes under a Bradley, killing 3 US soldiers, and 2 Iraqi Civil Defense personnel. 

This morning at 8am, a huge blast shakes my hotel, rattling my windows. At least one suicide car bomber with 1000 pounds of explosives has detonated his bomb at the front entrance of the CPA, killing 23 Iraqis, 2 Americans, and wounding at least 180 others. 

The entrances to the CPA are extremely fortified…huge barricades of sand bags, razor wire, concrete blocks, machine gunners. But this entrance, in particular, is where many people line up to file through the security checks to go to work inside the compound. 

Now there are new checkpoints throughout central Baghdad clogging traffic, and people are weary. The morning fog has burnt off to reveal a beautiful sun.

This helps, as my mood is dark and somber. Having been here 2 months now, I have grown weary of the violence, bombs, chaos and destruction. Before I begin to feel too sorry for myself I feel a deep sadness and respect for the Iraqi people, who have had to live with this for so long. All of the wars, sanctions, a brutal dictator, and now an even more brutal occupation which is attacked daily by a resistance movement that obviously isn’t concerned about taking out innocent civilians, as long as they hit a US soldier or two.

How can people live and work in this environment? When the future doesn’t exactly appear rosy-everyone knows the Americans and British are here for the long haul. And as long as they are here, suicide attacks are sure to continue, along with resistance attacks.

One thing I’ve noticed since I’ve been here is to be weary of the periods of relative calm; for they are inevitably followed by extreme violence in one form or another. Each time I’ve allowed myself to become lulled into a sense of feeling that the resistance is slowing down, there are fewer attacks now, blah blah blah, a terrible strike like this morning occurs to remind me. To remind me that the US has no idea what it has gotten itself into here. That they are swimming as hard as they can just to keep their nose above water.

I walk down the street today and pass a small bus stop. In black spray paint, on one of the walls it reads,

“U.S. Out”

Meanwhile, down in Basra 2 British soldiers and 2 Iraqi police are wounded by a roadside bomb. 

Keep in mind that these are only two incidents of the ‘17’ daily attacks that the CPA admits to in Iraq. What about the others? How many Iraqis were killed by IED’s? How many US soldiers were wounded? How many US soldiers now suffer permanent disabilities from these unreported attacks? How will they be compensated by their government when they get home? How much money will that lost leg get them? $8,000 US a year? 

I am troubled by the mainstream news I see on the internet in the US-it seems that about the only news from Iraq being reported are the most heinous, high casualty bombings, or demonstrations that surpass the 20,000 protestor level. What isn’t being shown is the terrible living situation for millions of Iraqis, US troops being permanently disabled (physically and/or mentally) on what has become a daily basis, and generations of younger Iraqis being raised with a deep disdain towards the US and British who sanctioned, bombed, invaded and now occupy their country.

There are demonstrations daily in Baghdad-two days ago a large congregation of Sheikhs marched to the gate of the CPA (same one that was bombed this morning) demonstrating for the release of a powerful Sheikh from US jails.

Today a large demonstration marched down Sa’adoun Street in support of women in France being allowed to wear their Hijabs.

A few of us get a report of a house in Al-Adhamiya being searched by the Americans, so we race across Baghdad to check it out. We just missed the search, but we hear the usual story.

On September 23 the home is raided, and two men, ages 31 and 41 are detained. After 8 days they are released after being forced to sign a paper stating they promise not to join the resistance. One month ago the home is searched again, doors kicked in and furniture damaged. Why? The Americans had already released the innocent men. 

The family is too afraid to ask for compensation.

Last night at 3am a neighbors house which is attached to the home of the aforementioned men is searched. Two holes are punched through the wall that joins the homes. The small children living next door are terrified. Their father tells me, “An American soldier came to us last night and apologized for kicking holes in our walls. He said they didn’t know this was a separate house. He told me, ‘This is our job, and we must do it.’ But my children haven’t stopped shaking they are so terrorized. How can we live like this?”

I am told a man has been detained from this house as well, but then released. Another man from across the street, and another from the house on the corner, detained. They too are released. The man I speak with (who asks to remain nameless) tells me he thinks the Americans are trying to intimidate people. 

“But they’ve already proven to themselves we are innocent. Why do they keep terrorizing us?” he says holding his hands up to the air.

The home which was searched last night is completely trashed. Broken furniture, smashed windows, holes dug in the earth in the backyard, carpets thrown about. 

The family is too afraid to return to their home, even though the man detained several weeks ago during a different raid has since been released. 

We drive out of Al-Adhamiyah, passing the walls with the usual graffiti that has become more and more common around Baghdad. 

“Americans go Home!”

“US out of Iraq!”

Dahr Jamail is an independent American journalist reporting from Iraq

Copyright: Dahr Jamail 

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