Continuing Slaughter, Kidnappings, US Rhetoric

by Dahr Jamail

04/09/04 "New Standard"
The horrendous situation in Iraq continues to degrade. I write this holed up in an apartment in the Karrada district of Baghdad with my friends, all of us afraid to venture too far from our abode, and rightly so. We have three armed guards on the roof, as well as on the first floor of our small apartment building, and all of the lights on the outside are turned on.

We’ve heard reports of a British contractor in Nasariya who has been missing since Monday, 6 GMCs torched en route from Jordan, the passengers shot (unconfirmed), 3 Japanese civilians were kidnapped in the south and are being held with the demand that if the Japanese military doesn’t pull out of Iraq in 3 days, the civilians will be burned alive.

The videos of the blindfolded Japanese with men holding RPGs and Kalashnikovs behind them are rather disconcerting.

There’s more; seven Korean Christian workers were kidnapped en route from Amman to Baghdad (then later released), two Arabs who live in Jerusalem have been kidnapped here, the U.S. military aggression against Falluja continues -- the city remains powerless and without electricity, a mosque was bombed with 40 people killed (graphic images of dead women and children are being shown on Arab television), and in the last week 459 Iraqis have been killed by the Americans (280 in Falluja alone), along with at least 35 U.S. soldiers. In addition, several trucks delivering aid supplies to the besieged residents of Falluja were shot by the U.S. military. The U.S. military are also dropping cluster bombs on Falluja -- yet another war crime.

A close Iraqi friend angrily said to me tonight, “They kill 280 Iraqis in Falluja because four American mercenaries were killed? This is the justice? This is fair?”

In recent weeks, there was not much bloodshed in the north. However, U.S. troops shot 8 pro-Sadr demonstrators in the northern city of Kirkuk, inflaming the already angry population there. The U.S. military also opened fire on a busload of Iranian pilgrims traveling between Najaf and Kerbala, killing 4 and wounding several others.

Any illusion of the U.S. having any control of the situation is just that. Any media that reports otherwise is simply not reporting the truth. 

Everyone here is frightened, fearing for the worst, and just waiting. This is by far the most tense it has ever felt in Baghdad, even compared to when I was here in December and January when there were several large bombings as well as Saddam’s capture triggering widespread fighting against the occupation forces.

Meanwhile, we have live broadcasts of Condi Rice repeating her lies to the 9/11 Commission, General Sanchez is speaking of how things are under control in Iraq, and George Bush is at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Sadr’s militia have taken full control of the holy city of Najaf and of Kut, and the U.S. military, at least for now, will not enter Najaf to arrest him for fear of worsening the situation. This must be one of the few times I’ve ever seen them make a semi-wise decision, in the shadow of triggering this whole debacle to begin with by announcing Sadr will be arrested, after they’d closed his newspaper. 

So here we are on the one year anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, and the U.S.-led coalition has lost control of two cities in Iraq to Muqtada Al-Sadr’s militia. This reminds me more and more of Afghanistan, where anywhere outside of Kabul is extremely dangerous, with the majority of the country controlled by warlords.

The military attacked Sadr’s office in Thaora, where I had recently interviewed a spokesman for Sadr. Today the images of the small compound with huge shell holes blasted in the walls and bullet pockmarks flashed across Arab television stations here.

What has this accomplished for the U.S. in Iraq? They are uniting the Shi’ite and Sunni populations against them. Sunni and Shia are fighting side by side in many places against the Americans. They are holding food, blood, and money drives to support their besieged countrymen and women in Falluja, Ramadi, Nasyria, Kut, Thaora, Shu’ala, and elsewhere throughout Iraq. 

Even the followers of Sistani are outraged at the violence they are witnessing, as more and more Shia are joining the burgeoning violent resistance against the occupiers of their country. 

In what is perhaps an ominous foreboding of things to come for the U.S. in Iraq, a huge demonstration of Shia and Sunni people broke through a U.S. military checkpoint on the perimeter of Falluja, chanting vehemently, “Sunni, Shia, we are united against Americans and fight for our country together!”

Dahr Jamail is Baghdad correspondent for The NewStandard. He is an Alaskan devoted to covering the untold stories from occupied Iraq. You can help Dahr continue his crucial work in Iraq by making donations. For more information or to donate to Dahr, visit The NewStandard.

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