Wednesday, February 09, 2005
Courtesy of our stalwart colleagues at Cursor: Dahr Jamail of Iraq Dispatches interviewed a doctor in Amman who claims to be "under threat by the US military if he returns to Iraq." Why? He spent much of December and January videotaping the testimony of refugees who had survived the American assaults on Fallujah:
“One story is of a young girl who is 16 years old,” he says of one of the testimonies he video taped recently, “She stayed for three days with the bodies of her family who were killed in their home. When the soldiers entered she was in her home with her father, mother, 12 year-old brother and two sisters. She watched the soldiers enter and shoot her mother and father directly, without saying anything.”What was it all for? Matt Yglesias of TAPPED finds a hint in a recent speech by Larry Diamond, the former advisor to CPA honcho Paul Bremer. Diamond catalogues a few of the ways we might have avoided earning the mortal enmity of the people of Iraq:
The girl managed to hide behind the refrigerator with her brother and witnessed the war crimes first-hand.
“They beat her two sisters, then shot them in the head,” he said. After this her brother was enraged and ran at the soldiers while shouting at them, so they shot him dead.
“She continued hiding after the soldiers left and stayed with her sisters because they were bleeding, but still alive. She was too afraid to call for help because she feared the soldiers would come back and kill her as well. She stayed for three days, with no water and no food. Eventually one of the American snipers saw her and took her to the hospital,” he added before reminding me again that he had all of her testimony documented on film.“During the second week of the siege they entered and announced that all the families have to leave their homes and meet at an intersection in the street while carrying a white flag. They gave them 72 hours to leave and after that they would be considered an enemy,” he says.
“We documented this story with video-a family of 12, including a relative and his oldest child who was 7 years old. They heard this instruction, so they left with all their food and money they could carry, and white flags. When they reached the intersection where the families were accumulating, they heard someone shouting ‘Now!’ in English, and shooting started everywhere.”
The family was all carrying white flags, as instructed, according to the young man who gave his testimony. Yet he watched his mother and father shot by snipers-his mother in the head and his father shot in the heart. His two aunts were shot, then his brother was shot in the neck. The man stated that when he raised himself from the ground to shout for help, he was shot in the side.
“After some hours he raised his arm for help and they shot his arm,” continues the doctor, “So after awhile he raised his hand and they shot his hand.”
A six year-old boy of the family was standing over the bodies of his parents, crying, and he too was then shot.
“Anyone who raised up was shot,” adds the doctor, then added again that he had photographs of the dead as well as photos of the gunshot wounds of the survivors.
“Once it grew dark some of them along with this man who spoke with me, with his child and sister-in-law and sister managed to crawl away after it got dark. They crawled to a building and stayed for 8 days. They had one cup of water and gave it to the child. They used cooking oil to put on their wounds which were of course infected, and found some roots and dates to eat” . . . .
“Now maybe 25% of the people have returned, but there are still no doctors. The hatred now of Fallujans against every American is incredible, and you cannot blame them. The humiliation at the checkpoints is only making people even angrier,” he tells me.
“And I’ve seen them use the media-and on January 2nd at the north checkpoint in the north part of Fallujah, they were giving people $200 per family to return to Fallujah so they can film them in the line…when actually, at that time, nobody was returning to Fallujah,” he says. It reminds me of the story my colleague told me of what he saw in January. At that time a CNN crew was escorted in by the military to film street cleaners that were brought in as props, and soldiers handing out candy to children.
“You must understand the hatred that has been caused…it has gotten more difficult for Iraqis, including myself, to make the distinction between the American government and the American people,” he tells me.
The biggest mistake that the United States made in Iraq was to have an occupation at all. When the war ended and Saddam fell in April 2003 and Baghdad passed to the hands of the victorious troops there were many people who wanted, and indeed one of them was the initial American official in charge, General Jay Garner, a fairly rapid transfer of power to an Iraqi interim government.
What many of the people in the Pentagon had in mind was, that sounded good. In fact the Pentagon at the time wanted to get out quickly, to hand over to its chosen Iraqis, most of whom hadn't been in the country in the last thirty years, led by Ahmed Chalabi. That, I think, would have been a disaster. But there was another plan for a relatively rapid transition to an Iraqi interim government that was more viable, more plausible, more just, and would have spared us a lot of agony in Iraq and spared Iraqis a lot of agony in Iraq. And that was the one that was favored by the United Nations and its special envoy, who tragically died in a car bombing in 2003, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and by many of the Iraqis who had been involved in the Future of Iraq project. And that was to organize a national conference in July or June or early on after the occupation, bring all the different forces in Iraq together, and have them more or less democratically choose an Iraqi interim government that might have governed for a year and a half to two years, written a constitution, and then gone to elections . . . .
One of the things that is necessary to wind down the insurgency and create a much more hopeful, enabling environment for the development of democracy and even political stability in Iraq is for Iraqis, and particularly those Iraqis who are involved with or sympathizing with the insurgency, to become convinced that we really are going to leave. That the American military occupation of Iraq is going to end and that they are going to get their country back . . . .
Number one, we could declare, and I urged the administration to declare when I left Iraq in April of 2004, that we have no permanent military designs on Iraq and we will not seek permanent military bases in Iraq. This one statement would do an enormous amount to undermine the suspicion that we have permanent imperial intentions in Iraq. We aren't going to do that. And the reason we're not going to do that is because we are building permanent military bases in Iraq.