Civilians In Falluja
By Dahr Jamail
13 April, 2004
The New Standard
knew there was very little media coverage in Falluja, and the entire
city had been sealed and was suffering from collective punishment in
the form of no water or electricity for several days now. With only
two journalists there that I'd read and heard reports from, I felt pulled
to go and witness the atrocities that were surely being committed.
With the help of
some friends, we joined a small group of internationals to ride a large
bus there carrying a load of humanitarian supplies, and with the hopes
of bringing some of the wounded out prior to the next American onslaught,
which was due to kick off at any time now.
Even leaving Baghdad
now is dangerous. The military has shut down the main highway between
here and Jordan. The highway, even while just outside Baghdad, is desolate
and littered with destroyed fuel tanker trucks -- their smoldering shells
littered the highway. We rolled past a large M-1 Tank that was still
burning under an overpass which had just been hit by the resistance.
At the first U.S.
checkpoint the soldiers said they'd been there for 30 hours straight.
After being searched, we continued along bumpy dirt roads, winding our
way through parts of Abu Ghraib, steadily but slowly making our way
towards besieged Falluja. While we were passing one of the small homes
in Abu Ghraib, a small child yelled at the bus, "We will be mujahedeen
until we die!"
We slowly worked
our way back onto the highway. It was strewn with smoking fuel tankers,
destroyed military tanks and armored personnel carriers, and a lorry
that had been hit that was currently being looted by a nearby village,
people running to and from the highway carrying away boxes. It was a
scene of pure devastation, with barely any other cars on the road.
Once we turned off
the highway, which the U.S. was perilously holding onto, there was no
U.S. military presence visible at all as we were in mujahedeen-controlled
territory. Our bus wound its way through farm roads, and each time we
passed someone they would yell, "God bless you for going to Falluja!"
Everyone we passed was flashing us the victory sign, waving, and giving
As we neared Falluja,
there were groups of children on the sides of the road handing out water
and bread to people coming into Falluja. They began literally throwing
stacks of flat bread into the bus. The fellowship and community spirit
was unbelievable. Everyone was yelling for us, cheering us on, groups
speckled along the road.
As we neared Falluja
a huge mushroom caused by a large U.S. bomb rose from the city. So much
for the cease fire.
The closer we got
to the city, the more mujahedeen checkpoints we passed
-- at one, men with
kefir around their faces holding Kalashnikovs began shooting their guns
in the air, showing their eagerness to fight.
The city itself
was virtually empty, aside from groups of mujahedeen standing on every
other street corner. It was a city at war. We rolled towards the one
small clinic where we were to deliver our medical supplies from INTERSOS,
an Italian NGO. The small clinic is managed by Mr. Maki Al-Nazzal, who
was hired just 4 days ago to do so. He is not a doctor.
He hadn't slept
much, along with all of the doctors at the small clinic.
It started with
just three doctors, but since the Americans bombed one of the hospitals,
and were currently sniping people as they attempted to enter/exit the
main hospital, effectively there were only 2 small clinics treating
all of Falluja. The other has been set up in a car garage.
As I was there,
an endless stream of women and children who'd been sniped by the Americans
were being raced into the dirty clinic, the cars speeding over the curb
out front as their wailing family members carried them in.
One woman and small
child had been shot through the neck -- the woman was making breathy
gurgling noises as the doctors frantically worked on her amongst her
The small child,
his eyes glazed and staring into space, continually vomited as the doctors
raced to save his life.
After 30 minutes,
it appeared as though neither of them would survive.
One victim of American
aggression after another was brought into the clinic, nearly all of
them women and children.
This scene continued,
off and on, into the night as the sniping continued.
As evening approached
the nearby mosque loudspeaker announced that the mujehadeen had completely
destroyed a U.S. convoy. Gunfire filled the streets, along with jubilant
yelling. As the mosque began blaring prayers, the determination and
confidence of the area was palpable.
One small boy of
11, his face covered by a kefir and toting around a Kalashnikov that
was nearly as big as he was, patrolled areas around the clinic, making
sure they were secure. He was confident and very eager for battle. I
wondered how the U.S. soldiers would feel about fighting an 11 year-old
child? For the next day, on the way out of Falluja, I saw several groups
of children fighting as mujahedeen.
After we delivered
the aid, three of my friends agreed to ride out on the one functioning
ambulance for the clinic to retrieve the wounded.
Although the ambulance
already had three bullet holes from a U.S. sniper through the front
windshield on the driver's side, having westerners on board was the
only hope that soldiers would allow them to retrieve more wounded Iraqis.
The previous driver
was wounded when one of the sniper's shots grazed his head.
Bombs were heard
sporadically exploding around the city, along with random gunfire.
It grew dark, so
we ended up spending the night with one of the local men who had filmed
the atrocities. He showed us footage of a dead baby who he claimed was
torn from his mother's chest by Marines. Other horrendous footage of
slain Iraqis was shown to us as well.
My entire time in
Falluja there was the constant buzzing of military drones.
As we walked through
the empty streets towards the house where we would sleep, a plane flew
over us and dropped several flares. We ran for a nearby wall to hunker
down, afraid it was dropping cluster bombs. There had been reports of
this, as two of the last victims that arrived at the clinic were reported
by the locals to have been hit by cluster bombs -- they were horribly
burned and their bodies shredded.
It was a long night-between
being sick from drinking unfiltered water and the nagging concern of
the full invasion beginning, I didn't sleep.
Each time I would
begin to slip into sleep, a jet would fly over and I wondered if the
full scale bombing would commence. Meanwhile, the drones continued to
buzz throughout Falluja.
The next morning
we walked back to the clinic, and the mujahedeen in the area were extremely
edgy, expecting the invasion anytime. They were taking up positions
to fight. One of my friends who'd done another ambulance run to collect
two bodies said that a Marine she encountered had told them to leave,
because the military was about to use air support to begin 'clearing
the city.' One of the bodies they brought to the clinic was that of
an old man who was shot by a sniper outside of his home, while his wife
and children sat wailing inside.
The family couldn't
reach his body, for fear of being sniped by the Americans themselves.
His stiff body was carried into the clinic with flies swarming above
The already insane
situation continued to degrade, and by the time the wounded from the
clinic were loaded onto our bus and we prepared to leave, everyone felt
the invasion was looming near. American bombs continued to fall not
far from us, and sporadic gunfire continued. Jets were circling the
outskirts of the city.
We drove out, past
loads of mujahedeen at their posts along the streets.
In a long line of
vehicles loaded with families, we slowly crept out of the embattled
city, passing several military vehicles on the outskirts town.
When we took a wrong
turn at one point and tried to go down a road controlled by a different
group of mujeheen, we were promptly surrounded by men cocking their
weapons and aiming them at us. The doctors and patients on board explained
to them we were coming from Falluja and on a humanitarian aid mission,
so they let us go.
The trip back to
Baghdad was slow, but relatively uneventful. We passed several more
smoking shells of vehicles destroyed by the freedom fighters; more fuel
tankers, more military vehicles destroyed.
What I can report
from Falluja is that there is no ceasefire, and apparently there never
was. Iraqi women and children are being shot by American snipers. Over
600 Iraqis have now been killed by American aggression, and the residents
have turned two football fields into graveyards. Ambulances are being
shot by the Americans. And now they are preparing to launch a full-scale
invasion of the city.
All of which is
occurring under the guise of catching the people who killed the four
Blackwater Security personnel and hung two of their bodies from a bridge.
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 http://newstandardnews.net/iraqdispatches
The Iraq Dispatches
list exists to keep readers of The NewStandard updated on reports by
Baghdad correspondent Dahr Jamail. To manage subscriptions, or for more
information and an archive of Dahr's writings and photographs:
To contribute to
The NewStandard and support Dahr Jamail's crucial work in Iraq, go to:
The above message
is Copyright 2004 Dahr Jamail and The NewStandard.
Reprinting for commercial
purposes is strictly prohibited. Permission is readily granted for nonprofit
purposes as long as (1) adequate credit is provided, (2) a link back
to http://newstandardnews.net/iraqdispatches is prominently posted along
with the text and (3) the journalist's bio at the end of the text is
kept in tact.