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Dahr Jamail Blog From Baghdad

By Dahr Jamail

20 April, 2004
The New Standard

he word on the street in Baghdad is that the the cessation of suicide car bombings is proof that the CIA was behind them. Why? Because as one man states, "[CIA agents are] too busy fighting now, and the unrest they wanted to cause by the bombings is now upon them." True or not, it certainly doesn't bode well for the occupiers' image in Iraq.

The night before last I was awakened by a very large explosion in central Baghdad, followed promptly by three other smaller explosions. This morning, I awoke to another large explosion, again followed by several smaller ones.

With so many journalists leaving Iraq, and the majority of those that remain staying close to their hotels, it's becoming harder to come by accurate information aboutevents occurring on the ground.

For those of us here, it has, needless to say, travel has become increasing difficult because of the deteriorating security situation.

Aside from the usual bombs and sporadic gunfire that typifies daily (and nightly) life in the capital of Iraq today, it continues to be relatively quiet here, at least compared to other parts of Iraq. The feeling I get is that most Iraqis here (aside from those directly fighting the military) are in wait-and-see mode, their eyes on Najaf and Falluja.

But this belies the true story, that despite the lack of overt fighting in central Baghdad, violence and tension are boiling beneath the surface. On a recent visit to the Arabic Children's Hospital, Dr. Waad Edan Louis, the Chief Visiting Doctor at the hospital, stated, "Before the invasion, we had 300 patients per night. Now, we have 100 because the security is so bad."

Meanwhile, at the Noman Hospital in Al-Adhamiya, a doctor I spoke with there (who asked to remain nameless) stated, "We are treating an average of one gunshot wound per day, which is something we never saw before the occupation. This is due to the absence of law in Baghdad. The Iraqi Police have weak weapons and nobody respects their authority."

He also stated that U.S. soldiers have come to the hospital asking for information about resistance fighters. He said, "My policy is not to give my patients to the Americans, or to provide them any information. I deny information to the Americans for the sake of the patient. I don't care what my patients have done outside the walls of the hospital. I do my job, then let the patient go."

"Ten days ago this happened -- this occurred after people began to come in from Falluja, even though most of them were children, women and elderly."

When asked if the U.S. military were bombing civilians in Falluja, he stated, "Of course the Americans are bombing civilians, along with the revolutionaries. One year ago there was no revolution in Falluja. But they began searching homes and humiliating people, and this annoyed the people. The people became angry and demonstrated, then the Americans shot the demonstrators, and this started the revolution in Falluja. It is the same in Sadr City."

He continued angrily, "Aggression against civilians has caused all of this. Nothing happened for the first two months of the occupation. People were happy to have Saddam gone. And now, we hope for the mercy of God if the Americans invade Najaf."

Cluster bombs arereported to have been used commonly in Iraq both during the invasion and the occupation.

Another doctor at Noman Hospital, who asked to remain anonymous, stated that he saw the U.S. military dropping cluster bombs on the Al-Dora area last December, "I've seen it all with my own eyes. The U.S. later removed the unexploded bombs by soldiers picking up the bomblets and putting them in their helmets."

He also believes that cluster bombs are currently being used in Falluja, based on reports from field doctors presently working there, as well as statements taken from wounded civilians of Falluja.

He also claimed that many of the Falluja victims he had treated had been shot with ‘dum-dum bullets', which are hollow point bullets that are designed to inflict maximum internal damage. These are also referred to as ‘expanding bullets.'

Nearing the end of the discussion, the first doctor stated, "The U.S. induces aggression. If you don't attack me, I will never attack you. The U.S. is stimulating the aggression of the Iraqi people!"

A doctor who asked to remain anonymous at Al-Karam Hospital in Baghdad reported that another doctor from his hospital had just returned from Najaf. She was unable to work there, she told Al-Karam, because Spanish military forces had occupied its hospital. The roof of the Al-Sadr Teaching hospital in Najaf overlooks their base, so soldiers have taken it over for strategic purposes.

The doctor at Al-Karam Hospital stated, "The Americans don't care what happens to Iraqis."

At Al-Kerh Hospital in Baghdad there is a similar story. One of the managers at the hospital, speaking on condition of anonymity, stated, "U.S. soldiers are always coming here asking us for information about our wounded, but we don't give them any information."

Hussein Kareem, the Assistant Administrator at the Mohammed Baker Hakim Hospital in Sadr City, said that while no soldiers had occupied or visited the hospital, U.S. soldiers shot one ambulance from his hospital, injuring the driver. He also stated that during the first day of fighting in Sadr City two weeks ago, he received 32 dead bodies, mostly of women and children, and 90 wounded.

At Yarmouk Hospital, a lead doctor discussed the situation in Falluja.

He said that during the first days of the U.S. siege of Falluja, many of the wounded were brought to his hospital. He continues, "The Americans came here to question my patients, even though we tried to refer the soldiers to a different hospital."

He is outraged by the situation in Falluja, which he calls a massacre, "The Americans shot at some of our doctors who were traveling to Falluja to provide aid. One of our doctors was injured when a missile struck his vehicle. I have also been told by my doctors in Falluja that the Americans are shooting ambulances there, as well as at the main hospital there."

He continued, "My doctors in Falluja have reported to me that the Americans are using cluster bombs. Patients we've treated from there are reporting the same."

It is argued that the use of cluster bombs is a war crime, at least in spirit, if not technically. Cluster bombs contravene the international treaty against land mines -- which the U.S. has refused to sign anyway -- because they leave unexploded ordnance where they are dropped, which then has the same effect as land mines.

He continued, "One of my doctors in Falluja asked the Americans there if he could remove a wounded patient from the city. The soldier wouldn't let him move the victim, and said, ‘We have dead soldiers here too. This is a war zone.' The doctor wasn't allowed to remove the wounded man, and he died. So many doctors and ambulances have been turned back from checkpoints there."

This same doctor reported that he saw American soldiers killing women and children, as well as shooting ambulances in Falluja.

The doctor I spoke with expressed his outrage, "What freedom did America bring us? Freedom of the machine gun? So I am free to take my gun and shoot you?"


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