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As part of our new blogging features...we have links prominently to two blogs from Iraq.
One is by Rahul Mahajan, a regular ZNet Commentator and columnist, who is now analyzing forZNet straight from Baghdad.
The other is by Dahr Jamail, Iraq correspondent for The NewStandard, who is also issuing regular dispatches from the field. TNS is hosting his weblog, running straight news stories, and sending all of Dahr's writings out to a special Iraq Dispatches mailing list. They're also launching an Iraq-focused subsite including other original, hard news culled from diverse sources around the world. For regular reporting on Iraq, or to subscribe to their email list, visit: http://newstandardnews.net/dahr
Here then, are the two most recent essays from Mahajan and Jamail:
Report from Fallujah -- Destroying a Town in Order to Save It
By Rahul Mahajan
Fallujah, Iraq -- Fallujah is a bit like southern California. On the edge of Iraq's western desert, it is extremely arid but has been rendered into an agricultural area by extensive irrigation. Surrounded by dirt-poor villages, Fallujah is perhaps marginally better off. Much of the population is farmers. The town itself has wide streets and squat, sand-colored buildings.
We were in Fallujah during the "ceasefire." This is what we saw and heard.
When the assault on Fallujah started, the power plant was bombed.
Electricity is provided by generators and usually reserved for places with important functions. There are four hospitals currently running in Fallujah. This includes the one where we were, which was actually just a minor emergency clinic; another one of them is a car repair garage. Things were very frantic at the hopsital where we were, so we couldn't get too much translation. We depended for much of our information on Makki al-Nazzal, a lifelong Fallujah resident who works for the humanitarian NGO Intersos, and had been pressed into service as the manager of the clinic, since all doctors were busy, working around the clock with minimal sleep.
A gentle, urbane man who spoke fluent English, Al-Nazzal was beside himself with fury at the Americans' actions (when I asked him if it was all right to use his full name, he said, "It's ok. It's all ok now. Let the bastards do what they want.") With the "ceasefire," large-scale bombing was rare.
With a halt in major bombing, the Americans were attacking with heavy artillery but primarily with snipers.
Al-Nazzal told us about ambulances being hit by snipers, women and children being shot. Describing the horror that the siege of Fallujah had become, he said, "I have been a fool for 47 years. I used to believe in European and American civilization."
I had heard these claims at third-hand before coming into Fallujah, but was skeptical. It's very difficult to find the real story here. But this I saw for myself. An ambulance with two neat, precise bullet-holes in the windshield on the driver's side, pointing down at an angle that indicated they would have hit the driver's chest (the snipers were on rooftops, and are trained to aim for the chest). Another ambulance again with a single, neat bullet-hole in the windshield. There's no way this was due to panicked spraying of fire. These were deliberate shots designed to kill the drivers.
The ambulances go around with red, blue, or green lights flashing and sirens blaring; in the pitch-dark of blacked-out city streets there is no way they can be missed or mistaken for something else). An ambulance that some of our compatriots were going around in, trading on their whiteness to get the snipers to let them through to pick up the wounded was also shot at while we were there.
During the course of the roughly four hours we were at that small clinic, we saw perhaps a dozen wounded brought in. Among them was a young woman, 18 years old, shot in the head. She was seizing and foaming at the mouth when they brought her in; doctors did not expect her to survive the night.
Another likely terminal case was a young boy with massive internal bleeding. I also saw a man with extensive burns on his upper body and shredded thighs, with wounds that could have been from a cluster bomb; there was no way to verify in the madhouse scene of wailing relatives, shouts of "Allahu Akbar" (God is great), and anger at the Americans.
Among the more laughable assertions of the Bush administration is that the mujaheddin are a small group of isolated "extremists" repudiated by the majority of Fallujah's population. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Of course, the mujaheddin don't include women or very young children (we saw an 11-year-old boy with a Kalashnikov), old men, and are not necessarily even a majority of fighting-age men. But they are of the community and fully supported by it. Many of the wounded were brought in by the muj and they stood around openly conversing with doctors and others.
They conferred together about logistical questions; not once did I see the muj threatening people with their ubiquitous Kalashnikovs.
One of the muj was wearing an Iraqi police flak jacket; on questioning others who knew him, we learned that he was in fact a member of the Iraqi police.
One of our translators, Rana al-Aiouby told me, "these are simple people."
Without wanting to go along with the patronizing air of the remark, there is a strong element of truth to it. These are agricultural tribesmen with very strong religious beliefs. They are insular and don't easily trust strangers. We were safe because of the friends we had with us and because we came to help them. They are not so far different from the Pashtun of Afghanistan -- good friends and terrible enemies.
The muj are of the people in the same way that the stone-throwing shabab in the first Palestinian intifada were and the term, which means "youth," is used for them as well. I spoke to a young man, Ali, who was among the wounded we transported to Baghdad. He said he was not a muj but, when asked his opinion of them, he smiled and stuck his thumb up. Any young man who is not one of the muj today may the next day wind his aqal around his face and pick up a Kalashnikov. After this, many will.
Al-Nazzal told me that the people of Fallujah refused to resist the Americans just because Saddam told them to; indeed, the fighting for Fallujah last year was not particularly fierce. He said, "If Saddam said work, we would want to take off three days. But the Americans had to cast us as Saddam supporters. When he was captured, they said the resistance would die down, but even as it has increased, they still call us that."
Nothing could have been easier than gaining the good-will of the people of Fallujah had the Americans not been so brutal in their dealings. Tribal peoples like these have been the most easily duped by imperialists for centuries now. But now a tipping point has been reached. To Americans, "Fallujah" may still mean four mercenaries killed, with their corpses then mutilated and abused; to Iraqis, "Fallujah" means the savage collective punishment for that attack, in which over 600 Iraqis have been killed, with an estimated 200 women and over 100 children (women do not fight among the muj, so all of these are noncombatants, as are many of the men killed).
A Special Forces colonel in the Vietnam War said of the town, Ben Tre, "We had to destroy the town in order to save it, encapsulating the entire war in a single statement. The same is true in Iraq today -- Fallujah cannot be "saved" from its mujaheddin unless it is destroyed.
Rahul Mahajan is publisher of the weblog "Empire Notes" -- http://www.empirenotes.org. He was in Fallujah recently and is currently writing and blogging from Baghdad. His most recent book is "Full Spectrum Dominance: U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond." He can be reached at [EMAIL PROTECTED]
Americans Slaughtering Civilians in Falluja
By Dahr Jamail
I 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 the thumbs-up.
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 muffled moaning.
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 it.
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 .
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