Empty Days

Monday, April 12, 2004



Denying Fallujah

A pretty balanced digest with many links from the Christian Science Monitor as to how it all started and what went wrong (learning lessons, correcting mistakes? anyone?): Did the US miscalculate in Iraq?

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Meantime there is ongoing bickering as to how many civilians died in Fallujah:
FALLUJAH, Iraq -- A hospital official in Fallujah claims many of the 600 victims who've died in the weeklong U.S. Marine crackdown in Fallujah were women, children and the elderly. But Marine Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne said an investigation of the dead will likely discover "95 percent of those were military age males."

"Marines are trained to be precise in their firepower," Byrne said. The hospital director said more than 600 bodies have come into four clinics and the Fallujah General Hospital. He said the actual number of dead may be much larger. The official says "an unknown number of dead" have been buried at people's homes without being taken to hospitals. Byrne credits the hundreds of deaths to Marines being "very good at what they do." Bodies are being buried at two soccer fields in the city west of Baghdad. A volunteer at one field -- renamed "Graveyard of the Martyrs" -- said at least 300 people are buried there. Wooden planks with names on them serve as headstones for row after row of freshly dug graves at the field. An Associated Press reporter who visited one of the graveyards says some makeshift headstones bear names of women and others noted as being children. U.S. Marines have been trading fire with rebels in the city for the past week. A tentative cease-fire is in place.
This percentage-throwing is reminiscent of how many pro-war folks in the USA continue to claim that "80% of Iraqis are supportive of the US presence in Iraq". I just don't know where all these statistics come from except from the minds of those who wish to believe it to be that way. The US military pronouncements on the number of dead is especially strange in view of the fact that they make a point of *not* counting Iraqi casualities - and then they go ahead and adamantly dismiss those who are actually trying to do just that, count :-0

Forgive me, but something is amiss with this logic. And the British field-commanders who question the US mil attitude towards Iraqis sound all the more credible for this strange logic on the US side. Then there is this: do we know how many refugees this Fallujah situation has produced? Nothing is being said about that. So far I've found these few sentences in a "slanted" article in The Washington Post (gee, I wish we had "credible" sources even so much as mentioning any of this):
Baghdad residents continue to answer the call from mosque loudspeakers for blood, medicine and food for Fallujah, and both Shiites and Sunnis are taking in tens of thousands of refugees. The latest unconfirmed death count from the city tops 600.
I mean - would it be too "defeatist" to even look at the whole of the situation instead of endlessly profiling the valiant efforts of the US Marine Corps? At the same time, I've read somewhere that insurgent snipers taking position on rooftops in residential neighbourhoods likely contributed to ensuing "collateral damage" - and that too should be taken into account when figuring out why the death-toll went as high as it is claimed.

But dismissing the whole thing out of hand, and without any sort of proof, is not the right attitude. Yeah, it serves you well to exhume Saddam's mass-graves - maybe you should also exhume the graves you've caused - and get off your high white horse before it gets too dirty to look at.


The ordeal of a well-meaning Iraqi

[Update. To shed some light on all of the above, here is a particularly galling story of an ordinary Iraqi who's been doing his outmost to help US. This is reported by the man's american employer, whose own convictions are being shaken by the current situation in Iraq. I arranged the whole stream of events by dates in real time.]

Report from a Republican US worker in Baghdad:
___________________

Wednesday-Thursday, April 7/8, 2004
I Reluctantly Join the Ranks of the Pessimists

The last email I received last night was one of my staff telling me he could no longer work for an American organization (see below). The first phone call I received this morning was my good friend, Munqith Daghir, the top Iraqi pollster, telling me he has to cancel a meeting because of the security situation. He said that 25 of his relatives were killed in Fallujah overnight when a helicopter bombed their house.

I'm very afraid that the flood of images of Coalition killing Iraqis and the perceived neglect of Iraq's reconstruction, is going to combine to create a fundamental shift in public opinion, and convert the average Iraqi into an extremist - either political or religious.

Here is the email:

When I came first to your ... & talked to you, I liked your ideas about Democracy ... especially when you tell me about how the new Iraq will be ... & there is no place for Dectatorism again ... & you are working hard & risking by your life to make changes.
But after the News today ... I saw your Democracy ... does Democracy means killing more than 100 citizens & injured over 200 just in Falluja? & more in Baghdad , Ramadi? does the democracy means strafing a Mosque with a 227 Kg bomb (as Kemet said)??? Did you heard that 5 civilians bleed till death in Ramadi coz US soldiers prevent them from going to Hospitals? all of this is just a brief from the whole news within these three days!
can you tell me the difference between your soldiers & Al-Qaida? both killing civilians ... both are terrorists!
SO ... I can't work with your organization anymore ... coz I don't like such democracy ... & I can't work with those killing my people!


It isn't important that you can easily rebut these arguments. They key point is that this is the reaction that is being generated... and nobody is effectively rebutting them in the bigger picture.

This is disheartening.

Thursday, April 8, 2004
More Bad News

This just in via email from my good friend and colleague Dr. Munqith, who I have mentioned a couple of times previously.

On Thursday night at 2 am. 5 thief's break my house while we were sleeping.They had machine guns and threatened me and my family.They put cliffs on our hands and took all my money ,my wife and daughter jewelry,and the value things in the house.They stay for more than one and half our talking with me to get more and threaten that they will kill my family or harm my daughter.At last I convinced them that this all what I have,then they went out..My family now shocked and I am trying to make it easy for them,but you can imagine my condition now ...

I spoke to him during the day on Thursday, as we were supposed to meet, but he wanted to postpone the meeting after finding out 25 members of his family had been killed in Fallujah.

We have a bunch of Iraqi security, so I asked a couple of them to go to his office to help him if they can.



Friday, April 9, 2004
More Bad News from Dr. Munqith

This in an email this morning to a group of his friends and colleagues:

Sorry for keep providing more bad news,but I want to keep you in touch with whats going on these days through my experience and how that may effect public opinion in Iraq.
Yesterday and while my family were taking their lunch in the house kitchen,an American Tank attacked my house and all our street houses.The kitchen Glasses smashed and more than 6 bullets entered to the Kitchen.By God wish no one injured,but you can imagine the fear of my family.One of our neighbor wounded.This Tank attacked by unknown people about one kilometer far from my house,and then it started firing from it's heavy machine gun on all houses in the street.Then the press came and made many interview es with the neighbor residence.
I believe that there are many mistakes and wrong decisions made by the military forces and should be corrected if USA really want to succeed in it's project in Iraq.
After what happened to my family in the last tow days I really start thinking about leaving Iraq.I know that this will be very hard to me,but I also know that I have responsibility toward my family safety and I should hold it correctly.

_____________________

Surreal? Exactly.

I think this is pretty representative of what's going on in Iraq right now and you can make your own conclusions. All this has happened to one men out of God knows how many in similar circumstances - in a very short period of time. Lawlessness and brute force from every direction. And US military doesn't look like the savior it wants people to think it is, but not at all.

The ratio of casualities for the past week in Iraq is 1 american to 10 Iraqis (as been mentioned today on Jim Lehrer's NewsHour on PBS) - out of those 10 at least 4 are civilians. If not more.

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Update. Theologicus at Daily Kos has assembled a file with independant information concerning what has occured in Fallujah. Some information is from openly anti-US pro-insurgency sources, but you can make your own sorting out [for example, there is much emphasis on Fallujah ambulances being fired at - yet there have been reports of ambulances discovered to transport loads of guns, which is not an unheard-of tactic either] . In any case one thing is clear: we're not getting a very reliable picture from major media, and US mil brushing the whole thing off is not credible at this point.

Judge for yourself.

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Update II. From Zeyad's Healing Iraq blog:

The body count in Fallujah till now is 518 Iraqis dead (160 of them women, and about 50 children) and 1250 badly injured. Doctors from Fallujah mentioned that a large number of the dead women and children were shot in the head and that they were saving the extracted bullets to prove that they were being targetted by Marines snipers in the city.

All set for a formal investigation by CPA authorities to prove the US mil wrong?





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