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Human Rights · Dispatches from Iraq · In Retrospect · Recommended Reading · Words of Inspiration · Hightower Lowdown · In Memoriam · Editorial page

Click above, for articles in this issue.

Dahr Jamail  is an independent journalist currently stationed in Iraq.  Mr. Jamail submits his work to various publications around the world, and also has a web site at  


dispatches from Iraq

by Dahr Jamail

Casualties of Polling

He writhes in pain, moaning with every other breath. The Iraqi police colonel’s chest is covered in bandages, his legs from the knees down nearly completely hidden from view due to thick bandages holding what is left of his shins together.


“We gave him first aid and requested a transfer because we don’t have any specialists left,” Dr. Aisha tells me, her name changed as requested since doctors are now technically forbidden to talk to the media or allow them to take photos in Iraqi hospitals unless granted permission from the Ministry of Health and its US-advisor.


And even then we are only allowed to talk with “spokespeople” at select hospitals.


Yarmouk would certainly not be on the top of their list of hospitals for the press to visit, as being one of Baghdad’s larger and busiest hospitals and located in the middle of the capital city the majority of casualties are brought here.


The colonel’s face is scrunched up as his pain is constant. Involuntary whimpers are audible as he squeezes his eyes closed from time to time, dreaming of relief.


“We sent him to a neurological hospital which couldn’t treat him because all of their specialists have left the country,” Dr. Aisha continues. Her frustration is expressed in her precisely spoken words, hammering out the details like a veteran on the front lines.


So the colonel was returned to Yarmouk untreated. He’d been guarding a polling station when a suicide bomber detonated nearby. The shrapnel turned his legs into hamburger and left his chest split open.


“I asked him not to leave the house, not to obey the Americans,” his wife who is standing nearby with their little boy and girl tells me, “But he said that he had to go or the Americans would cut his salary. And also because he said it was his duty.”


She looks over to him as another whimper emits from his contorted face, then looks back at me with anger flashing in her weary eyes.


“The Americans told him he should die with his countrymen! God damn them for what they have done to my husband! God damn them for what they have done to Iraq!”


We promptly thank her and hastily leave the room, not wanting to draw more attention to ourselves.


While walking towards the next room down the grimy hallway and broken windows Dr. Aisha waves a fly away from her face, as they constantly buzz around inside the hospital.


“He will probably lose his legs. All we have is rotator doctors and residents since all of our specialists left the country so they wouldn’t be kidnapped. I’ve been here two days straight without sleep,” she says as a group of nurses approach her to sign several files.


In the next room there is another policeman. His abdomen was blown open by a mortar blast at a polling station…he is holding a blue bandage to his face which caught some shrapnel. Tubes run from his stomach off one side of the bed.


His father sees Dr. Aisha as we approach and begins talking to her, “This hospital is so dirty! I want to transfer my son! The care is horrible!”


She calmly explains to him that they are doing their best; without enough doctors, without enough cleaners, without enough nurses, without enough supplies, without enough medicine.


The angry father’s son is a 28 year-old policeman named Jalil Hassan who shifts uncomfortably in his bed. The room smells of rotten bananas and flies are everywhere. Anytime a nurse walks into the room of eight beds she/he is inundated with angry and stressed family members.


Nearby is a voter, 27 year-old Amir Hassan. His polling station was mortared as well. He caught shrapnel near his waist and is waiting for some pain medication that does not exist.


“We asked the Americans for supplies,” Dr. Aisha tells me later when we exit the room, “But they didn’t help us any. How can we continue like this? When an American private is badly wounded they fly him to Germany or America. Here we have high ranking police officers and Iraqi soldiers who are brought to this dirty hospital with no specialists!”


Abu Talat and I thank her for her time and for taking the risk necessary to bring us inside her hospital.


I notice new windows in her office-last time I was here they had been blown out by a nearby car bomb. This place turns into a field hospital every time a car bomb generates massive casualties, which is just about every day. I wonder how long her new glass will last.


I also notice the new white paint on a couple of the buildings. Abu Talat notices me looking at it in disbelief and begins laughing and holding his hands up.


Back out on the streets we head out to find some lunch. We have our usual ritual of his driving and fixing interviews simultaneously. As he holds the phone as far from his face as possible to find a number, I grab it from him to dial and he steers us back away from the side of the street.


“Name,” I ask. “Dr. Hamad,” he replies. I find it, dial, hand the phone to him and say, “Calling.”


“Thank you,” he says while we weave down the road a little further. He’s searching his pockets for his lighter as he holds the phone to his ear, so I light his cigarette and we straighten out again. We have this down to a science.


There are always a pair of his glasses on the dash-sometimes his reading glasses, sometimes his bi-focal specs which he never uses despite my badgering. I bothered him for a year to get new glasses and applauded him when he proudly showed them to me recently.


Of course now he never wears them.


The streets are filled with traffic once again after the election lockdown, trucks full of Iraqi Police wearing black facemasks battle their way through throngs of cars, aiming their Kalashnikovs at everyone in futile attempts to make their way forward.


“I feel very much threatened when I see those police or American soldiers aiming their guns at us,” states Abu Talat when a truckload of Iraqi soldiers rolls past, of course aiming their guns at us as they make their way through an intersection, “I don’t accept this.”


We stop to get some shawarma across the street from the Australian military outpost which was recently car bombed. I scan the building, chunks of it three floors up blasted off from the explosion.


A few days after the attack the nearby Australian embassy decided to relocate to “Camp Victory,” a large US military base.

Back in my room we watch the news while eating lunch and drinking tea. Storm clouds are billowing around the recent polling, as Mishaan Jiburi, one of the candidates, accused the electoral commission of deliberately failing to supply materials in Sunni areas.


Arab voters in the north who had planned to boycott the elections in Kirkuk decided at the last minute to vote so as not to lose the oil-rich city to the Kurds. Thus, not enough ballots were supplied, and now the plot thickens.


“I think the decision came from Baghdad,” Jiburi told reporters, “They were concerned with keeping the Sunnis out of the game.”

Just yesterday interim Vice-President Ibrahim al-Jaafari warned of the possibility of civil war if the US military withdrew from Iraq prematurely.


Keep in mind the “elections” were just three days ago.


What They’re Not Telling You About the “Election”

The day of blood and elections has passed, and the blaring trumpets of corporate media hailing it as a successful show of “democracy” have subsided to a dull roar.


After a day which left 50 people dead in Iraq, both civilians and soldiers, the death toll was hailed as a figure that was “lower than expected.” Thus…acceptable, by Bush Administration/corporate media standards. After all, only of them was an American, the rest were Iraqis civilians and British soldiers.


The gamble of using the polling day in Iraq to justify the ongoing failed occupation of Iraq has apparently paid off, if you watch only mainstream media.


“Higher than expected turnout,” US mainstream television media blared, some citing a figure of 72%, others 60%.


What they didn’t tell you was that this figure was provided by Farid Ayar, the spokesman for the Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq (IECI) before the polls had even closed.


When asked about the accuracy of the estimate of voter turnout during a press conference, Ayar backtracked on his earlier figure, saying that a closer estimate was lower than his initial estimate and would be more like 60% of registered voters.


The IECI spokesman said his previous figure of 72% was “only guessing” and “was just an estimate,” which was based on “very rough, word-of mouth estimates gathered informally from the field. It will take some time for the IECI to issue accurate figures on turnout.”


Referencing both figures, Ayar then added, “Percentages and numbers come only after counting and will be announced when it's over ... It's too soon to say that those were the official numbers.”


But this isn’t the most important misrepresentation the mainstream media committed.


What they also didn’t tell you was that of those who voted, whether they be 35% or even 60% of registered voters, were not voting in support of an ongoing US occupation of their country.


In fact, they were voting for precisely the opposite reason. Every Iraqi I have spoken with who voted explained that they believe the National Assembly which will be formed soon will signal an end to the occupation.


And they expect the call for a withdrawing of foreign forces in their country to come sooner rather than later.


This causes one to view the footage of cheering, jubilant Iraqis in a different light now, doesn’t it?


But then, most folks in the US watching CNN, FOX, or any of the major networks won’t see it that way. Instead, they will hear what Mr. Bush said, “The world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East,” and take it as fact because most of the major media outlets aren’t scratching beneath film clips of joyous Iraqi voters over here in the land of daily chaos and violence, no jobs, no electricity, little running water and no gasoline (for the Iraqis anyhow).


And Bush is portrayed by the media as the bringer of democracy to Iraq by the simple fact that this so-called election took place, botched as it may have been. Appearances suggest that the majority Shia in Iraq now finally get their proportional representation in a “government.” Looks good on paper.


But as you continue reading, the seemingly altruistic reasons for this election as portrayed by the Bush Administration and trumpeted by most mainstream media are anything but.


And Iraqis who voted are hearing other trumpets that are blaring an end to the occupation.


Now the question remains, what happens when the National Assembly is formed and over 100,000 US soldiers remain on the ground in Iraq with the Bush Administration continuing in its refusal to provide a timetable for their removal?


What happens when Iraqis see that while there are already four permanent US military bases in their country, rather than beginning to disassemble them, more bases are being constructed, as they are, by Cheney’s old company Halliburton, right now?


Antonia Juhasz, a Foreign Policy in Focus scholar, authored a piece just before the “election” that sheds light on a topic that has lost attention amidst the recent fanfare concerning the polls in Iraq.




I think it’s worth including much of her story here, as it fits well with today’s topic of things most folks aren’t being told by the bringers of democracy to the heart of the Middle East.


On Dec. 22, 2004, Iraqi Finance Minister Abdel Mahdi told a handful of reporters and industry insiders at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. that Iraq wants to issue a new oil law that would open Iraq's national oil company to private foreign investment. As Mahdi explained: "So I think this is very promising to the American investors and to American enterprise, certainly to oil companies."

In other words, Mahdi is proposing to privatize Iraq's oil and put it into American corporate hands.

According to the finance minister, foreigners would gain access both to "downstream" and "maybe even upstream" oil investment. This means foreigners can sell Iraqi oil and own it under the ground — the very thing for which many argue the U.S. went to war in the first place.

As Vice President Dick Cheney's Defense Policy Guidance report explained back in 1992, "Our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the [Middle East] region and preserve U.S. and Western access to the region's oil."

While few in the American media other than Emad Mckay of Inter Press Service reported on — or even attended — Mahdi’s press conference, the announcement was made with U.S. Undersecretary of State Alan Larson at Mahdi's side. It was intended to send a message — but to whom?

It turns out that Abdel Mahdi is running in the Jan. 30 elections on the ticket of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution (SCIR), the leading Shiite political party. While announcing the selling-off of the resource which provides 95 percent of all Iraqi revenue may not garner Mahdi many Iraqi votes, but it will unquestionably win him tremendous support from the U.S. government and U.S. corporations.

Mahdi's SCIR is far and away the front-runner in the upcoming elections, particularly as it becomes increasingly less possible for Sunnis to vote because the regions where they live are spiraling into deadly chaos. If Bush were to suggest to Iraq’s Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi that elections should be called off, Mahdi and the SCIR's ultimate chances of victory will likely decline.


I’ll add that the list of political parties Mahdi’s SCIR belongs to, The United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), includes the Iraqi National Council, which is led by an old friend of the Bush Administration who provided the faulty information they needed to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq, none other than Ahmed Chalabi.


It should also be noted that interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi also fed the Bush Administration cooked information used to justify the invasion, but he heads a different Shia list which will most likely be getting nearly as many votes as the UIA list.


And The UIA has the blessing of Iranian born revered Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Sistani issued a fatwa which instructed his huge number of followers to vote in the election, or they would risk going to hell.


Thus, one might argue that the Bush administration has made a deal with the SCIR: Iraq's oil for guaranteed political power. The Americans are able to put forward such a bargain because Bush still holds the strings in Iraq.

Regardless of what happens in the elections, for at least the next year during which the newly elected National Assembly writes a constitution and Iraqis vote for a new government, the Bush administration is going to control the largest pot of money available in Iraq (the $24 billion in U.S. taxpayer money allocated for the reconstruction), the largest military and the rules governing Iraq's economy. Both the money and the rules will, in turn, be overseen by U.S.-appointed auditors and inspector generals who sit in every Iraqi ministry with five-year terms and sweeping authority over contracts and regulations. However, the one thing which the administration has not been unable to confer upon itself is guaranteed access to Iraqi oil — that is, until now.

And there is so much more they are not telling you. Just like the Iraqis who voted, believing they did so to bring an end to the occupation of their country.

(c)2005 Dahr Jamail.
All images and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr's Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the website. Any other use of images and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr's dispatches via email.  Reprinted with the author's permission.




Updated  February  3, 2005

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