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Click above, for articles in this issue.


This month we add a new column, authored by Dahr Jamail who 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  We welcome Mr. Jamail as a columnist.


dispatches from Iraq

by Dahr Jamail


   So much loss…

    December 07, 2004

Last weekend alone, over 70 Iraqis were killed in violence around their country. Yet these are only those reported as a result of spectacular, “newsworthy” incidents like car bombs or clashes between the resistance and occupation forces.

Iraqis are dying everyday from other things, like violent crime, kidnappings where families can’t afford to pay the ransom, stray bullets…

It’s all too easy to lose sight of what this means by looking only at the macro headlines; 32 Iraqis killed by a car bomb, 8 Iraqi Police killed when Police Station stormed, etc.

The numbers don’t tell the story of families the dead are leaving behind.

There are no words to describe the sadness, nor the hopelessness felt, when meeting with a family left behind when their 30 year-old father was shot by US forces this past Fall.

In a small, one room house in Sadr City lives Sua’ad, a widow of 8 young children

“I can do nothing but look at my children and cry,” she says while weeping throughout the interview, “What are children to do without their father? A mother can care for them, but it will be different. No matter what I do, it will be different. Sometimes I need my husband for small things, and when he’s not there I just want to cry.”

Her husband, Abdulla Rahman, was killed when caught in the crossfire between occupation forces and the Mehdi Army.

She describes the day her husband was killed. US forces were attacking fighters in the area of Sadr City where they lived.

“His last day he worked his job of selling used clothing,” she said quietly. Abdulla had come home for his break to eat with his family. He played with his 7 year-old son, then went outside to see what was
happening when fighting broke out.

He returned shortly thereafter to tell Sua’ad he needed to go close his small shop. Roaring jets thundered overhead as bombs dropped, and small arms fire was audible down the street.

“His shop is all we have,” explained Sua’ad, “I asked him not to go, but he said he would be right back.”

But her husband never came back home…

“Some men told me he had been wounded, but when I found him at the head of the street he was dead,” she said softly while weeping.

Abbas, a 17 year-old neighbor hobbles in on his new crutches
One of his legs was amputated because of wounds received from a cluster bomb that fell near his home.

Sua’ad’s oldest child, Ahmed is just 14 years old. Their small house in the sprawling slum of Baghdad is nearly empty. Aside from infrequent handouts from neighbors, they have no income.

“He was our father, and we are needing him so much,” she explains while holding her arms out while a small child sits in her lap, “His house needs many things. His children need many things. They are children. He was like my mother and my father and everything in my life.”

She pauses to catch her breath. She never stops weeping.

“We are living alone now. I have four children with asthma. Sometimes they can’t breathe and I can do nothing for them. All I do is stand with them and cry,” she explains, “He was helping me by taking them to the hospital and bringing the medicines, but now I am knocking on the doors of the neighbors. Now we are really needing him.”

She looks outside as tears
run down her cheeks. Remembering him, she continues while staring out the window…

“He sacrificed everything for his children,” she says softly, “This happens for all the good people in the world, not just me.”

Her grief is mixed with anger towards the occupiers of her country…

“What can I say for the Americans? God will have the revenge for me. Now I have 8 orphans, and I am the 9th. As they make us orphans, God is going to kick them out of our country. All of these young men have been killed for nothing. They killed them but they did nothing wrong. My
husband did nothing.”

She sits in silence. The room is quiet, aside from one of her baby who is crying in the next room.

Sua’ad offers food, but it is time to go.

She walks to the front gate
as we leave.


I look back once more.  She is still weeping.


Reprinted herein with the author's permission.



The Quiet of Destruction and Death

December 02, 2004



It’s a late morning start today…as I’m waiting for Abu Talat, who calls to tell me he is snarled in traffic and will be late once again, huge explosions shake my hotel. Shortly thereafter mortars are exploding in the “green zone” as the loud warning sirens there begin to blare across Baghdad.


Automatic weapon fire cracks down the street.


The good news is that interim prime minister Ayad Allawi has announced a shortening of the curfew that most of Iraq is under. So now rather than having to be off the streets by 10:30pm, we can stay out until 11pm before we are shot on sight.


This past Sunday a small Iraqi Red Crescent aid convoy was allowed into Fallujah at 4:30pm. I interviewed a member of the convoy today. Speaking on condition of anonymity, (so I’ll call her Suthir), the first thing she said to me was, “I need another heart and eyes to bear it because my own are not enough to bear what I saw. Nothing justifies what was done to this city. I didn’t see a house or mosque that wasn’t destroyed.”


Suthir paused often to collect herself, but then as usual with those of us who have witnessed atrocities first hand, when she started to talk, she barely stopped to breath.


“There were families with nothing. I met a family with three daughters and two sons. One of their sons, Mustafa who was 16 years old, was killed by American snipers. Then their house was burned.  They had nothing to eat. Just rice and cold water-dirty water…they put the rice in the dirty water, let it sit for one or two hours, then they ate the rice. Fatma, the 17 year-old daughter, said she was praying for God to take her soul because she couldn’t bear the horrors anymore.”


The families’ 12 year old boy told Suthir he used to want to be a doctor or a journalist. She paused then added, “He said that now he has no more dreams. He could no longer even sleep.”


“I’m sure the Americans committed bad things there, but who can discover and say this,” she said, “They didn’t allow us to go to the Julan area or any of the others where there was heavy fighting, and I’m sure that is where the horrible things took place.”

She told me the military took civilian cars and used them, parked in groups, to block the streets.


Suthir described a scene of complete destruction. She said not one mosque, house or school was undamaged, and said the situation was so desperate for the few families left in the city that people were literally starving to death, surviving as the aforementioned family was.


Rather than burying full bodies, residents of Fallujah are burying legs and arms, and sometimes just skeletons as dogs had eaten the rest of the body.


She said that even the schools in Fallujah had been bombed. Suthir also reported that the oldest teacher in Fallujah, a 90 year-old man, while praying in a mosque was shot in the head by a US sniper.


The US military has not given a date when the hundreds of thousands of refugees from Fallujah would be allowed to return to their city, but estimated it would be 2 months.


The Minister of Education announced today that schools will reopen in Fallujah next week.


“There was no reconstruction there,” Suthir added, “I just saw more bombs falling and black smoke. There is not a house or school undamaged there. I went to a part of the city that someone said was not bombed, but it was completely destroyed.”


“The Americans didn’t let us in the places where everyone said there was napalm used,” she said, “Julan and those places where the heaviest fighting was, nobody is allowed to go there.”


She said that there were many military checkpoints, but most of the soldiers she saw were not doing much.

“It was quiet, but this wasn’t the quiet of peace,” she told me, “It was the quiet of destruction and death.”

As helicopters rumble overhead, she added with frustration and anger, “The military is doing nothing to help people. Only the Iraqi Red Crescent is trying to help-but nobody can help the traumatized people, even the IRC.”

Later this afternoon, back in my room one of my Iraqi friends stops by. We talk work until the sun sets, so she stands to prepare to leave as she doesn’t like to be out after dark.


Pulling her jacket on she tells me, “You know, it is only getting worse here. Everyday is worse than the last day. Today will be better than tomorrow. Right now is better than the next hour. This is our life in Iraq now.”


Posted by Dahr Jamail at December 2, 2004 05:17 PM

Reprinted herein with the author's permission.




Low Crime Rate in Fallujah

November 30, 2004


Abut Talat and I, snarled in the horrendous daily traffic of Baghdad, decide to laugh about it. “Maybe we should consider a camel,” he ponders, “That way we don’t have to feed it benzene!” We both start laughing while our car hasn’t moved for several minutes.

An Iraqi Police truck races by on the wrong side of the road, sirens blaring… to do what?

“Plus, a camel is better than a horse because it has 6 stomachs,” he adds, starting to sound serious about this, “That way it can go for even longer!” I have tears now from laughing so hard, while Abu Talat holds his hands up, signaling for me to wait, “Or even better, each car should have two donkeys to tow it, so we never need benzene again!”

We both lurch forward in our seats with laughter as I bang my hands on the dash board. It’s either laugh or cry in Iraq. Without our joking, we would have lost it a long time ago.

While the humanitarian crisis facing families who remain trapped inside Fallujah grinds on, US-backed interim prime minister Ayad Allawi announced yesterday that the crime rate in Fallujah was down after the US siege of the city. Remember that not long ago, Allawi also announced that every person killed in Fallujah was a fighter, ie-not one civilian was killed.

As heavy traffic of Apache helicopters roars incessantly over Baghdad, fierce clashes continue against the occupation forces while the interim prime minister is in Jordan, attempting to persuade Iraqis living there to participate in the upcoming elections.

With at least 134 US soldiers killed in Iraq this month so far, yet another huge car bomb detonated into a military convoy on the dreaded airport road. While witnesses reported seeing several bodies lying on the ground at the scene, the military has yet to announce any casualty counts. Another car bomb in Beji detonated near a US patrol, killing 4 Iraqis and wounding at least 19, including 2 US soldiers.

Allawi continues to insist that violence in Iraq is decreasing since the
siege of Fallujah.

After picking up some friends, we are snarled in more horrendous traffic near the airport road on our way to another refugee camp. Razor wire stretches across the road as helicopters and military hardware are clustered just up the road. While the military cut most of the trees  along the road to prevent attacks, car bombs are something they can’t stop.

Meanwhile, the military refused to allow yet another aid convoy into
Fallujah. They were turned back because the military personnel told them the Ministry of Health would be allowed to send a relief convoy in “8 or 9 days.”

There are at least 150 families trapped within the city, and the military refuses to let any of them out. While a few ambulances were allowed into one section of the city a few days ago, there are at least three main neighborhoods that the military is keeping a tight lid on. Refugees continue to report the use of napalm and phosphorous weapons-of seeing dead bodies with no bullet holes in them, just scorched patches of skin.

More refugees at the Amiryah bomb shelter camp in Baghdad are telling the same horror stories. A man who fled the city says, “Fallujah is in a disaster!” He holds his hands out and pleads, “We call on all NGO’s and aid organizations to help Fallujans! We just want to return to our land; we know our homes are destroyed, but we’d rather sleep in tents in our own city.”

The scene at the nearby Melouki Mosque is chaos. Crowds of men stand outside gates holding their food ration papers in the air to prove they are from Fallujah in order to receive small heaters, stoves, foodstuffs and blankets. Thankfully, an international NGO managed to donate funds to purchase much of these desperately needed supplies for refugees.

Medicines have also been purchased with the donations for Iraqi doctors to dispense to the refugees. 


Sheikh Hussein who is in charge of the relief effort at the mosque is
struggling to cope with the crisis.

We stand in a small courtyard behind the mosque away from the crowds talking. I notice a white military surveillance balloon nearby, as helicopters rumble overhead.

“Some people not even from Fallujah are so desperate they are coming here to get supplies and pretending to be refugees,” he tells us.

Women and children are crying outside the gates as men grapple for the small heaters and stoves.

I am reminded of what occurred in Lidice, Czechoslovakia during World War II. Similar to what the US military has done to Fallujah, the German Nazis leveled Lidice as payback collective punishment for the death of a high ranking member of the German security administration, Reinhard Heydrich, who was killed by Czech patriots in 1942.

Last March, four mercenaries were brutally killed in Fallujah, which led to the first US siege of the city in April as collective payback for the attack. Mostly for political reasons that siege was ceased, which set the stage for the recent attack on the city.

Similarly, Heydrich was assassinated by Czech patriots who were accused of being aided by the village of Lidice. Thus, Hitler ordered the village to be erased, and all men in the city over the age of 16 were killed.

Musar, a woman at the mosque standing nearby is weeping. “My 5 cousins and uncle are trapped there,” she cries, “They are not fighters but the Americans won’t let them out. And now the soldiers are coming to our refugee camp and detaining people!”

Musar begins to plead with us, “They took all the doctors out of the hospitals. My brother is a doctor there and they made him leave his work.” She stops because she is sobbing, then continues, “We have nothing! You must help us. I need my cousins and my uncle! Where are they? I just want to see them. None of them are fighters.”

(c)2004 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 herein with the author's permission.



Posted  December  3, 2004

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