Baghdad Burning

... I'll meet you 'round the bend my friend, where hearts can heal and souls can mend...

Tuesday, November 16, 2004
American Heroes...
I'm feeling sick- literally. I can't get the video Al-Jazeera played out of my head:

The mosque strewn with bodies of Iraqis- not still with prayer or meditation, but prostrate with death- Some seemingly bloated… an old man with a younger one leaning upon him… legs, feet, hands, blood everywhere… The dusty sun filtering in through the windows… the stillness of the horrid place. Then the stillness is broken- in walk some marines, guns pointed at the bodies... the mosque resonates with harsh American voices arguing over a body- was he dead, was he alive? I watched, tense, wondering what they would do- I expected the usual Marines treatment- that a heavy, booted foot would kick the man perhaps to see if he groaned. But it didn't work that way- the crack of gunfire suddenly explodes in the mosque as the Marine fires at the seemingly dead man and then come the words, "He's dead now."

"He's dead now." He said it calmly, matter-of-factly, in a sort of sing-song voice that made my blood run cold… and the Marines around him didn't care. They just roamed around the mosque and began to drag around the corpses because, apparently, this was nothing to them. This was probably a commonplace incident.

We sat, horrified, stunned with the horror of the scene that unfolded in front of our eyes. It's the third day of Eid and we were finally able to gather as a family- a cousin, his wife and their two daughters, two aunts, and an elderly uncle. E. and my cousin had been standing in line for two days to get fuel so we could go visit the elderly uncle on the final day of a very desolate Eid. The room was silent at the end of the scene, with only the voice of the news anchor and the sobs of my aunt. My little cousin flinched and dropped her spoon, face frozen with shock, eyes wide with disbelief, glued to the television screen, "Is he dead? Did they kill him?" I swallowed hard, trying to gulp away the lump lodged in my throat and watched as my cousin buried his face in his hands, ashamed to look at his daughter.

"What was I supposed to tell them?" He asked, an hour later, after we had sent his two daughters to help their grandmother in the kitchen. "What am I supposed to tell them- 'Yes darling, they killed him- the Americans killed a wounded man; they are occupying our country, killing people and we are sitting here eating, drinking and watching tv'?" He shook his head, "How much more do they have to see? What is left for them to see?"

They killed a wounded man. It's hard to believe. They killed a man who was completely helpless- like he was some sort of diseased animal. I had read the articles and heard the stories of this happening before- wounded civilians being thrown on the side of the road or shot in cold blood- but to see it happening on television is something else- it makes me crazy with anger.

And what will happen now? A criminal investigation against a single Marine who did the shooting? Just like what happened with the Abu Ghraib atrocities? A couple of people will be blamed and the whole thing will be buried under the rubble of idiotic military psychologists, defense analysts, Pentagon officials and spokespeople and it will be forgotten. In the end, all anyone will remember is that a single Marine shot and killed a single Iraqi 'insurgent' and it won't matter anymore.

It's typical American technique- every single atrocity is lost and covered up by blaming a specific person and getting it over with. What people don't understand is that the whole military is infested with these psychopaths. In this last year we've seen murderers, torturers and xenophobes running around in tanks and guns. I don't care what does it: I don't care if it's the tension, the fear, the 'enemy'… it's murder. We are occupied by murderers. We're under the same pressure, as Iraqis, except that we weren't trained for this situation, and yet we're all expected to be benevolent and understanding and, above all, grateful. I'm feeling sick, depressed and frightened. I don't know what to say anymore… they aren't humans and they don't deserve any compassion.

So why is the world so obsessed with beheadings? How is this so very different? The difference is that the people who are doing the beheadings are extremists… the people slaughtering Iraqis- torturing in prisons and shooting wounded prisoners- are "American Heroes". Congratulations, you must be so proud of yourselves today. has pictures.

Excuse me please, I'm going to go be sick for a little while.

Saturday, November 13, 2004
People in Falloojeh are being murdered. The stories coming back are horrifying. People being shot in cold blood in the streets and being buried under tons of concrete and iron... where is the world? Bury Arafat and hurry up and pay attention to what's happening in Iraq.

They say the people have nothing to eat. No produce is going into the city and the water has been cut off for days and days. Do you know what it's like to have no clean water??? People are drinking contaminated water and coming down with diarrhoea and other diseases. There are corpses in the street because no one can risk leaving their home to bury people. Families are burying children and parents in the gardens of their homes. WHERE IS EVERYONE???

Furthermore, where is Sistani? Why isn't he saying anything about the situation? When the South was being attacked, Sunni clerics everywhere decried the attacks. Where is Sistani now, when people are looking to him for some reaction? The silence is deafening.

We're not leaving the house lately. There was a total of 8 hours of electricity today and we've been using the generator sparingly because there is a mysterious fuel shortage... several explosions were heard in different places.

Things are deteriorating swiftly.

More on Falloojeh crisis here:

Aid agencies say Falluja "big disaster"...

Eyewitness: Smoke and Corpses...

Iraqis will never forgive this- never. It's outrageous- it's genocide and America, with the help and support of Allawi, is responsible. May whoever contributes to this see the sorrow, terror and misery of the people suffering in Falloojeh.

Friday, November 12, 2004
One of Those Weeks...
These last few days have been explosive- literally.

The sounds seem to be coming from everywhere. I've gotten tired of running upstairs and out on to the roof to find out where it's coming from. It feels like the first days of the war sometimes- planes, explosions, bullets, smoke... roads cut off.

We haven't attempted to leave the house but an uncle who was supposed to visit called to say he wouldn't be able to come because so many roads were blocked. Many people were told not to go to work and students stopped going to college yesterday. It's one of those weeks. Some areas in Baghdad seem to be cut off by armed gangs.

Eid is in a couple of days and that means there's Eid cleaning to do. The water was cut off all day today and the electricity was gone too. This seems to be happening all over Baghdad- we heard about the same situation in several areas. Can someone say 'collective punishment'?! WE didn't kidnap your relatives Allawi... it was Zarqawi, remember?!

Falloojeh is still being destroyed and the stories we hear are mixed. It's difficult to tell what's true and what isn't. All we know is that there are dozens of civilians being killed. They also say 18 Americans have died and over a hundred are wounded.

Mosul is also a mess. They are saying there isn't a tank or patrol car in sight in that city.

Read more about the situation at Juan Cole- would love to say more but the generator is going to be turned off in a couple of minutes.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Rule of Iraq Assassins Must End...
I'm not feeling well- it's a combination of the change of weather and the decline in the situation. Eid is less than a week away but no one is feeling at all festive. We're all worried about the situation in Falloojeh and surrounding regions. We've ceased worrying about the explosions in Baghdad and are now concerned with the people who have left their homes and valuables and are living off of the charity of others.

Allawi declared a "State of Emergency" a couple of days ago... A state of emergency *now* - because previous to this week, we Iraqis were living in an American made Utopia, as the world is well aware. So what does an "Emergency State" signify for Iraqis? Basically, it means we are now *officially* more prone to being detained, raided, and just generally abused by our new Iraqi forces and American ones. Today they declared a curfew on Baghdad after 10 p.m. but it hasn't really made an impact because people have stopped leaving their houses after dark anyway.

The last few days have been tense and heart-rending. Most of us are really worried about Falloojeh. Really worried about Falloojeh and all the innocents dying and dead in that city. There were several explosions in Baghdad these last few days and hardly any of them were covered by the press. All this chaos has somehow become uncomfortably normal. Two years ago I never would have dreamed of living like this- now this lifestyle has become the norm and I can barely remembering having lived any other way.

My cousin kept the kids home from school, which is happening quite often. One of the explosions today was so close, the house rocked with the impact and my cousin's wife paled, "Can you imagine if the girls had been at school when that happened- I would have died."

Dozens of civilians have died these last few days in Ramadi, Falloojeh, and Samarra. We are hearing about complete families being killed under the rain of bombs being dropped by American forces. The phone lines in those areas seem to be cut off. We've been trying to call some relatives in Ramadi for the last two days, but it's next to impossible. We keep getting that dreadful busy tone and there's just no real way of knowing what is going on in there. There is talk of the use of cluster bombs and other forbidden weaponry.

We're hearing various stories about the situation. The latest is that 36 American troops have been taken prisoner along with dozens of Iraqi troops. How do people feel about the Iraqi troops? There's a certain rage. It's difficult to sympathize with a fellow-countryman while he's killing one of his own. People generally call them "Dogs of Occupation" here because instead of guarding our borders or securing areas, they are used to secure American forces. They drive out in front of American cars in order to clear the roads and possibly detonate some of those road mines at a decent distance from the American tanks. At the end of the day, most of them are the remnants of militias and that's the way they act.

And now they are being used in Falloojeh against other Iraqis. The whole situation is making me sick and there's a fury building up. The families in Falloojeh have been relegated to living in strange homes and mosques outside of the city... many of them are setting up their families inside of emptied schools and municipal buildings in Samarra and neighboring areas. Every time I see Allawi on tv talking about his regrets about 'having to attack Falloojeh' I get so angry I could scream. He's talking to the outside world, not to us. Iraqis don't buy his crap for a instant. We watch him talk and feel furious and frustrated with our new tyrant.

I was watching CNN this morning and I couldn't get the image of the hospital in Falloojeh being stormed by Iraqi and American troops out of my head- the Iraqis being made to lay face-down on the ground, hands behind their backs. Young men and old men... and then the pictures of Abu Ghraib replay themselves in my mind. I think people would rather die than be taken prisoner by the Americans.

The borders with Syria and Jordan are also closed and many of the highways leading to the borders have been blocked. There are rumors that there are currently 100 cars ready to detonate in Mosul, being driven by suicide bombers looking for American convoys. So what happens when Mosul turns into another Falloojeh? Will they also bomb it to the ground? I heard a report where they mentioned that Zarqawi 'had probably escaped from Falloojeh'... so where is he now? Mosul?

Meanwhile, Rumsfeld is making his asinine remarks again,

"There aren't going to be large numbers of civilians killed and certainly not by U.S. forces,"

No- there are only an 'estimated' 100,000 civilians in Falloojeh (and these are American estimations). So far, boys and men between the ages of 16 and 60 aren't being counted as 'civilians' in Falloojeh. They are being rounded up and taken away. And, *of course* the US forces aren't going to be doing the killing: The bombs being dropped on Falloojeh don't contain explosives, depleted uranium or anything harmful- they contain laughing gas- that would, of course, explain Rumsfeld's idiotic optimism about not killing civilians in Falloojeh. Also, being a 'civilian' is a relative thing in a country occupied by Americans. You're only a civilian if you're on their side. If you translate for them, or serve them food in the Green Zone, or wipe their floors- you're an innocent civilian. Everyone else is an insurgent, unless they can get a job as a 'civilian'.

So this is how Bush kicks off his second term. More bloodshed.

"Innocent civilians in that city have all the guidance they need as to how they can avoid getting into trouble,"

How do they do that Rumsfeld? While tons of explosives are being dropped upon your neighborhood, how do you do that? Do you stay inside the house and try to avoid the thousands of shards of glass that shoot out at you from shattering windows? Or do you hide under a table and hope that it's sturdy enough to keep the ceiling from crushing you? Or do you flee your house and pray to God you don't come face to face with an Apache or tank or that you aren't in the line of fire of a sniper? How do you avoid the cluster bombs and all the other horror being dealt out to the people of Falloojeh?

There are a couple of things I agree with. The first is the following:

"Over time you'll find that the process of tipping will take place, that more and more of the Iraqis will be angry about the fact that their innocent people are being killed..."

He's right. It is going to have a decisive affect on Iraqi opinion- but just not the way he thinks. There was a time when pro-occupation Iraqis were able to say, "Let's give them a chance..." That time is over. Whenever someone says that lately, at best, they get a lot of nasty looks... often it's worse. A fight breaks out and a lot of yelling ensues... how can one condone occupation? How can one condone genocide? What about the mass graves of Falloojeh? Leaving Islam aside, how does one agree to allow the murder of fellow-Iraqis by the strongest military in the world?

The second thing Rumsfeld said made me think he was reading my mind:

"Rule of Iraq assassins must end..." I couldn't agree more: Get out Americans.

Thursday, November 04, 2004
Well, what is there to say? Disappointment doesn't even begin to describe it...

To the red states (and those who voted for Bush): You deserve no better- I couldn't wish worse on you if I tried. He represents you perfectly... and red really is your color. It's the color of the blood of thousands of Iraqis and by the time this four-year catastrophe in the White House is over, tousands of Americans, likely.

To the blue states (and those who were thinking when they voted): Condolences. Good luck- you'll need it.

I'm thinking of offering up the idea of "Election Condolences" to Hallmark or Yahoo Greetings. The cards can have those silly little poems inside of them, like:

Condolences and heartfelt tears-
You get Bush for four more years!


Sympathies in advance
For when they reinstate the draft!
We hope (insert_name_here) stays as safe as he/she can
And writes frequently while in Iran!


Bush and Cheney- what a pair!
Who said life isn't fair?
While Iraq gets tanks and occupation-
You have idiots to run your nation!


Cheer up...
Your son was too young for Afghanistan.
And it's still a bit early for Iran-
But there's plenty of time for Syria...
And he'll definitely serve in North Korea!

I guess justice was too much to ask for.

Monday, November 01, 2004
Help Someone...
The Jarrars have started a fantastic campaign to collect money and, working along with some of the few remaining NGOs in Baghdad, purchase first-aid supplies, food and other necessities to send along to Iraqi cities in dire need of this stuff. You can read more about it on Raed’s blog.

To all those wonderful, amazing people out there who have written to me over the last year: you offered me so much- whatever I needed- as some have written. Those of you who really do want to help or contribute anything to Iraq, donate what you can. The smallest amount really does make a difference (God, I’m sounding like a tv evangelist). I do mean it though- your contribution will help some child or family.

For more questions, you can contact any one of the Jarrars- especially Raed or Khalid to get more information.

Raed's Blog: Raed in the Middle
Khalid's Blog: Secrets in Baghdad

A link- Guerrilla News Network is showing Eminem's Mosh music video, a politically inspired video about the elections. I'm trying to view it but with my link it's impossible.

Some Terrorists...
The sky has been overcast these last few days. It’s a smoggy, grayish combination of dust, smoke and humidity. I guess it has matched the general mood in many ways- somewhat dark and heavy.

I’ve been very worried about Falloojeh. So worried, in fact, that I find it hard to sleep at night, wondering how the situation will unfold in that troubled area. Things are bad in Baghdad, but they are far worse in Falloojeh. Refugees have been flowing out of the area for weeks now. They’ve been trying to find havens in Baghdad and the surrounding regions.

I met my first Falloojeh refugees last week. One of my aunts was feeling a little bit under the weather and the phones in her area were down, so we decided to pay a brief visit after breaking the fast in the evening. As we pulled our car into her driveway, I discerned strange, childish voices in the garden. Since my aunt has only an eight-year-old daughter, S., I assumed the neighbors’ children were over to play.

S. tripped over to the car and helped open the door. She was jumping with excitement and pleasure at so many guests. I glanced towards the garden, expecting to see children but besides a big palm and a couple of rose bushes, I couldn’t see anything. “Where are your friends?!” I asked, pulling out the Iraqi sweets we had brought for my aunt. She looked over her shoulder and smiled, pointing to the palm tree. I squinted at the tree in the dark garden and glimpsed a small head and a flashing pair of eyes, which quickly disappeared. I nodded sagely and called out, “Hello, palm tree!” S. giggled as the palm tree softly replied, “Hello.”

“It’s fine,” S. called over her shoulder to the garden, “You can come out- it’s only my cousin and her parents!” We walked towards the house and S. continued her prattling. “Mommy is feeling much better. We have guests today. Well, we had them from yesterday. They are my friends. They’re daddy’s relatives… they don’t have to go to school but I do.”

The living room was in commotion as we entered it. The television was turned on high to some soap opera and mixed with the shouts of an Egyptian soap star was an infant crying, a mother ‘shushing’ it, and my aunt and her husband discussing the fate of telephone line which had been dead for the last four days. The woman with the infant suddenly rose as we entered the room and made way for the door leading to the hallway.

After the initial greetings and salams, my aunt rushed out of the room and came back in with the very reluctant woman and her baby. “This is Umm Ahmed.” She introduced us and firmly sat the woman back down on the couch. “She’s from Falloojeh…” my aunt explained. “She’s my husband’s relative- but we never met before this.” She turned to give an encouraging smile to Umm Ahmed, who was looking somewhat like a deer caught in headlights.

The woman was tall and graceful. She was wearing a longish traditional ‘dishdasha’ (something like heavy, embroidered nightgown) and her head was covered with a light, black shawl that kept slipping back to reveal dark brown hair streaked with strands of silver. I tried guessing her age but it was nearly impossible- she had a youthful look about her and I guessed she was probably around 33 or 34. Her face, however, was pinched with strain and worry, and that, combined with the silver in her hair, made her seem like she was forty. She nodded at us nervously and held the infant tighter.

“Umm Ahmed and her lovely children are here until things are better in Falloojeh.” My aunt declared. She turned to my little cousin with the words, “Go get Sama and Harith.” I assumed Sama and Harith were the children hiding behind the palm tree. A moment later, Sama and Harith, led by S. entered the living room. Sama was a delicate girl of about ten, while Harith was a chubby little boy who looked to be six or seven. They avoided eye contact and quickly ran over to their mother.

“Say ‘hello’,” Umm Ahmed urged quietly. Sama came forward to shake hands but Harith tried to hide behind his mother.

“What lovely children!” My mother smiled and pulled Sama in for a kiss. “How old are you, Sama?”

“Eleven.” Came the soft answer, as she went back to sit next to her mother.

“How is the situation in Falloojeh?” My father asked. We all knew the answer. It was terrible in Falloojeh and getting worse by day. They were constantly being bombarded with missiles and bombs. The city was in ruins. Families were gathering what they could and leaving. Houses were being demolished by tanks and planes. But the question had to be asked.

Umm Ahmed swallowed nervously and her frown deepened. “It’s quite bad. We left two days ago. The Americans are surrounding the city and they wouldn’t let us out using the main road. We had to be smuggled out through another way…” The baby began to whine softly and she tried to rock it to sleep. “We had to leave…” she said apologetically, “I couldn’t stay there with the children.”

“Of course you couldn’t.” Came my aunt’s firm reply. “That’s crazy. It’s suicide- the bastards aren’t leaving anyone alive.”

“I hope everyone is ok…” I offered tentatively. Umm Ahmed focused for a moment on me and shook her head, “Well, last week we buried our neighbor Umm Najib and her two daughters. They were sleeping when a missile fell in the garden and the house collapsed.”

“And my windows were broken…” Harith suddenly added, excitedly, then disappeared again behind his mother.

“The windows were broken and the front door was blown in. We were all ok because ever since the war we’ve all been sleeping in the living room.” Umm Ahmed explained, automatically, like she had told the story a hundred times. As she spoke, the baby’s fists went up into the air and it gave out a little cry. It was a welcome sound- the agonizing subject could be changed. “And is this Ahmed?” I asked, rising to look at the infant. My aunt was calling her “Umm Ahmed” which means, “The Mother of Ahmed”. Usually, the name of the eldest child is used as an informal way to speak with the parents. “Abu Ahmed” is “The Father of Ahmed”. I didn’t understand why she wasn’t, Umm Harith or Umm Sama, but since this was the last child, it must be ‘Ahmed’.

“No- this is Majid.” Sama answered my question softly. The baby looked about four months old and had a shock of dark hair, covered with what seemed at first sight to be a little white cap. His eyes were the same hazel color as his mother’s. I smiled down at Majid and noticed that the white thing on his head wasn’t a cap- it was a white gauze bandage. “What’s the bandage for?” I asked, hoping it was just to keep his head warm.

“When we were fleeing the city, we had to come in a pickup truck with two other families. His head got hit with something and there was a scratch. The doctor said that he has to keep the bandage on so that there won’t be an infection.” Her eyes filled as she looked down at the infant and rocked him a bit harder.

“Well, at least everyone is safe… you were very wise to come here.” My mother offered. “Your children are fine- and that’s what’s important.”

This phrase didn’t have quite the effect we expected. Umm Ahmed’s eyes suddenly flowed over and in a moment, she was crying freely. Sama frowned and gently took the baby from her mother’s arms, rising to walk him around in the hallway. My aunt quickly poured a glass of water out for Umm Ahmed and handed it to her, explaining to us, “Ahmed, her fourteen-year-old son, is with his father, still in Falloojeh.”

“I didn’t want to leave him…” The glass of water shook in her hands. “But he refused to leave without his father and we got separated last minute as the cars were leaving the city…” My aunt rushed to pat her back and hand her some tissues.

“Umm Ahmed’s husband, God protect him, is working with one of the mosques to help get some of the families out.” My aunt explained, sitting down next to Umm Ahmed and reaching to pull a teary Harith onto her lap. “I’m sure they’ll both be fine- maybe they’re already in Baghdad…” My aunt added with more confidence than any of us felt. Umm Ahmed nodded her head mechanically and stared vaguely at the rug on the ground. Harith rubbed at his eyes and clung to a corner of his mother’s shawl. “I promised her,” my aunt explained, “That if we don’t hear from them in two more days, Abu S. will drive out to Falloojeh, and he can and look for them. We’ve already left word with that mosque where all the refugees go in Baghdad.”

As I sat staring at the woman, the horror of the war came back to me- the days upon days of bombing and shooting- the tanks blasting away down the streets, and helicopters hovering above menacingly. I wondered how she would spend the next couple of agonizing days, waiting for word from her son and husband. The worst part of it is being separated from the people you care about and wondering about their fates. It’s a feeling of restlessness that gnaws away inside of you, leaving you feeling exhausted and agitated all at once. It’s a thousand pessimistic voices whispering stories of death and destruction in your head. It’s a terrible feeling of helplessness in the face of such powerful devastation.

So Umm Ahmed is one of the terrorists who were driven from the city. Should her husband and son die, they will be leaders from Al-Qaeda or even relatives of Abu Mussab Al-Zarqawi himself… that’s the way they tell the story in America.

It makes me crazy to see Bush and Allawi talking about the casualties in Falloojeh like every single person there is a terrorist lurking not in a home, but in some sort of lair, making plans to annihilate America. Allawi was recently talking about how the ‘peace talks’ weren’t going very well and a major military operation was the only option available. That garbage and the rest about Abu Mussab Al-Zarqawi is for Americans, Brits and Iraqis living in comfortable exile.

Allawi is vile and the frightening thing is that he will *never* be safe in Iraq without American military support. As long as he is in power, there will be American tanks and bases all over the country. How does he expect to win any support by threatening to unleash the occupation forces against Falloojeh? People are greeting refugees from Falloojeh like heroes. They are emptying rooms in houses to accommodate them and donating food, money and first-aid supplies.

Everyone here knows Abu Mussab Al-Zarqawi isn’t in Falloojeh. He isn’t anywhere, as far as anyone can tell. He’s like the WMD: surrender your weapons or else we’ll attack. Now that the damage is done, it is discovered that there were no weapons. It will be the same with Zarqawi. We laugh here when we hear one of our new politicians discuss him. He’s even better than the WMD- he has legs. As soon as the debacle in Falloojeh is over, Zarqawi will just move conveniently to Iran, Syria or even North Korea.

As for the ‘peace talks’ with Falloojeh- they never existed. They’ve been bombing Falloojeh for several weeks now. They usually do the bombing during the night, and no one is there to cover the damage and all the deaths. It’s only later we hear about complete families being buried alive or shot to death by snipers on the street.

By the way, Americans- 100,000 deaths in a year and a half, and the number is rising. Keep Bush another four years and we just might hit the half-million mark…

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