Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Detainee abuses

Digby is concerned that the abuse might not be restricted to Abu Ghraib. You think?

This was in Fallujah at some bullshit camp. It wasn't in a high level prison where they supposedly held the "worst of the worst."

It's now an official cover-up all the way to Sanchez at a minimum. The managing editor of one of the two biggest wire services in the world gives them transcripts of his employees' statements and offers them as witnesses all the way back in January. They say that nothing untoward happened. The managing editor of one of the two biggest wire services in the world then writes directly to the Pentagon and complains about the "investigation." This is after the Taguba investigation was underway. He hears nothing further. The managing editor for one of the two biggest wire services in the world then receives a letter on May 17th, dated March 5th from General Ricardo Sanchez saying that he is confident the investigation was sound.

For the first time, I think it may be worse for us to stay than leave. If this sick shit was so widespread it was happening in every detention camp in Iraq, we are lost.
  Hullabaloo post

And still being covered up, Digby. A letter received on May 17 dated March 5?

The account is from the testimony of Reuters' employees who were thrown into a detention camp.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Change in tactics or something fishy?

Amy Goodman has an interview with an American independent journalist who was reporting from Fallujah, captured, and released 24 hours later.

AMY GOODMAN: What was the reaction of the people of Fallujah to you? You're an American, too.

DAVID MARTINEZ: Well, we were there doing humanitarian work. So, people can distinguish between a soldier, and a contractor, and a doctor, and people doing humanitarian work. I mean, Iraqis aren't barbarians. I think uh, I mean that's what eventually saved us when we were captured, and people knew what we were there for. And we had contact with the mosque, and so like everything else, you have a local contact – of course they were paranoid, that we might be spies, or we might be military, but since we were obviously there doing humanitarian work, we moved wounded people out of Fallujah that had to, the really serious cases had to be taken to hospitals in Baghdad, and so on. So, I think they understood what we were there for.

AMY GOODMAN: What about contractors, since contractors were killed in Fallujah?

DAVID MARTINEZ: Up until this man, Berg, he's the first person, if I'm not mistaken, he is the first person that was taken captive that was not an active military soldier that's been killed. So I mean, this is a real change in tactics. Once, when we were caught, once they found out that we were telling the truth and we were there doing humanitarian work and medical work, we were released. It was more like being arrested and checked out.

AMY GOODMAN: What about your capture? Who was it that captured you? Where were you captured?

DAVID MARTINEZ: We were trying to leave Fallujah after a second run to Fallujah delivering medical supplies. The route that we took, the Mujahadin I should say are organized somewhat non-centrally. One group will control one area of the town, another group will control another area of the town. The way we had to go, this group of Mujahadin did not know us. So, they just wondered, who are these foreigners traveling in this car, and just put us in a house, took our gear, promised us we would not be hurt, which we weren't, and said we just have to check out your story. They were all Fallujians, I should say. I didn't meet any foreign fighters.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean these foreign fighters?

DAVID MARTINEZ: Well, the ones that Rumsfeld keeps talking about, that there's all these people from Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Pakistan, al-Qaida, that are all defending Fallujah. Because of course we know that ordinary people can't defend against the United States military, when that's what they were doing. It was a community organized defense of the town. And every single person, they talked to us a lot, every single person had some story about losing friends, losing loved ones, in-laws to the American bombing, and how it was driving them crazy, and how much they hated the situation – they hated Saddam, they hated Bush -- and how strongly they were going to fight until the last American left Fallujah.


Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Iraq United

From Teresa Neilsen-Hayden's Making Light:

It is now impossible for us to win this war. I’ve thought so ever since the Iraqis’ spontaneous mass resupply of Fallujah in the first week of April. When the other side is getting the miracles, it’s time to think seriously about bailing. And they did; no doubt about it. Here’s a good summary of that story, if you missed it.

The short version is that Shiites are in the majority in Iraq, but under Saddam Hussein the Sunnis had the power, and some of them weren’t gentle about using it. And Fallujah isn’t just a Sunni-dominated area:
The level of sympathy for Fallujah in Shia areas is remarkable because the city once formed a backbone of support for Saddam Hussein’s regime, and was home to many officers in his intelligence services and Republican Guard. Some of those Baath Party loyalists were responsible for the brutal suppression of a 1991 Shia rebellion in southern Iraq, in which tens of thousands of people were buried in mass graves.
But when the rest of Iraq saw what we were doing in Fallujah, their ethnic and religious differences evaporated. All of a sudden you were getting amazing quotes like “No Sunnis, no Shiites, yes for Islamic unity,” the marchers chanted. “We are Sunni and Shiite brothers and will never sell our country.” Here’s a report from the Lebanon Daily Star about the response in one Baghdad neighborhood:
Baghdad’s Muslims have been rushing food and medical supplies to their local mosque for delivery to the beleaguered residents of Fallujah. Since the mosque imam in Baghdad’s Adhamiya district set up his appeal last week, the response has been phenomenal. The mosque courtyard has been transformed into a giant warehouse filled with white UN bags containing rice or beans, boxes of vegetables and bottles of oil and water. …

“It took only an appeal from the imam and the faithful from the neighborhood flocked with supplies and medicines for the besieged residents of Fallujah,” said Monder Moslah, a mosque security guard. On Saturday, a supply convoy sent by ethnic Turkmen from the northern city of Kirkuk arrived, he added, highlighting what he said was a national example of solidarity by all Iraqi communities. …

Iraq’s Christian Chaldean minority, which fear an emergence of an Islamic republic, expressed support for the Fallujah residents. Father Butros Haddad, who heads the Virgin Mary church in Baghdad’s Karrada district, said the patriarchate Saturday donated some $1 million to buy food and medicine for Fallujah residents.
In a lot of cases, people were simply gathering up whatever supplies and transportation they could muster, and heading for Fallujah to deliver it in person. They broke through U.S. roadblocks to get there. This is from Helen Williams, a Welsh humanitarian aid worker:
People were shouting good luck to us and blessing/thanking us for going to Fallujah. At one junction some boys threw bread and cake into the bus for us.

As we approached Fallujah on these back roads they deteriorated, becoming no more than a bumpy dirt track, barely two cars wide. Coming the other way were cars full of families and their possessions and vehicles with signs on them reading “Aid to Fallujah - from the people of Hilla/Nagaf/Ramadi” for example.

It seemed that all the people of Iraq, whether Shia, Sunni or Christian wanted to help Fallujah with whatever they could - water (there is no clean drinking water in Fallujah), blankets, food or medical aid - it was wonderful to see.
I’m sorry I can’t find more photos. It was one of those improbable events—not quite on the scale of the evacuation of Dunkirk, but definitely beating out Joffre’s reserves getting to the Battle of the Marne courtesy of the Paris taxi fleet. And the focus of this sudden, miraculous sense of unity and resolve was their determination to have us get the hell out of their country.

Mind, all that was before they saw the souvenir snapshots of our troops grinning while they tortured and humiliated Iraqi prisoners.


Thanks to the peerless TJ at POAC for this news:

The Iraqi general chosen to run a new security force in Falluja yesterday distanced himself from the US military by refusing American demands to give up foreign fighters supposedly hiding in the city.

As a flood of civilians returned home after four weeks of a ferocious assault on the city by American marines, Major General Jasim Mohammed Saleh said the US had provoked a backlash from ordinary Iraqis.

"The reasons for the resistance go back to the American provocations, the raids and abolishing the army, which made Iraqis join the resistance," he said.

American commanders say 200 foreign fighters are holed up in Falluja and have demanded that the city hands them over. But Gen Saleh, an ex-Republican Guard officer who has been mooted to run a 1,000-strong local security force, has refused. "There are no foreign fighters in Falluja and the local tribal leaders have told me the same," he said.
  Information Clearinghouse article


The appointment of an Iraqi general to head the brigade taking over from US forces besieging Falluja was yesterday reduced to farce.

The former Republican Guard general, who effectively took over on Friday, was summarily removed from the post that America's top soldier said he had never had. His replacement will be a general once exiled by Saddam Hussein, said US officials.
  The Herald article


But it was such a great idea to put one of Saddam's Republican Guards in charge, wasn't it? I mean, how could anyone have guessed that he might not be pro-American?

....hey, do what you will anyway.

Monday, May 3, 2004

Falluja cannot even bury its dead

So many Fallujahans have been killed by the U.S. marines that residents have had to dig mass graves. The city's football stadium now holds more than 200 bodies.

"When you see a child five years old with no head, what can you say?" says a doctor in Fallujah whose name is being withheld for his safety. "When you see a child with no brain, just an open cavity, what can you say?"

he doctor says many were buried in the football until it became full. "When you are burying you cannot stay long because they (the U.S. marines) will just shoot you," he says. "So we use the shovel. Just dig a big hole and put a whole family in the hole and leave as soon as possible so we are not shot."

Filmmaker Julia Guest who traveled to Fallujah in a convoy delivering relief supplies told IPS that the clinic's ambulance was fired upon twice by U.S. snipers -- during the ceasefire. The second time it was fired on, it was carrying U.S. and British citizens who had negotiated an agreement with the marines to rescue the injured from an area under heavy U.S. sniper fire.

... The U.S. military does not deny shooting at ambulances. But it blames the resistance fighters. U.S. marines spokesperson Lt Eric Knapp says his forces have seen fighters loading weapons into ambulances from mosques in the area.

"By using ambulances, they are putting Iraqis in harm's way by denying them a critical component of urgent medical care," he says. "Mosques, ambulances and hospitals are protected under Geneva Convention agreements and are not targeted by U.S. marines. However, once they are used for the purpose of hostile intent toward coalition forces, they lose their protected status and may be targeted."
  Common Dreams article

Open season on anything that moves. (As if we pay any attention to the Geneva Conventions.)