As the US siege of the Iraqi city of Fallujah continues, Iraqi resistance fighters are stepping up their campaign against the US occupation across Iraq. We go to Baghdad to speak with Dahr Jamail, one of the few independent reporters in Iraq. [includes rush transcript]
As the US siege of the Iraqi city of Fallujah continues, Iraqi resistance fighters are stepping up their campaign against the US occupation across Iraq. In Fallujah, at least 18 US soldiers have been killed since the start of the American ground attack on the city on Monday while more than 100 US soldiers seriously wounded during the offensive arrived in 2 planeloads at the US military hospital in Germany with more expected to arrive over the weekend. The injured soldiers are the latest in a steady stream of arrivals at the hospital since the siege of Fallujah began. The military claims it has killed more than 600 resistance fighters in the city. But with almost no unembedded journalists operating in the city, independent information is very difficult to obtain. The reporting of journalists embedded with the US military is subjected to heavy restrictions from US forces. But Fallujah residents who have managed to escape the city describe the bodies of dead civilians laying in some streets and aid groups say the city is now facing a humanitarian catastrophe. There are an estimated 50,000 civilians remaining in Fallujah. Many of the city"s 300,000 residents fled the city ahead of the US offensive. Meanwhile, a Pentagon spokesperson says that 2 US Super Cobra helicopters have been downed in separate incidents.
In other areas of Iraq, the resistance has taken control of some key areas of the country, raising questions about the US counterinsurgency strategy. Some analysts say the recent gains by the resistance are a direct result of the US focusing its campaign in a city where most of the fighters had already moved to other areas of Iraq. It now appears that the US is facing a dramatic escalation of a coordinated resistance across the country. In Iraq"s third largest city, Mosul, five Iraqi police stations were bombed and the Iraqi resistance has taken over major portions of the city. Reuters is now reporting that the US has begun airstrikes in Mosul. Meanwhile, parts of Ramadi and Sammarah have now been seized by the Iraqi resistance. In Baghdad, The Asia Times is reporting that resistance groups have taken control of several suburbs on the outskirts of Baghdad. We go now to the Iraqi capital where we are joined by independent journalist Dahr Jamail, one of the few unembedded journalists in Iraq right now.
- Dahr Jamail, an independent journalist currently based in Baghdad. He is one of the only independent, unembedded journalists in Iraq right now. He publishes his reports on a blog called DahrJamailIraq.com.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to try to reach unembedded reporter in Baghdad in the Iraqi capital, independent journalist, Dahr Jamail, one of the few unembedded journalists there. I think we have managed to get through to him. Dahr Jamail, welcome to Democracy Now!.
DAHR JAMAIL: Thanks again for having me.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Can you describe what’s happening in Baghdad and what you understand is happening around Iraq now?
DAHR JAMAIL: It is continuing chaos and violence in Baghdad. Actually, just as of last night, several large areas of the city have been taken over by the Iraqi resistance and they remain so today. These are the areas of Aldora, Al-Amaria, and Abu Ghraib although right now there’s extremely heavy fighting in the Al-Adhamiya district of Baghdad as well. Before I continue further, I just want to remind everyone that while we’re watching these things happen in Fallujah, and the more escalated violence around Baghdad, all of this is occurring against a backdrop of infrastructure that looks like horrendous continuing water and electricity situations here. For example, where I live in central Baghdad, it’s supposedly gets some of the better electricity in the city, and we’ve been getting about ten hours per day here. Unemployment in Iraq remains around 70%, with really no hope of that changing anytime soon, as well. But people here in Baghdad on top of what I just mentioned, as well as the events of Fallujah, are continuing to get angrier every single day. The green zone nearby me continues to take mortar rounds on a daily basis. Just down the street from my hotel, earlier there was an improvised explosive device that went off by a United States patrol, and then just a few moments ago actually, several large blasts went off again nearby. As I said before, there’s been very heavy fighting in the Al-Adhamiya district of Baghdad. What happened, there was a car bomb. It was found by Iraqi police who showed up to warn people and then several U.S. military vehicles arrived, and shortly thereafter, they began getting hit with rocket propelled grenades. Heavy fighting broke out. Several soldiers were wounded and taken away. The fighting went on for at least half an hour. And then later this afternoon, the area is being buzzed by F-16 fighter jets that are terrorizing residents in the area. Also over there, the U.S. base continues to get bombed on a nightly basis as it has for several weeks in a row. Also, another important event that occurred in Baghdad today, there was a very huge demonstration. Well over 5,000 followers of the Islamic party at the Imam-Alham mosque here in Baghdad. They were denouncing so-called Prime minister Iyad Allawi and calling for Jihad. They demonstrated to show that they’re not afraid of the U.S. military, that Iyad Allawi was a traitor and should be removed as quickly as possible. They were also demonstrating to support the resistance fighters in Fallujah. So, those are just some of the highlights from what’s going on in Baghdad today.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Dahr, I’d like to ask you, in terms of this upsurge within Baghdad itself, of resistance fighters taking over different neighborhoods, have you noticed any diminishment of U.S. military presence in Baghdad as a result of the offensive in Fallujah? Are there any indications of the forces being overstretched?
DAHR JAMAIL: Actually, that’s a very good point, because there have been far, far fewer U.S. patrols on the streets. And then those, of course, that do run are getting hit with much greater frequency. It seems as though, it appears as though the U.S. military in this area are just staying more in their bases, or the fact that many of them have been sent west to take part in what’s going on in Fallujah, but there’s definitely less military here in the city than I have seen in all of the five months that I’ve spent in Iraq thus far.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Dahr, the funeral of Yasser Arafat is underway now in Ramallah. What is the response, is there a response right now in Baghdad?
DAHR JAMAIL: Eerily enough, there really isn’t much of a response. Some folks are talking about it, but it really takes a total back seat to what’s going on here, as fighting continues to rage all around the city. In different other cities of Iraq as well. So it’s really just an afterthought because the situation here is extremely tense, and we’re watching it spread around the country today as well. Large portions of Samara, Ramadi, and Mosul are now taken over by the resistance as well as the U.S. military continues to lose control of the situation here.
AMY GOODMAN: Dahr Jamail, I want to thank you very much for being with us, speaking to us from Baghdad.