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2004-11-18

Iraq on Fire: Widespread Violence Continues in Sunni Cities

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Widespread violence continues across Iraq, particularly in Sunni areas of the county. As many as 1,600 Iraqis have been killed in Fallujah alone, up to 800 of them civilians. We go to Baghdad to get a report from Dahr Jamail, one of the few independent reporters in Iraq. [includes rush transcript]

Widespread violence continues across Iraq, particularly in Sunni areas of the county.

In the town of Baji, north of Baghdad, as many as 18 Iraqis died when a suicide bomber rammed his vehicle into a U.S. military convoy and troops opened fire. US forces sealed off Baji’s oil refinery, which is the largest in Iraq.

In Ramadi, ten Iraqis were killed in clashes between US troops and the Iraqi resistance. Roadside bombs also killed at least three Iraqis in Kirkuk and Baghdad.

In Mosul, Iraq’s third largest city, the provincial governor’s office came under attack, killing one of his bodyguards and wounding four more. Violence erupted in Mosul after the US assault on Fallujah began 10 days ago.

Meanwhile, warplanes continue to strike targets in Fallujah, though the US maintains that most of the city is now under their control. Mortar fire and heavy explosive rounds targeted areas where the US believes resistance fighters are still hiding. Residents have been trying to collect their dead between upsurges in the fighting.

The continuing violence across Iraq and the US assault on Fallujah have made November one of Iraq’s bloodiest months. While there is no tally of Iraqi casualties, as many as 1,600 Iraqis, 800 of them civilians were killed in a 10-day period in Fallujah alone. The number of American soldiers killed this month has almost reached 100, making it the second bloodiest month for US troops since the invasion. This comes as forty-seven Iraqi political parties, have announced that they will boycott the planned elections in January saying continued US assaults are an obstacle to political participation and calling the Fallujah offensive a "genocide."

Back in Washington, White House correspondent Russel Mokhiber asked press secretary Scott McClellan about the legality of the Iraq invasion.

  • Russel Mokhiber, White House Correspondent questioning White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, November 17, 2004,

White House press secretary Scott McCllean responding to Russel Mokhiber at a press briefing yesterday. We go now to Iraq.

  • 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.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Back in Washington, White House correspondent Russell Mokhiber asked Press Secretary Scott McClellan about the legality of the Iraq invasion.

RUSSELL MOKHIBER: Kofi Annan in September, he said the war in Iraq is an illegal war. If it’s an illegal war, then the 100,000 who have died there, according to the John Hopkins School, are victims of war crimes. Now, the President is going to Canada later this year and the largest circulation newspaper in Canada yesterday wrote a column — printed a column titled: "Should Canada Indict Bush?" raising the question of a war crimes prosecution. They have a war crimes law in Canada. I’m wondering, has the general counsel —- has the President’s -—

SCOTT MCCLELLAN: Do you have a question or is this just a statement of opinion?

RUSSELL MOKHIBER: Question. Has the White House counsel looked at the president’s legal exposure to a war crimes prosecution?

SCOTT MCCLELLAN: Russ, I think that it’s a ridiculous question that you bring up. This — you were out on the Nader campaign I think at the time when this issue came up and we addressed it at that time, and I’m not going to go back through it again.

AMY GOODMAN: White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan responding to Russell Mokhiber at the White House press briefing yesterday. We now go to Iraq to speak with Dahr Jamail, an independent reporter. He is unembedded. He is in Baghdad. He publishes his reports on a blog called dahrjamailraq.com. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Dahr.

DAHR JAMAIL: Thanks again for having me, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, what is the latest in Fallujah, Baghdad, around the country that you understand?

DAHR JAMAIL: Well, extreme violence and instability persist for yet another day throughout Iraq. In Fallujah, there are reports of continued very heavy fighting, while the military contends that they now occupy the entire city and are bringing it under control. They still pound sections of it with heavy artillery and mortars; and there continues to be reports of fierce, but sporadic, fighting throughout different parts of the city from different refugees who continue to emerge. Also, up in Mosul, as we see the operation — the military operation there’s gone so well, we have continued fighting. Ramadi, more fighting. Beji, there’s been fighting for the last twenty-four hours, off and on. And in Baghdad, actually, there was a very heavy gun battle just down the street while I was listening to your report here on the broadcast. And also yet another: We had our daily car bomb in Baghdad when a suicide bomber ran his truck into a convoy in front of the Yarmuk Pol — I’m sorry, a U.S. patrol in front of the Yarmuk Police Station here. Mortar blasts continue sporadically into the green zone and there have been other attacks on a couple of patrols in different parts of the city today as well.

AMY GOODMAN: You have written a story on your blog about a twelve-year-old named Fatima Harouz. Can you talk about her?

DAHR JAMAIL: Yes. I was in Yarmuk hospital two days ago and just going from room to room, interviewing different people that — who had been brought there with injuries. This particular girl had been brought in. She’s twelve years old. And she had received wounds. Her — Actually, she lives in Latifiyah, which is a small city just to the south of Baghdad. And her home was raided by U.S. soldiers. They suspected resistance fighters there. Of course, there were none in this particular home, and, of course, they shot in the door before going inside and her — both of her shins were shattered by bullets and she also received a shrapnel wound in her abdomen as well. Another of her uncle was killed when this occurred and another family member was wounded. Their home was, as her mother described, "ransacked" by soldiers and, of course, they found no weapons or no resistance fighters. But then when the troops left her home, they killed all of the family’s chickens on the way out. The family was absolutely in shock. While this isn’t certainly an unknown occurrence in Iraq (this sort of heavy-handed treatment has been going on for quite some time now, sporadically around the country), but yet people —-the -— her mother, who was explaining the situation as well, just had this look of disbelief, shock, rage, and powerlessness in her face. She didn’t know what to do, what to make of it; and they’re basically there trying to treat her daughter and what to do about this situation. And there were so many other patients throughout this hospital from different parts all around Iraq, including some wounded from Fallujah, including a little boy who had been wounded from grenade shrapnel that went into his back. And, again, they don’t know — What can they do about this situation? And this was just one snapshot, in one day, in one hospital in Baghdad as the wounded from all of the attacks, all around the country, whether they be Fallujah, Baghdad, or all of these other cities that we see keep popping up into the news with fighting going on, being brought in to the various hospitals. Whether it be from direct fighting or people being wounded when car bombs go off or from haphazard shooting from U.S. soldiers, it’s a bloodbath here, and the hospital is filled with the proof.

AMY GOODMAN: Yet, Dahr, the U.S.-backed interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi says that there are no casualties — Iraqi civilian casualties — in Fallujah.

DAHR JAMAIL: Well, it’s — it’s really difficult to explain how the vast majority of Iraqis feel about U.S.-selected Prime Minister Allawi without using expletives; but I’ll do my best. One man described it very well that I — I interviewed recently. He said: "You know, if the U.S. pulled a hundred percent out of Iraq and left Allawi, he would last maybe one hour here before he was killed." This — this man is doing a very splendid job of being a good puppet spokesperson for the Bush policy in Iraq. Him saying this is in direct contradiction for — of every single report of every single refugee who’s come out of Fallujah, his own (well, I would go on a limb to call them countrymen, since Allawi himself hadn’t lived in Iraq for thirty years before coming here), but every report from every relief worker coming from Fallujah, every report from refugees, and people who’ve been coming in and out of Fallujah long before the siege, just commenting on the bombing that had occurred there for months before the siege began. So for him to say this, it’s the worst propaganda and one of the most blatant lies I’ve heard come out of Iraq in a long time.

AMY GOODMAN: Also in your piece about the hospital and the people who are there, you write about three Humvees pulling up as U.S. soldiers get out. What was the reaction in the hospital?

DAHR JAMAIL: Yes. Three Humvees had pulled up to discuss with some hospital officials if it would be OK if wounded from Fallujah were brought to their hospital. Which, of course, wounded from Fallujah were already — had already been brought to the hospital and for several days in a row. And while they were speaking with one of these officials who went out to talk with them, one of the doctors nearby started yelling expletives in them in Arabic. Of course, this wasn’t translated to the soldiers, but my translator right next to me translated all of it, and I managed to get a photo of the exchange. And the man was just — he couldn’t contain his rage. He’d been treating patients for a long time, so many of them victims of U.S aggression, and he started yelling: "Get the 'f' out of here! We don’t need you here! We don’t need your help! Bring back Saddam! Even Saddam was better than you animals! We can take care of our own people, so just get the 'f' out of here."

AMY GOODMAN: You write about how the translator dealt with that.

DAHR JAMAIL: I’m sorry?

AMY GOODMAN:You write about how the translator, your translator, dealt with what they were screaming.

DAHR JAMAIL: Yes. I was a little bit off to the side, wasn’t right in that group when it went off, but I could hear it, especially since this one individual was yelling. But the Iraqi translator that the military had brought with them sat there with just a stone face while this man was yelling at the soldiers and, of course, didn’t translate it.

AMY GOODMAN: So, the translator for the U.S. soldiers wouldn’t translate what they said back to — what the Iraqis were shouting back at the soldiers.

DAHR JAMAIL: Exactly. Exactly.

AMY GOODMAN: Dahr Jamail, I want to thank you very much for joining us. Independent journalist, currently based in Baghdad, one of the only independent unembedded journalists in Iraq right now. He publishes his reports on a blog called dahrjamailiraq.com.

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