On May 30th, US troops shot and killed two Iraqi women — one of whom was pregnant. Nabiha Nisaif Jassim and her cousin Saliha Mohammed Hassan were in a car going to Samarra General hospital where Nabiha was about to give birth. We speak with independent journalist Dahr Jamail about the incident and how the US military may have tried to cover it up. [includes rush transcript]
We begin by taking a look at another atrocity in Iraq that the U.S military may have tried to cover-up. On May 30sth, US troops shot and killed two Iraqi women one of whom was pregnant. Nabiha Nisaif Jassim and her cousin Saliha Mohammed Hassan were in a car going to Samarra General hospital where Nabiha was about to give birth. US troops said their car failed to stop in a prohibited zone despite warnings. But new information from an Iraqi human rights investigator contradicts the military’s version of events. And the brother of the pregnant woman, Redam Nisaif Jassim, who was driving the car has also said that he did not see or hear any warnings by the military.
- Redam Nisaif Jassim, brother of Nabiha Nisaif Jassim.
"There was a road for vehicles to drive through. When I got there, I found it was safe. But it was closed at the end. I tried to change direction when the U.S. forces opened fire at us. They killed both my mother and my sister. My sister was pregnant."
This comes as the investigations into the Haditha massacre and subsequent cover-up continue. In that incident, 24 unarmed Iraqis were allegedly massacred by U.S. Marines in the town of Haditha. The initial report given by the military stated that only 15 civilians died by a roadside bomb and the rest were killed by insurgent fire. The U.S military claims that the events in Samarra are also being investigated. To talk further about this, we are joined on the phone by Dar Jamail. We invited the Defense Department to on the program but they declined to our request.
- Dahr Jamail, independent journalist who was based for a time in Baghdad. His latest article is for Inter Press News Agency and is titled "Another U.S Cover-up Surfaces." Dahr publishes his reports on a blog called DahrJamailIraq.com.
AMY GOODMAN: We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Dahr.
DAHR JAMAIL: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: We also invited a representative from the Pentagon to be on the program, but they did not respond to our request. Dahr, tell us the story from the beginning, as you understand it.
DAHR JAMAIL: Well, much like what was played there on the clip, Nabiha Nisaif Jassim, a 35-year-old mother of two children, a 3-year-old boy named Ali and a 4-year-old daughter named Hashmiya, were shot by a U.S. sniper in Samarra while Nabiha was being raced to the hospital in order to give birth. Her brother, Redam Nisaif Jassim, was driving the car and the two women were in the back seat when they were fired upon. And I spoke with an Iraqi human rights investigator about the situation. This investigator went and investigated it firsthand after they obtained news about what happened there.
And it was very, very clear that the car was shot from actually behind by a U.S. sniper. There was no warning in the area. There was no sign put up by the U.S. military; nothing marking the area that showed that it was prohibited or that these people should not have been there. Instead, after the shooting occurred, the U.S. military, who did not come out and try to provide any aid to these people whatsoever, actually then drug a sign out to the area, a small sign. There was actually an A.P. photograph of it, and the initial story that the A.P. ran about the event. And that was brought after the shooting actually took place.
AMY GOODMAN: And what is the military saying at this point?
DAHR JAMAIL: The military claims that it was a clearly-marked area. That there were then shots fired in warning, audible and visual alerts given to these people to warn them that they were in a clearly-marked area, which was prohibited and near a so-called observation post. But again, these were claims that were disputed both Redam, who was driving the car, as well as two other people who were interviewed by the human rights investigator nearby the scene, who saw the event occur. And all of them saying that this was basically false — the U.S. military’s statement was false — that there were no signs, there was no way that anyone in Samarra could have told that this was a prohibited area.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to independent journalist Dahr Jamail. The reason it seems that Haditha is being taken so seriously right now, that the military has opened these investigations, is because the videotape has surfaced. That’s hard to deny. Are there any photos like that or videotape of what you’re describing in Samarra?
DAHR JAMAIL: Not that I know of, so far, other than there have been some photos taken just after the event occurred. But it’s nothing quite as damning as what surfaced after Haditha. At least not yet.
AMY GOODMAN: Dahr, you have also written about Ramadi, talking about a repeat of Fallujah. What do you understand is happening in Ramadi right now?
DAHR JAMAIL: I’ve very recently spoken with the emergency coordinator for an Italian NGO that’s based out of Amman, Jordan. It’s called the Italian Consortium of Solidarity. And the emergency coordinator, Maurizio Mattia, has told me, along with a source I have who has been in Ramadi for the last few days, that Ramadi is basically sealed off by U.S. forces. It’s not completely sealed off, because simply it’s too big for them to do that. Keep in mind, that Ramadi, while it’s about 400,000 residents — not too much bigger than Fallujah — it’s about twice the size geographically of Fallujah. And it’s about a 15-minute car ride from Fallujah as well. So they’re very close together. But that makes Ramadi quite difficult for them to seal off completely.
So instead, U.S. soldiers have sealed — there’s an east and west bridge out of Ramadi, so that is sealed. And then they’re going neighborhood by neighborhood, district by district right now, fighting, trying to clear neighborhoods, according to the U.S. military. They’re using snipers very, very heavily and have been for several weeks inside of Ramadi, taking over people’s homes, putting snipers either in bedrooms or on the rooftops to shoot into the city. People have been complaining about this for weeks, if not months. now. And they’re using helicopters and ground troops to siege the city. The emergency coordinator told me that he estimates over 3,000 families have left Ramadi. And they’ve become IDP’s, or internally-displaced people. And 30% of these, he estimates, went to Baghdad. Many of them have gone to Fallujah. He said the rest of the people are literally "wandering around in al-Anbar province."
AMY GOODMAN: Can you repeat, Dahr Jamail — because the last time we had you on, when we were asking you about Haditha, when we were talking about the killings there, you talked about Fallujah. And you said, if we’re going to talk about Haditha, which is very important, we also have to talk about Fallujah. But can you repeat what happened? Because I think most people in this country don’t understand what the siege of Fallujah is about. Especially as you’re talking about Ramadi right now.
DAHR JAMAIL: It’s a very important thing that people understand: Fallujah, during the November 2004 U.S. assault on the city, was essentially turned into an uninhabitable city, where — most of it remains that way today. It’s a city of 350,000 people, where it’s estimated by Iraqi — an Iraqi NGO within Fallujah that has tried to figure out the number of people who were killed there the best they could, that between 4,000 and 6,000 people were killed. 4 and 6,000 people were killed in one U.S. military operation. The Pentagon admitted they did use white phosphorus, which is an illegal incendiary weapon. They tried to deny this at first, but enough proof was provided, including soldier’s statements, who were in Fallujah, that they did use that weapon. It was called Whiskey Pete on the radio when they used it.
And soldiers testified of stepping over charred bodies that were hit by this themselves. And the Pentagon finally even admitted that they used it and it could have even hit civilians. They also used cluster bombs, they used uranium munitions, they used fleshettes, all of these are violations of various international laws. And the city, to this day, entire neighborhoods remain without electricity, without water. And basically, the water situation there is a disaster, where to this day, also, there remain many waterborne diseases spread rampantly. The medical system was absolutely crushed during the siege and has yet to recover to this day. People need to be very clear, that this is the equivalent of a Guernica. It was an absolute massacre of an entire city.
AMY GOODMAN: Last week, we read the first paragraph of a Newsweek piece in Fallujah, for our TV viewers, we’re going to show some photographs and we’re going to put this on our website for our radio listeners. This is from Newsweek, and I’d like you to respond, Dahr. 'The Marines know how to get psyched up for a big fight. In November 2004, before the Battle of Fallujah, the Third Battalion, First Marines, better known as the "3/1" or "Thundering Third," held a chariot race. Horses had been confiscated from suspected insurgents, and charioteers were urged to go all-out. The men of Kilo Compan — honored to be first into the city on the day of the battle — wore togas and cardboard helmets, and hoisted a shield emblazoned with a large K. As speakers blasted a heavy-metal song, "Cum On Feel the Noize," the warriors of Kilo Company carried a homemade mace, and a ball-and-chain studded with M-16 bullets. A company captain intoned a line from a scene in the movie "Gladiator," in which the Romans prepare to slaughter the barbarians: "What you do here echoes in eternity."' And this is the kilo company that ended up in Haditha at the time of those killings. Your response, Dahr?
DAHR JAMAIL: Well, if that’s correct, that what they do in Fallujah would echo in eternity, hopefully those echoes will be the voices being heard in the international criminal courts, where the people who committed the war crimes in Fallujah and, more importantly, those who gave the orders for this siege to happen, as well as declaring the entire city a "free-fire zone," will be those echoes that we all hear when justice is served. Because the entire city was declared a free-fire zone, and this type of psyching up, as described, is absolutely sick. I think that’s lunacy.
And I think that’s a big part of the reason why women, children and elderly suffered the most, and were on the receiving end of the bullets and bombs fired by the U.S. Military in Fallujah. That type of psyching up, as well as other statements made by a member of the U.S. military, that Satan lived in Fallujah, that Satan has a face and he is in Fallujah, saying this sort of thing, is clearly why the entire city was demonized, the people were made subhuman by this type of propaganda by the U.S. military, and psyching up. And this is one of the big reasons why it’s an absolute atrocity and countless war crimes were committed there.
AMY GOODMAN: Dahr Jamail, I’d like to ask you to stay on for a another question about the crackdown now in Baghdad, about the tens of thousands of troops that have spread out through the city. We’re speaking to Dahr Jamail, independent journalist. We have to break for 60 seconds.
AMY GOODMAN: As we go back to Dahr Jamail for just a question. U.S. and Iraqi forces have launched what’s being described as the biggest security crackdown in Baghdad since the invasion. Up to 75,000 troops are being deployed around the city. The troops will man increased numbers of checkpoints, launch raids and call in airstrikes. This as President Bush made a secret visit — until he got there, yesterday, to meet with the Iraqi prime minister. Your response?
DAHR JAMAIL: Well, this operation, which they’re calling "Operation Forward Together," I think couldn’t be named more aptly, as far as the propaganda effect of that, after having Bush visit there. But it’s similar to another similar operation that was launched, where a very huge number of both Iraqi and U.S. soldiers were brought in. And it’s very worrisome, the fact that they go out of their way to put the use of air strikes on the table. And it’s clear that they are going to be going into neighborhoods, most likely Sunni areas, since this was already described as the plan by a major general in the Iraq military, in the Iraq Interior Ministry, that is.
And it’s very worrisome, that now they’re going to start using these siege-type tactics, apparently, within the capital city. There’s been much worry about this for quite sometime, and now it looks like it’s a much more real possibility. And that’s very worrisome. Because I know someone, in one of the Sunni areas in Baghdad, and he’s having to regularly send his children and wife out of the house, kind of disburse them around the city, for fear of soldiers coming in and ransacking the house, or killing him, or detaining his children.
AMY GOODMAN: Dahr Jamail, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Independent journalist based in Baghdad for a time, now is back in the United States, continuing to report on what is happening in Iraq. Dahr Jamail, thank you very much for being with us.