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2014-03-04

Humanitarian Crisis Intensifies in Fallujah as Iraqi Gov’t Accused of Killing Over 100 Civilians

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A new report by Truthout has revealed doctors, residents and non-governmental organization workers in the city of Fallujah are accusing the Iraqi government of war crimes and crimes against humanity in its ongoing attack against the city. According to one account, at least 109 civilians have been killed and 632 wounded since January when Iraqi government forces began shelling Fallujah in its fight against militants. For more on this developing story, we are joined by Dahr Jamail, a staff reporter at Truthout.

Transcript

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

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Iraq. A new report by Truthout has revealed doctors, residents and NGO workers in the city of Fallujah are accusing the Iraqi government of war crimes and crimes against humanity in its ongoing attack against the city. According to one account, at least 109 civilians have been killed and 632 wounded since January, when Iraqi government forces began shelling Fallujah in its fight against militants.

For more on this, we’re joined by Dahr Jamail, staff reporter at Truthout. He’s joining us from Doha, Qatar.

Dahr, tell us what you found.

DAHR JAMAIL: By phoning in to several doctors in Fallujah—well, one of them, in fact, who is—had to flee because her home was being shelled, so she had to take her family and leave—but after speaking with all three of them, I found, you know, the really shocking numbers that you just discussed as far as the total numbers of dead and wounded. But in addition to that, they’re all claiming, from different parts of the city, that it’s really indiscriminate firing, that the military, the Iraqi military, that they all are referring to as Maliki—as in Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki’s military—that Maliki’s army has been shelling the city indiscriminately, that they aren’t—they aren’t seeing any official targets or anything military for them to target, that the main hospital, Fallujah General Hospital, has been shelled, that we have a situation where apparently several mosques have been shelled, and unknown numbers of civilian homes have also been shelled. And in addition to the numbers that you just spoke of, we—according to Dr. Ahmed Shami, the head of—the chief of resident doctors at Fallujah General Hospital, there’s been at least 10 children killed, 40 wounded, and in addition to that, five women killed and at least 35 wounded. And those statistics are now a few days out of date, and the shelling has continued since I wrote this report.

AMY GOODMAN: So, take us back to 2004 in Fallujah, 10 years ago, and talk about what has happened in this city for the past decade.

DAHR JAMAIL: What’s happening now is very disturbing because there are so many parallels between what happened in 2004. Remember, I was in—by the time we got to the end of 2003 in the U.S. occupation, Fallujah was essentially a no-go zone for the U.S. military. I managed to go in there a couple of times in December of 2003, and then again a little bit later than that, and found that people there were very much opposed to U.S. military occupation. The detentions that were going on, the stories were already coming out of Abu Ghraib, so there was a lot of tension in the city and a lot of fierce resistance against the military. So, by the time it got to the point that the four Blackwater mercenaries were killed in—I believe it was on April 4, 2004, that was a situation that the Bush administration used to essentially say, "OK, we’re going to take advantage of this and go full-on into the city."

So, on April 8, the first siege was launched. That was a siege that I reported to you from inside the city, from a small clinic where the same thing was happening then—indiscriminate bombings, ambulances being targeted. Medical supplies weren’t being allowed into the city. That’s happening now, as well, no medical supplies being allowed in. Women being killed, children. I was seeing a lot of this with my own eyes. And then—and then that siege went on for about a month before the military realized they could not take the city, so basically a détente was reached, and we had about six months, between May—May 4th, I believe it was—until November 8, when, again, the military just was softening up the city—artillery strikes, air strikes. Funeral parties—funeral processions were being hit. Wedding parties were being hit. And then on November 8, just after the presidential election in the United States, carte blanche was given: Invade the city; do whatever you need to do. So a full-scale invasion was launched—again, to so-called root out terrorists.

At that time, they were claiming the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was in the city, despite the fact that there’s to date never been any evidence delivered that showed his presence in the city at any time. But again, that was the pretense used, just like now the pretense being used that, well, the city is controlled by terrorists, people belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. And while there is a small presence of those members within the city, all the reports I’ve been getting, including from the doctors themselves, say it’s the tribes, the local tribes, who are in charge of the city. They’re just trying to keep the military out, because the military has been accused, for over a year now—and I reported on this in March when I was in Iraq—that the Maliki army is being accused of detentions, widespread torture and even rape in the prisons.

AMY GOODMAN: Is the U.S. involved in any way anymore in Iraq?

DAHR JAMAIL: Well, to date, according to the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. has sold over $20 billion worth of arms into Iraq. And when this situation in Fallujah arose, if you remember—I believe it was even reported on Democracy Now!—that the Obama administration was rushing armaments and missiles into the Iraqi military to be used in this situation directly.

AMY GOODMAN: What are the people of Fallujah calling for, finally, Dahr?

DAHR JAMAIL: They’re saying they just want peace. They just want the military to leave them alone. They can handle the small amount of the members of the ISIS that are in the city—again, very similar parallels to what I saw in 2004. They want the military to stop the indiscriminate shelling, and they’re calling on the U.N. to investigate, and then, of course, to get—allow medical supplies and other relief supplies back into the city, as well as to allow all the hundreds of thousands of refugees back home.

AMY GOODMAN: Just a news report right now: Armed men wearing military uniforms seized the City Council headquarters in Samarra and briefly took employees hostage.

DAHR JAMAIL: We have unrest all around Anbar province because of unmet demands from people in the tribes and religious leaders across the province to Maliki’s government. So, are we going to keep seeing this kind of thing, armed resistance against the military? Until some of these demands of stop the home raids, stop the illegal detentions, stop the torturings—until some of these demands are met, this is going to be ongoing.

AMY GOODMAN: Dahr Jamail, I want to thank you very much for being with us, staff reporter at Truthout, speaking to us from Doha, Qatar. And that does it for our broadcast. We’ll link to his report.

We’ll be on the road next week, on March 11th at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. On March 13th, we’ll be at Flagstaff at Northern Arizona University at Cline Library at 7:00 p.m. Friday, March 14th, in Santa Fe at the Lensic. And on Saturday, March 15th, in Denver, Colorado. Then to St. Louis on March 29th. Check our website at democracynow.org.

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