The U.S. siege of Fallujah continues and reports are emerging of a massacre of Iraqi civilians at the hands of U.S. troops. We go to Iraq to get a report from Free Speech Radio News’ Aaron Glantz who interviews Iraqis fleeing Fallujah as well as a producer with Al-Jazeera television who says he and fellow journalists were targeted by U.S. snipers in the town. [Includes rush transcript]
The town of Fallujah is under siege and there are reports of a massacre of Iraqis at the hands U.S. troops. The death toll in the town has now topped 600 with over 1,000 injured.
Local hospitals reported the majority of the dead were women, children and the elderly. The U.S. maintains 95 percent of those killed were members of the resistance. This according to the Guardian of London.
More than 60,000 women and children fled the city during a brief ceasefire on Friday but the US blocked any men of military age from leaving. Dozens of bodies have been buried in the city’s soccer stadium after US forces blocked roads heading toward the cemetery.
The attack on Fallujah has galvanized major portions of the Iraqi population against the U.S. Middle East analyst and University of Michigan professor Juan Cole writes "There is a danger that the vindictive attitude of the Americans ... will push the whole country to hate them. A hated occupier is powerless even with all the firepower in the world."
We go now to Iraq for a report on Fallujah. Early this morning we received this report from Aaron Glantz of Free Speech Radio News.
- Aaron Glantz, Free Speech Radio News correspondent in Baghdad.
AMY GOODMAN: The northern Iraqi town of Fallujah is under siege. There are reports of a massacre at the hands of U.S. troops. The death toll in the town has now topped 600 with over 1,000 injured. Local hospitals report the majority of the dead are the women, children, and the elderly. The U.S. maintains 95% of those killed are member of the resistance. we go directly to Iraq with free speech radio news Aaron Glantz. Welcome, Aaron.
AARON GLANTZ: Thank you for having me.
AMY GOODMAN: We are about to go to a piece that you have just filed with us. Can you set it up for us and tell us the latest news right now?
AARON GLANTZ: Well, the best that I can ascertain is that everywhere I look on the mainstream media, they’re talking about a cease-fire, a calm settled over Fallujah, and while I haven’t been in Fallujah today, I have been talking to people who have fled Fallujah and who have been to Fallujah during this so-called cease-fire. They report whenever they go out of their homes, they’re at risk of being hit by snipers, U.S. marines on bridges and on top of buildings, and of course, the Americans are fighting a guerrilla war against an increasingly violent resistance among the regular people of Fallujah. So, for the marines, every single member of the population of Fallujah is a potential enemy because almost the entire population is against the Americans. Those who are not against it, a week ago, have now changed their minds, because they have had their daughters and their sons and their mothers and their children just shot and killed or maimed in some way. So, we’re going to be able to go to the Fallujah through the voices of some of those who fled as well as the voices of one journalist, who risked her life in order to get us materials to broadcast today.
AMY GOODMAN: Aaron Glanzt talking to us from Baghdad as we go to his report on Fallujah.
AARON GLANTZ: The story of Yousef Bakri Amash is the story of Fallujah. The 11-year-old boy just escaped from Fallujah with his family, but not before the U.S. military killed his best friend.
YOUSEF BAKRI AMASH: Ahmed was in my class. He was younger than me. He was standing next to the wall of the secondary school. He was trying to cross the road and he was hit by a bullet. The American troops fired the bullet.
AARON GLANTZ: The 11-year-old Yousef Bakri Amash takes issue with claims from George Bush, the American army is fighting, quote, a small band of thugs.
YOUSEF BAKRI AMASH: America is the enemy of the children. Americans shoot us on the street. They even bombed our school. We are innocent kids. We can’t play on the streets because of the Americans.
AARON GLANTZ: Over the weekend, with more then 600 of Fallujah’s residents dead and thousands injured, U.S. administrator, Paul Bremer, declared a unilateral cease-fire in Fallujah, and said the Americans wanted to give women and children of Fallujah a chance to flee the city. But U.S. military snipers remain on rooftops and bridges, and the marines theater commander declared his troops retained their right to defend themselves. The result seems like this one.
[tape] This footage was taken by independent filmmaker, Julia Guest, one of the few western journalists, who have gained access to Fallujah since the siege began. She accompanied a team bringing medical supplies into Fallujah this Saturday during the cease-fire. The picture accompanying these sounds is of an old woman in a hospital bed, a U.S. marines sniper bullet in her neck. Clinic director Mekki Al Azar:
AL AZAR: They say there is a cease-fire and they said 12:00. People went out to do some shopping, and everybody who went out was shot, and this place was full and half of them were dead. I don’t know why. Please, you do your best to ask them why.
AARON GLANTZ: Julia Guest describes one of those shot during the cease-fire.
JULIA GUEST: When I arrived, I found a woman who I think was in her 70’s who had decided to try to help her sons get out of the city. They decided to leave the family group, and so she just had taken the decision to walk of the front door waving a white flag, because they knew they were in a heavily — there was a lot of shooting in their area. And she was shot in the stomach and the foot. So, I found her in the hospital with one of her sons in quite a state and she was evacuated in a small van that volunteered to come out from Baghdad and picked her up and took her back to Baghdad.
AARON GLANTZ: What day was she shot?
JULIA GUEST: She was shot the 10th, which was during the cease-fire.
AARON GLANTZ: Filmmaker, Julia Guest, says the clinic’s ambulance was shot twice by American snipers, also during the cease-fire. The second time the ambulance was shot, it was carrying American and British citizens who had negotiated an agreement with the marines to rescue the injured from an area with heavy U.S. sniper fire.
JULIA GUEST: Now, it has blue sirens. It was donated from the Kingdom of Spain. It was clearly an ambulance. It’s carrying oxygen bottles. The damage to the ambulance was such that two of the wheels were off of it now. They were left without an ambulance after that. There are bullet holes in the side of the ambulance from the second shooting, and other bits and pieces you see small bullet holes all over the place. [tape end]
AARON GLANTZ: Today there are no television cameras in Fallujah broadcasting breaking news to the outside. The crew of the Arab satellite show Al-Jazeera, which had broadcast images of dead women and children and the use of American cluster bombs was evacuated from the city over the weekend.
SAMIR KHADER: The response — the American response to Al-Jazeera coverage is simple, they don’t want any witness. They want to do their job behind the scenes, without the world knowing what’s going on.
AARON GLANTZ: Al-Jazeera senior producer, Samir Khader. I spoke with him in Baghdad.
SAMIR KHADER: The response — the American response to Al-Jazeera coverage is simple, they don’t want any witness. They want to do their job behind the scenes, without the world knowing what’s going on. They wanted to take over Fallujah the American way, harshly, militarily, using all of the forces at their disposal, and that’s it.
AARON GLANTZ: So, what have they done to try to keep people from knowing? At least through your channels?
SAMIR KHADER: First of all, they were surprised to discover that we are present in Fallujah. And for us it was by chance, because one of our reporters, one of our crews was in Fallujah several days before the start of the attack just to interview some people there. And they interviewed them about the incident of killing the Americans in the streets of Fallujah. And by chance, the Americans first of all, they asked us if we want to send a reporter to be embedded with the American forces that will try to attack Fallujah, and we said, no, thank you. And they went on Fallujah and by chance our crew was there, and he was — the crew was unable to get out of the city, and the Americans were surprised to find us there.
AARON GLANTZ: The images that Al-Jazeera has been broadcasting from Fallujah have been extremely graphic. Can you describe some of them for people who are in America and have not seen any of them?
SAMIR KHADER: Anybody who served in the army knows what the job of an army. It is to wage war. The images that we received from our crew in Fallujah live on Al-Jazeera were the images of a true war, a war between two armies, but the problem here is that there were no armies, only the American army, and no Iraqi army to fight. Only civilians, civilians and some insurgents. A limited number of insurgents. And what the Americans contend is that this is a tiny minority in Fallujah, fighting the Americans, but what we have seen and heard of these pictures is that the whole population of Fallujah was against the Americans. Therefore, what we have seen F-16’s, Blackhawk helicopters pounding the city indiscriminately, killing a huge number of children and women. The latest information that we got from the city is that the last amount of insurgents is very low, very, very low, which means that the Americans targeted the city, as I said, indiscriminately pounding the civilian areas and killing children and women, and this is no war.
AARON GLANTZ: You are saying that the bodies that we see, maybe 500 dead, something about that and thousands of injured — how you can know that they’re not the insurgents, because, of course, there’s a guerrilla war that’s happening? How do you differentiate that?
SAMIR KHADER: I’m not saying — the Americans are saying. The Americans indirectly are saying that these killed people are civilians. You know how? Because they say this is a small bunch of insurgents, a tiny minority. If you have 500 bodies on the streets, if all of these bodies were bodies of insurgents, that means that the whole city is against the Americans and are insurgents. The whole city. The Americans say this is a tiny minority, it’s 500 corpses a tiny minority if all of them are insurgents.
AARON GLANTZ: You had to evacuate your crew from Fallujah, is that right?
SAMIR KHADER: We have evacuated the main crew, yes. But we left behind three of the crew who are natives of Fallujah. They don’t want to leave because their families are there. So we left them with a camera and satellite phone and they are still reporting from there. We ask them to retreat and they said, no, sorry. This is our city, our people, our families.
AARON GLANTZ: The people of Fallujah have fought hard an the American invasion of Fallujah is causing a violent backlash. Gunfire and ambulance rushes to the scene as an American tank burns on the main road to Fallujah. Every day more Iraqis take up arms against the occupation, disgusted at mounting civilian casualties in Fallujah and the south of Iraq where the U.S. military is fighting the Mehti army of Muqtada Al Sadr. Ibrahim Hassen is 40 years old. He fled the city with his wife and three children on Friday. A American bomb had destroyed his neighbor’s house and killed three people inside. But the final straw as when he was shot by snipers during the cease-fire as he went to get food aid from a neighborhood mosque.
IBRAHIM HASSEN: I went to the market to bring food for the kids because we were running out of food. They announced in the mosques there is some food, so we should come and get it. When I went out to the mosque to bring food for the people who didn’t have it, it was between 8:00 and 9:00 in the morning. The Americans told us we could go out from 6:00 in the morning until 6:00 in the afternoon but is was a big lie. At any time, they’re ready to shoot. The bridge was at my back. It was about 300 yards from the bridge. I felt the gunshot above my head. I was a civilian man. There were a lot of children around, including my children. When I entered the road, they shod us with explosive dumb-dumb bullets. I was wounded below my collar bone and in my head and then my stomach.
AARON GLANTZ: Now for the first time, Ibrahim Hassen says he’s going to pick up a gun and fight the Americans.
AMY GOODMAN: Aaron Glantz reporting from Iraq. Aaron Glantz, of Free Speech Radio News.