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Sunday, April 03, 2005


Iraq 2005: According to Dahr Jamail, It is a Hellhole

Last week, Dahr Jamail came up here to speak about the Iraq war and the situation in Iraq. This visit was part of his speaking tour of the western US and took place over Thursday and Friday of last week.

He spoke at the Carlson Center, in the same side room where UAF holds the reception for the graduating class every year (the graduation ceremony itself is held in the main auditorium of the Carlson Center).

The room seats around 450-500 people and was roughly half-full. There were two slide projectors hooked up to his computer, one on each side of the room so people on either side could see clearly. Dahr stood in front of a podium on a dais at the head of the room, right between the screens for the projectors.

The first thing he talked about was the general situation in Iraq. It sucks, to put it quite simply. There is rampant unemployment, daily car bombings, the infrastructure is collapsing, and the Iraqi population is growing more and more angry by the day.

He addressed the pathetic situation of the Iraqi health system. It, like most of the infrastructure of Iraqi society, is falling apart as well as the roads, bridges, electrical system, and all the rest. Trained specialists are leaving in droves because they are becoming targets themselves of gangs of Iraqi kidnappers. Kidnapping has become the crime of choice in Iraq (with nearly 70 percent unemployment, people have to do what they have to do to survive, I guess) and people like those doctors and other specialists are increasingly becoming the targets of those kidnappings.

As they leave, the people left behind in the hospitals have to deal with a greater and greater patient load with fewer and fewer resources available to them. Things like hypodermic syringes, gloves, bandages, medicines; just little things like that.

Because the water situation is so bad (water purification plants having been bombed, water lines destroyed, etc.) the Iraqi population is increasingly unable to obtain potable water. The water they do get is teeming with various diseases and toxins. So, they drink bad water, get dysentery, cholera, typhoid, diahrrea, or whatever, and then have to run the gauntlet of the "modern" Iraqi health system, with predictable results.

And their relatives get angry at the few doctors left and more often than not, take that anger out on the doctors and nurses at the hospitals and clinics, including beating them up and/or killing them in some cases.

Then he talked about the shitty situation in Fallujah. The US military has essentially cordoned Fallujah off from the outside world and in essence, made it into an outdoor prison. Something like 65 percent of the buildings in Fallujah have been destroyed. Those who want to go back there first have to get an ID card from the US military. Then they have to try and piece together the shattered remnants of their lives, under the ever-watchful gaze of the US military, while they pitch tents at the sites of their former homes.

Fallujah was never a hotbed of pro-Saddam activitiy, quite the opposite. So much so that during the invasion two years ago, there was no fighting there. Initially, they welcomed us as liberators from the tyrannical Hussein regime.

We very quickly wore out our welcome there. Resistance to our occupation began to occur there, first sporadic, then growing. Instead of trying to deal with it judiciously and humanely, our military fanned the flames by cracking down. Then the contractors got killed there last year and our GOP-owned media made it out that the entire city of Fallujah was complicit in that attack.

So, we cracked down and started bombing the city into rubble. The first time was in April/May of last year, and then in November of last year. Dahr was able to get a picture of what's going on inside the city by making contact with people in the city who have managed to slip in and out of the cordon around it. Western journalists are no longer allowed in the city at all, so he can't get in. He can only rely on information from his contacts there.

Suffice it to say, what has happened to that city is a war crime. Period.

He had a number of very graphic slides and pictures taken in the streets of Fallujah and in the main morgues in Bagdhad and Fallujah. Those pictures are horrific, to say the least.

The bottom line is this: what has happened to Iraq was deliberate, calculated, and is a war crime by any definition of the term.

We're responsible for this because we didn't stop it. Our tax dollars are going to pay for this. We're paying for this, in ways we can't even begin to imagine and will do so for years and years.

We had an open house at the peace center downtown. It was a potluck affair, and there were about twenty or thirty of us all told. Dahr spoke a little bit there about his plans for the next few months and was quite gratified at the turnout and enthusiasm Fairbanks showed for him on Thursday.

I had a chanced to talk to him for a little bit. I asked him about the report he'd posted on his weblog a few months ago about the alleged war crime committed by US troops. I told if that doctor has evidence of that, then that evidence needs to come out because that is a war crime. Period. He agreed and had written to the doctor asking him to present any and all video evidence or testimony about that incident. He has not heard back from that doctor. Yet.

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