[Homestead] Independent Reporter tells of the real Iraq

Melody O. melody at crecon.com
Thu Feb 10 01:13:16 EST 2005

News From Inside Iraq

Weary of the overall failure of the US media to accurately report on the
realities of the war in Iraq for the Iraqi people and US soldiers, Dahr
Jamail went to Iraq to report on the war himself.

January 14, 2005
Collective Punishment
It’s not a new tactic here in Iraq. The US military has been doing it for
well over a year now. Last January 3rd, in the Al-Dora rural region on the
outskirts of Baghdad, where beautiful farms of date palms and orange trees
line the banks of the Tigris, I visited a farm where occupation forces had
lobbed several mortars.

The military claimed they had been attacked by fighters in the area, while
the locals denied any knowledge of harboring resistance fighters.

Standing in a field full of unexploded mortar rounds a farmer explained,
“We don’t know why they bomb our house and our fields. We have never
resisted the Americans. There are foreign fighters who have passed through
here, and I think this is who they want. But why are they bombing us?”

At that time U.S. Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt told reporters that
Operation Iron Grip in this area sends “a very clear message to anybody who
thinks that they can run around Baghdad without worrying about the
consequences of firing RPG’s, firing mortars. There is a capability in the
air that can quickly respond against anybody who would want to harm Iraqi
citizens or coalition forces." 

I counted 9 small tails of the mortar rounds sticking into the air in this
small section of the field.

I asked if the family had requested that the Americans come remove the
unexploded ordnance.

Mr. Shakr, with a very troubled look told me, “We asked them the first time
and they said ‘OK, we’ll come take care of it.’ But they never came. We
asked them the second time and they told us they would not remove them
until we gave them a resistance fighter. They told us, ‘If you won’t give
us a resistance fighter, we are not coming to remove the bombs.’”

He holds his hands in the air and said, “But we don’t know any resistance

Also last winter I also reported on home demolitions in Samarra by the
military. The consistent pattern then was that anytime an attack occurred
against occupation forces, nearby homes/buildings/fields were then raided
or destroyed by the military, along with complimentary electricity cuts for
the villages and/or cities.

That pattern appears to remain the same, as I found today in another visit
to the al-Dora region of Baghdad.

Seven weeks ago, after having suffered many attacks by the Iraqi resistance
in the area, the military began plowing date palm orchards, blasted a gas
station with a tank, cut the electricity which is still down, and blocking
roads in the rural farming area.

As we drove deep into the rural farming area along a thin, winding road
which parallels the Tigris River, a wolf trots across the road. Rounding a
bend I saw a large swath of date palms which had been bulldozed to the
ground. Large piles of them had been pushed together, doused with fuel, and

“The Americans were attacked from this field, then they returned and
started plowing down all the trees,” explains Kareem, a local mechanic,
“None of us knows any fighters and we all know they are coming here from
other areas to attack the Americans, but we are the people who suffer from

Across the way are other piles of scorched date palms.

Mohammed, a 15 year-old secondary school student stands near his home
explaining what he saw. “There is a grave of an old woman they bulldozed,”
and then he points to the nearby road, “They destroyed our fences, and now
there are wolves attacking our animals, they destroyed much of our farming
equipment, and the worst is they cut our electricity.”

“They come by here every night and fire their weapons to frighten us,” he
explains while pointing out an MRE on the ground, left from some soldiers
who used the bulldozers.

“But we need electricity to run our pumps to irrigate our farms,” added
Mohammed, “And now we are carrying water in buckets from the river instead
and this is very difficult for us. They say they are going to make things
better for us, but they are worse. Saddam was better than this, even though
he executed three of my relatives.”

His mother, Um Raed, cannot stop talking about the electricity. 

“If there are bombs why do they attack our homes,” she pleads, “Why don’t
they follow the people who attack them? Why do they come to our family? All
we need now is electricity so we can run our water pumps. I don’t need my
house, but we need water. This is our planting season.”

Ihsan, a 17 year-old student, joins the conversation near the bulldozed
orchard. “I was beaten by the Americans,” he explains, “They asked me who
attacked them and I do not know. My home was raided, our furniture
destroyed, and one of my uncles was arrested.”

Um Raed is asking him to talk about the electricity some more, but then
adds, “Yesterday at 5:30pm they came here and fired their weapons for 15
minutes randomly before they left.”

I glance at the ground and see the casing of a 50 caliber bullet while she
is speaking, “Nobody attacked them. Why are they doing this? We told them
to come and search but they didn’t. They just shot their guns and left.”

She holds her arms in the air and pleads, “Please, please, we must have
electricity. They destroyed two of our pumps and threw them in the river!”

A 20 year-old farmer sees us talking and walks up to us. “For almost the
last 2 months, since they plowed these fields, we have had no electricity.
“How can I irrigate my fields without pumps,” asks Khalid, “With no
electricity there is no water. They come here every evening and fire their
weapons, and now my house has no glass in the windows.”

I glance over at Um Raed’s home, which has bullet pock marks in the wall.

“Every night they come on their patrols and shoot everywhere,” added Khalid.

A 55 year-old blind farmer approaches us with his cane. He listens to the
conversation then shares his experiences. “The problem now is no gas for
our machines, then they shot our gas station with a tank,” he says while
his eyes look over my shoulder, “These trees are hundreds of years old and
they cut them. Why?”

“They destroyed so many of our fences,” he adds, “And now we have wolves
attacking our animals. We are living on the food ration now, that is all.
We only need to stop this hurting.”

While others listening are nodding, he continues on, “Every night I hear
them come and shoot. During the beginning, when they searched our houses
they didn’t steal. Now they steal from us. They didn’t hurt us at the
beginning, but now they are hurting us so much!”

We walk a little ways down the road and Ahmed, a 38 year-old farmer talks
with us. He’d been detained during a home raid on August 13th, 2003. 

“I don’t know why I was arrested,” he explained of his journey through the
military detention system for 10 months, which found him experiencing
treatment like having mock executions, being bound and having his head
covered for days on end, and being held at a camp near Basra in the
scorching summer temperatures.

“At that camp they hung a sign where we stated that said, The Zoo,” he
explained. He claims that his home and fields were searched and no weapons
were found. His ten month detention included witnessing sexual humiliation
of prisoners, and regular beatings.

“I watched black American soldiers put naked Iraqi women in a cell and then
enter the cell,” he explains, “I heard the screams as they soldiers raped
the women.”

Sheikh Hamed, a well dressed middle aged man approaches and suggests we
move off the road in case a patrol comes through and begins shooting again.

After moving off the road he says, “These are our grandfathers’ orchards.
Neither the British nor Saddam behaved like this. This is our history. When
they cut a tree it is like they are killing one of our family.”

He says three of his cousins were executed by Saddam Hussein’s regime
before adding, “We don’t want this freedom of the Americans. They are
raiding our homes and terrorizing us at anytime. We are living in terror.
They shoot and bomb here everyday. We have sent our families to live

We are told the road is blocked, so we drive a little further along the
Tigris to see four large concrete blocks rising out of a deep hole blasted
in the road.

One of the men with us tells us that at the same time the date palm
orchards were destroyed the road was blocked by first the military blasting
it, then placing smaller concrete barriers.

People grew weary of walking to their homes from the roadblock, so farm
tractors were used to pull the blocks and reopen the road. Yesterday the
military brought larger barriers and the road is sealed yet again.

An 80 year old man carrying several bags of food gingerly makes his way
through the barrier then shuffles on down the road towards his home.

Hamoud Abid, a 50 year-old cheery farmer meets us just past the roadblock
and I ask him what the soldiers told him about the roadblock. 

“They humiliate us when we talk to them,” he says, “They would not tell us
when they will remove these blocks, so we are all walking now.”

He says the soldiers used to come ask him to search his fields and he would
allow it, and give them oranges while they searched. “They searched them 10
times and never found anything, of course,” he explains, “But they came
last time more recently and caused destruction to my wall. They were
starting to knock over my trees when a tread fell off their bulldozer, so
they left.”

But just before leaving, they destroyed his front gate and left a block of
concrete as a calling card.

We begin to leave and Hamoud, despite this horrendous situation cheerily
says, “You should stay. I will grill fish, and you can stay the night in my

We decline and he insists we at least stay for lunch or chai, but we must
be going. 

As we drive back out the small, winding road two patrols of three Humvees
each rumble past us headed towards where we’d just come from. Just after
that two helicopters rumble low overhead towards the same area.

I just phoned the military press office in Baghdad and asked them if they
can provide me information on why they are blocking roads, firing weapons,
plowing down date palm groves, and cutting electricity in the Al-Arab
Jubour Village in Al-Dora, as several of the residents there claim.

The spokesman, who won’t give me his name, said he knew nothing about such
things, but that there were ongoing security operations in the Al-Dora area. 

Posted by Dahr_Jamail at January 14, 2005 07:19 PM

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