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Saturday, November 27, 2004

'Unusual Weapons' Used in Fallujah

It is hard to maintain any sort of decorum or calm after reading the stories
below. In truth, I am spitting-fire angry over my country's increasing
similarity to history's recorded barbarism as nationhood. We are no better
than any of them: Constantine, Alexander, Attila, the Romans, the Crusades,
Napoleon, Hitler, Il Duce, Stalin, Milosevic.

We kill indiscriminately with a pliant and compliant press to undergird the
empire-building Bush Administration, and, in the process obfuscate the truth
of our wild-animal slaughter of innocents in Iraq - and, most likely,
wherever American military is engaged. Our military killers are no heroes.
They are not defending this country, they are sweeping through the helpless
civilian populations of Iraqi cities and destroying everything standing -
and lying down. It has ever been thus since March of 2003 when we used the
bludgeon of bombs to overthrow one man.

You would think the United States was under some sort of threat from the
women, the children and the aged of Fallujah, of Baghdad, of Mosul and the
rest. Any excuse these soldiers can find to mow them down, dragging doctors
from repairing the torn bodies we wreaked, and bombing hospitals and health
centers on the chance that an "insurgent" might be undergoing treatment. Abu
Ghraib was a kindergarten exercise compared to Fallujah.

And what do we get? The same cowardly reporting and commentary that marked
the news organizations' horrendous and unchallenging coverages for which
they apologized months after their incompetence and complicity led to
distorted public view and opinion about the real Iraq War. Yes, they're at
it again. - refusing to discuss civilian death tolls or the unleashing of
American rage on anyone who moves.

Below are two incredibly important stories that will never see the light of
day in the mainstream media after breaking their arms in self-congratulation
for owning up to their earlier folly. The stories are absolutely frightening
in the exposing of the American military's unfettered law-breaking and
complete disregard for international law and human life: The use of weapons
of mass destruction against noncombatant citizens of their own country.

Now, Republicans, believing that a questionable 90,000-vote margin is a
mandate for tromping and stomping on the rights of all who disagree with
their policies and storm-trooping through innocent lands, are reversing
rules and traditions dating 200 years back as maintaining some degree of
recognition that we are not a dictatorship but a democratically elected
republic. Today's New York Times editorial all but gives up on Congressional
leadership's ability to govern in that tradition.

Be afraid. Very afraid. Rejoice not in Ashcroft's departure, for someone
worse has replaced him. Note the complete elimination of internal dissent as
a check on the destructive ego-tripping of our adolescent President and his
Machiavellian Vice President to overstep the bounds of their shaky election
into unleashed exercise of raw power and control of masses weakened by
disappointment and division in the election.

Be angry. Very angry. Step into the breach to repel this disastrous overkill
of everything in their path. Resist. Resist. Resist. Think of the children -
your children. And their children. What world will we leave them? Do we care
enough to even think about this? I fear too many of us do not.

Spitting tacks at this end.
Progressives must be on the move again.

Read on: (and sorry about the length. Anger does that.)

Andy Driscoll

FOCUS | 'Unusual Weapons' Used in Fallujah

Also see below:  Falluja's Health Damage•

'Unusual Weapons' Used in Fallujah
    By Dahr Jamail
    Inter Press Service

    Friday 26 November 2004

    Baghdad - The U.S. military has used poison gas and other
non-conventional weapons against civilians in Fallujah, eyewitnesses

    "Poisonous gases have been used in Fallujah," 35-year-old trader from
Fallujah Abu Hammad told IPS. "They used everything -- tanks, artillery,
infantry, poison gas. Fallujah has been bombed to the ground."

    Hammad is from the Julan district of Fallujah where some of the
heaviest fighting occurred. Other residents of that area report the use of
illegal weapons.

    "They used these weird bombs that put up smoke like a mushroom cloud,"
Abu Sabah, another Fallujah refugee from the Julan area told IPS. "Then
small pieces fall from the air with long tails of smoke behind them."

    He said pieces of these bombs exploded into large fires that burnt the
skin even when water was thrown on the burns. Phosphorous weapons as well as
napalm are known to cause such effects. "People suffered so much from
these," he said.

    Macabre accounts of killing of civilians are emerging through the
cordon U.S. forces are still maintaining around Fallujah.

    "Doctors in Fallujah are reporting to me that there are patients in the
hospital there who were forced out by the Americans," said Mehdi Abdulla, a
33-year-old ambulance driver at a hospital in Baghdad. "Some doctors there
told me they had a major operation going, but the soldiers took the doctors
away and left the patient to die."

    Kassem Mohammed Ahmed who escaped from Fallujah a little over a week
ago told IPS he witnessed many atrocities committed by U.S. soldiers in the

    "I watched them roll over wounded people in the street with tanks," he
said. "This happened so many times."

    Abdul Razaq Ismail who escaped from Fallujah two weeks back said
soldiers had used tanks to pull bodies to the soccer stadium to be buried.
"I saw dead bodies on the ground and nobody could bury them because of the
American snipers," he said. "The Americans were dropping some of the bodies
into the Euphrates near Fallujah."

    Abu Hammad said he saw people attempt to swim across the Euphrates to
escape the siege. "The Americans shot them with rifles from the shore," he
said. "Even if some of them were holding a white flag or white clothes over
their heads to show they are not fighters, they were all shot…"

    Hammad said he had seen elderly women carrying white flags shot by U.S.
soldiers. "Even the wounded people were killed. The Americans made
announcements for people to come to one mosque if they wanted to leave
Fallujah, and even the people who went there carrying white flags were

    Another Fallujah resident Khalil (40) told IPS he saw civilians shot as
they held up makeshift white flags. "They shot women and old men in the
streets," he said. "Then they shot anyone who tried to get their bodies …
Fallujah is suffering too much, it is almost gone now."

    Refugees had moved to another kind of misery now, he said. "It's a
disaster living here at this camp," Khalil said. "We are living like dogs
and the kids do not have enough clothes."

    Spokesman for the Iraqi Red Crescent in Baghdad Abdel Hamid Salim told
IPS that none of their relief teams had been allowed into Fallujah, and that
the military had said it would be at least two more weeks before any
refugees would be allowed back into the city.

    "There is still heavy fighting in Fallujah," said Salim. "And the
Americans won't let us in so we can help people."

    In many camps around Fallujah and throughout Baghdad, refugees are
living without enough food, clothing and shelter. Relief groups estimate
there are at least 15,000 refugee families in temporary shelters outside

    Falluja's Health Damage
    By Miles Schuman
    The Nation

    Friday 26 November 2004

    While the North American news media have focused on the military
triumph of US Marines in Falluja, little attention has been paid to reports
that US armed forces killed scores of patients in an attack on a Falluja
health center and have deprived civilians of medical care, food and water.

    Although the US military has dismissed accounts of the health center
bombing as "unsubstantiated," in fact they are credible and come from
multiple sources. Dr. Sami al-Jumaili described how US warplanes bombed the
Central Health Centre in which he was working at 5:30 am on November 9. The
clinic had been treating many of the city's sick and wounded after US forces
took over the main hospital at the start of the invasion. According to Dr.
al-Jumaili, US warplanes dropped three bombs on the clinic, where
approximately sixty patients--many of whom had serious injuries from US
aerial bombings and attacks - were being treated.

    Dr. al-Jumaili reports that thirty-five patients were killed in the
airstrike, including two girls and three boys under the age of 10. In
addition, he said, fifteen medics, four nurses and five health support staff
were killed, among them health aides Sami Omar and Omar Mahmoud, nurses Ali
Amini and Omar Ahmed, and physicians Muhammad Abbas, Hamid Rabia, Saluan
al-Kubaissy and Mustafa Sheriff.

    Although the deaths of these individual health workers could not be
independently confirmed, Dr. al-Jumaili's account is echoed by Fadhil
Badrani, an Iraqi reporter for Reuters and the BBC. Reached by phone in
Falluja, Badrani estimated that forty patients and fifteen health workers
had been killed in the bombing. Dr. Eiman al-Ani of Falluja General
Hospital, who said he reached the site shortly after the attack, said that
the entire health center had collapsed on the patients.

    It was well-known that the Falluja facility was a health center
operating as a small hospital, a protected institution under international
law. According to James Ross of Human Rights Watch, "the onus would be on
the US government to demonstrate that the hospital was being used for
military purposes and that its response was proportionate. Even if there
were snipers there, it would never justify destroying a hospital."

    US airstrikes also leveled a warehouse in which medical supplies were
stored next to the health center, Dr. al-Jumaili reports. Ambulances from
the city had been confiscated by the government, he says, and the only
vehicle left was targeted by US fire, killing the driver and wounding a
paramedic. Hamid Salaman of the Falluja General Hospital told the Associated
Press that five patients in the ambulance were killed.

    US and allied Iraqi military forces stormed the Falluja General
Hospital, which is on the perimeter of the city, at the beginning of the
assault, claiming it was under insurgent control and was a center of
propaganda about civilian casualties during last April's attack on the city.
The soldiers encountered no resistance. Dr. Rafe Chiad, the hospital's
director, reached by phone, stated emphatically that it is a neutral
institution, providing humanitarian aid. According to Dr. Chiad, the US
military has prevented hospital physicians, including a team of surgeons,
anesthesiologists, internists and general practitioners, from entering
Falluja. US authorities have denied all requests to send doctors,
ambulances, medical equipment and supplies from the hospital into the city
to tend to the wounded, he said. Now the city's only health facility is a
small Iraqi military clinic, which is inaccessible to most of the city's
remaining population because of its distance from many neighborhoods and the
dangers posed by US snipers and crossfire.

    "Falluja is dying," said Dr. al-Ani. "We want to save whoever we can."
Jim Welsh, health and human rights coordinator for Amnesty International in
London, notes that under the Geneva Conventions, "medical personnel cannot
be forced to refrain from providing healthcare which they believe is their
ethical responsibility." The 173-bed Falluja General Hospital remains empty,
according to Dr. Chiad.

    The Iraqi Red Crescent Society has called the health conditions in and
around Falluja "catastrophic." One hospital staff member who recently left
the city reports that there were severe outbreaks of diarrheal infections
among the population, with children and the elderly dying from infectious
disease, starvation and dehydration in greater numbers each day. Dr.
al-Jumaili, Dr. al-Ani and journalist Badrani each stated that the wounded
and children are dying because of lack of medical attention and water. In
one case, according to Dr. al-Jumaili, three children died of dehydration
when their father was unable to find water for them. The US forces cut off
the city's water supply before launching their assault.

    "The people are dying because they are injured, have nothing to eat or
drink, almost no healthcare," said Dr. al-Ani. "The small rations of food
and water handed out by the US soldiers cannot provide for the population."
For the thousands living in makeshift camps outside the city, according to
Firdus al-Ubadi of the Red Crescent Society, hygiene and health conditions
are as precarious as in Falluja. There are no oral rehydration solutions or
salts for those who are dehydrated, she says.

    These reports demand an immediate international response, an end to
assaults on Falluja's civilian population and the free passage of medical
aid, food and water. Louise Arbour, the United Nations High Commissioner for
Human Rights, has vowed to investigate "violations of the rules of war
designed to protect civilians and combatants" in Falluja and to bring the
perpetrators to justice. The San Francisco-based Association of Humanitarian
Lawyers has petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the
Organization of American States to investigate the deaths. The bombing of
hospitalized patients, forced starvation and dehydration, denial of
medicines and health services to the sick and wounded must be recognized for
what they are: war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    Miles Schuman is a family physician and member of the medical network
of the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture.

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