Tears and Anger: Iraqi People Under Fire

Revolutionary Worker #1194, April 13, 2003, posted at rwor.org

"This war is evil. It's an unjust war. They have no right to make war against us."

Imad Hussein, whose 16-year-old nephew, Sabah Hassan, was killed in U.S.-British bombing of a Baghdad neighborhood, March 30

"Cowards! Cowards!"

Iraqi man holding the remains of his dead baby and denouncing the U.S.-British forces that bombed the town of Hilla, April 1

"Please give this message to the American people. This is an invasion. It has nothing to do with democracy."

Abu Mustafa, whose 10-year-daughter Radwaniya suffered multiple fractures during U.S.-British bombing of Baghdad, March 21

In the 1990-91 Gulf war, the U.S. government and military claimed that their "smart bombs" were so accurate that there would be few civilian casualties. This was shown to be a big lie-- U.S. bombs killed tens of thousands of ordinary Iraqis, including hundreds at a single air-raid shelter in Baghdad.

In the current U.S.-British war on Iraq, Bush, Rumsfeld and their generals have declared that new technology makes U.S. missiles and bombs even more accurate--they claim that only military and government sites have been targeted and that the danger to civilians is minimized. Once again an unjust, bloody imperialist war comes wrapped in a big lie.

From the start of the air campaign in mid-March, U.S. bombs have killed and injured many Iraqi people. And, as the ground invasion ran into some difficulties, the U.S. troops began lashing out even more blatantly and savagely against the population of this battered country. U.S. planes are dropping anti- personnel cluster bombs, which disperse hundreds of bomblets over a wide area. Many of the bomblets don't explode till later--when children and others mistakenly step on them or pick them up.

When incidents of civilian casualties surface, U.S. officials outright lie about them. For example, when explosions killed dozens of neighborhood residents in two Baghdad markets, the U.S. accused the Iraqi forces--even after clear evidence emerged that U.S. bombs were responsible (see p. 10). U.S. officials also justify civilian deaths by accusing the Iraqi military of using people as "human shields"-- even as the U.S.'s own Special Forces lurk in the urban areas to carry out assassination and sabotage and identify bombing targets.

As of the first days of April, various reports indicate that at least hundreds of non-combatant Iraqis have been killed and many thousands wounded. The International Red Cross reports that hospitals are being flooded with wounded people as the U.S. troops close in on Baghdad. It's unclear how many Iraqi soldiers have been killed in the massive bombings and intense fighting.

Even though the U.S. government and the obedient media are downplaying, lying about, or censoring information about deaths and injuries among the Iraqi people, some of the truth is coming out through various news reports. The following excerpts give some sense of the war crimes being carried out by the U.S.-British invaders.

Road of Death

London Times, March 30:[The correspondent, "embedded" with a U.S. Marine unit, describes the scene on a road near Nasiriya in southern Iraq.] Some 15 vehicles, including a minivan and a couple of trucks, blocked the road. They were riddled with bullet holes. Some had caught fire and turned into piles of black twisted metal. Others were still burning. Amid the wreckage I counted 12 dead civilians, lying in the road or in nearby ditches. All had been trying to leave this southern town overnight, probably for fear of being killed by U.S. helicopter attacks and heavy artillery. Their mistake had been to flee over a bridge that is crucial to the coalition's supply lines and to run into a group of shell-shocked young American marines with orders to shoot anything that moved.

One man's body was still in flames. It gave out a hissing sound.... Down the road, a little girl, no older than five and dressed in a pretty orange and gold dress, lay dead in a ditch next to the body of a man who may have been her father. Half his head was missing. Nearby, in a battered old Volga, peppered with ammunition holes, an Iraqi woman--perhaps the girl's mother--was dead, slumped in the back seat....

This was not the only family who had taken what they thought was a last chance for safety. A father, baby girl and boy lay in a shallow grave. On the bridge itself a dead Iraqi civilian lay next to the carcass of a donkey....

"The Iraqis are sick people and we are the chemotherapy," said Corporal Ryan Dupre. "I am starting to hate this country. Wait till I get hold of a friggin' Iraqi. No, I won't get hold of one. I'll just kill him...." They had expected a welcome, or at least a swift surrender. Instead they had found themselves lured into a bloody battle, culminating in the worst coalition losses of the war.... It was also the turning point when the jovial band of brothers from America lost all their assumptions about the war and became jittery aggressors who talked of wanting to "nuke" the place.

Massacre at Hilla

Robert Fisk in Independent, UK, April 2: At least 11 civilians, nine of them children, were killed in Hilla in central Iraq yesterday, according to reporters in the town who said they appeared to be the victims of bombing. Reporters from the Reuters news agency said they counted the bodies of 11 civilians and two Iraqi fighters in the Babylon suburb, 50 miles south of Baghdad. Nine of the dead were children, one a baby. Hospital workers said as many as 33 civilians were killed.

Terrifying film of women and children later emerged after Reuters and the Associated Press were permitted by the Iraqi authorities to take their cameras into the town. Their pictures--the first by Western news agencies from the Iraqi side of the battlefront--showed babies cut in half and children with amputation wounds, apparently caused by American shellfire and cluster bombs.... Most of the wounded said they were hit by American munitions, and one man described how an American vehicle fired a shell into his family home. "I could see an American flag,'' he says.

Hospitals Bombed

Associated Press, March 30: Bruised and bleeding, in need of medical care, the Americans [peace activists from the U.S.] stranded in Iraq's western desert approached the mud-brick town and found the hospital destroyed by bombs. "Why? Why?" a doctor demanded of them. "Why did you Americans bomb our children's hospital?" Scores of Iraqi townspeople crowded around. The American peace activists' account was the first confirmation of a report last week that a hospital in Rutbah was bombed Wednesday, with dead and injured. The travelers said they saw no significant Iraqi military presence near the hospital or elsewhere in Rutbah. The doctor did not discuss casualties, the Americans said. Activists also report seeing over a dozen civilian vehicles bombed in Western Iraq on the road to Jordan.

Guardian, UK, April 2: U.S. aircraft hit a Red Crescent maternity hospital in Baghdad, the city's trade fair, and other civilian buildings today, killing several people and wounding at least 25, hospital sources and a Reuters witness said. The attacks occurred at 9.30 a.m. and caught motorists by surprise as they ventured out during a lull in the bombing. At least five cars were crushed and their drivers burned to death inside... Patients and at least three doctors and nurses working at the hospital were among those wounded.

Killings at Checkpoints

Guardian, UK, April 1:Soldiers from the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division shot dead seven women and children. The incident occurred on Route 9, near Najaf, when a car carrying 13 women and children approached a checkpoint.

Washington Post, April 1: An unidentified four-wheel-drive vehicle came barreling toward an intersection [near Karbala] held by troops of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division.... Fifteen Iraqi civilians were packed inside the Toyota, officers said, along with as many of their possessions as the jammed vehicle could hold. Ten of them, including five children who appeared to be under 5 years old, were killed on the spot when the high-explosive rounds slammed into their target, Johnson's company reported.

Globe and Mail, UK, April 2: U.S. Marines today shot dead an unarmed Iraqi at a checkpoint hours after seven women and children were killed by American troops who fired at a van which failed to stop in southern Iraq. The man's pickup truck was riddled with bullets after it sped towards an Allied roadblock on the main highway outside the southern town of Shatra today.

Villages Under Attack

Agence France-Presse, March 31: Twenty people, including 11 children, were killed when a nighttime missile attack struck a farm near Baghdad, relatives said on Monday. Another 10 people were wounded, according to relatives who survived the Saturday night assault, which destroyed three homes in the Al-Janabiin suburb on the southeastern edge of Baghdad. They said the dead also included seven women and two men belonging to five families... AFP journalists have witnessed five such incidents in which civilians were the primary victims of a coalition strike, reporting at least 70 dead and dozens of wounded.

South African Press Association, March 31: Bloodied school books and children's shoes lie amidst animal carcasses on the road leading to the Ismails' farm in this village [Janabiyah] on the southeastern edge of Baghdad. The main building of this hamlet, accessible via a checkpoint manned by militiamen, has been levelled, the second burned out and the third partially destroyed. A neighbor told an AFP journalist that two missiles fired by coalition warplanes on Saturday night caught five sleeping families living on the farm. The raid left 20 people dead --11 of them children, seven women and two men.

Independent, UK, April 4: Samar Hussein was in the kitchen helping her aunt Alia Mijbas to make breakfast when the missile landed. The farmhouse where they lived, like most of the homes in the area, is built of a soft, brown stone, and the explosion was close enough for shrapnel to cut through the house's outer walls like butter and slice into Samar's stomach. Alia was struck on both legs by razor-sharp fragments, while her five-year-old son Mahmood, who was drinking a glass of milk, was hit on the chest and shoulders. The blast knocked over the cooker, which burst into flames, severely burning one of Mahmood's brothers, 11-year-old Sahal. All were rushed to hospital, but Samar died before they got there. She was 13 years old. The victims of this particular explosion were in Manaria, a village in Mohammedia district, about 30 miles south of Baghdad. Since the war began, this mostly rural area of dusty brown fields and quiet villages has seen 53 inhabitants injured and 22 killed.

Sharpshooters"Drop" Civilians

New York Times , March 29: Marine sharpshooter Eric Schrumpf recalled one incident where an Iraqi soldier was standing near a woman. "I'm sorry, but the chick was in the way," he said. "We dropped a few civilians, but what do you do?"

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