Iraq: The Pain of Invasion

Revolutionary Worker #1195, April 20, 2003, posted at

"One of the most extraordinary military campaigns ever conducted."

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, on the U.S. invasion and conquest of Iraq

"We wanted freedom, we wanted democracy, and this is what we got. Is this what you Americans call freedom?"

Ali Rashid Handi, whose two brothers were killed when their car was hit by shells from a U.S. tank in the outskirts of Baghdad

The world may never know how many Iraqis died in the U.S. invasion of this poor and battered country. The U.S. government has every interest in hiding the real numbers of ordinary Iraqis killed by U.S./British troops and their "precision" bombs and missiles. But it's clear from what has already come out that for the people of Iraq, the war that those like Cheney call "extraordinary" has meant a nightmare of death, pain, and humiliation.

In the days of the most intense fighting in and around Baghdad, some hospitals in the city were flooded with more than a hundred patients an hour. Osama Saleh al-Duleimi, a doctor in Baghdad, has lived through two previous wars--the Iraq-Iran war and the 1991 Gulf War. He said, "I've been a doctor for 25 years, and this is the worst I've seen in terms of casualty numbers and fatal wounds."

There have been countless cases of U.S. troops firing on people in cars and trucks. U.S. officials blame these incidents on the Iraqis themselves--claiming that the victims were suspected "suicide bombers" or had ignored orders to stop. They say the troops have "no choice" but to shoot such vehicles, sometimes blasting away whole families.

On April 9, U.S. troops shot at an ambulance in Baghdad carrying three wounded men. Two of the patients were killed, and the driver and co-driver were injured. A Belgian doctor who witnessed the attack said, "The American troops just mowed down the ambulance which was transporting wounded people... When I went up to a U.S. officer to denounce such behavior, he just said, `The ambulance could contain explosives.'"

For nearly three weeks, Baghdad was under constant assault from the air--hit by hundreds of cruise missiles and thousands of bombs. Ali Ismaeel Abbas, 12 years old, is one of the many victims of U.S.- British air strikes. Most of his family, including his father and his mother who was five months pregnant, were killed when a bomb hit their house. He now lies in a Baghdad hospital--with both arms amputated and burns over large parts of his body.

In a sick turn of events, Ali has now been made into a sort of "poster child" for a charity campaign in Britain. An official of a company offering prosthetic limbs at discount to the campaign said, "We all feel a certain amount of guilt for what's going on in Iraq, even if we know that this war is necessary as a means to an end."

Ali has a different view of the U.S.-British war: "We didn't want war. I was scared of this war. Our house was just a poor shack. Why did they want to bomb us?"

Little has been reported about what has happened in areas outside of Baghdad and other cities. U.S. military planners designated parts of the countryside as "kill boxes"--grid-like zones where U.S. pilots were ordered to bomb and fire on anything that moved. But people living in or traveling through those areas had no way of knowing that they were in such "kill boxes" and therefore had become "legitimate targets" for the U.S.-British forces.

In an article on, Maria Tomchick reported: "Zambrania and the neighboring village of Talkana have lost 19 people because of U.S. fighter planes. In Manaria, a village 30 miles south of Baghdad, 22 people have died and 53 have been injured in air raids. Most of the dead and wounded are children and women. Many of the wounds look suspiciously like those caused by cluster bombs, anti- personnel weapons that release a spray of deadly shrapnel that can cut through flesh, bone and even the soft, mud-brick walls of Iraqi houses. The UN has condemned the use of cluster bombs, a key component of the U.S. arsenal, because so many more civilians are killed by cluster bombs than any other kind of ordnance except land mines. And like a land mine, a cluster bomblet can lie unexploded, waiting for a victim to brush by it or a curious child to pick it up."

The village of Hilla, south of Baghdad, was also hit by cluster bombs. Over 60 people were killed and hundreds were injured on March 31 and April 1. A Red Cross official who was at the village reported, "We saw that a truck was delivering dozens of totally dismembered dead bodies of women and children. It was an awful sight. It was really very difficult to believe this was happening. Everybody had very serious wounds and many, many of them small kids and women. We had small toddlers of two or three years of age who had lost their legs, their arms."

With the collapse of the Hussein regime, the Iraqi people face new dangers. This is a country that has already gone through a decade of punishing sanctions that have caused the death of thousands of children each month from malnutrition and disease. Now the war has caused new disruptions in food and water supplies that threaten more lives.

Denis Halliday--a former UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq who resigned in 1998 in protest of the deadly sanctions--points out: "In the south of Iraq 25 percent or more of children under five years of age are already malnourished. When you're malnourished at that age and you get unclean water, just simple diarrhea is enough to take your life. And of course, dysentery or other more serious problems, water-borne disease, is an absolute killer. So that I think is the absolute immediate crisis that several millions obviously are facing."

After wrecking Iraq through two wars and years of sanctions, the U.S. and British occupiers now pose as great "humanitarians"--forcing people to line up and compete with each other for small amounts of food, water, and medicine. Denis Halliday notes, "This is a humiliation, in my view, of the Iraqi people who are being forced to beg, in a sense, in their own country under these terrible conditions imposed upon them by the United States and Britain... To watch it I find it absolutely awful. And it must humiliate not just the Arabs in Iraq, but throughout the entire community."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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