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How the US murdered a City

Dr Salam Ismael | 17.02.2005 23:22 | Globalisation | Repression | London

These are war crimes for which the Bush adminastration should all swing at the end of a rope, and I pray to God they all do soon!

How The U.S. Murdered a City

Fallujah: The Truth at Last

Doctor Salam Ismael took aid to Fallujah last month. This is a report of his visit.

02/17/05 - - IT WAS the smell that first hit me, a smell that is difficult to describe, and one that will never leave me. It was the smell of death. Hundreds of corpses were decomposing in the houses, gardens and streets of Fallujah. Bodies were rotting where they had fallen-bodies of men, women and children, many half-eaten by wild dogs.

A wave of hate had wiped out two-thirds of the town, destroying houses and mosques, schools and clinics. This was the terrible and frightening power of the US military assault.

The accounts I heard over the next few days will live with me forever. You may think you know what happened in Fallujah. But the truth is worse than you could possibly have imagined.

In Saqlawiya, one of the makeshift refugee camps that surround Fallujah, we found a 17 year old woman. "I am Hudda Fawzi Salam Issawi from the Jolan district of Fallujah," she told me. "Five of us, including a 55 year old neighbour, were trapped together in our house in Fallujah when the siege began.

"On 9 November American marines came to our house. My father and the neighbour went to the door to meet them. We were not fighters. We thought we had nothing to fear. I ran into the kitchen to put on my veil, since men were going to enter our house and it would be wrong for them to see me with my hair uncovered. "This saved my life. As my father and neighbour approached the door, the Americans opened fire on them. They died instantly.

"Me and my 13 year old brother hid in the kitchen behind the fridge. The soldiers came into the house and caught my older sister. They beat her. Then they shot her. But they did not see me. Soon they left, but not before they had destroyed our furniture and stolen the money from my father's pocket."

Hudda told me how she comforted her dying sister by reading verses from the Koran. After four hours her sister died. For three days Hudda and her brother stayed with their murdered relatives. But they were thirsty and had only a few dates to eat. They feared the troops would return and decided to try to flee the city. But they were spotted by a US sniper.

Hudda was shot in the leg, her brother ran but was shot in the back and died instantly. "I prepared myself to die," she told me. "But I was found by an American woman soldier, and she took me to hospital." She was eventually reunited with the surviving members of her family.

I also found survivors of another family from the Jolan district. They told me that at the end of the second week of the siege the US troops swept through the Jolan. The Iraqi National Guard used loudspeakers to call on people to get out of the houses carrying white flags, bringing all their belongings with them. They were ordered to gather outside near the Jamah al-Furkan mosque in the centre of town.

On 12 November Eyad Naji Latif and eight members of his family-one of them a six month old child-gathered their belongings and walked in single file, as instructed, to the mosque.

When they reached the main road outside the mosque they heard a shout, but they could not understand what was being shouted. Eyad told me it could have been "now" in English. Then the firing began. US soldiers appeared on the roofs of surrounding houses and opened fire. Eyad's father was shot in the heart and his mother in the chest.

They died instantly. Two of Eyad's brothers were also hit, one in the chest and one in the neck. Two of the women were hit, one in the hand and one in the leg. Then the snipers killed the wife of one of Eyad's brothers. When she fell her five year old son ran to her and stood over her body. They shot him dead too. Survivors made desperate appeals to the troops to stop firing.

But Eyad told me that whenever one of them tried to raise a white flag they were shot. After several hours he tried to raise his arm with the flag. But they shot him in the arm. Finally he tried to raise his hand. So they shot him in the hand.

The five survivors, including the six month old child, lay in the street for seven hours. Then four of them crawled to the nearest home to find shelter. The next morning the brother who was shot in the neck also managed to crawl to safety. They all stayed in the house for eight days, surviving on roots and one cup of water, which they saved for the baby. On the eighth day they were discovered by some members of the Iraqi National Guard and taken to hospital in Fallujah. They heard the Americans were arresting any young men, so the family fled the hospital and finally obtained treatment in a nearby town.

They do not know in detail what happened to the other families who had gone to the mosque as instructed. But they told me the street was awash with blood. I had come to Fallujah in January as part of a humanitarian aid convoy funded by donations from Britain.

Our small convoy of trucks and vans brought 15 tons of flour, eight tons of rice, medical aid and 900 pieces of clothing for the orphans. We knew that thousands of refugees were camped in terrible conditions in four camps on the outskirts of town.

There we heard the accounts of families killed in their houses, of wounded people dragged into the streets and run over by tanks, of a container with the bodies of 481 civilians inside, of premeditated murder, looting and acts of savagery and cruelty that beggar belief.

Through the ruins That is why we decided to go into Fallujah and investigate. When we entered the town I almost did not recognise the place where I had worked as a doctor in April 2004, during the first siege.

We found people wandering like ghosts through the ruins. Some were looking for the bodies of relatives. Others were trying to recover some of their possessions from destroyed homes.

Here and there, small knots of people were queuing for fuel or food. In one queue some of the survivors were fighting over a blanket.

I remember being approached by an elderly woman, her eyes raw with tears. She grabbed my arm and told me how her house had been hit by a US bomb during an air raid. The ceiling collapsed on her 19 year old son, cutting off both his legs.

She could not get help. She could not go into the streets because the Americans had posted snipers on the roofs and were killing anyone who ventured out, even at night.

She tried her best to stop the bleeding, but it was to no avail. She stayed with him, her only son, until he died. He took four hours to die.

Fallujah's main hospital was seized by the US troops in the first days of the siege. The only other clinic, the Hey Nazzal, was hit twice by US missiles. Its medicines and medical equipment were all destroyed. There were no ambulances-the two ambulances that came to help the wounded were shot up and destroyed by US troops.

We visited houses in the Jolan district, a poor working class area in the north western part of the city that had been the centre of resistance during the April siege.

This quarter seemed to have been singled out for punishment during the second siege. We moved from house to house, discovering families dead in their beds, or cut down in living rooms or in the kitchen. House after house had furniture smashed and possessions scattered.

In some places we found bodies of fighters, dressed in black and with ammunition belts.

But in most of the houses, the bodies were of civilians. Many were dressed in housecoats, many of the women were not veiled-meaning there were no men other than family members in the house. There were no weapons, no spent cartridges.

It became clear to us that we were witnessing the aftermath of a massacre, the cold-blooded butchery of helpless and defenceless civilians.

Nobody knows how many died. The occupation forces are now bulldozing the neighbourhoods to cover up their crime. What happened in Fallujah was an act of barbarity. The whole world must be told the truth.

Dr Salam Ismael, now 28 years old, was head of junior doctors in Baghdad before the invasion of Iraq. He was in Fallujah in April 2004 where he treated casualties of the assault on the city.

At the end of 2004 he came to Britain to collect funds for an aid convoy to Fallujah. Now the British government does not want Dr Salam Ismael’s testimony to be heard.

He was due to come here last week to speak at trade union and anti-war meetings. But he was refused entry. The reason given was that he received expenses, covering the basic costs of his trip, when he came to Britain last year and this constitutes “illegal working”.

Dr Salam Ismael merely wishes to speak the truth. Yet it seems the freedom that Bush and Blair claim to champion in Iraq does not extend to allowing its citizens to travel freely.

Legal challenges, supported by the Stop the War Coalition, were launched this week in an effort to allow Dr Salam Ismael to come to Britain.

Dr Salam Ismael
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Hide the following 7 comments

Bush didn't know what was going on!

18.02.2005 10:13

Quote : "These are war crimes for which the Bush adminastration should all swing at the end of a rope, and I pray to God they all do soon!"

Bush didn't know what was going on! Unilke Saddam Hussein who ordered the mass murder of 300,000 people after the failed uprising in 1991.

If you want a real war criminal then the man is Saddam Hussein not George Bush who ordered his removal!


He ought to have!

18.02.2005 14:31

Bush should have known then, bring commander-in-chief of the US military. However the administration didn't take much interest in what was happening on the ground, perhaps because this would have taken more effort, and humanised the Iraqis. Moreover,it would have removed their shield of ignorance which they have used to hang out to dry the people responsible for Abu Ghraib.
On the other hand, American troops robbing the bodies of poor people doesn't really ring true to me. ALL sections of the media need to be taken with a pinch of salt!!


It doesn't matter whether he knew or not

18.02.2005 14:41

"Bush didn't know what was going on!"

If he doesn't know about it by now, then he and his staff aren't doing their jobs properly. If he does, then it doesn't matter whether he did before or not. He should tell the truth and make changes to ensure it doesn't happen again.


Bush not guilty?!

18.02.2005 14:46

"A man who puts a snake into a child's bed and says: 'I'm sorry. I told the snake not to bite. I didn't know snakes were so dangerous.' It's impossible to understand. This man's a war criminal.''
- Amos Elon, Israeli journalist and author, on Ariel Sharon and the Sabra-Shatil massacres.

Mike E

and what were we doing in the meantime?

18.02.2005 21:04

I remember I did take part in the protests when Falluja was under attack and I was surprised by the low turn-out, after the marches with up 2.000.000 people. I'm glad there was at least some protest, how sad would it be if they could massacre the inhabitants of Falluja withot anyone even saying a thing. Maybe people are demoralised because with all their effort and massive street presence they did not succeed in stopping the war? What I would like people to realise is that mass protest saves thousands of lives, and the US military unlikely would have carried out such monstrouos atrocities on such a massive scale at the height of the anti-war protests - and before the election of Bush for his second term.
Hope more people will mobilise for the 19th and 20th of March international anti-war protests, not just for marching from A to B but also to highlight significant targets as called by PGA and denounce the war profiteers. Hope to see you there.


Original article and more facts

21.02.2005 21:18

This article was originally published in Socialist Worker along with a number of related pieces and some disturbing photographs.


Were all of these 'murders' carried out by the U.S.? NO! NO!

06.07.2005 01:58

Fallujah was warned time and time again in advance of the coming siege. Civilians that wanted to leave were allowed to do so. Unfortunatly, many decided to stay and take thier chances on the outcome. It may well be true that innocent people were killed by American forces. It is also shear idiocy to believe that the 'insurgancy' had nothing to do with the carnage that took place. After all, was it not the 'insurgents' who, for all of the world to see on video, beheaded civilians and boasted of the deed. OPEN YOUR EYES PEOPLE!! Innocent people were being slaughtered before the U.S. forces set foot in Fallujah. Were the coalition forces simply supposed to surround this snake's den and yell 'Come out! Come out! Wherever you are?'

Tom Roush
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