William Rivers Pitt: Hostile Information
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Wednesday 27 April 2005
In this mean and meager time of pre-packaged, pre-processed, corporate-controlled infotainment that passes itself off as 'news, it is a rare and refreshing experience to see and hear a true journalist reporting the facts. I was privileged on Monday night to share a stage in Boston with Dahr Jamail, the intrepid reporter who could not stomach the biased non-news coming out of Iraq after the invasion, and went over there to see and report on what was happening himself.
Jamail, an unassuming spectacled man in his mid-30s, spoke in a calm and precise manner on what he had seen while in Iraq. His words carried the weight of witness, but more devastating than what he said was what he showed the crowd. For an hour, Jamail flashed photograph after photograph from Iraq on a large screen. It is one thing to hear the truth. It is another again to see it, in slide after slide, through the eyes of a man who was there and returned to tell the tale.
Jamails photo essay described the current situation in the starkest of terms. Buildings that had been bombed out during the invasion remain today blasted and unusable piles of rubble. One photo showed a blown-out supermarket with a collapsed roof. He took the picture in 2003, but showed it on Monday night because it looks the same today as it did when the bomb first fell. There are many times many such damaged buildings. The ones that remain standing are often pockmarked from machine gun fire.
In a nation with the second largest proven stores of petroleum on earth, there are today gas lines that make the American gas-line experience of the 1970s seem a picnic by comparison. Iraqis must spend two days in their cars, sleeping in them overnight, to get a rationed 7.5 liters of gasoline, provided the station does not run out before they get to the pump. Jamail interviewed a high-ranking member of the Petroleum Ministry, who reported that the oil infrastructure is stable enough to provide gas to the country. That gas is not being provided, said the Minister, because the Americans are not pumping it, but sitting on it.
Hospitals in Iraq are in utterly deplorable condition, with few specialists to treat common illnesses and the wounds inflicted on civilians by the bomb and the bullet, and almost no medicine. Almost all the best-trained and highest-ranking medical professionals have fled the country because they are targeted by criminal gangs seeking to extort money from them, leaving undertrained Residents to handle the load. A Health Minister interviewed by Jamail said Coalition officials had promised $1 billion in medical aid. To date, almost none of that has been provided.
The sanitary conditions are almost beyond description; one photo showed a hospital bathroom that was filled from wall to wall with urine and feces, because the plumbing does not work. To make matters worse, ambulances are targeted by American forces because they fear the vehicles are being used by resistance fighters. Jamail showed a photo of one such targeted ambulance that looked as though it had been driven through a blast furnace.
In the best Iraqi neighborhoods, there is electricity available for eight hours a day. The rest of the nation gets electricity for perhaps three hours a day, if at all. At least two car bombs a day can be heard and felt, and the supposedly-safe Green Zone constantly comes under bombardment. Dead and bloated cattle line the roads, said roads existing in profoundly damaged condition.
Some 70% of the population is unemployed, leaving a great deal of spare time for despair and rage to take root. A good portion of the violent resistance, reported Jamail, is being carried out by foreign fighters, Baathist holdouts and former Iraqi military personnel. But more and more, everyday Iraqis are picking up guns, he said, because conditions are so deplorable.
The heavy-handed tactics of the American occupation force, reported Jamail, have also fed that rage. Jamail stated that the Americans have taken to using 'collective punishment against large segments of the population to try and dampen the violence. In one instance, a road leading out of a remote farm community was blown up and blocked to punish the residents, and the only nearby gas station was machine-gunned and blasted by a tank.
The most glaring example of collective punishment took place within the city of Falluja. You will clearly recall the events of March 31, 2004, when three mercenary contractors from Blackwater were pulled from their car, butchered, burned and hung from a bridge in that town. The American corporate news media carefully described these four repeatedly as 'American civilians, failing to note that some 30,000 highly-paid military mercenaries just like these four are operating in Iraq, beyond the laws and rules of American military justice. These mercenaries stand accused by the Iraqi populace of a variety of crimes including rape and theft.
It was a despicable and horrifying act of violence, to be sure. Yet the American populace was left with the impression, reinforced by the media, that these 'civilians' were targeted by the entire city of Falluja. In fact, the act was committed by perhaps 50 people, and the Imams in the mosques spoke with one outraged voice against what was done to those four.
This did not matter. The collective punishment of Falluja began days later. Civilians were targeted by snipers. Helicopters and bombers rained fire and steel indiscriminately on the city. After a while, a truce was called so the city could bury its dead, and so medical supplies could be brought in. No supplies made it into the city, but the casualties were entombed in soccer fields that were renamed 'Martyr's Graveyards.' Jamail photographed the fields of burial mounds, and translated the names on many of the headstones. A majority of those stones bore the names of women and children.
In the lull between attacks, the citizens of Falluja flooded the streets in a massive victory celebration, unaware that the worst was yet to come. The rage they vented on the Falluja streets was proof enough that American tactics are manufacturing resistance fighters every day. Not long after, the second phase of the punishment of Falluja began, this time as an aerial bombardment of the city that left thousands dead and wounded.
Bodies remained unburied in the streets to bloat in the sun and be gnawed by dogs. One Jamail photo from Falluja showed the shattered, rotting corpse of a man lying next to his prosthetic leg. It seems this one-legged man was an enemy of freedom, a feast for dogs in the hot Iraqi sun.
The Pentagon has a phrase for the photos and reports Dahr Jamail was able to bring back to us from his time in Iraq. They call it 'Hostile Information,' otherwise known as unassailable facts that cut violently against the pretty portrait and non-news the American people have been spoon-fed about our occupation of that country.
If you believed the situation there was bad, it's worse than you can imagine, a war crime writ large, a grinding of a civilian population that was no threat to America and is now caught between hot steel and a cold grave. Dahr Jamail was careful in every instance to point out that the civilian leadership issuing the orders, and not the soldiers, are ultimately to blame for what is taking place. Specific soldiers committing war crimes must be punished, he said, but the ultimate responsibility for these acts belongs in Washington, DC.
'Horror' is not a strong enough word to describe what Dahr Jamail showed us on Monday night, what he saw with his own eyes, what almost no American has been allowed to see because 'Hostile Information' is not permitted in George Bush's America.
Pitt is the senior editor and lead writer for truthout.
He is a New York Times and international bestselling author
of two books - 'War
on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know' and
Greatest Sedition is Silence.' Join the discussions at