Dahr Jamail: Meanwhile in Baghdad ...
Meanwhile in Baghdad ...
By Dahr Jamail
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Tuesday 12 September 2006
I've recently received several emails from Iraq. Some, like the first, have been sent to me from people I know. Others were passed on by my friend Gerri Haynes, who receives emails regularly from friends she made during her several trips to Iraq. I include them here, as the brunt of this piece, because they show the living hell that Iraq has become under US occupation.
Here is an email from a doctor living in Baghdad:
Although I have perfect job satisfaction as a full professor with an MRCP, FRCP, and two more degrees from London and France, things are so unhappy here in Baghdad. There is no quality of life at all. There are no services; we are loaded with garbage as it is not collected more than once every so many weeks. Garbage collectors are also afraid of being killed. We have almost no electricity, no fuel, bad water supply and what is more, you could get killed whether you are Shi'ite or Sunni if you fall into the wrong hands! I nearly got killed on several occasions!
As for our colleagues, nearly none are with me from our class since most have left the country. The last one to leave was Abdul Aal, who left two months ago to Oman. The only one left with me is Khdayyer Abbas, who is a physician in the department of Medicine.
It is not a miserable life; if there is a grade more than miserable, then it will be ours!!! We work no more than three days a week in the university. The medical city, which was elegant and beautiful before the occupation, is now surrounded by garbage, barbed wire and concrete blocks from all directions. We don't spend more than three hours maximum at work so that totals nine hours a week!!! This is the maximum that anyone is working. In the afternoons, most of my colleagues say that they have completely stopped going to their private clinics for fear of death or abduction.
I work no more than one hour and a half hour in the afternoon. I come back rushing to my house after that. We lock our doors and do not leave at all. What about shopping? It is called "Marathon Buying," for I try to spend no more than ten minutes getting all the needed vegetables, fruits and food items. This is on my way back from university, three times a week. I also spend another ten minutes in the afternoon on my way back from the clinic buying car fuel for my home electric generator. It is all black markets now since the lines are so long at the pumps, reaching four to five times the official price. If I need to get it officially, I have to spend the night in line in front of the gas station where people bring their blankets, water, food and sleep in the street in front of the gas stations. Sometimes I speak nicely to the guard of the gas station, presenting my ID and my business card and ask them if I can fill my car out of line. Sometimes they kick me out, other times I am lucky and the guard has some rheumatic complaints, back pain or knee pains, and bingo, I can fill my car out of line with a promise to bring him medicines to where he is. Of course, this is without any physical exam or investigations. If I was really lucky and the stars were on my side that day, then I might even be allowed to get an extra 20 liters of gas for my generator!!!
One month ago there were militia men with their guns storming the dormitories of the resident doctors in the medical city. They were looking for doctors from Mosul or Al-Anbar province. There was a big fuss, and the targeted doctors went into hiding so none were caught. The next day, two of them who were rheumatology post-graduates under my supervision asked me to give them leave to go to their hometowns and not be back except for their exams. I agreed, because they were leaving anyway. They would have been killed if they were caught, not because they have done any crime, but just because they are Sunni from Mosul or Al-Anbar. I believe that many doctors from southern parts of Iraq who were Shi'ites also left the dormitory that day because they feared that they were not safe anymore and it would be their turn with maybe Sunni militia gunmen who will come sooner or later. So everyone left!!!!
That same week, I had prepared a lecture for post graduate doctors in the medical city, and nobody appeared since all the resident doctors had left! Many have come back again, but are terrified. Life has to go on.
The same applies for other hospitals, where services are almost non-existent now. I was in Yarmouk Hospital two days ago. The resident doctor whom I was visiting was living inside the hospital with broken dusty furniture, wood and metal scattered all over. The doors and windows were broken and it looked like an animal barn. I was requesting a death certificate for a colleague, so I went with him to the morgue, where he kept the death registry. Outside the morgue there were bodies of two young men, both shot in the head, lying on stretchers in the open air. The hospital was barricaded behind huge cement walls. The hospital itself has been targeted several times by car bombs. Several months ago, doctors in this hospital declared a one-day strike because they were beaten and wounded by officers of the Iraqi National Guard. The hospitals are frequently raided by militia men who will pull the wounded out of their hospital beds and drag them to where they will be executed.
Attendance of patients to hospitals has dropped tremendously. Before the invasion, we used to see an average of 100 patients in our consultation clinic of rheumatology every single day. We don't see more than 20 nowadays. Don't ask me where the patients disappeared. Many are scared to leave their homes and go to the hospitals. The hospital used to provide medicines for the chronically ill, for diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. We used to have a monthly blood checking available, followed by a month supply of DMRDs. These supplies are now infrequent and blood checking is not done because services are so irregular. So most patients got fed up and decided it is no longer worth it to attend hospitals. Even simple medicines are not available most of the time for patients coming for acute complaints. Many who used to come from towns and cities away from Baghdad for better treatment in the capital city now think it is too risky and dangerous to travel to Baghdad for a follow-up. Patients stop their therapy altogether or depend on local facilities and whatever simple resources they get where they are, regardless of whether it is effective or not.
The financial situation of most families in Baghdad has gone so much down, that many find it is a luxury to treat chronic illnesses, since the priority is for food, fuel and staying alive. This is a small summary of what and how we are living.
Here is an email written on August 10. The woman who wrote it, Souad, holds a PhD and is a DU researcher who recently moved to northern Baghdad due to the security situation. She is a mother of four.
For a while we have been going through very hard times. My oldest brother, a kidney surgeon, died one month ago in a very painful situation. He was a director of a large clinic and was 61 years old. He had a severe stroke in the middle of the night. My brothers took him to Al-Kindy Hospital in the morning, because it is the closest to the area. After long time of waiting, they refused to hospitalize him in the intensive care because as they said they had no time for stroke victims and they had to perform so many amputations because of the explosions and the street fights. They asked my brothers to bring him back on Saturday, when they might have a place in the intensive care. My brother took him to private hospitals, which were very good at one time. Most of them were closed because their specialists had received envelopes saying "You have to leave, or else" with a gun bullet in the envelope. They took him back home, and he died the next morning. This is how much a human being is worth in liberated, democratic Iraq now. He worked all his life to save people's lives, but nobody saved his. We feel outraged and hopeless. We have more than 150 young men get killed every day only in Baghdad, and nobody knows what the Americans in Iraq are up to. The death squads attack Sunni Arabs areas, and when the people fight back to protect their kids and families, the American tanks start bombing the areas with the civilians in them. That proves that these squads are part of occupation plan to control Iraq. About two million people left Iraq this summer. On TV, we see the media making the relation between American and Iran look really tense. In Iraq, the Americans work hand in hand with the Iranian militias to slaughter Iraqis. I don't know when this bloodthirsty president of yours will stop. He is executing Hitler's plans with the Jewish, but this time on Muslims. I wonder what the children and teenagers will do after they see their parents suffering or being killed at the hands of occupation criminals. Excuse me for being so harsh and disappointed, but this is what we are doing every single day of our lives now.
Here is another email from Souad:
I know it is hard to imagine the situation. Baghdad turned into a ghost city this summer. Things are beyond the tolerance of any human being. No electricity, no fuel in the richest oil country to run even small house generators. 90% of the stores are closed because of the kidnappings and explosions. Some of my women relatives couldn't leave the house to their garden for six months. Can you imagine the house-prisons women are locked in here in Iraq these days? Some of them PhD holders. About two million Iraqi have left since June of this year to close-by countries waiting for a miracle to happen. We have no clue what will happen the next day. There is no planning and no reconstruction. Where are all the oil revenues going? Nobody knows. Every single dollar is being spent on security plans, and we have no security.
The following email is from Rizgar Khosnow, who is a Kurdish man with US citizenship and author of the book, Nothing Left But Their Voices. Khosnow lives in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, where most people in the US are led to believe things are so much better than the rest of Iraq. This first email is from August 12:
We have been stuck at home this summer because it is so hot here and we have very little electricity. Things are not that great here. As I have said in the past, I am considered wealthy here and I am just barley keeping my head above water. Believe it or not, I am spending $600-700 a month in gas alone! This gas I use to run my two generators, at different times in the day, and I must use them to run lights and fans. The rent is getting so ridiculous that the president of Kurdistan came on TV last night and said that he will do something about the rent increase that is going on here.
Three years ago, I rented a furnished home for $100 in the city of Arbil. Now, I pay $1500 a MONTH without furniture! My next door neighbor rented his home for $3,500 a month. Things are extremely bad here. The rich are robbing the poor. I wish I knew how people here are living when their monthly salaries are no more than $200 a month! Last year, a gallon of gas cost 25 cents and now the same gallon cost $6.00.
Here is another email from him:
I am glad that you are trying your best to get the word out. I feel that we need to let all Americans know what is going on. I have moved to my new home and it has taken me one week to do so. I have help from three of my relatives who are staying with me till I finish everything, and we still cannot seem to complete all that work that is needed. You will not believe how difficult things are here and how much I needed to do in my new home. Things are not easy here. At the new home we have electricity one hour a day. I have now bought another generator, now I have three of them, to give me power to run lights and fans. We also have not had water for three days so I had to buy water worth $20 a day! That is life here even for the well-to-do like myself!
Here is another email from him:
It is true what is going on is horrifying, but there is even more happening every day that goes by. Since I am moving from my current home to a new home, my cousin told me that he will come to Arbil and help us move. He lives in Baghdad. He called this morning and told me that he cannot make it because of the curfew that is going on in Baghdad. There is absolutely nobody going out of their home at any time.
It was supposed to be for two days but now it will be one full week. The curfew is only in the Sunni areas. That means the Shi'ites will still have their weapons to kill more Sunnis as they wish. Yesterday, some 20 or so soldiers entered all the homes in my cousin's area. They entered my cousin's home to search for weapons. It was a very scary and unpleasant experience for my relatives. Let me tell you what that means for people too scared to leave their houses now.
They have no food; only water, bread and some rice. Since there is no electricity, they cannot store food. We all know that Iraqis go to the market on a daily basis to buy food or they have to stay hungry for a week. Since there is no electricity, some areas have large private generators that they turn on for at most five hours a day to give each home enough power to run two fans and few lights- each home usually gets 4 to 5 Amps. They usually charge a lot of money for this service, and even that is not working this week, because the owner of the generator is not allowed to turn it on and he cannot even leave his home. Anyone needing medicine is out of luck. No government offices are open. Anyone needing to go to the hospital must wait for a week! Simply put, Iraq is nothing but a large prison.
Here is an email from him on August 19:
I do have a lot to say and I wish to get the word out. No American can imagine what is going on here at this time. It seems that the sad stories never end here. Just a few weeks ago, my cousins, the five of them brothers, were warned that they would be killed if they did not leave their homes in the Sunni areas of Baghdad. They all packed their bags and moved to Egypt with their families. The brothers will return to Kurdistan to work with me in the next couple of months once they set up their families in Egypt. This is the life in Iraq, and Bush and Rice keep telling us that we are "making progress in Iraq." What a bunch of bull - -
Here is an email from him on August 28:
I have concluded that there is no way on earth that Iraq will recover, as one country, in the next ten to twenty years. We need a new generation here if we are going to see any kind of peace. There have been so many killings here that there is no way one will forgive the other. I personally know many people in Baghdad who are waiting for the right time to seek revenge on others that have hurt them. There has been so much hurt here that you can never imagine it.
Iraqis have given up on peace in Baghdad especially. There is no hope. What you see on TV is propaganda and controlled by the USA and is absolutely not true. There is no such thing as "reconciliation" between Iraqis. There has been too much blood spilled and Iraqis are VERY well known not to forget and forgive.
Here is a letter I received from a WWII veteran named Jack Cross who had asked me if I had figures of the tonnage of bombs dropped by US warplanes in Iraq. I include it here to underscore the fact that those responsible for creating the living hell that Iraq has become are war criminals and should be treated as such. I include it here for those currently serving in the US military as an example of what true honor looks like:
I am 84 years old, and I flew as a navigator on B-25s in the campaign that drove the Germans out of North Africa - from Cairo to Tripoli. Then, returning home I undertook pilot training as a student officer. I then transitioned in B-29s, flying from Tinian as a co-pilot on the last ten missions against Japan. I was in the air when the atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki - and I participated in the total destruction of Aomori on the northern tip of Honshu.
Realizing how ignorant I really was, I returned home and entered the University of Chicago and spent several years getting my AB, MA, and PhD there. After this I served for a while in Air Force Intelligence in Washington in a relatively new "targeting division," then transferred to the CIA where, in the Materials Division of the Office of Research and Reports, I spent about seven years as an analyst, rising from a GS7 to a GS11 before quitting in disgust after sitting in on some of the early planning sessions in which the overthrow of Mossadegh [democratically-elected prime minister of Iran, 1951-1953] was planned.
Over the years, as I reviewed my experiences, I have come to realize that I was a participant in war crimes myself, as were so many others - and just how difficult it is to face that reality. Because we were all such heroes of the "good" war. Retrospect, however, shows me that there are no good wars. War is an abomination, a failure of our humanity, and a neglect of our better natures.
I sit here knowing that every major city in the world has been carefully targeted and the international armaments industries of all the major powers have become the most important things in supporting the economies of the countries of the world. I know that the electoral process has been corrupted by diabolical power brokers and realize just how ignorant - in the sense of not knowing anything about the structure (or mal-structure, if you will) of our governments - the people are, or their believing in an innate goodness of man despite all the evidence to the contrary. I cringe before the monsters that the Pentagon and its Air Force have become.
I cringe knowing that all political parties are completely complicit in these developments. I wish I could see some hope. But unless and until the people turn these Republicans out of office and Congress mounts serious investigations of all levels of corruption in the Bush administration and act on their findings, I am very pessimistic about the future. Unless these investigations are carried out and the findings are laid bare for the entire world to see just how nefarious this administration has been - and because this bunch of people know just how serious all this is to their own survival - I am very pessimistic about the future.
No, I don't think we will be able to get the figures for the number of bombs and missiles we have used in this Iraqi war crime, nor will we know what will be used in Iran. It has become important to these people for us not to know these things.
Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist who has reported for the Guardian, the Independent, and the Sunday Herald. He now writes regularly for Inter Press Service and Truthout. He maintains a web site at dahrjamailiraq.com.