A Blog by Rahul Mahajan
Blogging from Baghdad (until April 25)
Report from Baghdad -- Opening the Gates of Hell
April 7, 11:20 am EST. Baghdad, Iraq -- A major atrocity is unfolding in Fallujah and Ramadi. Everyone tells us that the towns are cordoned off, with electricity and water cut and no supplies allowed in. A mosque in Fallujah was just destroyed, with 40 dead. The total dead in fighting for the two towns is 30 American soldiers and over 150 Iraqis -- probably far over, given the difficulties of counting. A fitting response to the killing of the four Blackwater Security mercenaries. Of course, if the condition of siege continues much longer, the death toll even among noncombatants in Fallujah and Ramadi will skyrocket.
As we were driving back from Kadhimiyah (a Shi'a district), we passed through Aadhamiyah. In front of the Abu Hanifa mosque (the same area where Saddam was shown walking around last April 9 -- Aadhamiyah is still a Saddamist stronghold), we noticed a major traffic snarl and hundreds of people milling around.
It was a massive volunteer relief effort for Fallujah and Ramadi. Coordinated from mosques around the city, which told people to go to Abu Hanifa if they wanted to give for Falluja and Ramadi, the hours-old effort had already collected five truckloads of food and supplies, as well as substantial amounts of money. They were bringing staple foods -- flour, potatoes, dates, oil -- and also a staggering number of burial shrouds.
Even more remarkable, doctors from Baghdad's central blood bank (located in Aadhamiyah) had come to the mosque and literally thousands of people lined up to donate blood. The doctors had only 500 blood bags and it was a mob scene as people fought to be the ones to give blood. One man told me he had had a heart attack but he was still going to give blood.
The anger that came through when people spoke to me as palpable -- I could literally feel it on my skin as people yelled in my face so fast that I had no hope of keeping up as I took notes. Women in hijab yelled at me that they would go and fight in Fallujah. Even so, people were kind and helpful -- a civil engineer who spoke good English actually took me around and translated for me, and several people pointed out to me that money was falling out of my pockets.
Although the relief was going to the Sunni areas of Fallujah and Ramadi (and Aadhamiyah is overwhelmingly Sunni), many people made a point of saying that if Kufa or Najaf, Shi'a towns, were under siege they would give for them too (Kufa is Moqtada's stronghold). One woman who gave her name only as Umm Saif (mother of Saif), said, "We are all united against the Americans."
Well, Bush is proving himself as a uniter, not a divider. If the siege is not lifted soon, however, the people of Fallujah and Ramadi will pay a heavy price for that.
[again, see http://www.empirenotes.org for more reports]