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Iraq Dispatches: The Quiet of Destruction and Death

What's really going on in Iraq-by an American reporter of Iraqi descent who's definitely *not* embedded. The latest on Fallujah (from Red Crescent aid worker):
"I need another heart and eyes to bear it because
my own are not enough to bear what I saw. Nothing justifies what was done to this city. I didn't see a house or mosque that wasn't destroyed."
December 02, 2004

The Quiet of Destruction and Death

It's a late morning start today... as I'm waiting for Abu Talat, who calls
to tell me he is snarled in traffic and will be late once again, huge
explosions shake my hotel. Shortly thereafter mortars are exploding in
the "green zone" as the loud warning sirens there begin to blare across
Baghdad.

Automatic weapon fire cracks down the street.

The good news is that interim prime minister Ayad Allawi has announced
a shortening of the curfew that most of Iraq is under. So now rather than
having to be off the streets by 10:30pm, we can stay out until 11pm
before we are shot on sight.

This past Sunday a small Iraqi Red Crescent aid convoy was allowed into
Fallujah at 4:30pm. I interviewed a member of the convoy today.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, (so I'll call her Suthir), the first thing she said to me was, "I need another heart and eyes to bear it because
my own are not enough to bear what I saw. Nothing justifies what was done
to this city. I didn't see a house or mosque that wasn't destroyed."

Suthir paused often to collect herself, but then as usual with those of
us who have witnessed atrocities first hand, when she started to talk,
she barely stopped to breath.

"There were families with nothing. I met a family with three daughters
and two sons. One of their sons, Mustafa who was 16 years old, was
killed by American snipers. Then their house was burned. They had
nothing to eat. Just rice and cold water-dirty water... they put the rice
in the dirty water, let it sit for one or two hours, then they ate the
rice. Fatma, the 17 year-old daughter, said she was praying for God to
take her soul because she couldn't bear the horrors anymore."

The families' 12 year old boy told Suthir he used to want to be a
doctor or a journalist. She paused then added, "He said that now he has no
more dreams. He could no longer even sleep."

"I'm sure the Americans committed bad things there, but who can
discover and say this," she said, "They didn't allow us to go to the Julan area or any of the others where there was heavy fighting, and I'm sure that
is where the horrible things took place."

She told me the military took civilian cars and used them, parked in
groups, to block the streets.

Suthir described a scene of complete destruction. She said not one
mosque, house or school was undamaged, and said the situation was so
desperate for the few families left in the city that people were
literally starving to death, surviving as the aforementioned family
was.

Rather than burying full bodies, residents of Fallujah are burying legs
and arms, and sometimes just skeletons as dogs had eaten the rest of
the body.

She said that even the schools in Fallujah had been bombed. Suthir also
reported that the oldest teacher in Fallujah, a 90 year-old man, while
praying in a mosque was shot in the head by a US sniper.

The US military has not given a date when the hundreds of thousands of
refugees from Fallujah would be allowed to return to their city, but
estimated it would be 2 months.

The Minister of Education announced today that schools will reopen in
Fallujah next week.

"There was no reconstruction there," Suthir added, "I just saw more
bombs falling and black smoke. There is not a house or school undamaged
there. I went to a part of the city that someone said was not bombed,
but it was completely destroyed."

"The Americans didn't let us in the places where everyone said there
was napalm used," she said, "Julan and those places where the heaviest
fighting was, nobody is allowed to go there."

She said that there were many military checkpoints, but most of the
soldiers she saw were not doing much.

"It was quiet, but this wasn't the quiet of peace," she told me, "It
was
the quiet of destruction and death."

As helicopters rumble overhead, she added with frustration and anger,
"The military is doing nothing to help people. Only the Iraqi Red
Crescent is trying to help-but nobody can help the traumatized people,
even the IRC."

Later this afternoon, back in my room one of my Iraqi friends stops by.
We talk work until the sun sets, so she stands to prepare to leave as
she doesn't like to be out after dark.

Pulling her jacket on she tells me, "You know, it is only getting worse
here. Everyday is worse than the last day. Today will be better than
tomorrow. Right now is better than the next hour. This is our life in
Iraq now."
______________________________________________
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