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(sup) Iraq, A War Without End April 10 2004 Occupied Baghdad (Fifth Report)

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 11 Apr 2004 22:10:02 +0200 (CEST)


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Iraq is a country at war.
Exactly a year after we were told that the war had ended and that freedom
had been brought to the people of Iraq, the square in which Saddam's
statue was toppled was put under curfew again. The curfew didn't prevent
a mortar attack on the Alwiyah Club that stands beside the square hidden
behind blast walls.
Yesterday, reports from Falluja indicated that the city was still being
held under siege by US Occupation Forces, as it had been since Tuesday.
In the morning, word came that a cease-fire had been negotiated between US
soldiers and resistance fighters, but by afternoon, the cease-fire was
off. US Occupation Forces had continued to bomb the city with mortars,
Apache helicopters, fighter planes, RPG7s and cluster bombs.

By evening, medical aid workers were giving the cautious estimate that
the death-toll of this week's massacre in Falluja had reached 427 Iraqis;
1200 people were said to be injured. An acquaintance arrived with video
footage of families fleeing the city in an attempt to reach Baghdad. They formed
a caravan that stretched over 10 kilometers long and were being prevented
from advancing by US troops.

We do not have news of what is going on in the predominately Shia cities
in the South where there has been fighting over the past days, and where
people are preparing to celebrate Arbayeen, the end of Muharram. We rely
on international news channels and the internet. But Muharram began with
the bombing of shrines in Najaf and in Kadhimiya, that killed over 178
people. Who will decide that their interests might be served by attacking
the pilgrimage?

The war is not a civil war; it is a war of terror in which collective
punishment is a preferred tactic.

In Sadr City, where battles between resistance fighters from Moqtada
Al-Sadr's Mehdi Army and US Occupation Forces have gone on since last
Sunday, families have spent sleepless nights listening to the sound of
missiles, machine gun fire, tanks and low-flying helicopters.

On Wednesday morning, we visited a block of houses that had been hit by
missiles they said were fired from a helicopter after 11:30 PM on Monday
night. One missile hit the kitchen wall and blew up the kerosene tank,
causing a fire. The second missile hit the outside wall of a second
floor
bedroom, destroying all the furniture within. A third missile hit the
corner room of the building next door, in which food rations for 158
families were said to be stored. The food was destroyed. Families on the
block have left temporarily to go and live with relatives or friends.

We also saw the burnt-out remains of two cars that neighbours say were
shot by rockets fired from helicopters the night before. Two neighbors who
tried to assist four people in one of the burning cars were shot at from
tanks. A total of six people were reportedly killed in the two cars. No
curfew had been imposed, but it seemed that US Occupying Forces were
targeting any vehicles they found moving after dark.

"If America doesn't leave the areas, this will go on and on," said a man
who said he witnessed the targeting of one of the cars. "America is
fighting poor people..."

Indeed, this war is visibly being fought with tanks and RPG7s, with
helicopters and cluster-bombs, but the years of US-supported Ba'athist
dictatorship and the impoverishment of the majority of Iraqi people were
also years of war. I listened yesterday as a Shia man told me that during
the twelve years of UN-imposed sanctions, Shiite communities in Iraq
really had to survive two sets of sanctions - one from outside Iraq, and
one imposed by the dictatorship within. This disenfranchisement has not
come to an end over the past year of war we've called occupation.
Poverty, denial of education, malnutrition: these are also forms of war,
as deadly in the long run as military machinery.

This is a war without end.

There is a feeling of hopelessness that permeates the present terror. As
the number of kidnapped foreigners rises NGOs and humanitarian
organizations are deliberating on whether or not to pack up and leave
the country. A young Iraqi woman called me yesterday morning, greeting me
with words dulled by resignation: "So we are at war again." She told me to
leave the country.

An Iraqi man I run into describes his country as a prison, but adds that
"maybe prison is better, because at least in prison, there is a date when
you know you can leave." As a foreigner with a Canadian passport, I have
the option of leaving and a choice to make.

We drive past the UNICEF compound and notice that new blast walls have put
up, closing off the entrance to their offices. A road that was open two
days ago is now blocked off by razor wire. The young man driving the car
turns around and motions to the dead-end, a new variant on the many
dead-ends that have turned the city into a labyrinth; "This is Iraq," he
says, and smiles.

----------
While in Iraq, Andréa can be reached by email at andrea@tao.ca or
andreaschmidt2004@yahoo.ca.

NOTE: Andréa Schmidt is an anarchist organizer active with the CLAC.


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