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Year 2005 No. 22, February 10, 2005 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

Anglo-US War Criminals Share Same Global Agenda

Workers' Daily Internet Edition: Article Index :

Anglo-US War Criminals Share Same Global Agenda

Rice Pursues Gunboat Diplomacy in Syria

Condoleezza Rice Lavishes Praise on Ally Blair

Iran Rejects Blair's Claims on Supporting Terrorism

Bush Cabinet Choices Reflect Growing US Reaction

A Statement in Support of the Peoples of Zimbabwe and Cuba

Living under the Bombs

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Anglo-US War Criminals Share Same Global Agenda

The new US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has almost concluded her tour of Europe and the Middle East, a tour that began in London with meetings with Tony Blair and the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw. Following her visit to London, Rice visited, Germany, Poland, Turkey and Italy, as well as Israel and Palestine. Last Tuesday she delivered a keynote speech in Paris and the conclusion of her trip will include meetings with EU and NATO officials in Belgium and Luxemburg.

Rice’s tour has been widely seen as an attempt to overcome the differences that exist between the US and the big powers in Europe, France and Germany in particular, ahead of the planned visit of George W Bush, which will take place later this month. However, Rice has also used the occasion of her tour to continue to threaten Iran and to lecture others about the need to unite behind the US in order to export "democracy" and spread "freedom" around the world. According to Rice, the invasion of Iran is "not on the agenda at this point in time", not least because Britain, France and Germany are applying their own pressure on Iran, not only in regard to how it develops nuclear power but also how it acts towards events in the Middle East. However, amongst other things she also signalled that, in its relations with Iran, the US still holds the military option in reserve.

According to the sentiments expressed during the joint press conference held by Rice and Jack Straw, Britain and the US shared the same "global agenda" and therefore it was not be chance that London was the first stop on Rice’s grand tour. "The Iraqi elections show how widely shared is the belief in freedom and democracy," Jack Straw explained, while Rice added, "The United Kingdom and the United States understand that aspiration for freedom and we are determined to support people who seek that freedom." This then constitutes the basis of the shared "global agenda", the fact that the US and Britain have declared that what they call freedom and democracy – the multi-party political system, the free market, all the principles enshrined in the Paris Charter – must be established all over the world and, particularly at this time throughout the Middle East, irrespective of the norms of international law, the UN Charter and the wishes of anyone else, and if necessary imposed by military means.

Thus Rice and Straw arrogantly boasted of the crimes already committed in Iraq and Afghanistan and looked forward to imposing the diktat of Anglo-American imperialism on Iran and also on Palestine, where Britain and the US continue to put pressure on the new Palestinian leadership to give up the struggle for the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights. A key element in this process will be the conference on the Middle East hosted by the British government next month.

Rice delivered her major speech on international affairs in Paris on Tuesday, where she elaborated at some length on the joint mission of the US and the big powers of Europe. "Our work has only just begun," she proclaimed. "In our time we have the global opportunity to shape a global balance of power that favours freedom." According to Rice, the so-called "war against terrorism" is but an extension of the Cold War. The US and the big powers of Europe are once again called upon to spread their "ideals" throughout the world. As Rice expressed it on several occasions during her tour, "We on the right side of freedom’s divide have an obligation to help those unlucky enough to have been born on the wrong side of that divide." Thus the pursuit of global hegemony, the imposition of the eurocentric principles enshrined in the Paris Charter, the multiparty system and the free market economy, are turned into an "obligation", a new "white man’s burden" which must be taken up by the fortunate few. The key area that needs to be "freed" by the US and the big powers of Europe, according to Rice, is in the Middle East and the "Arab and Muslim worlds", where in her view "wise leaders are opening their arms to embrace reforms".

For the US government, this "pursuit of global freedom", the domination of global capitalism and representative democracy must be the "organising principle of the 21st century", an "obligation" which unites all the big powers. The US is attempting to strengthen its alliance with Europe, an alliance in which it sees itself as the major partner, in order to impose its values, the values of the big monopolies and financial institutions on the whole world. However, such aims are already being resisted by millions throughout the world, while the big powers of Europe, have their own interests that bring them into continual contention with the US. What is clear is that the US and its chief ally, the British government, are not chastened by the consequences of their crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Quite the contrary, already they are embarking on new crimes that create even greater dangers for humanity.

In condemning George W Bush and Condoleezza Rice as war criminals, the British working class and people must also condemn Tony Blair and Jack Straw, who are proving that the British government is the most reliable ally of US imperialism in its crimes against humanity.

Article Index

Rice Pursues Gunboat Diplomacy in Syria

zaman.com, 09.02.2005, ISTANBUL

The hawkish US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has threatened Syria with "diplomatic isolation".

As she continues her quick tour of Europe and the Middle East, Rice made a statement in Italy accusing Syria of supporting terrorism and threatened the country with "isolation". Rice emphasised that terrorists in Iraq were supported by Damascus and said the Damascus administration "supports at least the terrorism in the south of Lebanon" and asked for cooperation.

It interest was the fact that Rice's statement yesterday did not focus on Iran as the main target. In a statement to the German newspaper Bild, Rice noted that Iranians support the destruction of Israel due to their doctrines and terrorists who will fight for this. As for Tehran, the US Secretary of State said: "They cannot keep pace with the reform steps started in the Middle East." Rice said the Iranians are a people who can understand the principles of democracy and argued that Iran has gradually moved away from the mainstream causing a problem in the international community.

Meanwhile, America's closest ally, Great Britain supported Washington regarding the Iranian issue. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said they share the Bush administration's views regarding Iran's support of terrorism. Iran should not hinder the Middle Eastern peace process, Blair warned both Iran and Syria, and "insurgents should not to be allowed to pass into Iraq via the borders of these countries".

Article Index

Condoleezza Rice Lavishes Praise on Ally Blair

Condoleezza Rice, the new US secretary of state, began what she called "a whirlwind round Europe and the Middle East" on February 4 by lavishing praise on Tony Blair's government.

At a press conference at the Foreign Office, she declared, "I decided to come first to Britain because we have no better friend; we have no better ally." She said that the US and Britain had fought together in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the war on terror was not yet done. "We have done so much together and we still have so much to do together," she said.

She continued, "We deeply value the close relationship between our two countries, and, of course, we share so much, but we, of course, share a global agenda as well, and we stand together on the war on terror."

Article Index

Iran Rejects Blair's Claims on Supporting Terrorism

Iran on Tuesday, February 8, rejected Prime Minister Tony Blair's claims that it was sponsoring terrorism, terming these allegations as influenced by the prevailing atmosphere and extremist stances of Israel, the official IRNA news agency reported.

"British prime minister's remarks, raised on the pretext of opposition to terrorism and nuclear weapons, are supportive of the Zionist regime in nature," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi was quoted as saying.

Asefi said the Islamic Republic of Iran had nothing to do with terrorism and it was itself a victim of terrorism as many of its citizens and officials were killed in the campaign against this sinister phenomenon.

"However, some western states have become a safe haven for terrorists and countries such as the UK are supporting the Zionist regime, which is an explicit example of state-terrorism," Asefi said.

Earlier in the day, Blair had alleged before a parliamentary committee that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism, adding his voice to Washington's growing attacks on Iran and what many analysts say is preparing the groundwork for future military intervention.

"It certainly does sponsor terrorism. There's no doubt about that at all," Blair said, while urging the Islamic republic to meet EU demands to renounce its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons. The Prime Minister said that it was a "good sign" that the United States and Europe were "working together", and that France and Germany – which opposed the US and British invasion of Iraq – were, together with Britain, striving to reach a diplomatic solution with Tehran.

Iran denies that it is producing nuclear weapons and says it has the right, under international treaties, to work on the nuclear fuel cycle. For the time being, Iran has suspended all uranium enrichment-related activities to fulfil its part of an agreement reached in November with the EU, in exchange for trade, security and technology concessions.

Article Index

Confirmation of Gonzales & Rice is Confirmation of Torture and Lawlessness:

Bush Cabinet Choices Reflect Growing US Reaction

From Voice of Revolution! January 30, 2005, Online publication of the US Marxist-Leninist Organisation

The brutal and reactionary character of the Bush administration is being sharply revealed in his choice for Secretary of State and Attorney General. Condoleezza Rice is a main architect of the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war and open spokeswoman for the lies used to try to justify war against Iraq. Rice has been confirmed by the Senate, with a vote of 85-13. Alberto Gonzales, nominee for Attorney General, is well-known as the architect of rule by executive authority without regard to international or US law, including defending the use of torture, saying the Geneva Conventions do not apply in the "war on terror" and elimination of military norms for trials of captured prisoners of war.

Rice Confirmation Hearings

The Senate confirmed Rice on an 85-13 vote on January 26. Bush had planned the confirmation for Inauguration Day, January 20, but it was delayed by Democrats calling for more time to question Rice. She first appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and then before the full Senate.

A main feature of the Rice confirmation hearings was questioning about her role in lying to Congress as part of justifying going to war against Iraq. Senator Mark Dayton opposed the administration’s "Lying to Congress, lying to our committee and lying to the American people. It’s wrong, it’s immoral." He voted no saying Rice had been "instrumental in deceiving Congress and the American people".

Senators Barbara Boxer and Robert Byrd were among the more vigorous questioners. Senator Boxer referred to what she called "inconsistencies" by Rice about the imminent threat of war and weapons of mass destruction. She said Rice’s loyalty to Bush "overwhelmed your respect for the truth." Rice denied this, claiming, "I have never, ever, lost respect for the truth in service of anything."

Senator Byrd also spoke to lies and fear-mongering by Rice, including her claims that the government knew for certain that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that Saddam Hussein was building nuclear weapons. He referred to Rice’s infamous statement that, "there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." Weapons inspectors recently again confirmed that there was no nuclear weapons programme in Iraq and there has not been one since the end of the last Gulf war.

In addition, Byrd emphasised his opposition to the usurping of power by the Office of the President. He cited the 2002 "National Security Strategy of the United States", a report Rice was in charge of developing. Byrd said, "Under this strategy, the President lays claims to an expansive power to use our military to strike other nation first, even if we have not been threatened or provoked. There is no question that the President has the inherent authority to repel attacks against our country, but this National Security Strategy is unconstitutional on its face...This doctrine of pre-emptive strikes places the sole decision of war and peace in the hands of the President and undermines the Constitutional power of Congress to declare war...The National Security Strategy makes only one passing reference to the Constitution: It states that ‘America’s constitution’– that is ‘constitution’ with a small "C" – ‘has served us well.’ As if the Constitution does not still serve this country well! One might ask if that reference to the Constitution was intended to be a compliment or an obituary?"

Senators Kerry and Kennedy of Massachusetts also questioned and opposed Rice.

It is notable that while a number of Senators said Rice had lied or "misstated the facts" to Congress – which is a federal crime – none took action to charge her with this crime. Similarly, if she, like Bush, is responsible for acts against the Constitution, she and Bush can be charged and removed from office for that as well. Instead, the Senate confirmed Rice.

Among those Democrats speaking for Rice were Joseph Biden, top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Dianne Feinstein and Joseph Lieberman, former vice-presidential candidate with Gore. Lieberman urged the Senate to "resoundingly endorse this nomination and send the message to friend and foe alike that while we have our disagreements, ultimately what unites us around this very qualified nominee in this hour of war is much greater than what divides us."

Article Index

A Statement in Support of the Peoples of Zimbabwe and Cuba

From Cikiah Thomas, Interim Chair, Global Afrikan Congress

The Global Afrikan Congress calls upon its members and all peace loving people to stand up and defend the rights of the Zimbabwean and Cuban governments to continue to pursue policies that they see as in keeping with their people’s best interests.

The governments of President Robert Mugabe and President Fidel Castro are constantly under the threat of invasion from the USA and its European allies, especially the United Kingdom for no other reason than that the policies and programmes both governments pursue are in keeping with the best interests of their own peoples.

The government of President Fidel Castro has a successful integrated policy of land reform and has carried out socialist economic and social policies that benefit the poor over the rich. That is at the heart of the contention the US government has with Cuba.

President Robert Mugabe is also addressing the tremendous disparity with respect to land ownership between Blacks and Whites in Zimbabwe. The British and US governments are calling for regime change because of this noble deed.

Whites in Zimbabwe have never paid for the lands in the first place and tens of thousands of Blacks became landless because the British government illegally took away the land. In the process it caused horrendous genocide against Blacks to create special privilege for Whites in Afrika.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, herself the descendant of enslaved Afrikans in the US, is not calling for "freedom" for Afrikan Americans or social and economic equality for her Black brothers and sisters in the United States, despite centuries of slavery, forced segregation, institutionalised racism and a country with the largest and most brutal prison system in history, the population of which is mostly Blacks.

It is highly hypocritical for Condoleezza Rice to be calling for freedom in countries such as Zimbabwe and Cuba while ignoring the demands by Afrikan Americans for reparations for slavery, forced segregation, lynching and the lingering effect of slavery.

Southern Afrika and the Caribbean should be declared "Zones of Peace" and be so regarded and respected by all.

Article Index

Living under the Bombs

By Dahr Jamail. This article appeared on Tomdispatch http://www.tomdispatch.com posted Feb 2, 2005.

One of the least reported aspects of the US occupation of Iraq is the oftentimes indiscriminate use of air power by the US military. The Western mainstream media have generally failed to attend to the F-16 warplanes dropping their payloads of 500-, 1,000- and 2,000-pound bombs on Iraqi cities – or to the results of these attacks. While some of the bombs and missiles fall on resistance fighters, the majority of the casualties are civilian – mothers, children, the elderly, and other unarmed civilians.

"Coalition troops and Iraqi security forces may be responsible for up to 60% of conflict-related civilian deaths in Iraq – far more than are killed by insurgents, confidential records obtained by the BBC's Panorama programme reveal." As the British Broadcasting Corp reported recently, these numbers were compiled by Iraq's Ministry of Health, in part because of the refusal of the George W Bush and Tony Blair administrations to do so. In the case of Fallujah, where the US military estimated that 2,000 people were killed during the recent assault on the city, at least 1,200 of the dead are believed to have been non-combatant civilians.

"Some of my friends in Fallujah, their homes were attacked by airplanes so they left, and nobody's found them since," said Mehdi Abdulla in a refugee camp in Baghdad. His own home was bombed to rubble by US warplanes during the assault on Fallujah in November – and in Iraq today, his experience is far from unique. All any reporter has to do is cock an ear or look up to catch the planes roaring over Baghdad en route to bombing missions over Mosul, Fallujah and other trouble spots on a weekly – sometimes even daily basis. It is simply impossible to travel the streets of Baghdad without seeing several Apache or Black Hawk helicopters buzzing the rooftops. Their rumbling blades are so close to the ground and so powerful that they leave wailing car alarms in their wake as they pass over any neighbourhood.

With their ground troops stretched thin and growing haggard – 30% of them, after all, are already on their second tour of duty in the brutal occupation of Iraq – US military commanders appear to be relying more than ever on air power to give themselves an edge. The November assault on Fallujah did not even begin until warplanes had, on a near-daily basis, dropped 500-1,000-pound (227-454-kilogram) bombs on suspected resistance targets in the besieged city. During that period, fighter jets ripped through the air over Baghdad for nights on end, heading out on mission after mission to drop their payloads on Fallujah.

"Air power remains the single greatest asymmetrical advantage the United States has over its foes," writes Thomas Searle, a military defence analyst with the Airpower Research Institute at Maxwell Air Force Base in the US state of Alabama. "To make air power truly effective against guerrillas in that war, we cannot wait for the joint force commander or the ground component commander to tell us what to do. Rather, we must aggressively develop and employ air power's counter-guerrilla capabilities."

"Aggressively employ air power's capabilities" – indeed they have.

'Even the chickens and sheep are frightened'
"The first day of Ramadan we went to the prayers and, just as the imam said Allahu Akbar ('God is great'), the jets began to arrive." Abu Hammad was remembering the early stages of the November Fallujah campaign. "They came continuously through the night and bombed everywhere in Fallujah. It did not stop even for a moment."

The 35-year-old merchant is now a refugee living in a tent on the campus of the University of Baghdad along with more than 900 other homeless Fallujans. "If the American forces did not find a target to bomb," he said, "they used sound bombs just to terrorise the people and children. The city stayed in fear; I cannot give you a picture of how panicked everyone was." As he spoke in a strained voice, his body began to tremble with the memories, "In the morning, I found Fallujah empty, as if nobody lived in it. It felt as though Fallujah had already been bombed to the ground. As if nothing were left."

When Abu says "nothing", he means it. It is now estimated that 75% of the homes and buildings in the city were destroyed either by warplanes, helicopters or artillery barrages; most of the remaining 25% sustained at least some damage as well.

"Even the telephone exchange in Fallujah has been flattened," he added between quickening breaths because, as he remembers, as he makes the effort to explain, his rage grows. "Nothing works in Fallujah now!"

Several men standing with Abu, all of whom were refugees like him, nodded in agreement while staring off toward the setting sun to the west, the direction where their city once stood.

Throughout much of urban Iraq, people tell stories of being terrorised by US air power, which is often loosed on heavily populated neighbourhoods that have, in effect, been declared the bombing equivalents of free-fire zones.

"There is no limit to the American aggression," commented a sheikh from Baquba, a city 48 kilometres northeast of the capital. He agreed to discuss the subject of air power only on the condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals from the US military.

"The fighter jets regularly fly so low over our city that you can see the pilots sitting in the cockpit," he said, using his hand to measure the skyline and indicate just how low he means. "The helicopters fly even lower, so low, and aim their guns at the people and this terrifies everyone. How can humans live like this? Even our animals, the chickens and sheep are frightened by this. We don't know why they do this to us."

'My whole house was shaking'
The terror from the air began on the first day of the invasion in March 2003. "On March 19 at 2am, we were sleeping," Abdulla Mohammed, father of four children, said softly as he sat in his modest home in Baghdad. "I woke up with a start to the enormous blasts of the bombs. All I could do was watch the television and see that everything was being bombed in Baghdad." Near his home, a pile of concrete blocks and twisted support beams that once was a telephone exchange remained as an ugly reminder of how the war started for Baghdadis. "I was so terrified. My whole house was shaking," he continued, "and the windows were breaking. I was frightened that the ceiling would fall on us because of the bombs."

Nearly two years later, he still becomes visibly upset while describing what it felt like to live through that first horrific "shock and awe" onslaught from the air. "It was unbelievable to see things in my house jump into the air when the bombs landed. They were just so powerful." He paused and held his hands up in a gesture of helplessness before he said, "Nowhere felt safe and there was nothing we could do. People were looking for bread and vegetables so they could survive in their homes, but they didn't know where to go because nowhere was safe."

Abdulla lives with his wife and sons in central Baghdad, but at a location several kilometres from where the heaviest bombings in the Bush administration's shock-and-awe campaign hit. Nevertheless, even at that distance in the heavily populated capital, it was a nightmare. "Everyone was so terrified. Even the guards who were on the streets left for their homes because everything was being destroyed," he said. "The roads were closed because there were so many explosions.

"My family was shivering with fear," he added, staring at the floor. "Everyone was praying for God to keep the Americans from bombing them. There was no water, no electricity, and all we had were the extra supplies that we had bought before."

Like the sheikh from Baquba, Mohammed and his family continue to live in fear of what US warplanes and helicopters might at any moment unleash. "Now, there are always helicopters hovering over my neighbourhood. They are so loud and fly so close. My sons are afraid of them. I hear the fighter jets so often."

He suddenly raised his hushed voice and you could hear the note of panic deep within it. "Even last night the fighter jets were so low over my home. We never know if they will bomb." After pausing, he concluded modestly, "We can only hope that they won't."

'Even the mosques quit announcing evening prayers ...'
There is no way to discuss US reliance on air power in a war now largely being fought inside heavily populated cities without coming back to Fallujah. While an estimated 200,000 refugees from that city continue to live in refugee tent camps or crowded into houses (with up to 25 families crammed under a single roof), horrendous tales of what it was like to live under the bombs in the besieged city are only now beginning to emerge.

Ahmed Abdulla, a gaunt 21-year-old Fallujan, accompanied most of his family on their flight from the city, navigating the perilous neighbourhoods nearest the cordon the American military had thrown around their besieged city. On November 8, he made it to Baghdad with his mother, his three sisters (aged 26, 20 and 18), and two younger brothers (10 and 12). His father, however, was not permitted to leave Fallujah by the US military because he was of "fighting age". Ahmed was only allowed to exit the besieged city because his mother managed to convince an American soldier that, without him, his sisters and younger brothers would be at great risk travelling alone. Fortunately, the soldier understood her plea and let him through.

Ahmed's father told the family that he would instead stay to watch over their house. "The house is all we have, nothing else," commented Ahmed despondently. "We have no land, no livestock, nothing."

Recounting an odyssey of flight typical of those of many Fallujans, Ahmed told me his father had driven them in the family car across winding, desert roads out the eastern side of the city, considered the quietest area when it came to the fighting. They stopped the car a kilometre before the US checkpoints and walked the rest of the way, holding up white "flags" so the soldiers wouldn't mistake them for insurgents. "We walked with our hands up, expecting them to shoot at us anytime," said Ahmed softly, "It was so bad for us at that time and there were so many families trying to get out."

Those inhabitants still trapped in the city had only two hours each day to emerge and try to find food. Most of the time their electricity was cut and water ran in the faucets only intermittently. "Every night we told each other goodbye because we expected to die," he said. "Every night there was extremely heavy bombing from the jets. My house shook when bombs hit the city, and the women were crying all of the time." In his mind he still couldn't shake the buzzing sound of unmanned surveillance drone aircraft passing overhead, and the constant explosions of the "concussion bombs" (or so he called them) that he claimed the Americans fired just to keep people awake.

"I saw a dead man near our home," Ahmed explained, "But I could barely see his face because there were so many flies on him. The flies were so thick and I couldn't bear the smell. All around his body, his blood had turned the ground black. I don't know how he died."

The sighting of such bodies, often shot by American snipers, was a commonplace around the city. They lay unburied in part because many families dared not venture out to one of the two football stadiums that had been converted into "Martyr Cemeteries". Instead, they buried their own dead in their gardens and left the other bodies where they lay.

"So we stayed inside most of the time and prayed. The more the bombs exploded the more we prayed and cried." So Ahmed described life inside Fallujah as it was being destroyed. Each night the besieged city seemed, as he put it, to oscillate between an eerie quiet and sudden bursts of heavy fighting. "Even the mosques quit announcing evening prayers at times," he said. "And then it would be so quiet – except for the military drones buzzing overhead and the planes of the Americans which dropped flares."

It was impossible, he claimed, to sleep at night because any sound – an approaching fighter jet or helicopter – and immediately everyone would be awake. "We would begin praying together loudly and strongly. For God to protect us and to take the fighting away from our city and our home."

Any semblance of normalcy had, of course, long since left the environs of Fallujah; schools had been closed for weeks; there were dire shortages of medicine and medical equipment; and civilians still trapped in the city had a single job – somehow to stay alive. When you emerged, however briefly, nothing was recognisable. "You could see areas where all the houses were flattened. There was just nothing left," he explained. "We could get water at times, but there was no electricity, ever."

Ahmed's family used a small generator that they ran sparingly because they could not get more fuel. "We ran out of food after they Americans started to invade the city, so we ate flour, and then all we had was dirty water ... so eventually what choice did we have but to try to get out?

"Why do the Americans bomb all of us in our homes?" asked Ahmed, whose puzzlement was evident. "Even those of us who do not fight, we are suffering so much because of the US bombs and tanks. Can't they see this is turning so many people against them?"

'I saw cluster bombs everywhere'
Mohammad Ali, 53, who is living in a tent city in Baghdad, was one of those willing to address the suffering he experienced as a result of the November bombings. Mohammad is a bear of a man, his kind face belying his deep despair as he leans on a worn, wooden cane. He summed up his experience this way: "We did not feel that there was an Eid [the traditional feasting time which follows Ramadan] after Ramadan this year because our situation was so bad. All we had was more fasting. I asked God to save us but our house was bombed and I lost everything."

Refugees aren't the only people ready to describe what occurred in Fallujah as a result of the loosing of jets, bombers and helicopters on the city. Burhan Fasa'a, a gaunt 33-year-old journalist, is a cameraman for the Lebanese Broadcasting Co. He was inside the city during the first eight days of the November assault. "I saw at least 200 families whose homes had collapsed on them, thanks to American bombs," he said. "I saw a huge number of people killed in the northern part of the city and most of them were civilians."

Like so many others who made it out of Fallujah, he described scenes of widespread death and desolation in what had not so long before been a modest-sized city. Most of these resulted from bombings that – despite official announcements emphasising how "targeted" and "precise" they were – seemed to those on the receiving end unbearably indiscriminate.

"There were so many people wounded, and with no medical supplies, people died from their wounds," he said. He also spoke of cluster bombs, which, he – and many other Fallujan witnesses – claim, were used by the military in November as well as during the earlier failed Marine siege of the city in April. The dropping of cluster bombs in areas where civilians live is a direct contravention of the Geneva Conventions.

"I saw cluster bombs everywhere," he said calmly, "and so many bodies that were burned – dead with no bullets in them."

A doctor, who fled Fallujah after the attacks began and is now working in a hospital in a small village outside the city, spoke in a similar vein (though she requested that her name not be used): "They shot all the sheep. Any animals people owned were shot," she said. "Helicopters shot all the animals and anything that moved in the villages surrounding Fallujah.

"I saw one dead body I remember all too well. My first where there were bubbles on the skin, and abnormal colouring, and burn holes in his clothing." She also described treating patients who, she felt certain, had been struck by chemical and white-phosphorus-type weapons. "And I saw so many bodies with these strange signs, and none of them with bullet holes or obvious injuries, just dead with discolouring and that bubbled skin, dark-blue skin with bubbles on it, and burned clothing. I saw this with my own eyes. These bodies were in the centre of Fallujah, in old Fallujah."

Like Burhan, while in the city she too witnessed many civilian buildings bombed to the ground. "I saw two schools bombed, and all the houses around them too."

'Why was our family bombed?'
Another glimpse of what it's like to live in a city under attack from the air was offered by two sisters, Muna and Selma Salim, also refugees from Fallujah and the only survivors of a family of 10, the rest of whom were killed when two rockets fired from a US fighter jet hit their home. Their mother, Hadima, 65, died in the attack along with her son Khalid, an Iraqi police captain, his sister Ka'ahla and her 22-year-old son, their pregnant 45-year-old sister Adhra'a, her husband Samr, who had a doctorate in religious studies, and their four-year-old son Amorad.

Muna, still exhausted from her ordeal, wept almost constantly while telling her story. Even her abaya, which fully covers her, could not hide her shaking body as waves of grief rolled through her tiredness. She was speaking of her dead sister Artica. "I can't get the image out of my mind of her foetus being blown out of her body," said Muna. Artica was seven months pregnant when, on November 10, the rockets struck. "My sister Selma and I survived only because we were staying at our neighbour’s house that night," she said, sobbing, still unable to reconcile her survival with the death of most of the rest of her family in the fierce pre-assault bombing of the city.

"There were no fighters in our area, so I don't know why they bombed our home," cried Muna. "When this happened there were ongoing full-scale assaults from the air and tanks were attacking our city, so we slipped out of the eastern side of Fallujah and came to Baghdad."

Selma, Muna's 41-year-old sister, recounted scenes of destruction in the city – houses that had been razed by countless air strikes and the stench of decaying bodies that swirled through the air borne on the area's dry, dusty winds.

"The rubble from the bombed houses covered up the bodies, and nobody could get to them because people were too afraid even to drive a bulldozer!" She held out her hands as she spoke, as if to ask her god how such things could happen. "Even walking out of your house was just about impossible because of the snipers."

Both sisters described their last months in Fallujah as a nightmarish existence. It was a city where fighters controlled the area, medicine and food were often in short supply, and the thumping concussions of US bombs had become a daily reality. Rocket-armed attack helicopters rattled low over the desert as they approached the city only adding to the nightmarish landscape.

"Even when the bombs were far away, glasses would fall off our shelves and break," exclaimed Muna. Going to market, as they had to, in the middle of the day to buy food for their family, both sisters felt constant fear of warplanes roaring over the sprawling city. "The jets flew over so often," said Selma, "but we never knew when they would drop their bombs."

They described a desolate city of closed shops and mostly empty streets on which infrequent terrorised residents could be spotted simply wandering around not knowing what to do. "Fallujah was like a ghost town most of the time," was the way Muna put it. "Most families stayed inside their houses all the time, only going out for food when they had to." Like many others, their family soon found that it needed to ration increasingly scarce food and water, "Usually we were very hungry because we didn't want to eat our food, or drink all of the water." She paused, took a deep breath undoubtedly thinking of her dead parents and siblings, and added, "We never knew if we would be able to get more, so we tried to be careful."

During the interview with the two sisters in the Baghdad home of their uncle, both of them often stared at the ground silently until another detail would come to mind to be added to their story. Unlike Muna who was visibly emotional, Selma generally spoke in a flat voice without affect that might indeed have emerged from some dead zone. "Our situation then was like that of so many from Fallujah," she said. "None of us could leave because we had nowhere to go and no money."

"Why was our family bombed?" pleaded Muna, tears streaming down her cheeks, "There were never any fighters in our area!"

Today fighting continues on nearly a daily basis around Fallujah, as well as in many other cities throughout Iraq; and for reporters as well as residents of Baghdad, the air war is an omnipresent reality. Helicopters buzz the tops of buildings and hover over neighbourhoods in the capital all the time, while fighter jets often scorch the skies.

Below them, traumatised civilians await the next onslaught, never knowing when it may occur.

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