Abut Talat and I, snarled in the horrendous daily traffic of Baghdad, decide to laugh about it. â€œMaybe we should consider a camel,â€ he ponders, â€œThat way we donâ€™t have to feed it benzene!â€ We both start laughing while our car hasnâ€™t moved for several minutes.
An Iraqi Police truck races by on the wrong side of the road, sirens blaringâ€¦to do what?
â€œPlus, a camel is better than a horse because it has 6 stomachs,â€ he adds, starting to sound serious about this, â€œThat way it can go for even longer!â€ I have tears now from laughing so hard, while Abu Talat holds his hands up, signaling for me to wait, â€œOr even better, each car should have two donkeys to tow it, so we never need benzene again!â€
We both lurch forward in our seats with laughter as I bang my hands on the dash board. Itâ€™s either laugh or cry in Iraq. Without our joking, we would have lost it a long time ago.
While the humanitarian crisis facing families who remain trapped inside Fallujah grinds on, US-backed interim prime minister Ayad Allawi announced yesterday that the crime rate in Fallujah was down after the US siege of the city. Remember that not long ago, Allawi also announced that every person killed in Fallujah was a fighter, ie-not one civilian was killed.
As heavy traffic of Apache helicopters roars incessantly over Baghdad, fierce clashes continue against the occupation forces while the interim prime minister is in Jordan, attempting to persuade Iraqis living there to participate in the upcoming elections.
With at least 134 US soldiers killed in Iraq this month so far, yet another huge car bomb detonated into a military convoy on the dreaded airport road. While witnesses reported seeing several bodies lying on the ground at the scene, the military has yet to announce any casualty counts. Another car bomb in Beji detonated near a US patrol, killing 4 Iraqis and wounding at least 19, including 2 US soldiers.
Allawi continues to insist that violence in Iraq is decreasing since the siege of Fallujah.
After picking up some friends, we are snarled in more horrendous traffic near the airport road on our way to another refugee camp. Razor wire stretches across the road as helicopters and military hardware are clustered just up the road. While the military cut most of the trees
Meanwhile, the military refused to allow yet another aid convoy into Fallujah. They were turned back because the military personnel told them the Ministry of Health would be allowed to send a relief convoy in â€œ8 or 9 days.â€
There are at least 150 families trapped within the city, and the military refuses to let any of them out. While a few ambulances were allowed into one section of the city a few days ago, there are at least three main neighborhoods that the military is keeping a tight lid on. Refugees continue to report the use of napalm and phosphorous weapons-of seeing dead bodies with no bullet holes in them, just scorched patches of skin.
More refugees at the Amiryah bomb shelter camp in Baghdad are telling the same horror stories. A man who fled the city says, â€œFallujah is in a disaster!â€ He holds his hands out and pleads, â€œWe call on all NGOâ€™s and aid organizations to help Fallujans! We just want to return to our land; we know our homes are destroyed, but weâ€™d rather sleep in tents in our own city.â€
The scene at the nearby Melouki Mosque is chaos. Crowds of men stand outside gates holding their food ration papers in the air to prove they are from Fallujah in order to receive small heaters, stoves, foodstuffs and blankets. Thankfully, an international NGO managed to donate funds to purchase much of these desperately needed supplies for refugees.
Sheikh Hussein who is in charge of the relief effort at the mosque is struggling to cope with the crisis.
We stand in a small courtyard behind the mosque away from the crowds talking. I notice a white military surveillance balloon nearby, as helicopters rumble overhead.
â€œSome people not even from Fallujah are so desperate they are coming here to get supplies and pretending to be refugees,â€ he tells us.
Women and children are crying outside the gates as men grapple for the small heaters and stoves.
I am reminded of what occurred in Lidice, Czechoslovakia during World War II. Similar to what the US military has done to Fallujah, the German Nazis leveled Lidice as payback collective punishment for the death of a high ranking member of the German security administration, Reinhard Heydrich, who was killed by Czech patriots in 1942.
Last March, four mercenaries were brutally killed in Fallujah, which led to the first US siege of the city in April as collective payback for the attack. Mostly for political reasons that siege was ceased, which set the stage for the recent attack on the city.
Similarly, Heydrich was assassinated by Czech patriots who were accused of being aided by the village of Lidice. Thus, Hitler ordered the village to be erased, and all men in the city over the age of 16 were killed.
Musar, a woman at the mosque standing nearby is weeping. â€œMy 5 cousins and uncle are trapped there,â€ she cries, â€œThey are not fighters but the Americans wonâ€™t let them out. And now the soldiers are coming to our refugee camp and detaining people!â€
Musar begins to plead with us, â€œThey took all the doctors out of the hospitals. My brother is a doctor there and they made him leave his work.â€ She stops because she is sobbing, then continues, â€œWe have nothing! You must help us. I need my cousins and my uncle! Where are they? I just want to see them. None of them are fighters.â€
(c)2004 Dahr Jamail.