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Lords of the flies

by : Hakim Mirzoev
Tuesday November 30, 2004 - 01:24

by Hakim Mirzoev

Together with Americans the flies invaded the city. They are millions. The whole city seems to be under their power. The flies cover the corpses. The older is corpse, the more flies are upon it. First they cover a corpse as by some strange rash. Then they begin to swarm upon it, and then a gray moving shroud covers the corpse. Flies swarm upon some ruins as gray monstrous shadows. The stench is awful.

The flies are everywhere. In the hospital wards, operating rooms, canteen. You find them even where they cannot be. In the "humanitarian" plastic bottle with warm plastic-stinking water. The bottle is almost full, simply someone opened it for a second and made a gulp, but this black spot is already floating there...

It is a general crisis with water. There are simply no clean sources. The local residents fetch water from the river, muddy, gray and dead. You can buy anything for water now. The sewage system is broken, the water supply is broken, and electricity is absent in the city.

I am afraid to imagine what will happen in two weeks. Hepatitis will take toll of thousands. They say already that people at the outskirts are in fever with the symptoms of typhus. But one cannot verify it. They prohibited moving in the city.

Everybody knew that they would storm the city. But nobody could imagine HOW it would be happening. Honestly speaking, even I did not believe that I would once again be in hell. After the hell in Grozny I thought that nothing similar would ever happen. That the storm on Grozny was a national Russian masochism, a return to medieval times, a stupidity mixed with a crime. And Baghdad, yielded practically without a fight, made one think that this storm would not last for long. That they would shoot at the outskirts to show off, bomb out a couple of buildings and everything would be finished. The fighters would hide and the Americans would report their mission accomplished.

My friend "fighter" Abdullah suggested me to go. He stubbornly calls me "hakim". It means something like "wise man" in Arabic.

 Hakim, go away! There is big battle coming. Our people will not leave the city. We want to show these jackals how Iraqis can fight. The blood of occupants will flow like a river along the streets... I thought it was bravado.

It is a pity that I did not listen to him. On the second day they simply started to demolish the city. Close explosions rocked the floor rocked under the feet. The plaster fell off the ceiling, the windowpanes burst. You could talk only by shouting because of the continuous gunfire. But the most terrible has begun already on the first day. The wounded started to come into the hospital like a flow. One of the doctors tuned in to BBC by his pocket radio. The news announcer mumbled something about the precision weapons and high professional level of soldiers, about collateral damage reduced to minimum.

I do not know in which place they employed their precision weapons, we had an endless stream of wounded children, women, and elders. Not dozens - hundreds! On the third day the medicines started to come to the end. Especially anesthetics and antibiotics. But the stream did not exhausted. Only on the fourth day we have had a less number of wounded. But it was not because the storm calmed down. On the contrary, now the fights raged in the streets. Simply Americans captured the hospital quarter.

Americans. I have the impression that there are no other words except "fuck" and "shit". Each communication, each order is accompanied by a flow of ’fucks’, ’shits’ and ’bullshits’. I look at Americans with a pity. The Russian language is much more powerful with emotional expressions.

Observing Americans, I catch myself thinking that they are incredibly similar to Russian soldiers, whom I saw in Grozny in January 1994. The same infinite weariness, "burnt out" eyes. The same dull expression on the faces, when the conscience is tired to react to outer stimuli. The same repulsion from the outer world, "autism". In the whole world they have now only them and the rest is wicked and evil.... Yes, to storm the cities is a nasty business. As Stalingrad, as Grozny, as Fallujah.

But you have differences, too. The complete order in the uniform and ammunition jumps to the eye. It seems that a half of what each soldier carries could have been left at the base, but everything is put on and fixed anyway. Their discipline of wearing the uniform and ammunition is well observed.

The second is their collectivity. The Americans do not move alone at all. I even did not see them in pairs. If they appear, they arrive by the whole party. And nobody walks away from his party. Even when their detachment fights, they are all within each other’s sight.

Americans started the shootout with the fighters across the road of our hospital. It was strange to see how a dozen of GIs stood together along the wall and the whole rank fired along the street before them, like on the barricades in 19th century. Had one mortar shell or mine exploded behind them, they would all be gone...

They search in the hospital. They check the documents of everybody. The Iraqi translators bustle. The nastiest sort of people. They combine all the worst things. Obliging, ingratiating to their American "masters" as only Arabs can do, they are shamelessly impudent and pompous with their own people. They make their business on translation all the time. If the American demands the house to be ready for inspection, then the translator will certainly add that the house will be searched, and he, translator, needs a bribe so that the Americans would not go to the women’s part of the house. Although according to the order, the women’s part should only be visited by Iraqi police. This said, the Americans do not follow the order closely...

A dark-skinned hawk-nosed GI, pure Peruvian by his look, noticed me among the "wax-skinned" Iraqis and menacingly moved to me. The edge of his helmet was at the level of my chin, and I could not see his eyes. This was dangerous.

"Who are you?" asked he. My English is far from perfection, but his is even further.

... Generally, it is very notable how many various "colored-skin" soldiers are among the Americans. Suddenly I remembered my service near Baikal Lake in Siberia and my company of hundred people, which included only thirty Russians, five people from Caucasus like me, and all the others from Central Asia. Among the "colored-skin" GIs "Latinos" are largest group, then Africans and semi-Africans. The officers are mostly whites but there are also blacks... But I cannot understand at all, why the US Army soldiers speak broken English!!

I explain to him that I am a doctor, the humanitarian mission representative. I show my plastic "badge". He suspiciously examines the document. The barrel of his rifle hits my hip at his every movement. My Turkish passport confuses him completely. The soldier takes me by the sleeve and pulls somewhere. I understand that it is useless to argue and follow him. In the corridor I am handed over to the sergeant. The sergeant is white. I repeat everything that I said before. Another man studies my ID with the same suspicion. Then he demands that I take off my surgical coat and the T-shirt. Well, I passed it many times in Chechnya and Serbia. I take off my clothes. The sergeant and the soldiers closely examine my shoulders, looking for the bruises from the rifle’s butt. Finally I am allowed to dress myself.

When I button my coat, the sergeant, with a barking commander’s voice, suddenly asks me whether I treated the fighters. I almost laugh at that. I have a weird feeling - as though I watch the film about the Second World War with me as an actor, and the large German in his helmet (the American helmets look pretty much German) asks me, "Where are the Partisanen?" I shrug my shoulders. I tell him that they bring everyone to us. But without weapons. Who is the fighter, who is civilian - we cannot tell. The sergeant loses his interest in me after it. I cannot help but ask him how strongly the fighters resist? The sergeant’s face turns stone. Then the whole flood of ’fucks’, ’bullshits’ towards the fighters. Out of this flood I pick up that the marines would already capture the city and wipe the fighters long time ago, but the commanders look back at politicians and spare bombs and shells. And it is hard for soldiers because of that. But the victory is near...

I recall two days of bombing and think that if it is "spare the shells", then what is not to spare them?

When I return to the staff room, the search is at the full speed. The soldiers inspect the wards, by first cautiously peeking inside, and then bursting into the room by the whole party. Clanking of weapons, tramping, orders. The main attention towards the young males. For some reason they look for those who are with bullet wounds. But we have here only in very serious condition, mostly unconscious. A whole crowd of relatives beside every bed. A continuous cry over the whole hospital.

Yesterday Dr. Ahmed brought half a liter of iodine from somewhere in the bottle of Chivas Regal. He put is to the refrigerator, defrosted long ago. One of GIs opens the refrigerator, sees the bottle. Looking around his shoulder, he takes it out quickly. Apparently noticing that it is open, he turns away the cap and smells the liquid. After that he winced and, with already familiar ’fuck’, throws it to the wall. The iodine splashes the treatment room by red shower. It smells by the sea and alcohol. GI goes away without a word. We do no speak, too. This iodine was the last one.

Finally they go away. They take three wounded Iraqis with them. They are suspected fighters.

In the next two days, the searching procedure is repeated twice. Every time they carry away somebody.

In the evening we receive the wounded teenager. He has two bullet wounds in his chest. By him is a woman - his mother and an old man. They shout, explaining something. I hear familiar "min faldik!" - please! - "Aunni!" - help!.. The teenager is taken to the operating room. He has no chances - we are practically without the medicines. And even if the operation will be successful, there will be nothing to carry out [post operational treatment]. Abdul Karim gloomily opens the pack of cigarettes. He just finished listening to the long confused explanations by the old man.

— After interrogations, the Americans give the usual detainees to our traitors ... - he calls the new Iraqi army by this word - and those shoot them. This boy was executed together with three other men. Bastards...

The rumors about the shootings without trial become true. Many wounded tell that somebody was executed or finished off before their eyes. After all I saw these days I begin to believe it. The American army evidently has broken loose...

The surgeon comes out after an hour. The teenager has died. The crying mother is led away by the old Iraqi. He is her brother. The surgeon sits down on the sofa and closes his eyes.

— Aneh teben! - I am so tired! ...

During the five days, while the count was yet conducted, more than three thousand wounded passed through our hospital. These were the people who lived nearby. The people who could be delivered to us. Nobody knows how many people in the city are dead. Nobody will ever know...

Tomorrow the mission’s car will pick me up. How the driver could break into the city, only God knows. Maybe the insignia on the hood and the doors worked out.

And here I am going through the city and cannot say a word in shock. I cannot recognize the city. Only ten days ago it was an Iraqi town with its regular for centuries Arabic life. Boling bazaars, noisy streets. And here I am going through the empty dead city, between the ugly "pyramids" of destroyed buildings, broken streets, whole quarters wiped from the face of earth. The city is killed and dismembered by some monstrous maniac. Beelzebub - the lord of the flies. Under the flag of stars and stripes, where the stars look so alike to thick flesh flies.

I go and ask the skies again, like five years ago in bombed out Kosovo, will anybody ever answer for this barbarism? But the skies do not respond. Only a few US battle helicopters pass nearby my road towards the ruins of the city. The killings continue.

Russian original text — "Завтра" № 48 (575), 24.11.2004

translated by dari890


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