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You asked for my evidence, Mr Ambassador. Here it is

by : Naomi Klein
Tuesday December 7, 2004 - 02:44

In Iraq, the US does eliminate those who dare to count the dead

by Naomi Klein

David T Johnson,
Acting ambassador,
US Embassy, London

Dear Mr Johnson, On November 26, your press counsellor sent a letter to the Guardian taking strong exception to a sentence in my column of the same day. The sentence read: "In Iraq, US forces and their Iraqi surrogates are no longer bothering to conceal attacks on civilian targets and are openly eliminating anyone - doctors, clerics, journalists - who dares to count the bodies." Of particular concern was the word "eliminating".

The letter suggested that my charge was "baseless" and asked the Guardian either to withdraw it, or provide "evidence of this extremely grave accusation". It is quite rare for US embassy officials to openly involve themselves in the free press of a foreign country, so I took the letter extremely seriously. But while I agree that the accusation is grave, I have no intention of withdrawing it. Here, instead, is the evidence you requested.

In April, US forces laid siege to Falluja in retaliation for the gruesome killings of four Blackwater employees. The operation was a failure, with US troops eventually handing the city back to resistance forces. The reason for the withdrawal was that the siege had sparked uprisings across the country, triggered by reports that hundreds of civilians had been killed. This information came from three main sources: 1) Doctors. USA Today reported on April 11 that "Statistics and names of the dead were gathered from four main clinics around the city and from Falluja general hospital". 2) Arab TV journalists. While doctors reported the numbers of dead, it was al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya that put a human face on those statistics. With unembedded camera crews in Falluja, both networks beamed footage of mutilated women and children throughout Iraq and the Arab-speaking world. 3) Clerics. The reports of high civilian casualties coming from journalists and doctors were seized upon by prominent clerics in Iraq. Many delivered fiery sermons condemning the attack, turning their congregants against US forces and igniting the uprising that forced US troops to withdraw.

US authorities have denied that hundreds of civilians were killed during last April’s siege, and have lashed out at the sources of these reports. For instance, an unnamed "senior American officer", speaking to the New York Times last month, labelled Falluja general hospital "a centre of propaganda". But the strongest words were reserved for Arab TV networks. When asked about al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya’s reports that hundreds of civilians had been killed in Falluja, Donald Rumsfeld, the US secretary of defence, replied that "what al-Jazeera is doing is vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable ... " Last month, US troops once again laid siege to Falluja - but this time the attack included a new tactic: eliminating the doctors, journalists and clerics who focused public attention on civilian casualties last time around.

Eliminating doctors The first major operation by US marines and Iraqi soldiers was to storm Falluja general hospital, arresting doctors and placing the facility under military control. The New York Times reported that "the hospital was selected as an early target because the American military believed that it was the source of rumours about heavy casual ties", noting that "this time around, the American military intends to fight its own information war, countering or squelching what has been one of the insurgents’ most potent weapons". The Los Angeles Times quoted a doctor as saying that the soldiers "stole the mobile phones" at the hospital - preventing doctors from communicating with the outside world.

But this was not the worst of the attacks on health workers. Two days earlier, a crucial emergency health clinic was bombed to rubble, as well as a medical supplies dispensary next door. Dr Sami al-Jumaili, who was working in the clinic, says the bombs took the lives of 15 medics, four nurses and 35 patients. The Los Angeles Times reported that the manager of Falluja general hospital "had told a US general the location of the downtown makeshift medical centre" before it was hit.

Whether the clinic was targeted or destroyed accidentally, the effect was the same: to eliminate many of Falluja’s doctors from the war zone. As Dr Jumaili told the Independent on November 14: "There is not a single surgeon in Falluja." When fighting moved to Mosul, a similar tactic was used: on entering the city, US and Iraqi forces immediately seized control of the al-Zaharawi hospital.

Eliminating journalists The images from last month’s siege on Falluja came almost exclusively from reporters embedded with US troops. This is because Arab journalists who had covered April’s siege from the civilian perspective had effectively been eliminated. Al-Jazeera had no cameras on the ground because it has been banned from reporting in Iraq indefinitely. Al-Arabiya did have an unembedded reporter, Abdel Kader Al-Saadi, in Falluja, but on November 11 US forces arrested him and held him for the length of the siege. Al-Saadi’s detention has been condemned by Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation of Journalists. "We cannot ignore the possibility that he is being intimidated for just trying to do his job," the IFJ stated.

It’s not the first time journalists in Iraq have faced this kind of intimidation. When US forces invaded Baghdad in April 2003, US Central Command urged all unembedded journalists to leave the city. Some insisted on staying and at least three paid with their lives. On April 8, a US aircraft bombed al-Jazeera’s Baghdad offices, killing reporter Tareq Ayyoub. Al-Jazeera has documentation proving it gave the coordinates of its location to US forces.

On the same day, a US tank fired on the Palestine hotel, killing José Couso, of the Spanish network Telecinco, and Taras Protsiuk, of Reuters. Three US soldiers are facing a criminal lawsuit from Couso’s family, which alleges that US forces were well aware that journalists were in the Palestine hotel and that they committed a war crime.

Eliminating clerics Just as doctors and journalists have been targeted, so too have many of the clerics who have spoken out forcefully against the killings in Falluja. On November 11, Sheik Mahdi al-Sumaidaei, the head of the Supreme Association for Guidance and Daawa, was arrested. According to Associated Press, "Al-Sumaidaei has called on the country’s Sunni minority to launch a civil disobedience campaign if the Iraqi government does not halt the attack on Falluja". On November 19, AP reported that US and Iraqi forces stormed a prominent Sunni mosque, the Abu Hanifa, in Aadhamiya, killing three people and arresting 40, including the chief cleric - another opponent of the Falluja siege. On the same day, Fox News reported that "US troops also raided a Sunni mosque in Qaim, near the Syrian border". The report described the arrests as "retaliation for opposing the Falluja offensive". Two Shia clerics associated with Moqtada al-Sadr have also been arrested in recent weeks; according to AP, "both had spoken out against the Falluja attack".

"We don’t do body counts," said General Tommy Franks of US Central Command. The question is: what happens to the people who insist on counting the bodies - the doctors who must pronounce their patients dead, the journalists who document these losses, the clerics who denounce them? In Iraq, evidence is mounting that these voices are being systematically silenced through a variety of means, from mass arrests, to raids on hospitals, media bans, and overt and unexplained physical attacks.

Mr Ambassador, I believe that your government and its Iraqi surrogates are waging two wars in Iraq. One war is against the Iraqi people, and it has claimed an estimated 100,000 lives. The other is a war on witnesses.

· Additional research by Aaron Maté


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Commentaires de l'article

> You asked for my evidence, Mr Ambassador. Here it is
Tuesday December 7 - 06:43 - Posted by cc966a45ff5c45cb...

Naomi Klein obviously works for Baghdad Bob.

> You asked for my evidence, Mr Ambassador. Here it is
Wednesday December 8 - 00:25 - Posted by 1122a42601ceb4e3...

Who is Baghdad Bob?

> You asked for my evidence, Mr Ambassador. Here it is
Wednesday December 8 - 01:13 - Posted by bd48d64c07e155f5...

"Baghdad Bob" is the response uninformed people give when their neat and simple little worlds are threatened by facts.

> You asked for my evidence, Mr Ambassador. Here it is
Wednesday December 8 - 03:52 - Posted by 1122a42601ceb4e3...

Well then why not "Baghdad Bush"?

> You asked for my evidence, Mr Ambassador. Here it is
Wednesday December 8 - 06:33 - Posted by cc966a45ff5c45cb...

Whereas facts are something that leftists obviously ignore. LOL!

> You asked for my evidence, Mr Ambassador. Here it is
Wednesday December 8 - 06:26 - Posted by 1122a42601ceb4e3...

I guess we went to Iraq to free the Iraqis of their lives and their country. What a government we have here, they make the Nazis look like school boys.

> You asked for my evidence, Mr Ambassador. Here it is
Wednesday December 8 - 19:15 - Posted by 77fd9b0f4e76a18f...

Hmmm, believe AlJazeera or our military and embedded US reporters. Our military has freed countless millions from tyranny while Al Jazeera just inflames the arab street and makes no effort to be balanced or responsible journalists.

If a cleric promotes and incites violence against the US, the interim gov’t, and the Iraqi people, how is he not part of the insurrection?

Look into your hearts. You all really do hope that Iraq stays in chaos. You will be so disappointed when Iraqis actually end up having a democratic nation.

Oh, but it won’t really be a free nation, you’ll say. It will be a puppet of the US! Are Germany and Japan puppets of the US or are they free democratic nations?

> You asked for my evidence, Mr Ambassador. Here it is
Wednesday December 8 - 21:35 - Posted by 1122a42601ceb4e3...

We do not have to worry about Al Jazeera inflaming the arabs, we have the US military and Bushco to do a bang up job of that. Hmmmm, lets see now the occupiers that would be the US comes to Iraq and blows up the cities and people without regard to human lives and suffering and should the Iraqi people be angry about that? Or should they be angry at the messenger who tells the world about it? That is a tough one, blame the criminals or blame the messenger? Hard to know what they would be more mad at......

> You asked for my evidence, Mr Ambassador. Here it is
Thursday December 9 - 09:17 - Posted by 1ebd73fbe1f545ca...

The Japanese government can’t fart unless sanctioned by the US. The new, younger generation of Japanese realise this and are starting to get mad about it.

> You asked for my evidence, Mr Ambassador. Here it is
Thursday December 9 - 18:36 - Posted by 77fd9b0f4e76a18f...

Really. Do you have any links to news articles where the US has given its blessing to the Japanese gov’t farting?

The young people in Japan love America and American culture. If they decide they want to revert to their militaristic ways they’ll have China to deal with, not us.

> You asked for my evidence, Mr Ambassador. Here it is
Thursday December 9 - 18:52 - Posted by 1ebd73fbe1f545ca...

Firstly, the U.S. forces have not left Japan since 1945, for almost more than half a century by now! An external imposition, if effective, does not need continued occupation like this by foreign forces for so long. This raises the issue of national sovereignty, insofar as the U.S. has exerted such a predominant influence on Japanese (exclusively pro-American) foreign policy since the end of WWII. But then, a democracy, by definition, is to be by the people, for the people, and of the people and cannot be genuinely democratic under the shadow of an imperial power. The same can be said about West Germany, until it was unified with East Germany and integrated into the EU some years ago. In this light, the U.S. forces should leave Japan tomorrow, along with the other 86 countries where there are US bases.
Secondly, there is widespread resentment against the U.S. imperial presence in Japan, and a good illustration is Okinawa, home to more than half of the 47,000 U.S. troops. In 2000, for instance, "up to 25,000 people are being organised to surround the US Kadena air base on the island. `We want to tell the world that we, Okinawans, do not want to live with the US bases...,´ said Okinawa Peace Action Centre director-general Yoshikazu Nakasone. `Since the end of World War II, we have been suffering under the dominating US military presence and all we want is to live in a base-free, peaceful society’’ This was after the rape and murder by US servicemen of a little girl. But then, again, a democracy cannot be genuine unless its people have control over its own territory, not under the dominating military presence of an outside superpower.

And thirdly, the political system which has emerged is mostly semi-authoritarian and consensual, in close connection with its distinctive Japanese cultural tradition, but inextricably dominated by a power that dropped two nuclear bombs. Both Japanese and West German political systems are more communitarian than liberal.

> You asked for my evidence, Mr Ambassador. Here it is
Friday December 10 - 18:38 - Posted by 77fd9b0f4e76a18f...

After the intial post war occupation period, the US troops have been located in Japan and Germany at the request of those nations. Without our troops in Germany during the cold war, the German politicians knew they would be at the mercy of the Soviets. Now that the cold war is over and the military is modernizing, the disposition and deployment of US troops is being reviewed and changed. Many in the Korean military are very worried about the fact that the US is removing thousands of troops, and repositioning the remaining US troops far from the DMZ. Korean youth protests, and anti Americanism have caused a reassesment by the US. If they don’t want us there, we’ll be happy to leave. You can face off against a million N Korean troops by yourself then.

> You asked for my evidence, Mr Ambassador. Here it is
Friday December 10 - 22:32 - Posted by b40452834cedb2b2...

Its time for the US to learn how to mind its own business. Switzerland that tiny little country has not had a war in 400 years, that’s right 400 years. WHY? well they learned 400 years ago that minding one’s own business was the way to get along with the world and to keep the Swiss citizens enjoying the highest standard of living in the world.

Foreign citizens hate the US because we occupy their countries and the Japanese are just another in a series of other occupied countries that want us out . Our service men do not know how to act, they have raped a 12 year old school girl (etc.) setting off riots from the citizens there who are ahead of their government in demanding that the US get the hell out of their country.

Germany wants us out, but the military elite there enjoy a nice cushy life and they do not want to leave. After 50 years of occupation there is no excuse for us to continue to support an elite armed force there. When did our constitution provide for this out of control government to police the world? When did the citizens of this country agree to fund a world wide occupation? We have so many problems right here at home that are not being addressed from child poverty, starvation, unemployment, shrinking economy, lack of healthcare, infant mortality. lack of education, religion taking over the government, etc. that we should all be demanding be addressed by our irresponsible and corrupt government. In a true democracy the people’s needs would be first not last.

> You asked for my evidence, Mr Ambassador. Here it is
Sunday December 12 - 02:09 - Posted by 5352229f192287df...

Actually Switzerland hasn’t had a war for that long because it is extremely mountainous and the terrain allows a small army to hold off larger ones. They have such a standard of living because Swiss banking laws allow them to launder dirty money.

We are only occupying one country and that is Iraq. Our servicemen have lower criminal rates than the general population. In any group of a million people there will be some bad apples.

> You asked for my evidence, Mr Ambassador. Here it is
Saturday December 11 - 00:36 - Posted by b3fa5bb41ed5b871...

Are Japan and germany puppet governments?

Unfortunately Eisenhower is not the present President of the US.

It was Eisenhower however who did coin the phrase ’Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex.’

(Congressional usually being left out, but so relevant today._

As a General and a President he had unusal insight into all of these areas.

But there is no more Eisenhower, and unfortunately he was not listend to, the masses having more important things to think about.

Now we have the reverse of what we fought for in the Second World War.

The Allies have become the fascist enemy, and I do not say that lightly, I say it with great sadness, and with fear, not for me, for I am old, and will not be here that much longer, but for those who will have to endure this subjugation.

> You asked for my evidence, Mr Ambassador. Here it is
Sunday December 12 - 02:13 - Posted by 5352229f192287df...

I like Ike too, but you’re off your rocker old timer if you actually think we are fascist. The fascists are the Baathist Thugs who are fighting mad that they don’t get to continue subjugating the Shia and Kurds.
Hopefully you won’t kick the bucket for another 5 years so you can see Iraq change for the better.

> You asked for my evidence, Mr Ambassador. Here it is
Monday December 13 - 04:56 - Posted by b40452834cedb2b2...

You speak words of wisdom and after the second world war, the government of this country started to go to hell, I too have watched it, and I am also saddened by how far we have degenerated. We were once a proud country that did good around the world. During the nuclear arms race our leadership got more and more satiated with world domination , and nuclear weapon diplomacy became our policy and now we have gone mad and we have a military dictatorship just like the Nazis. I am amazed at how closely they are following the Nazi handbook the propaganda ministry, the march on other countries by proclaiming falsified threats, its all very sad, and I am afraid there is no returning to a great and honest and just nation. The Vietnam war was a complete disgrace until this Iraq war came along and gave it respectibility. Our march toward weapons in space and world domination makes the Nazis look like school boys, meanwhile the citizens are passed out on the Bible, on booze, on drugs, on t.v., sports and porn. Their out of control government can do anthing it wants to...I am hoping to squeek out just before they start to push the "NUKULAR" buttons.

> You asked for my evidence, Mr Ambassador. Here it is
Tuesday December 28 - 00:41 - Posted by 3c49f63437c94b57...

Interesting reference to Japan. By that I assume you mean post War Japan? Governed by a US general with forty years of experience in the far east? Governed by a US general who kept the defeated emperor on the throne? Kept the Japanese workers at their jobs, including the police, government workers, street and water workers, regardless of their political and religious affiliations? And not run by L Paul Bremer who had never lived in the mid east, did not speak the language, fired everyone he could find, and some he couldn’t, and then had no explanation for the insurrection which followed? So balance the tally sheet: Post war Japan was governed by people who knew the area, knew the people and cared something about the outcome. Post war Japan was run by the Japanese (on a day to day basis) and not by US corporations. Did Brown and Root run the water plant in Tokyo? No! Result: a brand spanking new democracy that works and a first class market based western-style economy. Iraq? Too soon to tell, but I fear it is too late to change the course that Bremer set us upon.

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