US forces execute 3 tied and bound Iraqi civilians in cold blood.
This has been confirmed because the Americans have accepted wrongful death claims against the 3 men who were executed.. But $2000 for them? How about some hanging b ythe balls instead.
Two days before the end of Ramadan, just as they were about to break their fast, the family was interrupted by two groups of US troops from the 82nd Airborne Division bursting into the house, from opposite sides. The family dived for cover and the troops fired on each other, killing three of their own. They then separated the women and girls, putting them in an outside kitchen building of the home near Ramadi.
Three men, brothers Ibrahim and Sabah Odai and their cousin, were taken outside the house, forced face down in the mud and shot dead.
The next day the military returned to the village bringing papers with them. They were sorry but they had raided the wrong house, acting on false information. Claims for compensation for any damage suffered could be submitted, along with proof of fault, photographs of damage, medical reports, death certificates, details of the amount of money claimed, and so on, to the nearest office.
The women of the village were in mourning, in black, indoors, the widow and children of one man, the mother of the two brothers, a little girl with a dressing covering a shrapnel wound on her face, a young woman with her arm heavily bandaged. The house was more or less destroyed. A white car was a strainer of bullet holes. There were bloodstains on the ground where the men were executed.
I'm passing on information from an independent journalist friend. I've seen the photos but I haven't yet been able to go and take statements from the people. Ibrahim was a human rights lawyer and today there was due to be a demonstration by other lawyers in Ramadi. It hasn't been much in the news though and I thought it was too important to wait till I get to see them. I'll give you more details when I do.
We attempted to go to Ramadi today to join the demonstration and get their statements but by the time we got petrol it was 9:30 and we wouldn't even have got out of Baghdad by 10, so the journalists I was hitching a lift with decided not to go. I'll go on Saturday, inshallah. Cross your fingers for me. It's a scary place. When I told Raed I was going to Ramadi he pleaded with me not to go. "They will cut off your hands. And your tongue."
The reason it took until 9:30 to get petrol was that the queue went round the entire block from each of the petrol stations. Men wait outside their cars on the street parallel with the one where the actual pumps are and, every few minutes, open the driver's door, put their shoulder to the frame and push the vehicle forward a few minutes. To leave the engine running or restart it for every step forward would be unaffordable madness.
The petrol station just past Wathiq Square said it had no petrol to sell, but still there was a motionless queue two cars wide and easily a hundred long. Even the black market sellers now have lines. The queues block the road and the rage of waiting is amplified by the continued inertia outside the station, burning the fuel so hard won. You never see a humvee in a petrol queue.
The Turkish drivers don't want to drive to Baghdad anymore, according to Mohammed, and there isn't enough fuel coming in from Kuwait and other neighbours to satisfy the demand for both cars and generators. Iraqi plants are generating too little because they need repairs and the Iraqi engineers know how to fix them but are not being allowed to.
As well, the prices are going up, because Halliburton (the one that's paying Dick Cheney $1 million a year 'pension') is charging, via the US administration, $2.65 per gallon (4 litres) to transport it in from Kuwait. Even the Pentagon, known for its robbery of US taxpayers, used to do the job for $1.12 / gallon.. Iraqi businesses were managing to bring it in for less than $1 a gallon.
As we drove away with a full tank after a half-hour wait, even for black market petrol, Mohammed indicated another queue occupying two lanes of the highway we were passing over. The roadside sellers said an American tank just crushed two cars in that queue and drove away. No one was hurt, because they were out of the cars, just very, very angry.
Catching up with some friends I haven't seen since the war. Husam was arrested by coalition forces. Talaat has been working as a doctor throughout the war and occupation.
Husam was driving his uncle's car when a US humvee (big armoured car thing) pulled out and crashed into his side. He came to as they were dragging him out of the car. They pushed him onto the ground with his arms pulled up behind his back, tied them, put him into the humvee and didn't speak to him for 20 minutes or so. The soldier in the humvee just watched him, smirking.
The translator came and told Husam he knew it wasn't his fault, that it was the soldiers who caused the crash. Husam asked him please, go and tell them that. The translator went to tell them and a soldier came and hit Husam. "Watch yourself."
After a while one of the soldiers suggested to the others that "we should take $50 from him for attacking us." Husam didn't have $50 for them to take but there was a child's bike in the boot of the car that he was taking to one of his young cousins. One of the soldiers said, "Aah, he's going to make a child happy. Let him go." He was untied and let out of the humvee. He asked what they were going to do about the damage to his car. "It belongs to my uncle, not to me and you've destroyed it." The translator said just go. You have your life, you have your freedom, just go.
He emailed a few days ago and today was the first time I'd seen him and his family since the war started. Harb, his dad, greeted me with open arms and a huge smile which faded when I asked him how he was doing. "Lousy," he said.
"No work?" I asked.
"I have no work, there is no electricity - look, we're using a generator, there is no security, no law and if something is broken, who do I complain to? There are no ministries. The sewers are full and there is no one to fix them. Saddam was a criminal, a criminal. I'm not defending him, but I am defending the government. We had an establishment, very much establishment, and if something wasn't working you made one phone call and they would come and fix it. The sanctions made everything slower and more difficult but still we had this establishment. Now there is nothing: no government, no police.
"We can't drive anywhere. It takes me an hour and a half to drive Husam to his college in the morning and in the afternoon it takes two hours to bring him back. Today my wife had to walk half her way to work. She is an old woman."
Umm Talaat's English isn't as fluent as the rest of the family's but she understood that much and gave him a resentful look - as if having to walk around the road blocks and traffic jams wasn't indignity enough, now she was being called an old woman. The bus didn't arrive - no doubt caught in traffic or broken, so she had to take a taxi. The bank she works in is on Old Rasheed Street, which was closed by the Americans for some reason connected with the exchange of the old currency for the new one. The closure stopped the traffic on surrounding streets and she had to walk about 3 kilometres.
The petrol queues make everything worse: Harb described the choice between queuing for two hours to fill up in a petrol station for between 20-50 Dinars per a litre or paying 4000 Dinars for 20 litres of black market petrol - 200 Dinars a litre - from a roadside seller who's already done the queuing for you. Last time he paid the extra; today he queued, hence his overflowing frustration. "The Americans did one good thing today - they chased away the kids with petrol cans at the petrol station, so the queue moved quicker. When they do something good, we have to say so, they did something good, but when they do something bad, we can't say they did something good."
Talaat, the oldest son, is a doctor. His salary has gone up, he said, trying to be positive. But, he shrugged, everything is more expensive. Harb said a kilo of potatoes has gone up fourfold, from 300 to 1200 Dinars. Talaat said he bought a kilo of meat earlier that day for 9000 Dinars. I've no idea what it cost before but the entire family looked scandalised.
He got married in September to another doctor: the wedding had been on hold until after the war, which he spent living and working in the hospital. They received sometimes 100 casualties in a quarter of an hour, ran out of everything. He saw looters in the hospital while he was operating in theatre the day Baghdad was taken by the US. The next day, marines came to guard what was left because Baghdad Medical complex was the only hospital still functioning in the city.
The far side of the bridge was a tank, shooting at everything, "human or animal". A pick-up was fired at: "Incidentally there was a family inside. The ones who could run away escaped and came to the hospital for help, there is a woman dying in the car and children.
We went to the soldiers guarding the hospital and said to them please signal to those soldiers and tell them to stop shooting so we can get to those people. They said we can not signal to those soldiers because we are the marines and they are the ordinary army.
"We told them please, can't you talk to them, so we can get the ambulance there and they said no, it's not possible. So they were killed.
"Nothing has changed since the war. We have no nursing staff. I work as a surgeon, a scrub nurse, a cleaner. Still there is nothing. I am working in a septic environment. We have to prioritise - we will operate on this one now, this one later, let that one die because we can't spare the treatment for him."