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US eliminates those who count the dead

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    You asked for my evidence, Mr Ambassador. Here it is In Iraq, the US does eliminate those who dare to count the dead Naomi Klein 12/04/04 The Guardian --
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 6, 2004
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      You asked for my evidence, Mr Ambassador. Here it is

      In Iraq, the US does eliminate those who dare to count the dead
      Naomi Klein
      12/04/04 "The Guardian " --

      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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