"Falluja was wiped out"
- "Falluja was wiped out"
International Action Center
From Feb. 20-25, IAC activist John Catalinotto was in Belgium and
Germany taking part in protests against Bush's visit to Europe. On
Feb. 25, he participated in a meeting where two people from Falluja,
Iraq, told of the U.S. assault on their city. Below is his
translation of an excellent interview with the two by Rüdiger Göbel
of the German daily newspaper Junge Welt, in its Feb. 26 edition.
Interview: Rüdiger Göbel
Junge Welt, Week final supplement, Feb 26, 2005
Discussion with Mahammad J. Haded and Mohammad Awad over the voting
farce in Iraq after the siege and bombardment of a city with a
population of 360,000; the mood in the U.S. Army and in the
population in occupied Mesopotamia.
* The physician Mahammad J. Haded and Mohammad Awad, director of a
refugee center, were in the besieged and bombarded Iraqi city of
Falluja during the large U.S. offensive called "Dawn" in November
2004. In the past two weeks (Feb. 12-26) they reported to numerous
meetings in Germany on the terror they experienced. Further
information in addition: www.iraktribunal.de
Q: Two weeks ago U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld left
after a visit to the occupation troops in Baghdad into his airplane
and a few hours later reached the "security conference" in Munich.
How long does an Iraqi from occupied Mesopotamia need to reach
Mahammad J. Haded: We had to drive with a passenger car from Falluja
to Baghdad and then to the German Embassy to pick up a visa. From
there out we drove a good 1,000 kilometers (625 miles) to the
Jordanian capital Amman with a taxi. With Jordan Air we continued to
go to Frankfurt/Main. All in all we were underway for three days.
Q: In the past weeks the "elections" dominated the reports from Iraq
in the local media. In the province Anbar, where Falluja also lies,
only two percent of the eligible voters took part in the vote
according to occupation reports. How do you explain that?
Haded: The elections in Iraq were important for the USA. They were
of enormous symbolic importance, but it was a vote that doesn't
represent the Iraqis. The Iraqis were rather erased as Iraqis and
instead divided into Shiites, Sunnis, Christians, in Kurds, Turkmen
and Arabs, and so on. Political parties that really work for our
country did not take part only at all in the election. Because of a
lack of security they were for a postponement of the vote. For
example, the Sunnis in Mosul, Tikrit, Dijala, Anbar, Falluja, Ramadi
and large parts of Baghdad were of this opinion: one cannot
participate in the vote so long as occupation troops are in the
country. They demanded a clear schedule for their departure. The
Shiite Imam however called from the mosques for taking part and
explained that those who do not vote are unbelievers. They said to
their followers that their vote would support the demand for the
departure of the Americans. Voters and non-voters alike were united
in wanting the departure of the U.S. soldiers.
Mohammad Awad: The Americans and the Iraqi interim government spoke
of 14.5 million eligible voters. In the end according to their data
eight million participated. Many Iraqis believe that at most five
million co- operated - in an overall population of 26 million.
Q: From fear of attacks or by political conviction?
Haded: There are many reasons, from lack of security up to political
boycott. On Election Day it was forbidden to drive with an
automobile. One had to thus go by foot to the election. There were
notices threatening polling stations. Many had thus actually feared
participating in the election. Many stayed away because they assumed
the Americans would carry out electoral frauds. They didn't want to
be part of a farce.
Awad: Most Iraqis refused to cooperate out of political conviction.
How can I put my voting card into an urn, which is "protected" by an
American tank, was heard again and again. From the United Nations
there were exactly 15 elections observers in Iraq! How could they
possibly get an accurate picture of the proper voting procedures.
A widespread slogan in Iraq was: whether you go to vote or not, in
the end in any case the occupation will win. Already before votes
were counted it was clear that the new government was set up by the
past interim government. Singular posts are only shifted and
ministers switched around. That means in the last analysis that the
Iraqi people had no real voice.
Q: Falluja had 360,000 inhabitants before the U.S. invasion. How
many people still live in that "city of the thousand mosques," which
has now been besieged and bombarded several times?
Haded: First, in Falluja there were only a hundred mosques. The city
is today totally ruined. Falluja is our Dresden in Iraq. [Dresden
was a German civilian city filled with refugees that was firebombed
by British and U.S. planes as World War II was ending-trans.] About
5,000 families, that is, 25,000 to 30,000 Iraqis, remained during
the U.S. major offensive in November in Falluja, the rest of the
inhabitants having fled. Meanwhile some returned. We estimate that
about 20 per cent of the population of Falluja returned.
Q:: The U.S. army indicated at the end of December that one of every
three dwellings in Falluja had been destroyed due to the major
Haded: That includes only those destroyed by bombing. Apartments and
houses that were not destroyed directly by U.S. bombs were destroyed
later. Furniture was smashed into little pieces. Besides,
innumerable houses were purposefully set on fire. Even schools and
hospitals were destroyed. The Americans moved ahead from house to
house. Devastated houses were marked with a "X ".
Q: How many Iraqis were killed during the U.S. offensive?
Haded: Still today corpses are found under the rubble of destroyed
houses. An unknown number of dead people were thrown by the U.S.
troops into the Euphrates River. The U.S. army announced that 1,200
people had been killed. We ourselves pulled out and then buried more
than 700 corpses. Beyond that we cannot give accurate data.
Q: According to U.S. military, the dead bodies are
exclusively "terrorists," that is, resistance fighters. Civilians
were unhurt. Is this your experience?
Haded: We have innumerable pictures and also films, on which you can
see who was killed in Falluja. I invite everyone to come into our
city and to make their own picture of the situation. I will bring
you together with children who had to watch their parents being shot
by Americans. And I will bring you together with men who saw how
their children and their wives were killed.
There was and there still is resistance in Iraq and also in Falluja.
The resistance against the occupation is legitimate and corresponds
to international conventions. It is not however by any means legal
to bombard civilians. That is permitted neither to the Americans nor
to opponents of the occupation.
Many Iraqis are the opinion that the attacks on civilians are not
the responsibility of the resistance, but that in the long run the
Americans and the secret services of the neighboring countries are
behind them. It is similar with Musab al-Zarkawi, with whose
existence the Americans justified the attacks on Falluja. Where is
al-Zarkawi today? He is a phantom, who manages to show up exactly
where he can be used. It doesn't matter if it is in Kirkuk, Mosul,
Tikrit, Samarra, Ramadi, Baghdad or Basra - everywhere, where there
is resistance, Al-Zarkawi manages to emerge where he is useful [to
Q: The major offensive called "dawn" began at the night of Nov. 8.
They began at that time at the general hospital in Falluja. How did
you experience the USA assault?
Haded: The city hospital lies in the west and is separated by the
Euphrates from the city itself. Between seven and eight in the
evening, U.S. soldiers encircled and occupied the 200-bed hospital.
At the time about 30 patients were still in the hospital. Although
there was no resistance and also no fighters were being treated, the
physicians and the maintenance personnel, altogether 22 persons
employed there, were immediately arrested: We were thrown to the
ground, bound and later interrogated. We were told we would have to
vacate the hospital, patients as well as the caregivers. Afterwards
the hospital was wiped out, even the medical instruments were
Q: Were resistance fighters treated in the hospital?
Haded: Ask the Americans. U.S. troops were inside, looked through
everything and asked us again and again where the terrorists were
hiding. Ask them how many they found and arrested. If they had found
someone there from the resistance, they would have never released us
At the same time as the occupation of the hospital the bombardment
of the entire city began. We could hear the detonations clearly.
Even rescue cars were attacked. First inhabitants tried to bring the
wounded with their passenger cars into a hospital. But everything
that moved on the roads was fired on.
We finally established a field hospital in the eastern part of
Falluja. In principle it was no more than an outpatient clinic. We
gave the exact location of the building to the Americans. Two days
later it was bombed, so this emergency station was thus lost. We
finally established a second emergency-aid clinic, which was
actually not functional. We had practically nothing there. Water and
electricity were turned off, and the telephone no longer worked.
The conditions were catastrophic and nevertheless we operated on 25
wounded people there. We had no medicines, however, and the wounds
became infected. For all practical purposes the patients lay in
their deathbeds. Those with major injuries were lost. In the
surrounding houses we looked for volunteers who helped us with
cleaning up and to wash away the blood. My 13-year-old son was among
After seven days I went to the Americans. I wanted to organize
transportation for our patients. But first I was arrested by
soldiers of the Iraqi army - all of them Shiites and Kurds. Finally
I was able to speak with a responsible person in the U.S. army. I
asked him if we might bring our patients into the hospital. First he
didn't believe me, explaining that there was nobody left in Falluja
and that everyone had fled. I asked to be allowed to drive with a
car and a white flag through the roads and to gather the remaining
inhabitants in a mosque. In one hour I had collected about 50 people
from their homes, approximately ten families. Two days later there
were 200 Iraqis in the mosque. Some told me that American soldiers
had purposely fired their weapons at families, even those holding
white flag. Also in the mosque we had set up a small outpatient
clinic. In the surrounding houses we looked for medicines - nothing
special, a few tranquilizers.
Up until today U.S. soldiers surround the central hospital. Patients
must come on foot! Whoever comes by passenger car is fired at.
Q: Why during the bombardment had several thousand Iraqis remained
Haded: For different reasons: Some, for example, had no relatives in
Baghdad with whom they could find accommodation. Others were ashamed
to be in tents living like refugees. Others would gladly have fled,
but had no car. However, most of those who remained simply could not
imagine that the Americans would fight with such a rage. They did
not believe that the U.S. soldiers would bomb and shoot directly at
civilians and at whole families. Fighters, yes, but unarmed people,
women, children, wounded people, old people?
Q: Were you yourselves witnesses to a massacre?
Haded: No, I did not see personally that the U.S. troops did such a
thing. In one of the emergency outpatient clinics, however, there
were two wounded people, about whom I inquired later with the
Americans. An Iraqi soldier said to me then, they had shot and
buried the two there and then.
In arrangement with the Americans I arranged to have a small group
of volunteers from the 200 people in the mosque gather the dead
bodies from the roads. An outbreak of epidemics was threatened, and
the smell of decay was terrible. These volunteers told me later that
many women and children as well as old people were among the victims.
Awad: Also I had announced myself as a volunteer for the collection
of corpses. You can imagine that the dead people were lying for days
and in some cases for weeks on the roads and in dwellings. Many
corpses had already been chewed over by dogs. A remarkable number of
dead people were totally charred - we asked ourselves which weapons
the Americans used there.
I saw in Falluja with own eyes a family that had been shot by U.S.
soldiers: The father was in his mid-fifties, his three children
between ten and twelve years old. In the refugee camp a teacher told
me she had been preparing a meal, when soldiers stormed their
dwelling in Falluja. Without preliminary warning they shot her
father, her husband and her brother. Then they went right out. From
fear the woman remained in the house with the dead bodies. In the
evening other soldiers came, who took her and her children and
brought them out of the city. Those are only two of many tragedies
Q: Ten of thousands of Iraqis fled before the conquest of Falluja
and until today have not returned to the U.S.-occupied city. How are
the living conditions for these refugees?
Awad: Very, very difficult. At first they lived in provisional
accommodations, many of them in the open air. We lacked milk for
children and old people had no medicines. From the governmental
side, that is, the Iraqi interim government of Iyad Allawi, there
was practically no assistance for these people. Let alone from the
Americans. We were and are dependant on donations of private
At the same time there was an overwhelming, spontaneous solidarity
from within the Iraqi population. Many who had fled Falluja found
accommodation with relatives or friends. Innumerable Iraqis in
Baghdad and other cities also announced that they would accept
refugees in their homes. Approximately one month after beginning of
the U.S. offensive finally the Iraqi Red Crescent came into action
and began to distribute aid.
Q: What is the mood today in Falluja? Are rage and hate against the
occupier dominating or rather resignation and regret that there was
Haded: The population is full of rage. People hate the Americans -
Americans generally, not only U.S. soldiers. They are occupiers,
killers and terrorists. Almost every family in Falluja has to mourn
a victim; how you can expect any other reaction there.
I say to you: Most of the [U.S.] soldiers feel fine about shooting
Iraqis. They really believe all Iraqis are terrorists, as their
government tells them. I saw soldiers who were laughing together in
their unit, as if they were drugged. In a mosque they organized a
carnival. The place of worship was transformed into a discotheque!
Even if it doesn't look that way at first sight, in the long run the
Americans lost in Falluja. Which does it mean if an Empire uses all
its power to attack what is a small city, without any morals,
without scruples. That is the beginning of the end.
Q: The U.S. army offered at the end of its Falluja offensive to pay
500 dollar remuneration for each destroyed dwelling.
Haded: What is 500 dollars? That is not even enough to get rid of
all the debris! The offer is a new sort of attempt to humble us.
They want to make us into beggars. I do not want the money. We Arabs
and Muslims believe in principles: We would rather live in tents and
in liberty than in luxury and under occupation.
Awad: In my opinion the occupation forces must pay an appropriate
remuneration for the physical and psychological damage, which the
citizens of Falluja suffered - after the Americans have left our
city and our country.
* To our interviewees
Dr. Mahammad J. Haded belonged to the medical staff of the Central
Hospital of Falluja, which was occupied in November 2004 by U.S.
troops; in addition he works in a small hospital in the center of
the city. He was one of the few physicians who remained during the
attack on Falluja.
Mohammad F. Awad is a civil engineer and since 2003 has been
president of the City Council of Zaqlawiya, a town nine kilometers
north of Falluja. Since past year he is also director of the refugee
assistance center supported by the Red Crescent in Zaqlawiya. He was
one of the volunteers who gathered corpses of killed inhabitants of
Falluja and brought them for identification to Zaqlawiya.
Translation by John Catalinotto, International Action Center, USA,
who participated with Dr. Hadad and Mr. Awad in a public meeting in
Heidelberg on Feb. 25.
International Action Center
New York, NY 10011
Fallujah, Tent City, Awaits Compensation
Sunday, March 13, 2005
Al-Zaman/ AFP: The Iraqi government has yet to pay out any
compensation to the inhabitants of Fallujah from the funds dedicated
to the rebuilding of the city, which was assaulted by the US Marines
and Iraqi forces beginning last November 8 in order to root out
guerrillas who were thought to dominate it. Most of its buildings
and homes were damaged, such that most of its former residents still
live in the hills southwest of the city in tents erected hastily in
the wilderness. The Iraqi government had established committees to
identify damaged buildings and to survey the damage in preparation
for the payment of monetary compensation that would allow rebuilding.
Basil Mahmud Hamid, the engineer who heads the local committee for
rebuilding the city said that the survey committee will finalize its
identification of damaged buildings on Sunday. He said the payments
will be made as soon as the survey is completed. Informed sources
told al-Zaman that mines and unexploded ordinance are slowing down
the survey work.
Liqa' Fahd (25), cradling her two-month-old as she gazed at what was
left of her home, said, "I lost my husband, my house, and everything
beautiful in my life. I have nothing left but this little plot of
land and this humble tent." She explained that her husband had not
escaped with her because he was the treasurer of an Islamic
endowment in the city and responsible for its funds. "Since that
time I have lost contact with him, and have not found his name
either on the list of the dead or on that of the missing."
Muhammad Fahd al-Hitawi, 38, has erected a tent above the ruins of
his house, and lives there with his ten children. He said he was
waiting for compensation so that he could rebuild. His house, which
had measured 671 square meters (yards), was mere rubble.
Almost all the 300,000 inhabitants of the city fled during the
attack. On 11 January, the UN High Commission for Refugees said, as
summarized by AFSC <
>:' Approximately 85,000 residents have passed through Fallujah's
checkpoints as of January 9. However, only 3,000 to 8,000 people
remain in the city overnight, due to the harsh conditions that
include a lack of adequate shelter, electricity, water, and health
care, as well as curfews and restrictions on movement. The UN High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that only 40 percent of
the population in the city is receiving assistance.
Returning residents find a city that has been ravaged. Massive
destruction to infrastructure and housing has been reported. It is
estimated that 40 percent of the buildings were completely
destroyed, 20 percent had major damage, and 40 percent had
significant damage. The International Committee of the Red Cross
reported on December 23 that three of the city's water purification
plants had been destroyed and the fourth was badly damaged. The
water distribution network was destroyed. It will take a long time
to restore basic services. '
Hamid Fahd Su'ud, 40, the father of 7 daughters, said, "We now live
off charity, since most of the shops and factories in the city are
closed." Su'ud lost his son, Omar, while attempting to flee the
battles, but has never recovered a body. "I praise God that we have
this tent, and all I want is for my son Omar to be alive and being
Iraqi authorities have increased security measures and patrols of
the city to prevent the return of the guerrillas and a repeat of
what happened in Fallujah.
Cole: Readers often write in for an update on Fallujah. I am sorry
to say that there is no Fallujah to update. The city appears to be
in ruins and perhaps uninhabitable in the near future. Of 300,000
residents, only about 9,000 seem to have returned, and apparently
some of those are living in tents above the ruins of their homes.
The rest of the Fallujans are scattered in refugee camps of hastily
erected tents at several sites, including one near Habbaniyyah, or
are staying with relatives in other cities, including Baghdad.
The scale of this human tragedy-- the dispossession and displacement
of 300,000 persons-- is hard to imagine. Unlike the victims of the
tsunami who were left homeless, moreover, the Fallujans have
witnessed no outpouring of world sympathy. While there were
undeniably bad characters in the city, most residents had done
nothing wrong and did not deserve to be made object lessons--which
was the point Rumsfeld was making with this assault. He hoped to
convince Ramadi and Mosul to fall quiet lest the same thing happen
to them. He failed, since the second Fallujah campaign threw the
Sunni Arab heartland into much more chaos than ever before. People
forget how quiet Mosul had been. And, the campaign was the death
knell for proper Sunni participation in the Jan. 30 elections
(Sunnis, with 20 percent of the population, have only 6 seats in the
275 member parliament).
However much a cliche it might be to say it, the US military really
did destroy Fallujah to save it.
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