Report from Baghdad
Report from Baghdad
NOTE: Doctors from four hospitals in
So the doctors shut down the hospital, took the limited supplies and equipment they could carry, and started working at a small three-room outpatient clinic, doing operations on the ground and losing patients because of the inadequacy of the setup. This event was not reported in English until April 14, when the bridge was reopened.
In Najaf, the Spanish-language "Plus Ultra" garrison closed the al-Sadr Teaching Hospital roughly a week ago (as of yesterday, it remained closed).
With 200 doctors, the hospital (formerly the Saddam Hussein Teaching Hospital) is one of the most important in
Al-Arabiya has also reported that in Qaim, a small town near the Syrian border where fighting recently broke out, that the hospital had been closed, with American snipers positioned atop nearby buildings.
There are also persistent claims that after an outbreak of hostilities American soldiers visit hospitals asking for information about the wounded, with the intent of removing potential resistance members and interrogating them. Nomaan Hospital in Aadhamiyah and Yarmouk Hospital in Yarmouk (both areas of Baghdad) got visits from U.S. forces in the first days after the fighting in Fallujah started -- the lion's share of evacuated wounded from Fallujah were taken to those two hospitals. Doctors generally resist being turned into informants for the occupation; one doctor actually told me that he has many times discharged people straight from the emergency room, with inadequate time to recuperate, just to keep them out of military custody. As he said, "They are my countrymen. How can I hold them for the Americans?"
While the American media talks of the great restraint and "pinpoint precision" of the American attack, over 700 people, at least half of them civilians, have been killed in Fallujah. And, according to the Ministry of Health, in the last two weeks, at least 290 were killed in other cities, over 30 of them children. Many of those who died because of the hospital closures will never be added in to the final tally of the "liberation."
By any reasonable standard, these hospital closings (and, of course, the shooting at ambulances) are war crimes. However afraid the Plus Ultra garrison may have been of attack from the rooftops, they didn't have to close the hospital; they could simply have screened entrants. In the case of Fallujah, it's clear that one of the reasons the mujahideen were willing to talk about ceasefire was to get the hospital open again; in effect, the United States was holding civilians (indirectly) hostage for military ends.
After an earlier article about attacks on ambulances, many people wrote to ask why
In fact, it's fairly simple: the
Although this relatively indiscriminate killing of civilians may serve American military ends -- keeping the ratio of enemy dead to American soldiers dead as high as possible -- in terms of political ends, it is a disaster. It is very difficult to explain to an Iraqi that a man fighting from his own town with a Kalashnikov or RPG launcher is a "coward" and a "war criminal" (because, apparently, he should go out into the desert and wait to be annihilated from the sky) but that someone dropping 2000-pound bombs on residential areas or shooting at ambulances because they may have guns in them (even though they usually don't) is a hero and is following the laws of war.
When I was here in January, there was a pervasive atmosphere of discontent, frustration, and anger with the occupation. But most people were still just trying to ride it out, stay patient, and hope that things improved. The wanton brutality of the occupation has at long last put an end to that patience.
Before, the occupation might have succeeded -- not in building real democracy, which was never the goal, but in cementing
It cannot succeed now. The resistance in Fallujah will be beaten down, with the commission of more war crimes; if the
Rahul Mahajan is the publisher of the weblog Empire Notes (http://www.empirenotes.org) and is writing and blogging from