They lay in lines, the car salesman who'd just lost his eye but whose
feet were still dribbling blood, the motorcyclist who was shot by American
troops near the Rashid Hotel, the 50-year-old female civil servant,
her long dark hair spread over the towel she was lying on, her face,
breasts, thighs, arms and feet pock-marked with shrapnel from an American
cluster bomb. For the civilians of Baghdad, this is the real, immoral
face of war, the direct result of America's clever little "probing
missions" into Baghdad.
A child with head and chest injuries is comforted at a hospital in
Baghdad, Iraq Monday April,7. 2003. The child was injured in coalition
airstrike on the al-Mansour district in Baghdad. (AP Photo/ALI
It looks very neat on television, the American marines on the banks
of the Tigris, the oh-so-funny visit to the presidential palace, the
videotape of Saddam Hussein's golden loo. But the innocent are bleeding
and screaming with pain to bring us our exciting television pictures
and to provide Messrs Bush and Blair with their boastful talk of victory.
I watched two-and-a-half-year-old Ali Najour lying in agony on the
bed, his clothes soaked with blood, a tube through his nose, until
a relative walked up to me.
to talk to you,"
he shouted, his voice rising in fury. "Why do you British want
to kill this little boy? Why do you even want to look at him? You did
you did it!"
The young man
seized my arm, shaking it violently. "Are you going to make
his mother and father come back? Can you bring them back to life
for him? Get out! Get out!" In the yard outside, where the ambulance
drivers deposit the dead, a middle-aged Shia woman in black was thumping
her fists against her breasts and shrieking at me. "Help me," she
cried. "Help me. My son is a martyr and all I want is a banner
to cover him. I want a flag, an Iraqi flag, to put over his body.
Dear God, help me!"
harder to visit these places of pain, grief and anger. The International
Committee of the Red Cross yesterday reported civilian victims of
America's three-day offensive against Baghdad arriving at the hospitals
now by the hundred. Yesterday, the Kindi alone had taken 50 civilian
wounded and three dead in the previous 24 hours. Most of the dead the
little boy's family, the family of six torn to pieces by an aerial
bomb in front of Ali Abdulrazek, the car salesman, the next-door
neighbors of Safa Karim were simply buried within hours of
their being torn to bits.
it looks so clean. On Sunday evening, the BBC showed burning civilian
cars, its reporter
"embedded" with US forces saying that he saw some
of their passengers lying dead beside them.
That was all.
No pictures of the charred corpses, no close-ups of the shriveled
children. So perhaps I should warn those of what the BBC once called
a nervous disposition to go no further. But if they want to know
what America and Britain are doing to the innocent of Baghdad, they
should read on.
out the description of the flies that have been clustering round
the wounds in the Kindi emergency rooms, of the blood caked on the
sheets, the blood still dripping from the wounds of those I talked
to yesterday. All were civilians. All wanted to know why they had
to suffer. All save for the incandescent youth who ordered
me to leave the little boy's bed talked gently and quietly
about their pain. No Iraqi government bus took me to the Kindi hospital.
No doctor knew I was coming.
Ali Ismail Abbas, 12, wounded during an airstrike according to hospital
sources, lies in a hospital bed in Baghdad, April 6, 2003. Abbas
was fast asleep when war shattered his life. A missile obliterated
his home and most of his family, leaving him orphaned, badly burned
and blowing off both his arms. 'It was midnight when the missile
fell on us. My father, my mother and my brother died. My mother
was five months pregnant,' the traumatized boy told Reuters at
Baghdad's Kindi hospital. 'Our neighbors pulled me out and brought
me here. I was unconscious,' he said on Sunday. REUTERS/Faleh Kheiber
Let's start with Mr Abdulrazek. He's the 40-year-old car salesman who
was walking yesterday morning through a narrow street in the Shaab
district of Baghdad that's where the two American missiles killed
at least 20 civilians more than a week ago when he heard the
jet engines of an aircraft.
"I was going to see my family because the phone exchanges have
been bombed and I wanted to make sure they were OK," he said. "There
was a family, a husband and wife and kids, in front of me.
I heard this terrible noise and there was a light and I knew something
had happened to me. I went to try to help the family in front of
me but they were all gone, in pieces. Then I realized I couldn't
see properly." Over Mr Abdulrazek's left eye is a wad of thick
bandages, tied to his face. His doctor, Osama al-Rahimi, tells me
that "we did not operate on the eye, we have taken care of his
other wounds". Then he leant towards my ear and said softy: "He
has lost his eye. There was nothing we could do. It was taken out
of his head by the shrapnel." Mr Abdulrazek smiles of
course, he does not know that he will be forever half-blind and
suddenly breaks into near-perfect English, a language he had learnt
at high school in Baghdad. "Why did this happen to me?" he
Yes, I know
the lines. President Saddam would have killed more Iraqis than us
if we hadn't invaded not a very smart argument in the Kindi
hospital and that we're doing all this for them. Didn't Paul
Wolfowitz, the US Deputy Defense Secretary, tell us all a few days
ago that he was praying for the American troops and for the Iraqi
people? Aren't we coming here to save them let's not mention
their oil and isn't President Saddam a cruel and brutal man?
But amid these people, such words are an obscenity.
was Safa Karim. She is 11 and she is dying. An American bomb fragment
struck her in the stomach and she is bleeding internally, writhing
on the bed with a massive bandage on her stomach and a tube down
her nose and somehow most terrible of all a series
of four dirty scarves that tie each of her wrists and ankles to the
bed. She moans and thrashes on the bed, fighting pain and imprisonment
at the same time. A relative said she is too ill to understand her
fate. "She has been given 10 bottles of drugs and she has vomited
them all up,"
The man opens
the palms of his hands, the way Arabs do when they want to express
impotence. "What can we do?" they always say, but the man
was silent. But I'm glad. How, after all, could I ever tell him that
Safa Karim must die for 11 September, for George Bush's fantasies
and Tony Blair's moral certainty and for Mr Wolfowitz's dreams of "liberation" and
for the "democracy", which we are blasting our way through
these people's lives to create?