|News and opinions on situation in Iraq|
|19/10/04||An Open Letter to British Troops Serving in Iraq from Jo Wilding|
The US has asked the British government to send you north to free up forces for another offensive against Falluja. I’m writing to ask you to refuse any orders to deploy to Baghdad or other areas currently under US control.
I was an ambulance volunteer in Falluja during the April siege. I went because my friend Salam, a doctor, said US troops were stopping medical supplies getting in, cut off water, food, electricity and had closed down the main hospital and controlled the road to the smaller one with snipers.
Salam was evacuated with bullet wounds; a missile from a US plane destroyed the ambulance in front of his. He and his crew were under fire, pinned inside the vehicle while their colleagues burned in the other one. He thought the marines wouldn’t shoot us because we’d look like their brothers and sisters. He was right: in daylight we moved medical supplies, evacuated people from the second hospital and homes in the firing line, picked up sick and injured people.
We went to bring two sick women from a house in US territory. Outside a man of about 60 was lying face down in the road, shot through the back. You don’t need me to tell you what it looks or smells like when a man’s chest isn’t inside his body any more.
We could see the lines of marines along the tops of the houses. Only when we got there did the family dare to come out, the sons screaming that he was unarmed, he just went out to get the car to take his wife to the clinic. The daughters whispered, “Baba, baba” [Daddy] as we walked them to safety.
Our clinic received countless sniper casualties, the US’s preferred method of controlling its areas: a small boy, trousers wet, shot in the head; an old woman carrying a white flag; a young woman shot in the jaw, all attempting to flee their homes in US territory. Aircraft pounded the town with missiles and cluster bombs. I think they denied using cluster bombs but there’s no mistaking the rhythmic sound of them exploding.
As it got dark we were asked to pick up a woman in premature labour in a US-held area, giving birth without light, water or medical attention. We were not visibly foreign any more and my ambulance, clearly marked as such in English with flashing lights and siren, was fired on by US marine snipers. We never got to her. I don’t know what happened to her.
Cars packed with families queued at the edge of town. Marines were firing at the cars. Troops inside the town had been threatening people to leave by sunset or they would be killed. As we left we were taken prisoner by Iraqi gunmen, afraid that we were spies. They, like the fighters near the clinic, were local men, fighting for their homes and families. If there are foreign fighters (other than US soldiers) in Falluja now it is because that space was created for them by the last attack. Another will only attract more.
An unnamed US official promises a “very bloody and nasty” fight within what another official indicated would be “the next few days” (Washington Post, Sat 16/10/04). Throwaway platitudes like “War is hell” are not good enough. There are choices. The choice to be complicit, to free up US troops to repeat that attack must be consciously made. Each one of you has to decide whether you accept that role.
I get quite a few e-mails from soldiers, US and British, who are angry at what’s happening. They, and you, didn’t risk your lives to go and make things worse.
In April, when Falluja was attacked, there were uprisings across the country, in Shia and Sunni areas alike. In Shuala, Baghdad, there was fighting all around the squatter camp where hundreds of homeless people are living. Even Iraqi organisations couldn’t help them and throughout April they got no aid supplies at all.
Even in Thawra, where US troops once had something like a welcome, there was fighting in the streets, in Najaf, in Nasariya, in dozens of towns and villages that never became news. Another attack on Falluja emphatically won’t make the country safer for elections.
British troops in Baghdad will sustain higher casualties than in the south, will take the brunt of the uprisings caused by US misjudgment and brutality. The UK government will not be there for you or your families when you are killed, maimed or poisoned by depleted uranium weapons.
Please, don’t go. Please don’t make yourselves complicit with the atrocities which will undoubtedly be committed against ordinary Iraqi people in Falluja. Please don’t put yourself closer to harm for the sake of an ill-advised attack that will only make things worse.
Yours, Jo Wilding