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03/06/04 Violence in Baghdad, Wordplay in Fallujah weblog entry by Dahr Jamail
 
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Violence in Baghdad, Wordplay in Fallujah weblog entry by Dahr Jamail, NewStandard weblogs blog.newstandardnews.net/iraqdispatches/archives/000513.html

Baghdad/Fallujah, June 3 — A rumbling explosion just let off near my hotel. This not too long after getting back from Adhamiya where I was talking to witnesses at the scene of yet another car bomb; the third in as many days here in Baghdad.

At the scene in Adhamiya the scorched, crumpled shell of the car was pushed off to the side of the road. A brick wall nearby bore pockmark scars from the shrapnel. Store windows 50 meters away were shattered. I passed a dried pool of blood on the sidewalk near the small bomb crater while walking slowly to a nearby shop where I met Abdel Halik Al-Samarri, a real estate broker who witnessed the attack.

“Two armored vehicles passed up and down the street four times, then two Land Cruisers of the Americans passed by the parked car,” said Abdel, still shaky hours after the bombing. “Just as they passed the car it exploded.”

Ismail Obeidy, a lawyer who works at the real estate office with Abdel, ran towards the burning car to assist a woman who had had pieces of shrapnel lodged in her legs. “I carried her across the street, and put her in a car which took her to the hospital,” he said. Just three minutes after the first blast as scores of people had congregated around the burning car to survey the damage, a second, much larger explosion erupted which killed several people and injured many more.

“If the Americans will stop invading our streets, no explosions will happen,” cried Ismail in frustration and anger. He went on to say that a small crowd gathered and began yelling anti-American slogans at US troops when they cordoned off the area.

Car bombs are becoming a daily occurrence in Baghdad, and there is nothing the locals can do about it.

Both men told me that Abu Hanifa mosque had immediately issued a plea for donations of blood, and was promptly besieged with donors.

Hopefully the dual explosions were a bomb malfunction, and not intentional. I keep dreading the horrific strategy used in Beirut, where a second car bomb would arrive to the scene of the first after the ambulances showed up.

Just prior to my visit to the scene of the car bomb, seven mortar blasts shook the US base in Adhamiya. Also this afternoon three mortars landed near a US base near Palestine Street, wounding at least one Iraqi.

Baghdad is a war zone, and the stress in the air is palpable. The randomness of the attacks is the worst part. Nobody is safe here.

Earlier this morning I ventured out to Fallujah. While driving west out of Baghdad with my trusty fixer Abu Talat I noticed an overpass which had graffiti sloppily written which read, “Come back to your home,” and, “You're just monkeys,” and a telling line which read, “We will ****love you.” I had read it before when going to Fallujah during the siege in April… the scratched out word used to read “kill.”

According to members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) at their headquarters in Fallujah, U.S. Marines who are at the main checkpoint will be withdrawing this week. Several of the ICDC I spoke with were exceedingly pleased with the fact that there were only two token US patrols into their city per month. These, according the ICDC, resembled the symbolic first patrol after the siege of April had come to a close, when several armored US vehicles with ICDC and police protection rumbled a little over a mile down the main street to the mayor's office for a 30-minute pause behind the concrete barriers which surround the building — then exited in similar fashion.

Ali Abed, a 25 year-old member of the ICDC, said, “We are happy now because it is so much better than before. Fallujah is secure now and you can stay out late because it is safe.”

He and several of other ICDC troops sat relaxed inside their headquarters, drinking soda and laughing from time to time. Ali turned to me and added, “As long as the Americans stay out, it is calm here.”

Things have certainly changed in Fallujah. Journalists are now required to go to the Al-Hadrah Al-Mohamudia mosque in the city in order to obtain a press pass. Even with that, all of the ICDC who drove me and Abu Talat to the mosque in their GMC were worried for me. “My cousin works for Al-Arabiya television, and his camera was smashed just yesterday,” said an ICDC member. “And yesterday two German journalists were beaten because the people here are very angry with foreigners.”

Inside the mosque, with two armed ICDC on either side of me, Khassem Mohammed Abdel Satar, the Vice Chairman for the chamber of the city, told me the anger stems from the fact that nearly every family in Fallujah suffered a member killed during the April assault. “In some cases, entire families were killed,” he said somberly.

He issued me a press pass, but told me I would conduct my interviews with the ICDC in his office then I should go. All of them repeated that they were worried for my safety.

Mr. Satar referred to the US soldiers as “invasion troops” and told me that Fallujah is so much better off without them in the city. “We have Fallujah completely under control now with the Iraqi Police and the ICDC,” he said. “The security in Fallujah hasn't been this good since the dawn of Baghdad.”

He stated that he was proud that Fallujah is the first city in Iraq where the US military has left because of the fighting, rather than through negotiations. “We hope all cities in Iraq are liberated as Fallujah is,” he said.

According to Mr. Satar, the new clampdown on the press in Fallujah was for our own security, and they were hard at work on a system which will allow better access for the media inside the city. It was obvious to me that this hadn't quite been sorted out. I certainly didn't see any other reporters traveling inside GMC's with 5 armed ICDC accompanying them.

“We have clear information that the Americans are sending spies in to cause problems between groups in Fallujah,” added Mr. Satar, “but we have this under good control.”

Dhasin Jassim Hamadi, a major in the ICDC, told me that inside the city they are fully independent and have no relations with the US military now. “During April the Americans bombed our headquarters and killed three men,” he said angrily. “But now we work under the supervision of the mayor and conduct joint patrols with the police.”

“We demanded independence from the Americans,” he added with a large smile. “And we got it.”

Another ICDC member smugly told me that the last US patrol to the mayor's office only stayed for 20 of the 30 allotted minutes.

All of them claimed they have more respect from the people of Fallujah now that the US military are gone from the city. “It is obviously better here without them, so of course the people respect us more,” said Amin, a 28 year-old member of the ICDC.

He went on to say that after June 30th, if the US military is still in Iraq, nothing will change as far as the ongoing fighting outside of Fallujah.

The subject of terrorism was breached, and Amin grew quickly frustrated. He felt the US was being hypocritical in calling Arabs who fight against them terrorists. “They are fighting to protect their city… why don't the Americans call soldiers from Honduras here terrorists?” He continued, “They are fighting Iraqis∑but they are not called terrorists? What is the difference?”

The difference continues to be in the choice of words. Even today the AP referred to the city as “the guerilla stronghold of Fallujah,” while the CPA continues to go to great lengths to show that the US military are working in conjunction with the ICDC and mayor of Fallujah to insure security.

But then, the military operations in Fallujah during April were said to be carried out with the goal of “pacifying” the city… a city today where the mayor and ICDC claim it is the calmest and most secure it has ever been.

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Dahr Jamail is Baghdad correspondent for The NewStandard. He is an Alaskan devoted to covering the untold stories from occupied Iraq. You can help Dahr continue his crucial work in Iraq by making donations. For more information or to donate to Dahr, visit newstandardnews.net/iraqdispatches .

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