News and opinions on situation in Iraq
16/06/04 Beirut, Iraq weblog entry by Dahr Jamail, NewStandard weblogs

Baghdad, June 16 — Dr. Faiq Amin, the manager of the Medico Legal Institute (ie, the Baghdad morgue), told me a couple of days ago that their maximum holding capacity is 90 bodies.

Since Janurary an average of over 600 bodies each month have been brought there. Of these, at least half have died of gunshots or explosions. He also pointed out that these numbers do not include the heavy fighting areas of Fallujah and Najaf.

In addition, Dr. Amin said, “We deal only with suspicious deaths, not deaths from natural causes.”

The crime rate in Baghdad is out of control. According to Dr. Amin, this current rate of bodies brought to the Baghdad Morgue is 3-4 times greater than it ever was during the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Dr. Amin said that despite the number of bodies being delivered to his morgue on a daily basis, “I am sure that not all of the bodies that should come here do.” He paused before diplomatically explaining, “Because our legal system has some problems right now.”

Before the invasion, there was a coordinated system between Baghdad and the other governorates which allowed his morgue to track deaths throughout the country, but this too has been smashed along with the rest of the infrastructure of his country.

Outside of the morgue today, a man is mourning the loss of his 5 year-old daughter Najala. Mr. Jassim and his family were driving, he tells me, when an American Humvee abruptly pulled in front of their car, causing him to lose control. His car flipped over, and Najala was crushed.

He was frustrated with the fact that he was being forced to wait yet another day to pick up her body.

“Why can't we take her? They insist on an autopsy, yet she was crushed to her death because we tried to avoid the Americans and our car flipped. So I must wait to bury my daughter.”

Abu Talat and I give him our condolences, and begin to walk away when Mr. Jassim says, “Be careful, don't die in Iraq!”

Earlier we had visited the Baghdad headquarters of the Iraqi Police for interviews and to obtain handwritten permission to visit a police station from Brigadier General Amer Ali, who is also the Assistant Commander of the Iraqi Police in the capital.

He isn't happy with the situation in his country. “Now everything is smashed,” he told me. “We are in a crashed country.”

Major Said, the Information Officer for the Baghdad police, was overtly negative about the occupiers of his country. He said: “The Americans invaded our country. They are the invaders, so of course Iraqis don't like to work with them.”

He addressed the ongoing problem of US soldiers occupying their police stations.

“While the Americans are in our stations, nobody comes to us for help because they are afraid of them,” he said. “This is interfering with our men doing their job, as well as Iraqis getting assistance.”

He was frustrated, and the longer we talked the more it came out, and at one point he was almost ranting.

“We didn't want this 'democracy' to come. This is not democracy here. Even if I say this as a civilian and not as a police officer, I can say it would be better if the Americans let us do our work and stayed out of our stations. The Americans are making IPs into targets.”

While walking out of his office, since we'd told Major Said we were heading towards Adhamiya for some lunch, he said, “Adhamiya is the next Fallujah.”

Over in Adhamiya we were dining on tasty kebabs on a sidewalk roughly 200 meters from the Adhamiya Palace, which is the US encampment in the heavily pro-resistance area of Baghdad. At 2pm three huge explosions sounded from inside the US base. Mortars, promptly followed by a huge black billowing plume of smoke from the target.

Everyone in the café was watching the smoke and spontaneous celebrations erupted as men clapped, cheered and yelled. “Here they go! The Americans have been killed!”

We continued eating, not missing a beat in our conversation. Abu Talat and I have grown very accustomed to the explosions that rock Baghdad on a regular basis these days. He looked at me and said: “You know, Dahr, I used to read about how the Lebanese got used to the bombs in Beirut. I never thought that could happen to me, yet here I am.”

“I know, and now me too,” I said, and we laughed together at the insanity of what has become our everyday life while working in occupied Baghdad.

We left Adhamiya and traveled to the Asha'ab Iraqi Police station. As I mentioned before, we had obtained written permission from Brigadier General Amer Ali from the Central Command Headquarters of the Iraqi Police in Baghdad. General Ali is also the Assistant Commander of all of the IPs in Baghdad.

So we felt pretty confident about getting into this police station to conduct some more interviews.

At Asha'ab Police Station, US soldiers were scattered across the roof, and a Humvee sat near the entrance at the suicide blockades.

Nevertheless, we wheeled around back and attempted to enter. After all, we were carrying our handwritten permission from the Assistant Commander of the Iraqi Police.

Our entry was denied. Despite seeing our permission letter, an American Military Policeman named Schneider took my passport and disappeared inside for 15 minutes. He returned, handed me my passport after calling in a check to the CPA and told me: “You must contact the Public Affairs Officer at the CPA for information about the Iraqi Police stations. Press aren't allowed inside.”

So, in sum, a US MP effectively usurped the authority of an Iraqi Police Brigadier General who is the Assistant Commander of all of the police in Baghdad.

So much for sovereignty.

It brought to mind something said by Bassim Mahmoud Hamid, the Iraqi Police spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior, in a recent interview at the CPA:

“We are ready to take over the security situation, because we know how to do this. The Americans will commit the biggest mistake in their life if they don't let the Iraqis control the security situation.”


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 .


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