June 14, 2006
On May 30th, US troops shot and killed two Iraqi women -- one
of whom was pregnant. Nabiha Nisaif Jassim and her cousin Saliha
Mohammed Hassan were in a car going to Samarra General hospital where
Nabiha was about to give birth. We speak with independent journalist
Dahr Jamail about the incident and how the US military may have tried
to cover it up. [includes rush transcript]
We begin by taking a look at another atrocity in Iraq that the U.S
military may have tried to cover-up. On May 30sth, US troops shot and
killed two Iraqi women one of whom was pregnant. Nabiha Nisaif Jassim
and her cousin Saliha Mohammed Hassan were in a car going to Samarra
General hospital where Nabiha was about to give birth. US troops said
their car failed to stop in a prohibited zone despite warnings. But new
information from an Iraqi human rights investigator contradicts the
military's version of events. And the brother of the pregnant woman,
Redam Nisaif Jassim, who was driving the car has also said that he did
not see or hear any warnings by the military.
This comes as the investigations into the Haditha massacre and
subsequent cover-up continue. In that incident, 24 unarmed Iraqis were
allegedly massacred by U.S. Marines in the town of Haditha. The initial
report given by the military stated that only 15 civilians died by a
roadside bomb and the rest were killed by insurgent fire. The U.S
military claims that the events in Samarra are also being investigated.
To talk further about this, we are joined on the phone by Dar Jamail.
We invited the Defense Department to on the program but they declined
to our request.
- Dahr Jamail, independent journalist who was based for a time in Baghdad. His latest article is for Inter Press News Agency and is titled "Another U.S Cover-up Surfaces." Dahr publishes his reports on a blog called
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AMY GOODMAN: We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Dahr.
DAHR JAMAIL: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: We also invited a representative from the
Pentagon to be on the program, but they did not respond to our request.
Dahr, tell us the story from the beginning, as you understand it.
DAHR JAMAIL: Well, much like what was played there on
the clip, Nabiha Nisaif Jassim, a 35-year-old mother of two children, a
3-year-old boy named Ali and a 4-year-old daughter named Hashmiya, were
shot by a U.S. sniper in Samarra while Nabiha was being raced to the
hospital in order to give birth. Her brother, Redam Nisaif Jassim, was
driving the car and the two women were in the back seat when they were
fired upon. And I spoke with an Iraqi human rights investigator about
the situation. This investigator went and investigated it firsthand
after they obtained news about what happened there.
And it was very, very clear that the car was shot from
actually behind by a U.S. sniper. There was no warning in the area.
There was no sign put up by the U.S. military; nothing marking the area
that showed that it was prohibited or that these people should not have
been there. Instead, after the shooting occurred, the U.S. military,
who did not come out and try to provide any aid to these people
whatsoever, actually then drug a sign out to the area, a small sign.
There was actually an A.P. photograph of it, and the initial story that
the A.P. ran about the event. And that was brought after the shooting
actually took place.
AMY GOODMAN: And what is the military saying at this point?
DAHR JAMAIL: The military claims that it was a
clearly-marked area. That there were then shots fired in warning,
audible and visual alerts given to these people to warn them that they
were in a clearly-marked area, which was prohibited and near a
so-called observation post. But again, these were claims that were
disputed both Redam, who was driving the car, as well as two other
people who were interviewed by the human rights investigator nearby the
scene, who saw the event occur. And all of them saying that this was
basically false -- the U.S. military's statement was false – that there
were no signs, there was no way that anyone in Samarra could have told
that this was a prohibited area.
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to independent journalist
Dahr Jamail. The reason it seems that Haditha is being taken so
seriously right now, that the military has opened these investigations,
is because the videotape has surfaced. That's hard to deny. Are there
any photos like that or videotape of what you're describing in Samarra?
DAHR JAMAIL: Not that I know of, so far, other than
there have been some photos taken just after the event occurred. But
it's nothing quite as damning as what surfaced after Haditha. At least
AMY GOODMAN: Dahr, you have also written about Ramadi,
talking about a repeat of Fallujah. What do you understand is happening
in Ramadi right now?
DAHR JAMAIL: I've very recently spoken with the
emergency coordinator for an Italian NGO that’s based out of Amman,
Jordan. It’s called the Italian Consortium of Solidarity. And the
emergency coordinator, Maurizio Mattia, has told me, along with a
source I have who has been in Ramadi for the last few days, that Ramadi
is basically sealed off by U.S. forces. It's not completely sealed off,
because simply it's too big for them to do that. Keep in mind, that
Ramadi, while it's about 400,000 residents -- not too much bigger than
Fallujah -- it's about twice the size geographically of Fallujah. And
it's about a 15-minute car ride from Fallujah as well. So they're very
close together. But that makes Ramadi quite difficult for them to seal
So instead, U.S. soldiers have sealed -- there's an east and
west bridge out of Ramadi, so that is sealed. And then they're going
neighborhood by neighborhood, district by district right now, fighting,
trying to clear neighborhoods, according to the U.S. military. They're
using snipers very, very heavily and have been for several weeks inside
of Ramadi, taking over people's homes, putting snipers either in
bedrooms or on the rooftops to shoot into the city. People have been
complaining about this for weeks, if not months. now. And they're using
helicopters and ground troops to siege the city. The emergency
coordinator told me that he estimates over 3,000 families have left
Ramadi. And they've become IDP’s, or internally-displaced people. And
30% of these, he estimates, went to Baghdad. Many of them have gone to
Fallujah. He said the rest of the people are literally "wandering
around in al-Anbar province."
AMY GOODMAN: Can you repeat, Dahr Jamail -- because the
last time we had you on, when we were asking you about Haditha, when we
were talking about the killings there, you talked about Fallujah. And
you said, if we're going to talk about Haditha, which is very
important, we also have to talk about Fallujah. But can you repeat what
happened? Because I think most people in this country don't understand
what the siege of Fallujah is about. Especially as you're talking about
Ramadi right now.
DAHR JAMAIL: It's a very important thing that people
understand: Fallujah, during the November 2004 U.S. assault on the
city, was essentially turned into an uninhabitable city, where -- most
of it remains that way today. It's a city of 350,000 people, where it's
estimated by Iraqi -- an Iraqi NGO within Fallujah that has tried to
figure out the number of people who were killed there the best they
could, that between 4,000 and 6,000 people were killed. 4 and 6,000
people were killed in one U.S. military operation. The Pentagon
admitted they did use white phosphorus, which is an illegal incendiary
weapon. They tried to deny this at first, but enough proof was
provided, including soldier’s statements, who were in Fallujah, that
they did use that weapon. It was called Whiskey Pete on the radio when
they used it.
And soldiers testified of stepping over charred bodies that
were hit by this themselves. And the Pentagon finally even admitted
that they used it and it could have even hit civilians. They also used
cluster bombs, they used uranium munitions, they used fleshettes, all
of these are violations of various international laws. And the city, to
this day, entire neighborhoods remain without electricity, without
water. And basically, the water situation there is a disaster, where to
this day, also, there remain many waterborne diseases spread rampantly.
The medical system was absolutely crushed during the siege and has yet
to recover to this day. People need to be very clear, that this is the
equivalent of a Guernica. It was an absolute massacre of an entire
AMY GOODMAN: Last week, we read the first paragraph of a Newsweek
piece in Fallujah, for our TV viewers, we're going to show some
photographs and we're going to put this on our website for our radio
listeners. This is from Newsweek, and I'd like you to respond,
Dahr. 'The Marines know how to get psyched up for a big fight. In
November 2004, before the Battle of Fallujah, the Third Battalion,
First Marines, better known as the "3/1" or "Thundering Third," held a
chariot race. Horses had been confiscated from suspected insurgents,
and charioteers were urged to go all-out. The men of Kilo Compan --
honored to be first into the city on the day of the battle -- wore
togas and cardboard helmets, and hoisted a shield emblazoned with a
large K. As speakers blasted a heavy-metal song, "Cum On Feel the
Noize," the warriors of Kilo Company carried a homemade mace, and a
ball-and-chain studded with M-16 bullets. A company captain intoned a
line from a scene in the movie "Gladiator," in which the Romans prepare
to slaughter the barbarians: "What you do here echoes in eternity."’
And this is the kilo company that ended up in Haditha at the time of
those killings. Your response, Dahr?
DAHR JAMAIL: Well, if that's correct, that what they do
in Fallujah would echo in eternity, hopefully those echoes will be the
voices being heard in the international criminal courts, where the
people who committed the war crimes in Fallujah and, more importantly,
those who gave the orders for this siege to happen, as well as
declaring the entire city a "free-fire zone," will be those echoes that
we all hear when justice is served. Because the entire city was
declared a free-fire zone, and this type of psyching up, as described,
is absolutely sick. I think that's lunacy.
And I think that's a big part of the reason why women,
children and elderly suffered the most, and were on the receiving end
of the bullets and bombs fired by the U.S. Military in Fallujah. That
type of psyching up, as well as other statements made by a member of
the U.S. military, that Satan lived in Fallujah, that Satan has a face
and he is in Fallujah, saying this sort of thing, is clearly why the
entire city was demonized, the people were made subhuman by this type
of propaganda by the U.S. military, and psyching up. And this is one of
the big reasons why it's an absolute atrocity and countless war crimes
were committed there.
AMY GOODMAN: Dahr Jamail, I’d like to ask you to stay
on for a another question about the crackdown now in Baghdad, about the
tens of thousands of troops that have spread out through the city.
We're speaking to Dahr Jamail, independent journalist. We have to break
for 60 seconds.
AMY GOODMAN: As we go back to Dahr Jamail for just a
question. U.S. and Iraqi forces have launched what's being described as
the biggest security crackdown in Baghdad since the invasion. Up to
75,000 troops are being deployed around the city. The troops will man
increased numbers of checkpoints, launch raids and call in airstrikes.
This as President Bush made a secret visit -- until he got there,
yesterday, to meet with the Iraqi prime minister. Your response?
DAHR JAMAIL: Well, this operation, which they're
calling "Operation Forward Together," I think couldn't be named more
aptly, as far as the propaganda effect of that, after having Bush visit
there. But it's similar to another similar operation that was launched,
where a very huge number of both Iraqi and U.S. soldiers were brought
in. And it's very worrisome, the fact that they go out of their way to
put the use of air strikes on the table. And it's clear that they are
going to be going into neighborhoods, most likely Sunni areas, since
this was already described as the plan by a major general in the Iraq
military, in the Iraq Interior Ministry, that is.
And it's very worrisome, that now they're going to start using
these siege-type tactics, apparently, within the capital city. There's
been much worry about this for quite sometime, and now it looks like
it's a much more real possibility. And that's very worrisome. Because I
know someone, in one of the Sunni areas in Baghdad, and he's having to
regularly send his children and wife out of the house, kind of disburse
them around the city, for fear of soldiers coming in and ransacking the
house, or killing him, or detaining his children.
AMY GOODMAN: Dahr Jamail, I want to thank you very much
for being with us. Independent journalist based in Baghdad for a time,
now is back in the United States, continuing to report on what is
happening in Iraq. Dahr Jamail, thank you very much for being with us.