February 13, 2006
The Revolution Interview is a special
feature to acquaint our readers with the views of significant figures
in art, theater, music, literature, science, sports and politics. The
views expressed by those we interview are, of course, their own, and
they are not responsible for the views expressed elsewhere in
Revolution and on our website.
During the January session of the International Commission,
Revolution conducted an interview with Dahr Jamail, who provided
gripping testimony for the Commission on the charge of war crimes of
the Bush Regime. Dahr Jamail is a highly respected independent
journalist who went to Iraq in July 2003 and spent a total of eight
months there. He was an eyewitness in Fallujah during an April 2004
siege of that city by the U.S. military. During the November 2004 siege
by the U.S. he was unable to get into Fallujah but interviewed doctors
and refugees who came out of the city describing the horror they saw.
He writes for the Inter Press Service, Asia Times, The Nation, Islam
Online, the Guardian, and the Independent, among others.
Revolution: What do you think are some of
the most important things for our readers to understand about the
situation of the Iraqi people today?
Dahr Jamail: What I talked about [in the testimony
for the Commission] was, in sum, the total destruction of a sovereign
country by the U.S. military under orders from their
commander-in-chief, George Bush. It was a country that back in the late
'70s, early '80s, had the best medical system in the Middle East. They
had more PhDs per capita than any other country on the planet. They had
a very solid infrastructure. In regards to women's rights in the Middle
East, it was one of the more progressive places for a woman to be—not
to say it was the bastion of women's rights, but comparatively in the
Middle East, aside from probably Lebanon, it was the best place, as far
as education and women's rights and respect, for a woman to be.
Flash forward to the invasion and occupation of Iraq and now, coming
up on three years of occupation. The infrastructure is in total
shambles. Women now, if they even leave their homes, better go out with
an abaya – a face cover — and certainly a hijab. Unemployment's over 50
percent, the medical system's in total shambles. Ambulances and medical
workers and hospitals themselves are being targeted by the U.S.
military. It's their standard operating procedure now, in combat zones,
to target the medical infrastructure. Collective punishment is now
standard operating procedure. In Haditha, Fallujah, Al Qaim, Ramadi,
Samarra, Saniya, just to name a few off the top of my head, the
standard policy is: if the U.S. is getting attacked a lot in the area,
cut the water and electricity to the city, prohibit medical supplies
from going in or out of the city, and use snipers quite often to
deliberately target anything that moves in the city at certain times,
impose curfews – this is the standard procedure now. Now it's common.
It first started in Fallujah where people started describing their city
as a concentration camp or a "big jail" after the U.S. siege and the
"security measures" then imposed on the city by the U.S. military.
Well, that now is what we are hearing from people in Saniya, from
people in Ramadi, from people in Samarra and Al Qaim and Haditha, in
other areas around and even some areas of the capital city.
Iraq's destroyed. The occupation, there's no end in sight—there's
permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq. There is not going to be a total
withdrawal ever, if this administration gets its way. They want to
certainly reduce the number of troops in Iraq, but there is no plan for
withdrawal, there's permanent bases. When I say permanent I mean
swimming pools, movie theaters, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, AT&T phone
home centers, concrete barracks – I mean permanent. They call them
Revolution: You compared what the U.S.
occupation forces did in Fallujah with what happened in Spain during
the Spanish Civil War in the case of the bombing of the city of
Dahr Jamail: Exactly. I co-authored a piece for the
Guardian with Jonathan Steele, and we called it "This Is Our Guernica,"
because really Fallujah—the same thing happened essentially: the whole
city was collectively punished, it was bombed to the ground. Seventy
percent of it was absolutely destroyed, but it's been a dismal failure,
in that now attacks continue almost daily in Fallujah against Iraqi
security forces and U.S. soldiers. People there absolutely hate the
United States. Now they hate the military, they can't tolerate them in
their city. Attacks will continue without a doubt, and they are. But it
can't be understated, the harshness, the brutality, of the methods
being used in Fallujah, and Fallujah is just a model. So when we talk
about Fallujah, that's just the starting point. Again, the
aforementioned cities are included in this now—not to the severity of
Fallujah, but very similar tactics. Now in Fallujah, residents have to
get retina scans and fingerprints and a bar code to go in and out of
the city; curfews are in place; there's no reconstruction. And this
policy for one degree or another is being imposed in other cities as
Revolution: How do you see the potential
impact of this tribunal? What do you think it can contribute to what
people need to understand in order to be more galvanized and compelled
to act against many of these crimes against humanity and war crimes?
Dahr Jamail: I think it's a very important
contribution that this tribunal will make, to bringing the issue of war
crimes and that people like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Colin Powell,
Condoleezza Rice – all these people are war criminals—to put this into
people's consciousness, to talk about reinvigorating the public debate,
to talk about not just impeachment, but that these people need to be
brought to justice. They need to be put on trial. And to reinvigorate
the public debate with this language. And with the findings of this
tribunal, I would love to see indictments filed as a result of this.
But I think that more realistically for the general public this is a
valuable contribution to put this language back into the debate: of war
criminals, impeachment, trials, the Nuremberg Charter, the Geneva
Convention, violations of international law. Along with what's
happening here with people in the U.S, like we were just hearing with
the CCR [Center for Constitutional Rights] folks, that people need to
be keenly aware of this. Because we are living in a police state, and
these people have essentially usurped the courts, they have thrown out
parts of the Constitution that would block their furthering of their
own agenda. And it's critical now, I mean we are at that point where
this is sort of a last stand the people of this country might have in
the next couple of years to try to pull things back under control.
Otherwise, I feel like we're in Germany in the mid-'30s.