Iraqi Victims Expose U.S. War Crimes>
"The accounts I heard will live with me forever. You may think you know what happened in Falluja,
but the truth is worse than anything you could possibly have imagined."
Iraqi Doctor Salem Ismael, who headed an aid convoy to Falluja in
The June 24-26 World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI) in Istanbul, Turkey,
was the concluding session of a two-year effort which included previous sessions in London, Mumbai, Copenhagen, Brussels,
New York, Japan, Stockholm, South Korea, Rome, Frankfurt, Geneva, Lisbon and Spain. Drawing on the tradition of Bertrand Russell's
1967 International War Crimes Tribunal on Vietnam, the WTI's mission was to document the truth about the 2003 war and occupation--against
official lies, disinformation and silence. The participants saw the Tribunal as "an act of resistance"--as Indian novelist
and activist Arundhati Roy put it, "a defense mounted against one of the most cowardly wars ever fought in history."
Around 1,000 people from some 24 different countries attended
this Tribunal. Over three days, six panels--a politically diverse group of 54 scholars, journalists, legal experts, witnesses,
former soldiers and officials from around the globe, and most of all Iraqis direct from the occupation--presented evidence
to an international jury of conscience comprised of people from 10 countries. I was invited to testify on the history of U.S.
and UK intervention in Iraq. I'm pretty well informed when it comes to Iraq, but the three days of testimony I heard in Istanbul--especially
the words of Iraqis direct from the occupation--were still eye-opening and gut-wrenching.The Horrors of the Occupation
Day two of the Tribunal, which focused on the U.S. occupation,
was particularly intense and moving. Witness after witness presented horrific and enraging pictures of life under the U.S.
imperial occupation. Iraqis described living under a reign of terror--of torture in the prisons, massacres in Falluja and
other cities, rape of women, nighttime raids and home demolitions, and many other horrors. Some witnesses showed slides, photos
or video--including footage of the twisted metal and broken concrete rubble and ruin left by the U.S. assault on Falluja.
A banner, probably 50 feet long and five feet high covered with pictures of massacred Iraqis and their children, was brought
before the Tribunal.
It's impossible to do justice in this article to all the testimonies
and evidence presented at the Tribunal, which amounted to a damning, overwhelming, and compelling indictment of the Iraq war
and the U.S.-UK occupation. (Many presentations can be read online at www.worldtribunal.org/main/) I've excerpted some of the witness statements from Iraq here.
Story of Hudda Fawzi Salam Issawa from Falluja:
Five of us, including a 55-year-old neighbor, were trapped
together in our house in Falluja when the siege began. On November 9 , American Marines came to our house. My father
and the neighbor went to the door to meet them. We were not fighters. We thought we had nothing to fear. I ran into the kitchen
to put on my veil, since men were going to enter our house. This saved my life. As my father and neighbor approached the door,
the Americans opened fired on them. They died instantly. Me and my 13-year-old brother hid in the kitchen behind the fridge.
The soldiers came into the house and caught my older sister. They beat her. Then they shot her.
Statement of a 46-year-old engineer describing what he saw
in a U.S. prison:
I saw a young man of 14 years of age bleeding from his
anus and lying on the floor. He was Kurdish and his name was Hama. I heard the soldiers talking to each other about this guy;
they mentioned that the reason for this bleeding was inserting a metal object in his anus.
U.S. Journalist Dahr Jamail, describing his interview with
an Iraqi man released from Abu Ghraib after being held for over three months without charges:
Ali Abbas lives in the Al-Amiriyah district of Baghdad
and worked in civil administration. He was forced to strip naked shortly after arriving [at Abu Ghraib], and remained that
way for most of his stay in the prison. "They made us lay on top of each other naked as if it was sex, and beat us with a
broom," he said. In addition to being beaten on their genitals, detainees were also denied water and food for extended periods
of time, then were forced to watch as their food was thrown in the trash. Treatment also included having a loaded gun held
to his head to prevent him from crying out in pain as his hand-ties were tightened.
"My hands were enlarged because there was no blood because
they cuffed them so tight," he told me. "My head was covered with the sack, and they fastened my right hand to a pole with
handcuffs. They made me stand on my toes to clip me to it.".
Abbas said that at one point, "Two men came, one a foreigner
and one a translator. He asked me who I was. I said I'm a human being. They told me, 'We are going to cut off your head and
send you to hell. We will take you to Guantánamo.'. Abbas added, "They shit on us, used dogs against us, used electricity
and starved us."
He told me, "Saddam Hussein used to have people like those
who tortured us. Why do they put Saddam to trial, but they do not put the Americans to trial?". Abbas did not feel this was
the work of a few individual soldiers. "This was organized, it wasn't just individuals. And every one of the troops in Abu
Ghraib was responsible for it."
Statement of an agricultural engineer about his detention by
the U.S. military:
They inserted some strange objects into my anus and asked
me to take very humiliating positions while they messed with me. They were calling these positions some names, which I did
not understand. They took many photos while I was in these positions, they were laughing and enjoying it. There was a male
and female soldier who sat behind me; they were messing with each other. Their game was that the male soldier would aim at
my injured and swollen leg with a piece of rock. As soon as he hit his target and I screamed of pain, she would reward him
by letting him kiss her or fondle her. The stronger my pain was and the louder my scream was, the more he would get from her.
Journalist Fadhil Al Bedrani, who witnessed the U.S. assault
on Falluja in November 1994:
On Nov. 15, in Goulan area, 20 to 25 persons were running
barefoot when an American warplane bombed, killing and wounding them. Only one elderly woman and two children stayed safe
when they hid under rubbles of a bombed house. The dead bodies were left in the street for 20 days.
On Nov. 25, 15 American soldiers entered a house at Bathara
area, central Falluja. Three civilian men were there; one was handicapped, the second was 61 years old, and the third was
52 years old. The only one who stayed alive said, "When the Americans entered the house they saw that we were sitting unarmed;
14 left, and the last one threw us a grenade, saying bye. Two were seriously wounded. I with my slight wounds tried to help
them, but after a while they were back; I pretended to be dead while other two were suffering. They put a bullet in every
head and left."
Statement by Hana Ibrahim:
I would like to ask a question that most of you have already
asked: why are detained women left naked? Why are they made to walk naked before other detained male prisoners? And why are
naked men made to go into cages where naked women are kept under detention? We have documented all this. The Union of Physicians
documented the Americans carrying out this torture through their own photos.
Testimony by Amal Sawadi about what happens when U.S. troops
invade people's homes:
The Findings of the Tribunal
Sometimes Americans arrest all the family and other times
they leave the women and children outside and only arrest the men. Sacks are placed on the heads of the people who are to
be taken away while their hands remain tied. Then they put everybody in a vehicle, piling people up without any respect.
Then the investigation starts. Actually, what they are
investigating is ambiguous. There are no lawyers allowed for the detainees, and no information is given about the reasons
or the evidence surrounding the detentions. In the process, Iraqi women are being raped. One woman was bleeding for three
months and the raping continued. There is no health service. The media does not mention these facts--or the fact that all
of Iraq has become a prison.
After hearing the testimony, the WTI Jury concluded that the
occupation "has led to the destruction and devastation of the Iraqi state and society. Law and order have broken down completely,
resulting in a pervasive lack of human security; the physical infrastructure is in shambles; the health care delivery system
is in poor condition; the education system has virtually ceased to function; there is massive environmental and ecological
devastation; and the cultural and archeological heritage of the Iraqi people has been desecrated."
The Turkish press--both mainstream and oppositional--gave extensive
daily coverage to the WTI, complete with color pictures and banner headlines. At the concluding press conference, some 300
to 350 people jammed into the room, including every major Turkish TV station and newspaper and some international press. Given
the criminal complicity of the U.S. bourgeois media, it was not surprising the WTI has been, as far as I can tell, totally
whited out of mainstream U.S. media coverage.
The Jury delivered a sweeping and unconditional indictment
of the U.S.-UK war and occupation, calling it "illegal" and "one of the most unjust, immoral, and cowardly wars in history."
Among its indictments of the U.S. and British governments:
Planning, preparing, and waging the supreme crime of a war
of aggression in contravention of the UN Charter and the Nuremburg Principles.
Targeting the civilian population of Iraq and civilian infrastructure.
Actively creating conditions under which the status of Iraqi
women has seriously been degraded.
Imposing punishments without charge or trial, including collective
The Jury also stated: "Much evidence supports the conclusion
that a major motive for the war was to control and dominate the Middle East and its vast reserves of oil as a part of the
U.S. drive for global hegemony."
It also called for all complicit parties--including the "coalition
of the willing," other governments, the UN Security Council, corporations involved in the war, and the major media--to be
The WTI demanded, among other things, "the immediate and unconditional
withdrawal of the Coalition forces from Iraq" and that "all laws, contracts, treaties, and institutions established under
occupation, which the Iraqi people deem inimical to their interests, be considered null and void."
Very significantly, the Jury recognized and upheld the "the
right of the Iraqi people to resist the illegal occupation of their country."Spirit of Taking Responsibility
A heartening spirit of taking responsibility on behalf of the
world's people--when governments and institutions are directly culpable, complicit, or silent in the face of war crimes and
crimes against humanity--animated the proceedings. "We aren't just fighting for Iraq," Ayse Berktay, one of the lead organizers,
told me, "but for the future of the planet."
This also came through in the outpouring of energy and commitment
from the many volunteers who made the WTI possible, and in their harrowing (and inspiring) stories of how they pulled the
event together by the skin of their teeth, as they pulled all-night sessions and wondered all the while if it could be done.
The WTI brought to life why the world truly cannot
wait--why the people must drive out the Bush regime.
As Haifa Zangana, an Iraqi writer, painter, and humanist put
it, "We will continue resisting in Iraq for you as well as for ourselves because America is not the fate of humanity. They
are not the power to rule over the world in future and we can create another world."
Last month the Pentagon defied a federal court order
to release dozens of additional photos and videos from Abu Ghraib, the infamous U.S. military prison in Iraq. The rumors are
that these images reveal a whole new level of atrocities by the U.S. This is outrageous. The truth must be known. If you want
to see what the Pentagon is trying so hard to hide.read the testimony from the World Tribunal on Iraq excerpted in this article.