The Guardian October 1, 2003


"Slaughter Every Night"

[Robert Fisk Interviewed on Democracy Now]

The whole of Baghdad is full of gunfire. I went to one hospital where the 
mortuary attendant told me that almost 40 percent of the total dead that 
come in to their mortuary are killed at US checkpoints by soldiers, either 
because the cars approached the checkpoints too quickly or because American 
troops come under fire and fire back at the civilians in the area without 
making direct contact with whoever is their aggressor.

On one occasion recently a woman and her child were brought dead to the 
hospital after they were killed by US forces who opened fire at people who 
were shooting in the air at a wedding party.

Over and over again this happens. We had a case about six weeks ago which I 
personally investigated, in which two men got too close, drove up to a US 
checkpoint, it wasn't a usual check point, just a piece of barbed wire 
thrown across the road in a very poor suburb of Baghdad.

The Americans opened fire at the car. When the car was burned out, I 
counted around 23 bullet holes in it. The bullets caught fire to the 
petrol, and I don't know if they were still alive or not. They were burned 
to death anyway.As the car was on fire, according to those who saw it 
happen, the Americans packed up and abandoned their checkpoint. I went to 
the mortuary again afterwards and found these two skeletons with burned 
flesh, their identity papers long ago consumed by the fire. The car itself 
and the registration plate had melted into the road. So again, two Iraqis 
families were waiting that night for loved ones who would never come home.

Yesterday, the Baghdad city morgue had 21 dead of whom 12 were killed by 
gunfire. This morning they had another five by 10:00am. If you add that up, 
and you turn it into a month of killings, you remember that there's 20 dead 
a day of gunfire being brought even to the Najaf cemetery, which is about 
200 miles south of Baghdad, who are killed by violence, not just of course 
by the Americans but family revenge killings, shootings by thieves, people 
trying to stop looters and get killed by accident caught in crossfire, you' 
re talking at least 1000 Iraqis dying every week.

I had one case this morning, a young man, only son of a Shiite from the 
very poorest area of Baghdad had been killed in his door, no one knew why. 
Four very, very angry Shiites arrived with his body at the mortuary. "This 
is because there is no security. America doesn't want us to have security. 
It wants to divide our society. We won't allow it. We will explode 
ourselves against the Americans", said one of the men. He was talking about 
suicide bombers.

Among those Iraqis who don't take such a conspiratorial view, there is a 
milder, but in my opinion, quite devastating view that the Americans don't 
really care very much about the Iraqis. They might talk about bringing 
democracy, liberating them. But they care only about Western soldiers who 
are killed. They don't really care about the lives of ordinary Iraqis.

And over and over again, we've had examples of people shot by the Americans 
at checkpoints, and the Americans have not even bothered to find out who 
they shot down, who they killed, who they wounded.

We had one very sad case the other day of a man whose family I spoke to, 
who did survive, he was a night watchman of a building, his factory was 
attacked by looters. He fired back at the looters and the Americans turned 
up and shot him in the chest. He's now just undergone his second operation 
to save his life. But he hasn't once been visited by American forces. No 
one said, sorry. No one says, would you like some compensation, we can help 
you.

In some cases we do know, especially in outlying and very tough areas, the 
Americans and other Western forces have offered and given money 
compensation to families of those they killed.

It's this overall feeling, and I don't go along with conspiracy theories, 
that the US wants a civil war, wants to divide people, wants violence, no, 
because they also become victims. But Americans just don't really care 
about Iraqis. And that is the cancer that is eating into this society now.

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