Voices from Baghdad:
the new 'democracy'?

The new George Bush democracy

By Hamsa Mohammed

BAGHDAD--As an Iraqi civilian, and after being through this war, and after listening to all that has been said and done, I want everyone to know that this war has just begun. This isn't the end.

And everyone should know that the Iraqi people are ready to sacrifice their lives for Iraq, and only for Iraq -- not for Saddam, and not for the Americans.

For years, most of the people have seen Iraq through Saddam. We always tried to make people see them as two different things, but it was too hard. Now that Saddam is no more, the question is, what will the world see?

The United States said, or to be more precise, George Bush said, that they will enter Iraq as liberators not as occupiers, and that they are here to eliminate an aggressive regime, to destroy the weapons of mass destruction, to offer the Iraqi people freedom and independence, and to help Iraq regain a respected place in the world.

But will Iraq be just another American State?

From my place now, we are not even respected in our own land. We don't have the right to say anything about what the Americans are doing. They hold the machine guns, and we don't.

Is this the new, George Bush democracy?

We are calling for democracy. We want our voices to go out to the world with no fear. But that is not possible because we are not free. We are not free to move, especially at night. We are not allowed to film near any U.S. military (just like with Saddam!). Al-Jazeera TV was threatened and accused that they were not showing the right (American) viewpoint, and their live pictures of the war were not true, and so their office got bombed and one of their reporters was murdered because the American government was not pleased with their programs.

Is this the new, George Bush democracy?

Voices in the Wilderness was banned from working at the Palestine hotel because they did some writing that showed part of this reality. So they had to be stopped.

So where is the democracy? Where is the freedom?

We don't even have the right to protect ourselves and our families. We see crimes that are committed, and we can't stop them. We can't even say "no" to anything the American soldiers are doing, even if it is illegal.

For example, the weapons that they find now, in the city, they are destroying them in the middle of Baghdad -- in the city where children, women, and men live -- with no concern for what it might do to the properties of the people. And some of our people have lost their lives and houses because of those destructions. They don't have any other place to live.

Who is responsible for that?

In addition to that, the pollution that these destructions are causing to the environment, and the diseases that might appear because of no clean water, and not enough medicines, threaten all of us.

Who is in charge of this? Who is responsible for all these crimes?

Or is this the new, George Bush democracy, where no one can say, "No!"?

Written May 14 by aspiring writer Hamsa Mohammed, a 22- year-old Iraqi student at Baghdad University who is captain of the women's volleyball team.

I won't kneel

By Salaam Talib Al-Onaibi

After the fall of Baghdad, there is no one to care for the patients at Al-Rashed Psychiatric Hospital. Many of the inmates fled to the street.

One of the few that remain is a poet named Abed Al-Kareem, who came to Al-Rashed after being arrested several times by Saddam's regime.

An educated man, he never seemed crazy. Abed Al-Kareem chose to stay in the hospital because he felt more freedom there, to write his poetry.

He dedicated these few lines from a poem of his to the people of Iraq:

When will this oppression end?
And the Rulers who do
what they want with people?
Honorable men
expelled from their homes,
From the burgeoning homes
of the vain,
degraded and flaunted.
Vagabond in my own land
I became
Locked in my grave
I raised my head and said,
"No, no - I won't kneel."

Tempers flare as U.S. attacks gas sellers

By Majid Jarrar and
Salaam All-Jubouri

BAGHDAD--Hamed Mehson Alaiwi never expected to be attacked by the American military. A former government employee, he re-sells gasoline on the street in order to support his family in post-war Iraq.

Until today, his new job seemed harmless.

Daily, Alaiwi fills his large, gallon-sized gas cans at the Abu Qlam gas station and goes in search of thirsty cars. Street sales of gasoline have exploded in Baghdad since the war ended and gas shortages began. Gas stations throughout Baghdad have been ordered by the U.S. to stop selling gas to re-sellers and only let people fill their cars, in order to cut down on crowding.

When a group of Iraqis carrying gas cans, including Alaiwi, approached Abu Qlam at 1:30 pm today, U.S. soldiers stationed there, without a translator, told the group in English that they couldn't fill their cans.

When the Iraqis continued to approach the station, either not understanding or ignoring the order, the soldiers shouted at them to stop, and the Iraqis ran away. The soldiers pursued the group, and pistol-whipped Alaiwi when they caught him, leaving two, prominent welts on his forehead. The soldiers then destroyed the gas cans with their knives.

Alaiwi was confused and angry after the beating. "I never attacked them. They suddenly attacked me. They beat me with their guns and threatened me with a knife.

When they came, they were supposed to give us our freedom, not assault us. He [the soldier] insulted me. If he was an Iraqi, I would kill him. But he is an American, and I can't do anything," Alaiwi said.

Ahmed, an eyewitness to the attack, commented, "The fight today was nothing. A few days ago, an old man quarreled with the Americans and they kicked him in the head. Every day such situations happen."

One of the U.S. soldiers stationed at Abu Qlam who said his name was Smith, said, "People were standing in line waiting to buy gasoline, and these guys came with their gallon cans in order to get gasoline to sell in the street. We told them not to do that. They ignored us, and when we ordered him to stop, they ran away."

Smith continued, "People who run from us are bad people."

"Hoopra," one of the soldiers who allegedly participated in the beating, said, "What guys?" and turned away when asked about the attack.

Rundown cars, filled with hot, sweating people, line the street in front of Abu Qlam gas station, in Baghdad's Karrada district. Gasoline is only available at this station between 9 am and 3 pm daily.

Before the war, gasoline was cheaper than water in Iraq. Today, people speculate that the U.S. is purposefully causing the shortages in order to teach Iraqis a lesson in the true value of their resources.

Ghassan Al-Zubaidi, a high school student working at the gas station, complained after the beating, "The Americans came for the freedom? That's all lies. They came, occupied us, and stole our oil. They wanted this [bad situation] for our country. They robbed, and they looted, and they burned all the Ministries, except the Ministry of Oil, which wasn't touched, because they wanted the oil.

"George Bush is a son-of-a-bitch."

Unwelcome research results being squelched?

During its visit to Baghdad University last Jan. 13, the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) did not single Dr. Huda S. Ammash out for an interview because its research saw no evidence to link her to Iraq's biological weapons programs.

Yet the U.S. military saw fit to "detain" Prof. Ammash of Baghdad University "for questioning" on May 5.

"The U.S. government is trying to silence Dr. Ammash's outspoken criticism of the U.S. role in causing cancers and other illnesses in Iraq through its own use of biologically hazardous weapons such as radioactive depleted uranium," charges American publisher Alexander Dwinell.

A Missouri University graduate and environmental biologist, Dr. Ammash has earned international respect for her published works, in particular, her documentation of the rise in cancers among Iraqi children and war veterans since the earlier Gulf War.

In speaking to NGO representatives and former U.N. officials in Baghdad in January, Dr. Ammash said: "People here bear every respect for Western people and Western civilization. We respect your technological accomplishments and your values. . . Yet hatred is being manufactured by some to engineer a clash of civilizations."

"Toxic Pollution, the Gulf War and Sanctions" is a peer-reviewed research paper that has been included in Ammash's book, Iraq Under Seige. She has several other publications to her credit. (See www.southendpress.org )

No justice, no peace

The battle for Baghdad may be over,
but the war is only getting more dangerous

By Rashid Khalidi

Go back 33 years and look at the pretexts given for the war in Indochina. See how hollow they look today?

In far less than 33 years, the pretexts for the war in Iraq, which now appears to have ended, will be revealed as being equally hollow, shortsighted and mendacious.

This was explicitly described as being a preventive or pre-emptive war, meaning it absolutely had to be waged to prevent an imminent, present danger to the national security of the United States.

It is now crystal clear, if it were not so before the war began, that there was no demonstrable danger to the United States from Iraq.

The country was so debilitated after the 1991 war and subsequent sanctions, that even its immediate neighbours did not feel threatened. Most of them did not support this war, even though all of them had strong grievances against the regime in Baghdad.

We have now seen just how feeble Iraq was: barely four divisions of American and British troops crushed its military and occupied the country in little more than three weeks.

Iraq's execrable and tyrannical regime posed no threat to anyone but its own people. There was absolutely no connection between Iraq and 9/11.

Where are all the weapons of mass destruction?

Not in Iraq!

Number of nuclear warheads, by country:

United States .............. 10,600
Russia........................... 8,400
China ....................... 400-500
France ............................. 288
United Kingdom............... 200
Israel ....................... 200-400
Pakistan ............................. 48
India ............................. 30-35