A first-person report
from war-torn Baghdad
By Robert Turcotte

BAGHDAD, April 1-6, 2003-- Yesterday evening, there were two bombardments that made us jump out of our chairs and question if we should go down to the shelter. Fortunately, a lull soon followed. These were the most intense attacks that have occurred in the surrounding area since March 20.

I felt very emotional when 14 members left this morning, more so because of the departure of Lisa and Zehira from Montreal and the other Canadians, Stewart Vriesinga and Lisa Martens.

The latest news is that there are about 600 civilian deaths and 4000 wounded. All human, and all innocent victims.

The city comes back to life slowly.

Baghdad is an extremely large city with 100 km from north to south and almost the same distance from east to west. The sites that are bombed are scattered throughout this perimeter.

The massive attacks that people expected have not taken place. Hence, more and more businesses and public markets are once again open and there is more and more traffic every day. To date, we have not cancelled any outings to any part of the city.

With every excursion we see more bombed buildings.

April, Charles, Jooneed and I meet the director of the Kindi hospital, Doctor Houssama Saaleh. Yesterday alone, they received 45 wounded from two districts, Al Ameen and Al Dhahliyeh, of which seven people died.

April asks about 12-year-old Ali Isam≈l Eadan who was admitted March 30 with his two arms burnt and torn off and suffering from third-degree burns in his abdomen. He is the only survivor of the bombing of two adjacent homes in which 17 members of his family lived.

All dead.

Doctor Saaleh offers to bring us to him, but we decline. He shows us photographs on his computer, both before and after his surgery. The day after his surgery, he is in a room with other wounded people and without any special medical equipment. There is no comparison with the care that burn victims receive in Canada.

At the same time, the doctor shows us a series of photographs of people of all ages who were killed in bombings of the preceding days. I had never seen such horrors: carbonized bodies, shredded, separate body parts, halves of heads and so on. At our request, he downloads copies onto floppy disks.

He mentions that due to communication problems, people transport the casualties in trucks or in cars and try to help the victim, which aggravates their suffering and condition. As a result some people are already dead on arrival.

He told us that since the imposition of the sanctions, they are unable to update equipment such as scanners, magnetic resonance imagery (MRI), and other radiology equipment which are essential to effectively treat patients. Only 100 ambulances have been authorized for the whole country by the U.N over the last two years. They have no choice but to work with the material that is available since this equipment must be imported and imports are prohibited.

In the afternoon, we visit another site that was bombed yesterday in the Al Ameen district, located at the east of Baghdad. The bomb exploded in the air above two houses. Thousands of fragments of the missile killed two three- year-old girls and a five-year-old boy, in addition to wounding 12 people.

We visit the house of Mr. Haeden Abdul Mohammed who lost two children. We notice the thousands of holes made by these fragments on the house, inside and through metal barrels. By examining various fragments, we note makings: RADOM NOT PAINT, RESEAR 01 1365S, SEASTROM, YAW A2MP3 9003ASS, the most interesting MFR 9621 and: JX2N3902 MADE IN THE USA 8642.

It is difficult mistake the origin in this missile.

More news: a warehouse in Basrah containing 75,000 tons of food that the authorities distributed in daily rations to the population, was bombed by the Americans.

It is now April 2nd. There are only 14 team members who are still in Baghdad. To improve communications and increase security, four IPT members who reside at the Andalus move to the Al Fanar Hotel. This is for increased security and to improve communications.

We now each have our own room with a magnificent panoramic view. I am in room 306 with all the conveniences of a good hotel.

Jooneed and I accompany Dr. Yarub Al Shiraida, originally from Iraq, who has been living in Canada for the last 27 years. He has been a month with the Life for Relief and Development organization, which has consultant status with the Social and Economic Council of the United Nations (www.lifeusa.org) and in collaboration with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society. This organization has been here since 1993 and has helped to repair 10 water treatment plants, reconstructed 34 schools and set up four computer training centers. Canada has
donated $200,000 a year and the United States, $ l million. The organization has set up emergency services to help people during this war.

We visit two sheds in which products are stored and then distributed throughout the country. At the moment, there are 50 tents that can each shelter six persons, 2,000 blankets, of which 400 have just been distributed, 4,000 plastic container of which 600 have been given out, bags of lentils, beans, rice and other food that is packaged
in family portions, bottles of water and vegetable oil and cans of tomatoes and other foods which will be given out. Other organizations such as the Human
Relief Foundation, Children of the World, Bridges to Baghdad and CARE also keep their stock here.

From here we go to the office where people are preparing hundreds of emergency first aid kits, which also contain an electric lamp, two batteries, a pair of scissors and a large bar of soap.

Upon our return to the hotel, we learn that the centre of the market located in the al Mansur neighborhood has been bombed several times and is totally demolished. The office of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, which is situated near the centre, has been hit and some of the personnel are injured.

At 2:15, we attend a press conference given by the Minister of Information Muhammad Sa'ied al Sahaf.

The room in the Palestine Hotel, which has become the new press center since the bombardments of the official center, is full of journalists and cameramen.

The Minister criticizes the British and American governments and announces that last night there were about 90 injured and 10 civilian deaths.

He speaks of the booby-trap tactic used by the Americans, which consists of throwing some small object such as a toy, pencil and other objects that lures children out of their homes and bomb them while they pick them up. If this turns out to be true we have to wonder how far this insane murder can go.

He announces that seven tanks, two Apache helicopters and 10 transporters have been destroyed.

After the conference, we learn that there is a reward of 10 millions dinars (US$3,300) offered to anyone that denounces a spy. This is a small fortune here these days.

There has been heavy bombardment today. I am beginning to seriously wonder what they want to achieve by bombing empty buildings and killing civilians in their homes. Why are the land troops not advancing and confronting the military instead of hurting defenseless civilians? Iraq has no air defense because they have no planes. Where is the challenge for the American and English pilots if they are alone in the sky? Is it for the fun of sending missiles and being able to report that the mission has been accomplished? Is it to try out new so-called "precision" weapons? How many victims do they need for their evaluation?

Besides being an unjust and senseless war, it is beginning to look like senseless war crimes.

Oil-rich Iraq is importing gas

In one of the richest oil countries in the world, people are lined up for three days to get gas in some areas, and frustrations are mounting. To settle frazzled nerves, those running the show announced, May 6, that they would import gasoline and cooking gas from neighbouring Arab countries in quantities that would fulfill local needs for about 30 days. The Americans are footing the bill.

Apparently relieved that Saddam is history, locals fail to understand why their rich country is now failing them. The looting of the oil fields and the long-term impact of sanctions are still taking their toll, although the inability of the Western world to govern the peace is what Iraqis see as the current cause of their problems.

Oil field workers are, in fact, afraid to go back to work, says Daura oil refinery general manager Dathar al-Khashab in Baghdad. "We lost the most important thing for people to return, and that is security," he said. He and his workers held off looters for five days in April. He says looting has badly hobbled the Kirkuk oil field in northern Iraq, from which Daura receives the bulk of its crude oil.

Iraqis have many theories about the theft of their oil -- accusing gas station managers and American troops. However, Mr. Khashab says much blame can be laid at the door of the American bombs that damaged the necessary power grid. Unable to burn the necessary volume of residual fuel oil, less crude oil can be refined because there is nowhere to store the excess fuel oil that is yielded during the refining process. This also results in a shortfall of other petroleum products, like gasoline.

To initiate a war of aggression is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.

In stating this guiding principle of international law, the judges in the Nuremberg trial of the Nazi leadership specifically rejected German arguments of the necessity for pre-emptive attacks against other countries. (From "A Crime Against Humanity" by John Pilger).

The Montreal-based arm of the
Iraq Peace Team

urge you to ward off any "amnesia of convenience"
that may cause you to forget:

  • the terrible crimes that have been committed in Iraq
    in the name of "peace";
  • that Iraq is currently under occupation;
  • that Iraq is being reconstructed by American corporations
    who are wholly unaccountable to the people of Iraq;
  • that Canada appears on the point of joining the occupation; and
  • there is very little resistance from Canadians.

Three Canadians, Lisa Ndejuru, Zehira Houfani and Robert Turcotte,
chose to act against war and domination.

They can provide powerful eye-witness accounts of
the bombing of Baghdad that will inspire others to action.

Consider inviting them to speak at your events
over the coming weeks and months.

To book a speaker, e-mail iptcanada yahoo.ca or call 514-521-5252.

$2,700 of the recent $9,000 travel costs to Baghdad are yet unpaid.

If you can help with a donation, of any size,
please send your cheque, made out to "Voices of Conscience",
with a note on the cheque "for the Iraq Peace Team",
and mail it to 8166 Henri-Julien, Montreal QC H2P 2J2.