Amid Allied jubilation, a child lies in agony, clothes soaked in blood
By Robert Fisk in Baghdad
Independent - April 8, 2003
They lay in lines, the car salesman who'd just lost his eye but whose
feet were still dribbling blood, the motorcyclist who was shot by
American troops near the Rashid Hotel, the 50-year-old female civil
servant, her long dark hair spread over the towel she was lying on, her
face, breasts, thighs, arms and feet pock-marked with shrapnel from an
American cluster bomb. For the civilians of Baghdad, this is the real,
immoral face of war, the direct result of America's clever little
"probing missions" into Baghdad.
It looks very neat on television, the American marines on the banks of
the Tigris, the oh-so-funny visit to the presidential palace, the
videotape of Saddam Hussein's golden loo. But the innocent are bleeding
and screaming with pain to bring us our exciting television pictures and
to provide Messrs Bush and Blair with their boastful talk of victory. I
watched two-and-a-half-year-old Ali Najour lying in agony on the bed, his
clothes soaked with blood, a tube through his nose, until a relative
walked up to me.
"I want to talk to you," he shouted, his voice rising in fury. "Why do
you British want to kill this little boy? Why do you even want to look at
him? You did this – you did it!"
The young man seized my arm, shaking it violently. "Are you going to make
his mother and father come back? Can you bring them back to life for him?
Get out! Get out!" In the yard outside, where the ambulance drivers
deposit the dead, a middle-aged Shia woman in black was thumping her
fists against her breasts and shrieking at me. "Help me," she cried.
"Help me. My son is a martyr and all I want is a banner to cover him. I
want a flag, an Iraqi flag, to put over his body. Dear God, help me!"
It's becoming harder to visit these places of pain, grief and anger. The
International Committee of the Red Cross yesterday reported civilian
victims of America's three-day offensive against Baghdad arriving at the
hospitals now by the hundred. Yesterday, the Kindi alone had taken 50
civilian wounded and three dead in the previous 24 hours. Most of the
dead – the little boy's family, the family of six torn to pieces by an
aerial bomb in front of Ali Abdulrazek, the car salesman, the next-door
neighbours of Safa Karim – were simply buried within hours of their being
torn to bits.
On television, it looks so clean. On Sunday evening, the BBC showed
burning civilian cars, its reporter – "embedded" with US forces – saying
that he saw some of their passengers lying dead beside them.
That was all. No pictures of the charred corpses, no close-ups of the
shrivelled children. So perhaps I should warn those of what the BBC once
called a nervous disposition to go no further. But if they want to know
what America and Britain are doing to the innocent of Baghdad, they
should read on.
I'll leave out the description of the flies that have been clustering
round the wounds in the Kindi emergency rooms, of the blood caked on the
sheets, the blood still dripping from the wounds of those I talked to
yesterday. All were civilians. All wanted to know why they had to suffer.
All – save for the incandescent youth who ordered me to leave the little
boy's bed – talked gently and quietly about their pain. No Iraqi
government bus took me to the Kindi hospital. No doctor knew I was
Let's start with Mr Abdulrazek. He's the 40-year-old car salesman who was
walking yesterday morning through a narrow street in the Shaab district
of Baghdad – that's where the two American missiles killed at least 20
civilians more than a week ago – when he heard the jet engines of an
aircraft. "I was going to see my family because the phone exchanges have
been bombed and I wanted to make sure they were OK," he said. "There was
a family, a husband and wife and kids, in front of me.
"Then I heard this terrible noise and there was a light and I knew
something had happened to me. I went to try to help the family in front
of me but they were all gone, in pieces. Then I realised I couldn't see
properly." Over Mr Abdulrazek's left eye is a wad of thick bandages, tied
to his face. His doctor, Osama al-Rahimi, tells me that "we did not
operate on the eye, we have taken care of his other wounds". Then he
leant towards my ear and said softy: "He has lost his eye. There was
nothing we could do. It was taken out of his head by the shrapnel." Mr
Abdulrazek smiles – of course, he does not know that he will be forever
half-blind – and suddenly breaks into near-perfect English, a language he
had learnt at high school in Baghdad. "Why did this happen to me?" he
Yes, I know the lines. President Saddam would have killed more Iraqis
than us if we hadn't invaded – not a very smart argument in the Kindi
hospital – and that we're doing all this for them. Didn't Paul Wolfowitz,
the US Deputy Defence Secretary, tell us all a few days ago that he was
praying for the American troops and for the Iraqi people? Aren't we
coming here to save them – let's not mention their oil – and isn't
President Saddam a cruel and brutal man? But amid these people, such
words are an obscenity.
Then there was Safa Karim. She is 11 and she is dying. An American bomb
fragment struck her in the stomach and she is bleeding internally,
writhing on the bed with a massive bandage on her stomach and a tube down
her nose and – somehow most terrible of all – a series of four dirty
scarves that tie each of her wrists and ankles to the bed. She moans and
thrashes on the bed, fighting pain and imprisonment at the same time. A
relative said she is too ill to understand her fate. "She has been given
10 bottles of drugs and she has vomited them all up," he said.
The man opens the palms of his hands, the way Arabs do when they want to
express impotence. "What can we do?" they always say, but the man was
silent. But I'm glad. How, after all, could I ever tell him that Safa
Karim must die for 11 September, for George Bush's fantasies and Tony
Blair's moral certainty and for Mr Wolfowitz's dreams of "liberation" and
for the "democracy", which we are blasting our way through these people's
lives to create?