Leaving the hotel is always an adventure. Last
night, Abu Talat whisked me, with a full beard and a keffiyeh draped around
my shoulders,out into the chaotic streets of occupied Baghdad.
As we traveled around the capital, we took side roads, winding, varying routes
toward our destination, never daring to take the direct, most obvious path.
Aside from the obvious threat of kidnapping, which is my greatest concern, we
travel accepting the fact that anywhere, anytime, we could be in the wrong place
at the wrong time. Whether that takes the form of a car bomb, like the one yesterday
that detonated near a U.S. patrol on Sa'adoun street, killing 17 people and
engulfing 20 cars in flames, or a full-scale battle between occupation forces
and resistance fighters, like that which occurred in al-Adhamiya today.
The damp night air appeared as a haze, which exaggerated the ever-present smog
in the capital. Driving around Baghdad always provides an assortment of smells
from beef kebobs cooking on the roadsides as vendors stoke their fires
to, more commonly, the stench of raw sewage as one passes through yet another
unreconstructed sewage infested area.
One of our stops was at the home of Dr. Wamid Omar Nathmi, a senior political
scientist at Baghdad University. An older, articulate man who vehemently opposed
the regime of Saddam Hussein, he is now critical of U.S. policy, which is engulfing
Iraq in violence, bloodshed, and chaos.
He told me that during the buildup to the siege of Fallujah, he had sent John
Negroponte, the current so-called ambassador to Iraq, a letter that, along with
several other points, asked him, "Do you think that by occupying Fallujah
you will stop the resistance?"
Of course, his letter was ignored, and now we watch in fear as the resistance
spreads across Iraq like wildfire, fanned by the pounding of Fallujah.
Dr. Nathmi added, "Certainly the U.S. military can eventually suppress
Fallujah, but for how long? Iraq is burning with wrath, anger, and sadness
the people of Fallujah are dear to us. They are our brothers and sisters, and
we are so saddened by what is happening in that city."
He asked what the difference is between what is occurring in Fallujah now and
what Saddam Hussein did during his repression of the Shia Intifada that followed
the '91 Gulf War. "Saddam suppressed that uprising and used less awful
methods than the Americans are in Fallujah today."
Dr. Nathmi is a brilliant man and certainly a warehouse of informative analysis
about the events in Iraq. He was quick to point out another flaw in the U.S.
policy here, how the U.S. disbanded the entire Iraqi police force in Ramadi
the day before the siege of Fallujah began.
He held up his hands and asked, "Who will provide security in Ramadi now,
"I can assure you, it is well over 75 percent of Iraqis who cannot even
tolerate this occupation," he said a little later when discussing the Bush
administration's attempts to whitewash the situation in Iraq. "The right-wing
Bush administration is blinded by its ideology, and we are all suffering from
this, Iraqis and soldiers alike."
After our interview, we stopped by Abu Talat's home for a coffee and so I could
say hello to his family. His son Hissan somberly asked me, "When will the
Americans leave, Dahr?" I had no response. "I don't know Hissan. I
really don't know." He then said, "I don't think they are ever going
to leave Iraq."
I snuck back into the car and we wound our way across Baghdad, noting that
most of the city sat in darkness. "Baghdad is running on the generators,
Dahr," said Abu Talat. "Even my home has been without electricity
since 9 a.m. this morning." It is after 8 p.m.
He insisted we stop for ice cream, which I most certainly did not refuse, then
he dropped me back at my hotel.
Today dawned a gray, windy day, with fighter jets scorching the sky en route
Of course, the flames of resistance have now engulfed other parts of Baghdad
and Iraq alike. Here in Baghdad, the Amiriyah, Abu Ghraib, and al-Dora regions
have fallen mostly under the control of the resistance.
A friend of mine who lives in al-Dora said, "The resistance is in control
here now, they are controlling the streets."
What few U.S. patrols still roam the streets are attacked often. This fact
was underscored as several large explosions nearby shook the walls of my hotel
Abu Talat was once again trapped in his neighborhood, and we were unable to
conduct an interview when fighting broke out nearby his home. He called me and
said, "The Iraqi police found a car bomb, and when they were warning people
about it U.S. troops showed up and were immediately attacked with RPGs. The
fighting raged for at least half an hour, and several soldiers were wounded
and taken away. Now fighter jets are flying so low over our neighborhood, using
their loud voices to terrorize people."
Huge areas within the cities of Ramadi, Fallujah, Baquba, and Mosul are now
controlled by the resistance. Will the slash and burn tactics of the U.S. military
in Fallujah be applied to those areas next?
Meanwhile, over near the Imam Adham mosque, a huge demonstration organized
by the Islamic Party (which just withdrew from the so-called interim government
and recently called for a boycott of the elections), broke out. It was comprised
of well over 5,000 angry people denouncing Iyad Allawi and demanding his resignation.
They also demonstrated to show that they are unafraid of the U.S. military.
And they called for jihad against Allawi.