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Human Shields, Fighting, More Bombs
by Dahr Jamail
The New Standard
May 10, 2004



With the horrendous security situation limiting movement of the media in Iraq more than ever before, many of the attacks and bombs against the occupiers are going unreported.

Everyday now in Baghdad I hear bombs going off, along with the usual sporadic gunfire in the streets. The majority of the explosions come from inside the so-called "Green Zone."

The U.S. military in Iraq, apparently determined to keep as many fronts open as possible in their war, attacked the office of Muqtada Al-Sadr in Sadr City yesterday afternoon. Of course this was followed by fighting last night, and yet more today.

Fighting continues to spread throughout the south today in Basra, Najaf, Kerbala, Amarra -- many people now feel the situation is headed back to where it was a few weeks ago: rampant fighting, and an even further deteriorating security situation for foreigners.

My friend Sheikh Adnan from Baqubah told me that three days ago in his city, the office of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) decided to fly the new "flag" of Iraq, which has only one of the four colors of Islam (lacking black, green and red). It was decided upon behind closed doors by the U.S.-appointed Governing Council, with no vote of the people. It bears a light blue crescent, two light blue lines representing the Tigris and Euphrates, and a yellow line between them to represent the Kurdish population.

There is nothing in the flag which represents the Arab population, who comprise the majority of Iraq. The Sheikh has written in his new book that the Kurdish certainly have a right to be represented in the flag, but only if the Arabs are as well.

I have yet to talk with one Iraqi who is happy with the new "flag."

So the flying of the new "flag" in front of the PUK building of Baqubah went over well -- within 24 hours a car bomb destroyed much of the building, and of course the "flag."

I have yet to see the new "flag" anywhere, aside from seeing it burned in Fallujah. Anywhere it is flown, it is promptly torn down. Nobody would dare hang one in their car.

The residents of Al-Adhamiya, Baghdad, responded to the new "flag" by hanging countless flags (the real flag) all over their neighborhood. A huge version, over 20 meters long, was hung near Abu Hanifa Mosque. Smaller versions of the flag are fluttering from buildings, homes, and even paper versions are hung inside cars.

The U.S. military responded by coming to the area and tearing down as many of them as possible. One was rolled over by a tank. As usual, dissent in occupied Iraq is dealt with by tanks and guns.

This is the freedom. This is the democracy.

Of course the people of Al-Adhamiya responded by hanging even more flags up. My translator and I decided it was a good time to pick one up for each of us as well.

Another development of note is that recently U.S. patrols and convoys have allowed cars to drive near them, as well as between their Humvees and Bradleys. This was never allowed before previously, when they were on the streets you could always expect a traffic jam, as they would not let a single car pass, or even get near them.

So now the military is using Iraqis as human shields on the streets and highways in an effort to protect themselves from attacks by the resistance. Everyone I've spoken with about this is aware of the military's tactics.

This is just as they intend to do in Fallujah when U.S. patrols are resumed there: to use the Iraqi Police (IP) and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) to buffer themselves against the attacks that are sure to come, even worse than before.

I saw them use this method in Samarra last January. A U.S. military patrol creeping down the main street towards the Golden Mosque, with soldiers walking behind Humvees. On the sides of the soldiers, literally walking between them and the people on the sidewalks, were Iraqi Policemen.

Ever wonder why so many IPs have died during the occupation?


Dahr Jamail is Baghdad correspondent for The NewStandard. He is an Alaskan devoted to covering the untold stories from occupied Iraq. You can help Dahr continue his crucial work in Iraq by making donations. For more information or to donate to Dahr, visit The NewStandard.