FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Horror Chamber

by RAMZY BAROUD

A few years ago, I stepped into the horror of the Gulf War. It was April 1999, and the place was Baghdad’s al-Amiriya bomb shelter.

Living most of my life in a refugee camp in Gaza, where the murder of innocent people at the hands of Israeli troops is routine, I was little hesitant to walk into al-Amiriya. I was not braced for what I would witness. I already knew that hundreds of people had wasted there, during the Gulf War, in 1991, when an American ‘smart’ bomb shattered the giant compound. But that’s all I knew.

It was cold, damp and dark. A few lonely florescent lamps were not working since the regular bombing of Baghdad’s electric generators by US-British warplanes left the city without any power for most of the day, everyday. Ironically, the only light shed on the shelter came from the monstrous hole in the roof, made eight years ago by the American bomb.

The shelter was designed to withstand a nuclear attack on Baghdad; it was solid and giant, and had the capacity to host hundreds of people. Among the scores of colorful pictures of the victims, there were a few photos of three Palestinians families. They were refugees, working and living in Iraq, and there, in this place, they died.

When the American bomb fell, the shelter’s doors shut down, automatically. The doors were designed to do so, since the attack was never expected to target the shelter itself, but nearby areas. Those who didn’t immediately die as a result of the massive explosion pounded at the door and screamed for help.

American officials at the time assured us that that the place was used for military purposes; as they always do, when innocent people are “mistakenly” killed.

The powerful explosion penetrated to the bottom floor where giant water tanks were stored. On that floor, families cooked and washed. Some of these tanks boiled with water. Seconds later, the tanks exploded and the boiling water rose to over three feet.
You could still see the mark of where the water rose, as well as the impression of the human flesh that melted to the wall due to the intense heat of the water.

“These are the marks of a woman’s skin still holding her child,” an Iraqi woman, who lost her entire family in al-Amiriya said. She left her husband and nine children and ran home to bring some food. She came back to find them all dead. Since then, she has lived in a tiny trailer in the shelter’s backyard, escorting visitors with her black cloths and a candle. “These are my children”, she points to a framed picture of happy looking children, neatly dressed and smiling politely.

As I stepped out of al-Amiriya’s “tour”, I could never escape the echoing voices of the Iraqi children, pounding at the door, pleading to God and to humanity to get them out of the inferno.

But al-Amiriya was neither the beginning, nor is it the end.
During the 1991 Gulf War to “liberate Kuwait”, uncounted innocent lives were taken. Some estimates put the number of Iraq casualties during the war at over a million. Even the most moderate estimates are catastrophic.

The US has successfully liberated the oil fields in Kuwait, but the Iraq tragedy continues to unfold. Anywhere from 5,000 to 8,000 Iraqi children have die every month, as a direct result of the US-led UN economic sanctions on Iraq that followed the war. Even United Nations’ own reports testified to that.

The Oil-for-Food program, which came into effect nearly five years after the end of the Gulf War, was of little significance to assist an ailing economy and a ruined infrastructure. Iraq was still banned from importing many products using the little funds that the program provided.

Over a week ago, the United States and its British allies began yet another war against Iraq, killing and maiming hundreds thus far, with the aim of “liberating Iraq”, and “freeing the Iraqi people.” It’s appalling how such twisted logic can hold for such a long time.

An MSNBC commentator explained the reason why the first day of bombings in Iraq, was so concentrated and not widespread. “We have to keep in mind that in a few days, we will own this country,” he said.

We need not examine such statements however, nor the provocative comments made by top US army officials, nor the desecration of an Iraqi flag and the offensive replacement of an American one, after the Umm al-Qasr battle. If this eagerness to invade Iraq was for the sake of the Iraqi people, why have we tortured and starved an entire generation of them for so long?

We can disagree on the reasons behind the war; whether it was for strategic control, the oil or Israel. But rational people should have no illusions, that saving the Iraqi people is not one of the reasons we are investing over $100 billion to finance this indefensible war. If you wish to have further proof, pay a visit to al-Amiriya shelter. Despite everything, it is still standing.

RAMZY BAROUD is the editor-in-Chief of PalestineChronicle.com and the author of “Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion.”

Yesterday’s Features

Daniel Wolff
A Road Trip in Wartime

Chris Clarke
We Never Spit on Any Baby Killers

David Lindorff
Saddam, a Hero Made in Washington

Pierre Tristam
Icarus on Crack: American Hubris and Iraq

Jason Leopold
Richard Perle: the Enterprising Hawk

Saul Landau
Technological Massacre

Carol Norris
The Mother of All Bombs

Riad Abdelkarim, MD
Iraq War Lingo 101

Adam Engel
Schlock and Awe

Website of the War
Iraq Body Count

Keep CounterPunch Alive:
Make a Tax Deductible Donation Today Online!

home / subscribe / about us / books / archives / search / links /

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix the ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Barbara Moroncini
Protests and Their Others
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Alex Jensen
The Great Deceleration
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Stephen Martin
From ‘Too Big to Fail’ to ‘Too Big to Lie’: the End Game of Corporatist Globalization.
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
David Yearsley
Haydn Seek With Hsu
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail