Wednesday, September 15, 2004

I am putting Ghaith's article at the bottom of this page. It is very well written, and was published in the Guardian paper. He is doing agood thing to get the information out to the world about what is going on inIraq, but it must be very difficult for him right now.Every day I think about you guys and hope and pray you are safe and well. I hope this madness ends soon. I wish there was something more I coulddo....
.take care,

He's just sleeping, I kept telling myself
'On Sunday, 13 Iraqis were killed and dozens injured in Baghdad when UShelicopters fired on a crowd of unarmed civilians. G2 columnist GhaithAbdul-Ahad, who was injured in the attack, describes the scene of carnage -and reveals just how lucky he was to walk awayTuesday September 14, 2004The GuardianDead and injured Iraqi civilians on Haifa Street, Baghdad, after a UShelicopter attack. Photo: Ghaith Abdul-Ahad/Getty ImagesIt started with a phone call early on Sunday morning: "Big pile of smokeover Haifa Street." Still half asleep I put on my jeans, cursing thoseinsurgents who do their stuff in the early morning. What if I just go backto bed, I thought - by the time I will be there it will be over. In the carpark it struck me that I didn't have my flak jacket in the car, but figuredit was most probably just an IED (improvised explosive device) under aHumvee and I would be back soon.On the way to Haifa Street I was half praying that everything would be overor that the Americans would seal off the area. I haven't recovered fromNajaf yet.Haifa Street was built by Saddam in the early 80s, part of a scheme that wassupposed to give Baghdad a modern look. A long, wide boulevard with hugeSoviet high-rise buildings on both sides, it acts like a curtain, screeningoff the network of impoverished alleyways that are inhabited by Baghdad'spoorest and toughest people, many of whom are from the heart of the Sunnitriangle.When I arrived there I saw hundreds of kids and young men heading towardsthe smoke. "Run fast, it's been burning for a long time!" someone shouted asI grabbed my cameras and started to run.When I was 50m away I heard a couple of explosions and another cloud of dustrose across the street from where the first column of smoke was stillclimbing. People started running towards me in waves. A man wearing anorange overall was sweeping the street while others were running. A coupleof helicopters in the sky overhead turned away. I jumped into a yard infront of a shop that was set slightly back from the street, 10 of us withour heads behind the yard wall. "It's a sound bomb," said a man who had hisface close to mine.A few seconds later, I heard people screaming and shouting - something musthave happened - and I headed towards the sounds, still crouching behind awall. Two newswire photographers were running in the opposite direction andwe exchanged eye contact.About 20m ahead of me, I could see the American Bradley armoured vehicle, ahuge monster with fire rising from within. It stood alone, its doors open,burning. I stopped, took a couple of photos and crossed the street towards abunch of people. Some were lying in the street, others stood around them.The helicopters were still buzzing, but further off now.I felt uneasy and exposed in the middle of the street, but lots of civilianswere around me. A dozen men formed a circle around five injured people, allof whom were screaming and wailing. One guy looked at one of the injured menand beat his head and chest: "Is that you, my brother? Is that you?" Hedidn't try to reach for him, he just stood there looking at the bloodiedface of his brother.A man sat alone covered with blood and looked around, amazed at the scene.His T-shirt was torn and blood ran from his back. Two men were dragging awayan unconscious boy who had lost the lower half of one leg. A pool of bloodand a creamy liquid formed beneath the stump on the pavement. His other legwas badly gashed.I had been standing there taking pictures for two or three minutes when weheard the helicopters coming back. Everyone started running, and I didn'tlook back to see what was happening to the injured men. We were all rushingtowards the same place: a fence, a block of buildings and a prefab concretecube used as a cigarette stall.I had just reached the corner of the cube when I heard two explosions, Ifelt hot air blast my face and something burning on my head. I crawled tothe cube and hid behind it. Six of us were squeezed into a space less thantwo metres wide. Blood started dripping on my camera but all that I couldthink about was how to keep the lens clean. A man in his 40s next to me wascrying. He wasn't injured, he was just crying. I was so scared I just wantedto squeeze myself against the wall. The helicopters wheeled overhead, and Irealised that they were firing directly at us. I wanted to be invisible, Iwanted to hide under the others.As the helicopters moved a little further off, two of the men ran away to anearby building. I stayed where I was with a young man, maybe in his early20s, who was wearing a pair of leather boots and a tracksuit. He was sittingon the ground, his legs stretched in front of him but with his knee jointbent outwards unnaturally. Blood ran on to the dirt beneath him as he peeredround the corner. I started taking pictures of him. He looked at me andturned his head back towards the street as if he was looking for something.His eyes were wide open and kept looking.There in the street, the injured were all left alone: a young man with bloodall over his face sat in the middle of the cloud of dust, then fell on tohis face.Behind the cube, the other two men knew each other."How are you?" asked the man closer to me. He was lying against the cube'swall and trying to pull out his cellphone."I am not good," said the other, a young man in a blue T-shirt, restingagainst a fence. He was holding his arm, a chunk of which was missing,exposing the bone."Bring a car and come here please, we are injured," his friend was sayinginto his cellphone.The man with his knee twisted out, meanwhile, was making only a faint sound.I was so scared I didn't want to touch him. I kept telling myself he was OK,he wasn't screaming.I decided to help the guy with the phone who was screaming. I ripped hisT-shirt off and told him to squeeze it against the gash on his head. But Iwas scared; I wanted to do something, but I couldn't. I tried to rememberthe first-aid training I had had in the past, but all I was doing was takingpictures.I turned back to the man with the twisted knee. His head was on the curbnow, his eyes were open but he just kept making the faint sound. I startedtalking to him, saying, "Don't worry, you'll be OK, you'll be fine." Frombehind him I looked at the middle of the street, where five injured men werestill lying. Three of them were piled almost on top of each other; a boywearing a white dishdasha lay a few metres away.One of the three men piled together raised his head and looked around theempty streets with a look of astonishment on his face. He then looked at theboy in front of him, turned to the back and looked at the horizon again.Then he slowly started moving his head to the ground, rested his head on hisarms and stretched his hands towards something that he could see. It was theguy who had been beating his chest earlier, trying to help his brother. Hewanted help but no one helped. He was just there dying in front of me. Timedidn't exist. The streets were empty and silent and the men lay there dyingtogether. He slid down to the ground, and after five minutes was flat on thestreet.I moved, crouching, towards where they were. They were like sleeping menwith their arms wrapped around each other in the middle of the empty street.I went to photograph the boy with the dishdasha. He's just sleeping, I kepttelling myself. I didn't want to wake him. The boy with the amputated legwas there too, left there by the people who were pulling him earlier. Thevehicle was still burning.More kids ventured into the street, looking with curiosity at the dead andinjured. Then someone shouted "Helicopters!" and we ran. I turned and sawtwo small helicopters, black and evil. Frightened, I ran back to my shelterwhere I heard two more big explosions. At the end of the street the man inthe orange overall was still sweeping the street.The man with the bent knee was unconscious now, his face flat on the curb.Some kids came and said, "He is dead." I screamed at them. "Don't say that!He is still alive! Don't scare him." I asked him if he was OK, but he didn'treply.We left the kids behind the bent-knee guy, the cellphone guy and the blueV-neck T-shirt guy; they were all unconscious now. We left them to die therealone. I didn't even try to move any with me. I just ran selfishly away. Ireached a building entrance when someone grabbed my arm and took me inside."There's an injured man. Take pictures - show the world the Americandemocracy," he said. A man was lying in the corridor in total darkness assomeone bandaged him.Some others told me there was another journalist in the building. They tookme to a stairwell leading to the basement, where a Reuters cameraman, acheerful chubby guy, was lying holding his camera next to his head. Hewasn't screaming but he had a look of pain in his eyes.I tried to remember his name to call his office, but I couldn't. He was afriend, we had worked together for months. I have seen him in every pressconference, but I couldn't remember his name.In time, an ambulance came. I ran to the street as others emerged from theirhiding places, all trying to carry injured civilians to the ambulance."No, this one is dead," said the driver. "Get someone else."The ambulance drove away and we all scattered, thinking to ourselves: theAmericans won't fire at an ambulance but they will at us. This scene wasrepeated a couple of times: each time we heard an ambulance we would emergeinto the streets, running for cover again as it left.Yesterday, sitting in the office, another photographer who was looking at mypictures exclaimed: "So the Arabiya journalist was alive when you weretaking pictures!""I didn't see the Arabiya journalist."He pointed at the picture of the guy with V-neck T-shirt. It was him. He wasdead. All the people I had shared my shelter with were dead.

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Extreme Tracker