Noxious number: Do we have a quorum?


The number of countries that agreed in May to ban cluster bombs, which eject smaller munitions upon impact. The U.S. has used the weapon, which are banned by the Geneva Conventions, in the Iraq War. According to Dahr Jamail, an unembedded journalist who reported from Iraq, the U.S. has also used depleted uranium during attacks in Fallujah.

Jamail’s 2007 book, “Beyond the Green Zone,” is a tremendous read about the often untold Iraqi side of attacks, while embedded reporters ride around in Humvees under U.S. military protection and swallow the propaganda pills the U.S. government feeds. (Most front line war news comes from embedded reporters.)


I read Richard Engel’s 2004 book, “A Fist in the Hornet’s Nest,” and I thought that was an unfettered look into the tragedy of the Iraq war. Boy was I wrong. Engel, NBC News’ correspondent in Baghdad, did a nice job as an “embed,” but Engel talked to a fraction of the Iraqis that Jamail spoke with.

Jamail wrote, “The ’embeds,’ as usual, had no idea what the Iraqis in the city thought about [attacks on Fallujah]. They never talked with any of the Iraqi doctors, medical workers, or families of the victims. Clustered together in the back of Stryker vehicle, peering out from under their black helmets, the embedded reporters saw the scene only from the perspective of the U.S. soldiers they relied on for their safety, Thus, they could not see what I was about to witness after they departed with the soldiers.

“As the patrol receded, spontaneous celebrations erupted, and crowds of residents flew into the street. Iraqi flags appeared everywhere. People began chanting and waved flags wildly. Members of both the Iraqi police and ICDC joined in the celebration, waving their guns in the air and giving the victory sign. A parade was quickly formed. Trucks with boys and men riding in the backs lined up, their horns blaring. Policemen who were there to guard the marines promptly turned into parade escorts, as well as participants.

“The ruckus began to inch down the street. An old Fallujan man riding in the back of a truck waving a tattered Iraqi flag yelled, ‘Today is the first day of the war against Americans! This is a victory for us over the Americans.”

Toward the beginning of the war, many Americans asked where were the stories of the soldiers’ good will on the behalf of the Iraqis. Today, I ask where are the stories about the Iraqis?

Jamail continues, “One 18-year-old [Iraqi] girl had been shot through the neck. She was making breathy gurgling noises as the doctors frantically worked on her amid her muffled moaning. Flies dodged the working hands of doctors to return to the patches of her vomit that stained her black abaya.

“Her younger brother, a small child of 10 with a gunshot would in his head from a marine sniper, his eyes glazed and staring into space, continually vomited as the doctors raced to save his life while family members cried behind him. ‘The Americans cut our electricity days ago, so we cannot vacuum the vomit from his throat,’ a furious doctor [told Jamail]. [The children] were both loaded into an ambulance and rushed toward Baghdad, only to die en route.”

I’ve only completed half of “Beyond the Green Zone,” but it’s one of the best books I’ve read in some time. There will be surely more from it at a later date.



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