Mar 20, 2013

Bush's Legacy: Dahr Jamail Returns to Iraq to Find Rampant Torture and a Failed State Living in "Utter Devastation"

Dahr Jamail Returns to Iraq to Find Rampant Torture and a Failed State Living in "Utter Devastation"...


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: On the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led attack on Iraq, a series of deadly bomb blasts has hit the capital city of Baghdad. The first attack came early morning Tuesday and killed a Finance Ministry official. It was followed by more than a dozen bombings that targeted a vegetable market, a bank and a restaurant. At least 65 people were killed, and hundreds more were wounded. The spate of violence comes as many Iraqis are reflecting on what has changed in their country since the invasion, which led to the ouster of longtime leader Saddam Hussein. Many say they have yet to see any of the benefits they were promised.
GHALI AL-ATWANI: [translated] The decision to go to war in Iraq was incorrect. Firstly, Iraq was put under Chapter VII. Then the war was waged. Nothing has changed in Iraq. There was Saddam’s dictatorship before, but now there’s a collective dictatorship in Iraq. What has changed in Iraq? The economic situation is very bad. The public services are in poor condition. Baghdad was flooded with water because of heavy rains. So the Americans always bring destruction and death in every place they go and invade.
AMY GOODMAN: The almost nine-year U.S. occupation of Iraq led to the deaths of at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians and contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands more. Many in Iraq continue to suffer the consequences of the invasion.

Later we’ll also talk about the war’s impact on U.S. military veterans, but first we’re joined by longtime Democracy Now! contributor Dahr Jamail, now an investigative reporter for Al Jazeera English in Doha. If you watched our coverage during the 10 years of the invasion, you will remember his reports from Fallujah and elsewhere. Dahr recently returned to Baghdad, where he filed several major reports. His recent stories for Al Jazeera include "Maliki’s Iraq: Rape, Executions and Torture" and "Iraq: War’s Legacy of Cancer." He’s also reported on the million displaced Iraqis who are struggling without government aid. Dahr Jamail is the author of Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq and The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Welcome welcome back to Democracy Now!, Dahr. It’s good to have you with us. We last saw you when we were in Doha, as well. That’s where you are, at the studios of Al Jazeera. Dahr, talk about what you found in your most recent trip to Iraq.

DAHR JAMAIL: Well, it’s a huge question, Amy, because the situation in Iraq today, 10 years after the U.S.-led invasion and occupation began, it’s just utter devastation. It’s a situation where, overall, we can say that Iraq is a failed state. The economy is in a state of crisis, perpetual crisis, that began far back with the institution of the 100 Bremer orders during—under the Coalition Provisional Authority, the civil government set up to run Iraq during the first year of the occupation. And it’s been in crisis ever since.

The average Iraqi is just barely getting by. And how can they get by when there’s virtually no security across much large swaths of country to this day, where, you know, as we see in the headlines recently, even when there’s not these dramatic, spectacular days of dozens of people being killed by bombs across Baghdad and other parts of Iraq, on any given day there’s assassinations, there’s detentions, there’s abductions and people being disappeared and kidnapped? One of the demands, for example, of the ongoing Sunni protests in Fallujah and across much of Al Anbar province is to ban silencer weapons, as they describe them, because there are so many hidden executions happening. Iraq has basically become a lawless state where the government is laughingly referred to oftentimes as the "sidewalks government," because one of the only things visible that they’ve actually accomplished is to install some new sidewalks across parts of Baghdad.

But it’s really hard to describe the amount of devastation. I mean, we’re having to talk about a country where, since 2003 began, we can cite the Lancet study that was published in the peer-reviewed Lancet medical journal in 2006, which way back in that time, seven years ago—excuse me, seven years ago now, found 655,000 excess deaths in Iraq. And that’s now a grossly outdated study, particularly given the level of violence we saw in 2006, 2007, and the low-level chronic violence that perpetuates to this day.

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