Dahr Jamail (born 1968) is an American journalist who was one of the few unembedded journalists to report extensively from Iraq during the 2003 Iraq invasion. He spent eight months in Iraq, between 2003 and 2005, and presented his stories on his website, entitled Dahr Jamail's MidEast Dispatches. Jamail was a reporter for Truthout from 2008-2011 and currently reports for Al Jazeera. He has been a frequent guest on Democracy Now!, and is the recipient of the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism.
- Going on to Fallujah, because I wrote about this a year ago, and then I returned to the city again this trip, we are seeing an absolute crisis of congenital malformations of newborn. There is one doctor, a pediatrician named Dr. Samira Alani, working on this crisis in the city. She’s the only person there registering cases. And she’s seeing horrific birth defects. I mean, these are extremely hard to look at. They’re extremely hard to bear witness to. But it’s something that we all need to pay attention to, because of the amount of depleted uranium used by the U.S. military during both of their brutal attacks on the city of 2004, as well as other toxic munitions like white phosphorus, among other things. ... International law is very clear about these types of weapons: Any weapon that is known to have a lasting negative impact on the civilian population in the general area where it is used is technically a banned or a highly restricted weapon. And in this case, these types of weapons should not be allowed to be used. As I reported back in 2004, when it came out that white phosphorus was indeed being used in Fallujah, that’s another restricted weapon where the Geneva Conventions state very clearly that if there are any—a possibility of any civilians in the area where it is going to be used, it is not allowed to be used. So there—the Geneva Conventions are very, very clear about these. ... And I think it’s important that we all remember on the anniversary that this was a war that violated the Geneva Convention. It is a crime against peace, according to the Nuremberg Principles. And all those responsible—Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz—all the architects of the war, if the U.S. was indeed a member of the International Criminal Court, should be handled accordingly. And I think it’s important that we remember the illegality of this and that this continues and that these crimes, started 10 years ago, that were perpetuated against the Iraqi people, that we see now most blatantly in these birth defects of these people in Fallujah, should never have even happened.
- At the height of the sectarian bloodletting in 2006, 2007, there were over four million refugees, roughly half of them in the country, half of them who had fled the country, largely to Syria and to Jordan. To this day, according to official Iraqi government statistics, there’s 1.1 million internally displaced persons in Iraq. The majority of those are in Baghdad. Most of them have fled from sectarian cleansings of the aforementioned years and from the mixed neighborhoods where they had used to live or the mixed villages, and into oftentimes primarily Sunni areas, seeking refuge. So, they’re not getting really any help whatsoever from the government. They’re living in horrible situations. And it was really a poignant thing to witness, Amy, because despite these people living in really difficult conditions, oftentimes living amongst giant piles of garbage, you walk in, and as per Iraqi Arab custom, you’re offered a drink, although even in so many of these cases people only had literally a glass of water that they could—they could offer you, despite the fact that they’re living with no government assistance and help, and basically no hope for a future, of “Where are we going to go from here? How is the situation in any way going to improve for us?” when things look so bleak, with a government in gridlock, and it looking like we’re poised for another massive increase in sectarian violence.
- Stunningly, as bad as things were under Saddam—and we have to keep in mind this perspective of Saddam in the wake of a brutal eight-year war with Iran and then the genocidal sanctions for 13 years, from 1991 up until the beginning of this invasion in March 2003—as bad as it was under Saddam, with the repression and the detentions and the torture and the killings, the overall feeling of Iraqis today, in Baghdad and other places in Iraq where I went this trip, was that things are much worse now. There’s less—far less security. You don’t really know where you can go and what you can do and know that you’re going to have any kind of safety. “Any time that we send our kids out to school now,” is what I was told, “we don’t know for sure on any given day that they’re going to come back.” And so, the prevailing sentiment is that, yes, it was good initially to have Saddam removed, but people are still concerned with basic things like security, an economy stable enough to be able to have a job to work, to have food and provide something for your family. And these things just no longer exist today in Iraq. So the prevailing sentiment is that it’s far worse now even than it was under Saddam Hussein.