[g8-sheffield] What I heard about Iraq

Dan dan at aktivix.org
Mon May 9 12:56:21 BST 2005

London Review of Books
LRB | Vol. 27 No. 3 dated 3 February 2005 | Eliot Weinberger

What I Heard about Iraq

Eliot Weinberger

In 1992, a year after the first Gulf War, I heard Dick Cheney, then 
secretary of defense, say that the US had been wise not to invade Baghdad 
and get ‘bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern 
Iraq’. I heard him say: ‘The question in my mind is how many additional 
American casualties is Saddam worth? And the answer is: not that damned 

In February 2001, I heard Colin Powell say that Saddam Hussein ‘has not 
developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass 
destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his 

That same month, I heard that a CIA report stated: ‘We do not have any 
direct evidence that Iraq has used the period since Desert Fox to 
reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction programmes.’

In July 2001, I heard Condoleezza Rice say: ‘We are able to keep his arms 
from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt.’

On 11 September 2001, six hours after the attacks, I heard that Donald 
Rumsfeld said that it might be an opportunity to ‘hit’ Iraq. I heard that he 
said: ‘Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.’

I heard that Condoleezza Rice asked: ‘How do you capitalise on these 

I heard that on 17 September the president signed a document marked top 
secret that directed the Pentagon to begin planning for the invasion and 
that, some months later, he secretly and illegally diverted $700 million 
approved by Congress for operations in Afghanistan into preparing for the 
new battle front.

In February 2002, I heard that an unnamed ‘senior military commander’ said: 
‘We are moving military and intelligence personnel and resources out of 
Afghanistan to get ready for a future war in Iraq.’

I heard the president say that Iraq is ‘a threat of unique urgency’, and 
that there is ‘no doubt the Iraqi regime continues to possess and conceal 
some of the most lethal weapons ever devised’.

I heard the vice president say: ‘Simply stated, there is no doubt that 
Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.’

I heard the president tell Congress: ‘The danger to our country is grave. 
The danger to our country is growing. The regime is seeking a nuclear bomb, 
and with fissile material could build one within a year.’

I heard him say: ‘The dangers we face will only worsen from month to month 
and from year to year. To ignore these threats is to encourage them. Each 
passing day could be the one on which the Iraqi regime gives anthrax or VX 
nerve gas or, some day, a nuclear weapon to a terrorist ally.’

I heard the president, in the State of the Union address, say that Iraq was 
hiding materials sufficient to produce 25,000 litres of anthrax, 38,000 
litres of botulinum toxin, and 500 tons of sarin, mustard and nerve gas.

I heard the president say that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium ? 
later specified as ‘yellowcake’ uranium oxide from Niger ? and thousands of 
aluminium tubes ‘suitable for nuclear weapons production’.

I heard the vice president say: ‘We know that he’s been absolutely devoted 
to trying to acquire nuclear weapons, and we believe he has, in fact, 
reconstituted nuclear weapons.’

I heard the president say: ‘Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons 
and other plans, this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, 
one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror 
like none we have ever known.’

I heard Donald Rumsfeld say: ‘Some have argued that the nuclear threat from 
Iraq is not imminent. I would not be so certain.’

I heard the president say: ‘America must not ignore the threat gathering 
against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final 
proof ? the smoking gun ? that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.’

I heard Condoleezza Rice say: ‘We don’t want the “smoking gun” to be a 
mushroom cloud.’

I heard the American ambassador to the European Union tell the Europeans: 
‘You had Hitler in Europe and no one really did anything about him. The same 
type of person is in Baghdad.’

I heard Colin Powell at the United Nations say: ‘They can produce enough dry 
biological agent in a single month to kill thousands upon thousands of 
people. Saddam Hussein has never accounted for vast amounts of chemical 
weaponry: 550 artillery shells with mustard gas, 30,000 empty munitions, and 
enough precursors to increase his stockpile to as much as 500 tons of 
chemical agents. Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a 
stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical-weapons agent. Even the 
low end of 100 tons of agent would enable Saddam Hussein to cause mass 
casualties across more than 100 square miles of territory, an area nearly 
five times the size of Manhattan.’

I heard him say: ‘Every statement I make today is backed up by sources, 
solid sources. These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts and 
conclusions based on solid intelligence.’

I heard the president say: ‘Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned 
aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological 
weapons across broad areas.’ I heard him say that Iraq ‘could launch a 
biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes after the order is 

I heard Tony Blair say: ‘We are asked to accept Saddam decided to destroy 
those weapons. I say that such a claim is palpably absurd.’

I heard the president say: ‘We know that Iraq and al-Qaida have had 
high-level contacts that go back a decade. We’ve learned that Iraq has 
trained al-Qaida members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases. 
Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraq regime to attack America 
without leaving any fingerprints.’

I heard the vice president say: ‘There’s overwhelming evidence there was a 
connection between al-Qaida and the Iraqi government. I am very confident 
there was an established relationship there.’

I heard Colin Powell say: ‘Iraqi officials deny accusations of ties with 
al-Qaida. These denials are simply not credible.’

I heard Condoleezza Rice say: ‘There clearly are contacts between al-Qaida 
and Saddam Hussein that can be documented.’

I heard the president say: ‘You can’t distinguish between al-Qaida and 

I heard Donald Rumsfeld say: ‘Imagine a September 11th with weapons of mass 
destruction. It’s not three thousand ? it’s tens of thousands of innocent 
men, women and children.’

I heard Colin Powell tell the Senate that ‘a moment of truth is coming’: 
‘This is not just an academic exercise or the United States being in a fit 
of pique. We’re talking about real weapons. We’re talking about anthrax. 
We’re talking about botulinum toxin. We’re talking about nuclear weapons 

I heard Donald Rumsfeld say: ‘No terrorist state poses a greater or more 
immediate threat to the security of our people.’

I heard the president, ‘bristling with irritation’, say: ‘This business 
about more time, how much time do we need to see clearly that he’s not 
disarming? He is delaying. He is deceiving. He is asking for time. He’s 
playing hide-and-seek with inspectors. One thing is for certain: he’s not 
disarming. Surely our friends have learned lessons from the past. This looks 
like a rerun of a bad movie and I’m not interested in watching it.’

I heard that, a few days before authorising the invasion of Iraq, the Senate 
was told in a classified briefing by the Pentagon that Iraq could launch 
anthrax and other biological and chemical weapons against the eastern 
seaboard of the United States using unmanned aerial ‘drones’.

I heard Donald Rumsfeld say he would present no specific evidence of Iraqi 
weapons of mass destruction because it might jeopardise the military mission 
by revealing to Baghdad what the United States knows.


I heard the Pentagon spokesman call the military plan ‘A-Day’, or ‘Shock and 
Awe’. Three or four hundred cruise missiles launched every day, until ‘there 
will not be a safe place in Baghdad,’ until ‘you have this simultaneous 
effect, rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, not taking days or 
weeks but in minutes.’ I heard the spokesman say: ‘You’re sitting in Baghdad 
and all of a sudden you’re the general and thirty of your division 
headquarters have been wiped out. You also take the city down. By that I 
mean you get rid of their power, water. In two, three, four, five days they 
are physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausted.’ I heard him say: 
‘The sheer size of this has never been seen before, never contemplated.’

I heard Major-General Charles Swannack promise that his troops were going to 
‘use a sledgehammer to smash a walnut’.

I heard the Pentagon spokesman say: ‘This is not going to be your father’s 
Persian Gulf War.’

I heard that Saddam’s strategy against the American invasion would be to 
blow up dams, bridges and oilfields, and to cut off food supplies to the 
south so that the Americans would suddenly have to feed millions of 
desperate civilians. I heard that Baghdad would be encircled by two rings of 
the elite Republican Guard, in fighting positions already stocked with 
weapons and supplies, and equipped with chemical protective gear against the 
poison gas or germ weapons they would be using against the American troops.

I heard Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby tell Congress that Saddam would ‘employ a 
“scorched earth” strategy, destroying food, transportation, energy and other 
infrastructure, attempting to create a humanitarian disaster’, and that he 
would blame it all on the Americans.

I heard that Iraq would fire its long-range Scud missiles ? equipped with 
chemical or biological warheads ? at Israel, to ‘portray the war as a battle 
with an American-Israeli coalition and build support in the Arab world’.

I heard that Saddam had elaborate and labyrinthine underground bunkers for 
his protection, and that it might be necessary to employ B61 Mod 11 nuclear 
‘bunker-buster’ bombs to destroy them.

I heard the vice president say that the war would be over in ‘weeks rather 
than months’.

I heard Donald Rumsfeld say: ‘It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six 

I heard Donald Rumsfeld say there was ‘no question’ that American troops 
would be ‘welcomed’: ‘Go back to Afghanistan, the people were in the streets 
playing music, cheering, flying kites, and doing all the things that the 
Taliban and al-Qaida would not let them do.’

I heard the vice president say: ‘The Middle East expert Professor Fouad 
Ajami predicts that after liberation the streets in Basra and Baghdad are 
“sure to erupt in joy”. Extremists in the region would have to rethink their 
strategy of jihad. Moderates throughout the region would take heart. And our 
ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be enhanced.’

I heard the vice president say: ‘I really do believe we will be greeted as 

I heard Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi foreign minister, say: ‘American soldiers will 
not be received by flowers. They will be received by bullets.’

I heard that the president said to the television evangelist Pat Robertson: 
‘Oh, no, we’re not going to have any casualties.’

I heard the president say that he had not consulted his father about the 
coming war: ‘You know he is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of 
strength. There is a higher father that I appeal to.’

I heard the prime minister of the Solomon Islands express surprise that his 
was one of the nations enlisted in the ‘coalition of the willing’: ‘I was 
completely unaware of it.’

I heard the president tell the Iraqi people, on the night before the 
invasion began: ‘If we must begin a military campaign, it will be directed 
against the lawless men who rule your country and not against you. As our 
coalition takes away their power we will deliver the food and medicine you 
need. We will tear down the apparatus of terror. And we will help you build 
a new Iraq that is prosperous and free. In a free Iraq there will be no more 
wars of aggression against your neighbours, no more poison factories, no 
more executions of dissidents, no more torture chambers and rape rooms. The 
tyrant will soon be gone. The day of your liberation is near.’

I heard him tell the Iraqi people: ‘We will not relent until your country is 


I heard the vice president say: ‘By any standard of even the most dazzling 
charges in military history, the Germans in the Ardennes in the spring of 
1940 or Patton’s romp in July of 1944, the present race to Baghdad is 
unprecedented in its speed and daring and in the lightness of casualties.’

I heard Colonel David Hackworth say: ‘Hey diddle diddle, it’s straight up 
the middle!’

I heard the Pentagon spokesman say that 95 per cent of the Iraqi casualties 
were ‘military-age males’.

I heard an official from the Red Crescent say: ‘On one stretch of highway 
alone, there were more than fifty civilian cars, each with four or five 
people incinerated inside, that sat in the sun for ten or fifteen days 
before they were buried nearby by volunteers. That is what there will be for 
their relatives to come and find. War is bad, but its remnants are worse.’

I heard the director of a hospital in Baghdad say: ‘The whole hospital is an 
emergency room. The nature of the injuries is so severe ? one body without a 
head, someone else with their abdomen ripped open.’

I heard an American soldier say: ‘There’s a picture of the World Trade 
Center hanging up by my bed and I keep one in my Kevlar. Every time I feel 
sorry for these people I look at that. I think: “They hit us at home and now 
it’s our turn.”’

I heard about Hashim, a fat, ‘painfully shy’ 15-year-old, who liked to sit 
for hours by the river with his birdcage, and who was shot by the 4th 
Infantry Division in a raid on his village. Asked about the details of the 
boy’s death, the division commander said: ‘That person was probably in the 
wrong place at the wrong time.’

I heard an American soldier say: ‘We get rocks thrown at us by kids. You 
wanna turn around and shoot one of the little fuckers, but you know you 
can’t do that.’

I heard the Pentagon spokesman say that the US did not count civilian 
casualties: ‘Our efforts focus on destroying the enemy’s capabilities, so we 
never target civilians and have no reason to try to count such unintended 
deaths.’ I heard him say that, in any event, it would be impossible, because 
the Iraqi paramilitaries were fighting in civilian clothes, the military was 
using civilian human shields, and many of the civilian deaths were the 
result of Iraqi ‘unaimed anti-aircraft fire falling back to earth’.

I heard an American soldier say: ‘The worst thing is to shoot one of them, 
then go help him,’ as regulations require. ‘Shit, I didn’t help any of them. 
I wouldn’t help the fuckers. There were some you let die. And there were 
some you double-tapped. Once you’d reached the objective, and once you’d 
shot them and you’re moving through, anything there, you shoot again. You 
didn’t want any prisoners of war.’

I heard Anmar Uday, the doctor who had cared for Private Jessica Lynch, say: 
‘We heard the helicopters. We were surprised. Why do this? There was no 
military. There were no soldiers in the hospital. It was like a Hollywood 
film. They cried “Go, go, go,” with guns and flares and the sound of 
explosions. They made a show: an action movie like Sylvester Stallone or 
Jackie Chan, with jumping and shouting, breaking down doors. All the time 
with cameras rolling.’

I heard Private Jessica Lynch say: ‘They used me as a way to symbolise all 
this stuff. It hurt in a way that people would make up stories that they had 
no truth about.’ Of the stories that she had bravely fought off her captors, 
and suffered bullet and stab wounds, I heard her say: ‘I’m not about to take 
credit for something I didn’t do.’ Of her dramatic ‘rescue’, I heard her 
say: ‘I don’t think it happened quite like that.’

I heard the Red Cross say that casualties in Baghdad were so high that the 
hospitals had stopped counting.

I heard an old man say, after 11 members of his family ? children and 
grandchildren ? were killed when a tank blew up their minivan: ‘Our home is 
an empty place. We who are left are like wild animals. All we can do is cry 

As the riots and looting broke out, I heard a man in the Baghdad market say: 
‘Saddam Hussein’s greatest crime is that he brought the American army to 

As the riots and looting broke out, I heard Donald Rumsfeld say: ‘It’s 
untidy, and freedom’s untidy.’

And when the National Museum was emptied and the National Library burned 
down, I heard him say: ‘The images you are seeing on television you are 
seeing over, and over, and over, and it’s the same picture of some person 
walking out of some building with a vase, and you see it twenty times, and 
you think: “My goodness, were there that many vases? Is it possible that 
there were that many vases in the whole country?”’

I heard that 10,000 Iraqi civilians were dead.


I heard Colin Powell say: ‘I’m absolutely sure that there are weapons of 
mass destruction there and the evidence will be forthcoming. We’re just 
getting it now.’

I heard the president say: ‘We’ll find them. It’ll be a matter of time to do 

I heard Donald Rumsfeld say: ‘We know where they are. They’re in the area 
around Tikrit and Baghdad, and east, west, south and north, somewhat.’

I heard the US was building 14 ‘enduring bases’, capable of housing 110,000 
soldiers, and I heard Brigadier-General Mark Kimmitt call them ‘a blueprint 
for how we could operate in the Middle East’. I heard that the US was 
building what would be its largest embassy anywhere in the world.

I heard that it would only be a matter of months before Starbucks and 
McDonald’s opened branches in Baghdad. I heard that HSBC would have cash 
machines all over the country.

I heard about the trade fairs run by New Bridges Strategies, a consulting 
firm that promised access to the Iraqi market. I heard one of its partners 
say: ‘Getting the rights to distribute Procter & Gamble would be a gold 
mine. One well-stocked 7-Eleven could knock out 30 Iraqi stores. A Wal-Mart 
could take over the country.’

On 1 May 2003, I heard the president, dressed up as a pilot, under a banner 
that read ‘Mission Accomplished’, declare that combat operations were over: 
‘The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on 11 
September 2001.’ I heard him say: ‘The liberation of Iraq is a crucial 
advance in the campaign against terror. We’ve removed an ally of al-Qaida, 
and cut off a source of terrorist funding. And this much is certain: no 
terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi 
regime, because the regime is no more. In these 19 months that changed the 
world, our actions have been focused and deliberate and proportionate to the 
offence. We have not forgotten the victims of 11 September: the last phone 
calls, the cold murder of children, the searches in the rubble. With those 
attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United 
States. And war is what they got.’

On 1 May 2003, I heard that 140 American soldiers had died in combat in 

I heard Richard Perle tell Americans to ‘relax and celebrate victory’. I 
heard him say: ‘The predictions of those who opposed this war can be 
discarded like spent cartridges.’

I heard Lieutenant-General Jay Garner say: ‘We ought to look in a mirror and 
get proud and stick out our chests and suck in our bellies and say: “Damn, 
we’re Americans.”’

And later I heard that I could buy a 12-inch ‘Elite Force Aviator: George W. 
Bush’ action figure: ‘Exacting in detail and fully equipped with authentic 
gear, this limited-edition action figure is a meticulous 1:6 scale 
re-creation of the commander-in-chief’s appearance during his historic 
aircraft carrier landing. This fully poseable figure features a realistic 
head sculpt, fully detailed cloth flight suit, helmet with oxygen mask, 
survival vest, G-pants, parachute harness and much more.’

I heard that Pentagon planners had predicted that US troop levels would fall 
to 30,000 by the end of the summer.


I heard that Paul Bremer’s first act as director of the Coalition 
Provisional Authority was to fire all senior members of the Baath Party, 
including 30,000 civil servants, policemen, teachers and doctors, and to 
dismiss all 400,000 soldiers of the Iraqi army without pay or pensions. Two 
million people were dependent on that income. Since America supports private 
gun ownership, the soldiers were allowed to keep their weapons.

I heard that hundreds were being kidnapped and raped in Baghdad alone; that 
schools, hospitals, shops and factories were being looted; that it was 
impossible to restore the electricity because all the copper wire was being 
stolen from the power plants.

I heard Paul Bremer say, ‘Most of the country is, in fact, orderly,’ and 
that all the problems were coming from ‘several hundred hard-core 
terrorists’ from al-Qaida and affiliated groups.

As attacks on American troops increased, I heard the generals disagree about 
who was fighting: Islamic fundamentalists or remnants of the Baath Party or 
Iraqi mercenaries or foreign mercenaries or ordinary citizens taking revenge 
for the loss of loved ones. I heard the president and the vice president and 
the politicians and the television reporters simply call them ‘terrorists’.

I heard the president say: ‘There are some who feel that conditions are such 
that they can attack us there. My answer is: bring them on! We have the 
force necessary to deal with the situation.’

I heard that 25,000 Iraqi civilians were dead.

I heard Arnold Schwarzenegger, then campaigning for governor, in Baghdad for 
a special showing to the troops of Terminator 3, say: ‘It is really wild 
driving round here, I mean the poverty, and you see there is no money, it is 
disastrous financially and there is the leadership vacuum, pretty much like 

I heard that the army was wrapping entire villages in barbed wire, with 
signs that read: ‘This fence is here for your protection. Do not approach or 
try to cross, or you will be shot.’ In one of those villages, I heard a man 
named Tariq say: ‘I see no difference between us and the Palestinians.’

I heard Captain Todd Brown say: ‘You have to understand the Arab mind. The 
only thing they understand is force ? force, pride and saving face.’

I heard that the US, as a gift from the American people to the Iraqi people, 
had committed $18.4 billion to the reconstruction of basic infrastructure, 
but that future Iraqi governments would have no say in how the money was 
spent. I heard that the economy had been opened to foreign ownership, and 
that this could not be changed. I heard that the Iraqi army would be under 
the command of the US, and that this could not be changed. I heard, however, 
that ‘full authority’ for health and hospitals had been turned over to the 
Iraqis, and that senior American health advisers had been withdrawn. I heard 
Tommy Thompson, secretary of health and human services, say that Iraq’s 
hospitals would be fine if the Iraqis ‘just washed their hands and cleaned 
the crap off the walls’.

I heard Colonel Nathan Sassaman say: ‘With a heavy dose of fear and 
violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these 
people that we are here to help them.’

I heard Richard Perle say: ‘Next year at about this time, I expect there 
will be a really thriving trade in the region, and we will see rapid 
economic development. And a year from now, I’ll be very surprised if there 
is not some grand square in Baghdad named after President Bush.’


I heard about Operation Ivy Cyclone. I heard about Operation Vigilant 
Resolve. I heard about Operation Plymouth Rock. I heard about Operation Iron 
Hammer, its name taken from Eisenhammer, the Nazi plan to destroy Soviet 
generating plants.

I heard that air force regulations require that any airstrike likely to 
result in the deaths of more than 30 civilians be personally approved by the 
secretary of defense, and I heard that Donald Rumsfeld approved every 

I heard the marine colonel say: ‘We napalmed those bridges. Unfortunately, 
there were people there. It’s no great way to die.’ I heard the Pentagon 
deny they were using napalm, saying their incendiary bombs were made of 
something called Mark 77, and I heard the experts say that Mark 77 was 
another name for napalm.

I heard a marine describe ‘dead-checking’: ‘They teach us to do 
dead-checking when we’re clearing rooms. You put two bullets into the guy’s 
chest and one in the brain. But when you enter a room where guys are 
wounded, you might not know if they’re alive or dead. So they teach us to 
dead-check them by pressing them in the eye with your boot, because 
generally a person, even if he’s faking being dead, will flinch if you poke 
him there. If he moves, you put a bullet in the brain. You do this to keep 
the momentum going when you’re flowing through a building. You don’t want a 
guy popping up behind you and shooting you.’

I heard the president say: ‘We’re rolling back the terrorist threat, not on 
the fringes of its influence but at the heart of its power.’

When the death toll of American soldiers reached 500, I heard 
Brigadier-General Kimmitt say: ‘I don’t think the soldiers are looking at 
arbitrary figures such as casualty counts as the barometer of their morale. 
They know they have a nation that stands behind them.’

I heard an American soldier, standing next to his Humvee, say: ‘We liberated 
Iraq. Now the people here don’t want us here, and guess what? We don’t want 
to be here either. So why are we still here? Why don’t they bring us home?’

I heard Colin Powell say: ‘We did not expect it would be quite this intense 
this long.’

I heard Donald Rumsfeld say: ‘We’re facing a test of will.’

I heard the president say: ‘We found biological laboratories. They’re 
illegal. They’re against the United Nations resolutions, and we’ve so far 
discovered two. And we’ll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those 
who say we haven’t found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, 
they’re wrong, we found them.’

I heard Tony Blair say: ‘The remains of 400,000 human beings have been found 
in mass graves.’ And I saw his words repeated in a US government pamphlet, 
Iraq’s Legacy of Terror: Mass Graves, and on a US government website which 
said this represented ‘a crime against humanity surpassed only by the 
Rwandan genocide of 1994, Pol Pot’s Cambodian killing fields in the 1970s 
and the Nazi Holocaust of World War Two’.


I heard the president say: ‘Today, on bended knee, I thank the Good Lord for 
protecting those of our troops overseas, and our Coalition troops and 
innocent Iraqis who suffer at the hands of some of these senseless killings 
by people who are trying to shake our will.’

I heard that this was the first American president in wartime who had never 
attended a funeral for a dead soldier. I heard that photographs of the 
flag-draped coffins returning home were banned. I heard that the Pentagon 
had renamed body bags ‘transfer tubes’.

I heard a tearful George Bush Sr, speaking at the annual convention of the 
National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, say that it was ‘deeply 
offensive and contemptible’ the way ‘elites and intellectuals’ were 
dismissing ‘the sowing of the seeds of basic human freedom in that troubled 
part of the world’. I heard him say: ‘It hurts an awful lot more when it’s 
your son that is being criticised.’

I heard the president’s mother say: ‘Why should we hear about body bags and 
deaths? Why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?’

I heard that 7 per cent of all American military deaths in Iraq were 
suicides, that 10 per cent of the soldiers evacuated to the army hospital in 
Landstuhl, Germany had been sent for ‘psychiatric or behavioural health 
issues’, and that 20 per cent of the military was expected to suffer from 
post-traumatic stress disorder.

I heard Brigadier-General Kimmitt deny that civilians were being killed: ‘We 
run extremely precise operations focused on people we have intelligence on 
for crimes of violence against the Coalition and against the Iraqi people.’ 
And later I heard him say that marines were being fired on from crowds 
containing women and children, and that the marines had fired back only in 

I heard Donald Rumsfeld say that the fighting was the work of ‘thugs, gangs 
and terrorists’. I heard General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs 
of Staff, say: ‘It’s not a Shiite uprising. Muqtada al-Sadr has a very small 
following.’ I heard that an unnamed ‘intelligence official’ had said: 
‘Hatred of the American occupation has spread rapidly among Shia, and is now 
so large that Mr Sadr and his forces represent just one element. Destroying 
his Mehdi Army might be possible only by destroying Sadr City.’ Sadr City is 
the most populated part of Baghdad. I heard that, among the Sunnis, former 
Baath Party leaders and Saddam loyalists had been joined by Sunni tribal 

I heard that there were now thirty separate militias in the country. I heard 
the television news reporters routinely refer to them as ‘anti-Iraqi 

I heard that Paul Bremer had closed down a popular newspaper, Al Hawza, 
because of ‘inaccurate reporting’.

As Shias in Sadr City lined up to donate blood for Sunnis in Fallujah, I 
heard a man say: ‘We should thank Paul Bremer. He has finally united Iraq ? 
against him.’

I heard the president say: ‘I wouldn’t be happy if I were occupied either.’


I heard Tony Blair say: ‘Before people crow about the absence of weapons of 
mass destruction, I suggest they wait a bit.’

I heard General Myers say: ‘Given time, given the number of prisoners now 
that we’re interrogating, I’m confident that we’re going to find weapons of 
mass destruction.’

I heard the president say: ‘Prisoners are being taken, and intelligence is 
being gathered. Our decisive actions will continue until these enemies of 
democracy are dealt with.’

I heard a soldier describe what they called ‘bitch in a box’: ‘That was the 
normal procedure for them when they wanted to soften up a prisoner: stuff 
them in the trunk for a while and drive them around. The hoods I can 
understand, and to have them cuffed with the plastic things ? that I could 
see. But the trunk episode ? I thought it was kind of unusual. It was like a 
sweatbox, let’s face it. In Iraq, in August, it’s hitting 120 degrees, and 
you can imagine what it was like in the trunk of a black Mercedes.’

I heard a National Guardsman from Florida say: ‘We had a sledgehammer that 
we would bang against the wall, and that would create an echo that sounds 
like an explosion that scared the hell out of them. If that didn’t work we 
would load a 9mm pistol, and pretend to be charging it near their head and 
make them think we were going to shoot them. Once you did that they did 
whatever you wanted them to do basically. The way we treated these men was 
hard even for the soldiers, especially after realising that many of these 
“combatants” were no more than shepherds.’

I heard a marine at Camp Whitehorse say: ‘The 50/10 technique was used to 
break down EPWs and make it easier for the HET member to get information 
from them.’ The 50/10 technique was to make prisoners stand for 50 minutes 
of the hour for ten hours with a hood over their heads in the heat. EPWs 
were ‘enemy prisoners of war’. HETs were ‘human exploitation teams’.

I heard Captain Donald Reese, a prison warden, say: ‘It was not uncommon to 
see people without clothing. I was told the “whole nudity thing” was an 
interrogation procedure used by military intelligence, and never thought 
much about it.’

I heard Donald Rumsfeld say: ‘I have not seen anything thus far that says 
that the people abused were abused in the process of interrogating them or 
for interrogation purposes.’

I heard Private Lynndie England, who was photographed in Abu Ghraib holding 
a prisoner on a leash, say: ‘I was instructed by persons in higher rank to 
stand there, hold this leash, look at the camera, and they took pictures for 
PsyOps. I didn’t really, I mean, want to be in any pictures. I thought it 
was kind of weird.’

Detainees 27, 30 and 31 were stripped of their clothing, handcuffed together 
nude, placed on the ground, and forced to lie on each other and simulate sex 
while photographs were taken. Detainee 8 had his food thrown in the toilet 
and was then ordered to eat it. Detainee 7 was ordered to bark like a dog 
while MPs spat and urinated on him; he was sodomised with a police stick 
while two female MPs watched. Detainee 3 was sodomised with a broom by a 
female soldier. Detainee 15 was photographed standing on a box with a hood 
on his head and simulated electrical wires were attached to his hands and 
penis. Detainees 1, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24 and 26 were placed in a pile and 
forced to masturbate while photographs were taken. An unidentified detainee 
was photographed covered in faeces with a banana inserted in his anus. 
Detainee 5 watched Civilian 1 rape an unidentified 15-year-old male detainee 
while a female soldier took photographs. Detainees 5 and 7 were stripped of 
their clothing and forced to wear women’s underwear on their heads. Detainee 
28, handcuffed with his hands behind his back in a shower stall, was 
declared dead when an MP removed the sandbag from his head and checked his 

I heard Donald Rumsfeld say: ‘If you are in Washington DC, you can’t know 
what’s going on in the midnight shift in one of those many prisons around 
the world.’


I heard that the Red Cross had to close its offices because it was too 
dangerous. I heard that General Electric and the Siemens Corporation had to 
close their offices. I heard that Médecins sans Frontières had to withdraw, 
and that journalists rarely left their hotels. I heard that, after their 
headquarters were bombed, most of the United Nations staff had gone. I heard 
that the cost of life insurance policies for the few remaining Western 
businessmen was $10,000 a week.

I heard Tom Foley, director of Iraq Private Sector Development, say: ‘The 
security risks are not as bad as they appear on TV. Western civilians are 
not the targets themselves. These are acceptable risks.’

I heard the spokesman for Paul Bremer say: ‘We have isolated pockets where 
we are encountering problems.’

I heard that, no longer able to rely on the military for help, private 
security firms had banded together to form the largest private army in the 
world, with its own rescue teams and intelligence. I heard that there were 
20,000 mercenary soldiers, now called ‘private contractors’, in Iraq, 
earning as much as $2000 a day, and not subject to Iraqi or US military law.

I heard that 50,000 Iraqi civilians were dead.

I heard that, on a day when a car bomb killed three Americans, Paul Bremer’s 
last act as director of the Coalition Provisional Authority was to issue 
laws making it illegal to drive with only one hand on the steering wheel or 
to honk a horn when there was no emergency.

I heard that the unemployment rate was now 70 per cent, that less than 1 per 
cent of the workforce was engaged in reconstruction, and that the US had 
spent only 2 per cent of the $18.4 billion approved by Congress for 
reconstruction. I heard that an official audit could not account for $8.8 
billion of Iraqi oil money given to Iraqi ministries by the Coalition 
Provisional Authority.

I heard the president say: ‘Our Coalition is standing with responsible Iraqi 
leaders as they establish growing authority in their country.’

I heard that, a few days before he became prime minister, Iyad Allawi 
visited a Baghdad police station where six suspected insurgents, blindfolded 
and handcuffed, were lined up against a wall. I heard that, as four 
Americans and a dozen Iraqi policemen watched, Allawi pulled out a pistol 
and shot each prisoner in the head. I heard that he said that this is how we 
must deal with insurgents.

On 28 June 2004, with the establishment of an interim government, I heard 
the vice president say: ‘After decades of rule by a brutal dictator, Iraq 
has been returned to its rightful owners, the people of Iraq.’

This was the military summary for an ordinary day, 22 July 2004, a day that 
produced no headlines: ‘Two roadside bombs exploded next to a van and a 
Mercedes in separate areas of Baghdad, killing four civilians. A gunman in a 
Toyota opened fire on a police checkpoint and escaped. Police wounded three 
gunmen at a checkpoint and arrested four men suspected of attempted murder. 
Seven more roadside bombs exploded in Baghdad and gunmen twice attacked US 
troops. Police dismantled a car bomb in Mosul and gunmen attacked the 
Western driver of a gravel truck at Tell Afar. There were three roadside 
bombings and a rocket attack on US troops in Mosul and another gun attack on 
US forces near Tell Afar. At Taji, a civilian vehicle collided with a US 
military vehicle, killing six civilians and injuring seven others. At Bayji, 
a US vehicle hit a landmine. Gunmen murdered a dentist at the Ad Dwar 
hospital. There were 17 roadside bomb explosions against US forces in Taji, 
Baquba, Baqua, Jalula, Tikrit, Paliwoda, Balad, Samarra and Duluiyeh, with 
attacks by gunmen on US troops in Tikrit and Balad. A headless body in an 
orange jumpsuit was found in the Tigris; believed to be Bulgarian hostage 
Ivalyo Kepov. Kirkuk air base attacked. Five roadside bombs on US forces in 
Rutbah, Kalso and Ramadi. Gunmen attacked Americans in Fallujah and Ramadi. 
The police chief of Najaf was abducted. Two civilian contractors were 
attacked by gunmen at Haswah. A roadside bomb exploded near Kerbala and 
Hillah. International forces were attacked by gunmen at al-Qurnah.’


I heard the president say: ‘You can embolden an enemy by sending a mixed 
message. You can dispirit the Iraqi people by sending mixed messages. That’s 
why I will continue to lead with clarity and in a resolute way.’

I heard the president say: ‘Today, because the world acted with courage and 
moral clarity, Iraqi athletes are competing in the Olympic Games.’ Iraq had 
sent teams to the previous Olympics. And when the president ran a campaign 
advertisement with the flags of Iraq and Afghanistan and the words ‘at this 
Olympics there will be two more free nations ? and two fewer terrorist 
regimes,’ I heard the Iraqi coach say: ‘Iraq as a team does not want Mr Bush 
to use us for the presidential campaign. He can find another way to 
advertise himself.’ I heard their star midfielder say that if he weren’t 
playing soccer he’d be fighting for the resistance in Fallujah: ‘Bush has 
committed so many crimes. How will he meet his god having slaughtered so 
many men and women?’

I heard an unnamed ‘senior British army officer’ invoke the Nazis to 
describe what he saw: ‘My view and the view of the British chain of command 
is that the Americans’ use of violence is not proportionate and is 
over-responsive to the threat they are facing. They don’t see the Iraqi 
people the way we see them. They view them as Untermenschen. They are not 
concerned about the Iraqi loss of life. As far as they are concerned, Iraq 
is bandit country and everybody is out to kill them. It is trite, but 
American troops do shoot first and ask questions later.’

I heard Makki al-Nazzal, who was managing a clinic in Fallujah, say, in 
unaccented English: ‘I have been a fool for 47 years. I used to believe in 
European and American civilisation.’

I heard Donald Rumsfeld say: ‘We never believed that we’d just tumble over 
weapons of mass destruction.’

I heard Condoleezza Rice say: ‘We never expected we were going to open 
garages and find them.’

I heard Donald Rumsfeld say: ‘They may have had time to destroy them, and I 
don’t know the answer.’

I heard Richard Perle say: ‘We don’t know where to look for them and we 
never did know where to look for them. I hope this will take less than two 
hundred years.’


I heard the president say: ‘I know what I’m doing when it comes to winning 
this war.’

I heard the president say: ‘I’m a war president.’

I heard that 1000 American soldiers were dead and 7000 wounded in combat. I 
heard that there was now an average of 87 attacks on US troops a day.

I heard Condoleezza Rice say: ‘Not everything has gone as we would have 
liked it to.’

I heard Colin Powell say: ‘We did miscalculate the difficulty.’

I heard an unnamed ‘senior US diplomat in Baghdad’ say: ‘We’re dealing with 
a population that hovers between bare tolerance and outright hostility. This 
idea of a functioning democracy is crazy. We thought there would be a 
reprieve after sovereignty, but all hell is breaking loose.’

I heard Major Thomas Neemeyer say: ‘The only way to stomp out the insurgency 
of the mind would be to kill the entire population.’

I heard the CNN reporter near the tomb of Ali in Najaf say: ‘Everything 
outside of the mosque seems to be totalled.’

I heard Khudeir Salman, who sold ice from a donkey cart in Najaf, say he was 
giving up after marine snipers had killed his friend, another ice-seller: ‘I 
found him this morning. The sniper shot his donkey too. Even the ambulance 
drivers are too scared to get the body.’

I heard the vice president say: ‘Such an enemy cannot be deterred, cannot be 
contained, cannot be appeased, or negotiated with. It can only be destroyed. 
And that is the business at hand.’

I heard a ‘senior American commander’ say: ‘We need to make a decision on 
when the cancer of Fallujah needs to be cut out.’

I heard Major-General John Batiste, outside Samarra, say: ‘It’ll be a quick 
fight and the enemy is going to die fast. The message for the people of 
Samarra is: peacefully or not, this is going to be solved.’

I heard Brigadier-General Kimmitt say: ‘Our patience is not eternal.’

I heard the president say: ‘America will never be run out of Iraq by a bunch 
of thugs and killers.’

I heard about the wedding party that was attacked by American planes, 
killing 45 people, and the wedding photographer who videotaped the 
festivities until he himself was killed. And though the tape was shown on 
television, I heard Brigadier-General Kimmitt say: ‘There was no evidence of 
a wedding. There may have been some kind of celebration. Bad people have 
celebrations, too.’

I heard an Iraqi man say: ‘I swear I saw dogs eating the body of a woman.’

I heard an Iraqi man say: ‘We have at least 700 dead. So many of them are 
children and women. The stench from the dead bodies in parts of the city is 

I heard Donald Rumsfeld say: ‘Death has a tendency to encourage a depressing 
view of war.’


On the occasion of Iyad Allawi’s visit to the United States, I heard the 
president say: ‘What’s important for the American people to hear is reality. 
And the reality is right here in the form of the prime minister.’

Asked about ethnic tensions, I heard Iyad Allawi say: ‘There are no problems 
between Shia and Sunnis and Kurds and Arabs and Turkmen. Usually we have no 
problems of an ethnic or religious nature in Iraq.’

I heard him say: ‘There is nothing, no problem, except in a small pocket in 

I heard Colonel Jerry Durrant say, after a meeting with Ramadi tribal 
sheikhs: ‘A lot of these guys have read history, and they said to me the 
government in Baghdad is like the Vichy government in France during World 
War Two.’

I heard a journalist say: ‘I am housebound. I leave when I have a very good 
reason to and a scheduled interview. I avoid going to people’s homes and 
never walk in the streets. I can’t go grocery shopping any more, can’t eat 
in restaurants, can’t strike up a conversation with strangers, can’t look 
for stories, can’t drive in anything but a full armoured car, can’t go to 
scenes of breaking news stories, can’t be stuck in traffic, can’t speak 
English outside, can’t take a road trip, can’t say “I’m an American,” can’t 
linger at checkpoints, can’t be curious about what people are saying, doing, 

I heard Donald Rumsfeld say: ‘It’s a tough part of the world. We had 
something like 200 or 300 or 400 people killed in many of the major cities 
of America last year. What’s the difference? We just didn’t see each 
homicide in every major city in the United States on television every 

I heard that 80,000 Iraqi civilians were dead. I heard that the war had 
already cost $225 billion and was continuing at the rate of $40 billion a 
month. I heard there was now an average of 130 attacks on US troops a day.

I heard Captain John Mountford say: ‘I just wonder what would have happened 
if we had worked a little more with the locals.’

I heard that, in the last year alone, the US had fired 127 tons of depleted 
uranium (DU) munitions in Iraq, the radioactive equivalent of approximately 
ten thousand Nagasaki bombs. I heard that the widespread use of DU in the 
first Gulf War was believed to be the primary cause of the health problems 
suffered by its 580,400 veterans, of whom 467 were wounded during the war 
itself. Ten years later, 11,000 were dead and 325,000 on medical disability. 
DU carried in semen led to high rates of endometriosis in their wives and 
girlfriends, often requiring hysterectomies. Of soldiers who had healthy 
babies before the war, 67 per cent of their postwar babies were born with 
severe defects, including missing legs, arms, organs or eyes.

I heard that 380 tons of HMX (high melting point explosive) and RDX (rapid 
detonation explosive) were missing from al-Qaqaa, one of Iraq’s ‘most 
sensitive military installations’, which had not been guarded since the 
invasion. I heard that one pound of these explosives was enough to blow up a 
747 jet, and that this cache could be used to make a million roadside bombs, 
which were the cause of half the casualties among US troops.

I heard Donald Rumsfeld say, when asked why the troops were being kept in 
the war much longer than their normal tours of duty: ‘Oh, come on. People 
are fungible. You can have them here or there.’


I heard Colonel Gary Brandl say: ‘The enemy has got a face. He’s called 
Satan. He’s in Fallujah and we’re going to destroy him.’

I heard a marine commander tell his men: ‘You will be held accountable for 
the facts not as they are in hindsight but as they appeared to you at the 
time. If, in your mind, you fire to protect yourself or your men, you are 
doing the right thing. It doesn’t matter if later on we find out you wiped 
out a family of unarmed civilians.’

I heard Lieutenant-Colonel Mark Smith say: ‘We’re going out where the bad 
guys live, and we’re going to slay them in their zip code.’

I heard that 15,000 US troops invaded Fallujah while planes dropped 
500-pound bombs on ‘insurgent targets’. I heard they destroyed the Nazzal 
Emergency Hospital in the centre of the city, killing 20 doctors. I heard 
they occupied Fallujah General Hospital, which the military had called a 
‘centre of propaganda’ for reporting civilian casualties. I heard that they 
confiscated all mobile phones and refused to allow doctors and ambulances to 
go out and help the wounded. I heard they bombed the power plant to black 
out the city, and that the water was shut off. I heard that every house and 
shop had a large red X spray-painted on the door to indicate that it had 
been searched.

I heard Donald Rumsfeld say: ‘Innocent civilians in that city have all the 
guidance they need as to how they can avoid getting into trouble. There 
aren’t going to be large numbers of civilians killed and certainly not by US 

I heard that, in a city of 150 mosques, there were no longer any calls to 

I heard Muhammad Abboud tell how, unable to leave his house to go to a 
hospital, he had watched his nine-year-old son bleed to death, and how, 
unable to leave his house to go to a cemetery, he had buried his son in the 

I heard Sami al-Jumaili, a doctor, say: ‘There is not a single surgeon in 
Fallujah. A 13-year-old child just died in my hands.’

I heard an American soldier say: ‘We will win the hearts and minds of 
Fallujah by ridding the city of insurgents. We’re doing that by patrolling 
the streets and killing the enemy.’

I heard an American soldier, a Bradley gunner, say: ‘I was basically looking 
for any clean walls, you know, without any holes in them. And then we were 
putting holes in them.’

I heard Farhan Salih say: ‘My kids are hysterical with fear. They are 
traumatised by the sound but there is nowhere to take them.’

I heard that the US troops allowed women and children to leave the city, but 
that all ‘military age males’, men from 15 to 60, were required to stay. I 
heard that no food or medicine was allowed into the city.

I heard the Red Cross say that at least 800 civilians had died. I heard Iyad 
Allawi say there were no civilian casualties in Fallujah.

I heard a man named Abu Sabah say: ‘They used these weird bombs that put up 
smoke like a mushroom cloud. Then small pieces fall from the air with long 
tails of smoke behind them.’ I heard him say that pieces of these bombs 
exploded into large fires that burned the skin even when water was thrown on 

I heard Kassem Muhammad Ahmed say: ‘I watched them roll over wounded people 
in the streets with tanks.’

I heard a man named Khalil say: ‘They shot women and old men in the streets. 
Then they shot anyone who tried to get their bodies.’

I heard Nihida Kadhim, a housewife, say that when she was finally allowed to 
return to her home, she found a message written with lipstick on her 
living-room mirror: FUCK IRAQ AND EVERY IRAQI IN IT.

I heard General John Sattler say that the destruction of Fallujah had 
‘broken the back of the insurgency’.

I heard that three-quarters of Fallujah had been shelled into rubble. I 
heard an American soldier say: ‘It’s kind of bad we destroyed everything, 
but at least we gave them a chance for a new start.’

I heard that only five roads into Fallujah would remain open. The rest would 
be sealed with ‘sand berms’, mountains of earth. At the entry points, 
everyone would be photographed, fingerprinted and have iris scans taken 
before being issued identification cards. All citizens would be required to 
wear identification cards in plain sight at all times. No private 
automobiles would be allowed in the city. All males would be organised into 
‘work brigades’ rebuilding the city. They would be paid, but participation 
would be compulsory.

I heard Muhammad Kubaissy, a shopkeeper, say: ‘I am still searching for what 
they have been calling democracy.’

I heard a soldier say that he had talked to his priest about killing Iraqis, 
and that his priest had told him it was all right to kill for his government 
as long as he did not enjoy it. After he had killed at least four men, I 
heard the soldier say that he had begun to have doubts: ‘Where the fuck did 
Jesus say it’s OK to kill people for your government?’


I heard Donald Rumsfeld say: ‘I don’t believe anyone that I know in the 
administration ever said that Iraq had nuclear weapons.’

I heard Donald Rumsfeld say: ‘The Coalition did not act in Iraq because we 
had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq’s pursuit of weapons of mass 
destruction. We acted because we saw the evidence in a dramatic new light, 
through the prism of our experience on 9/11.’

I heard a reporter say to Donald Rumsfeld: ‘Before the war in Iraq, you 
stated the case very eloquently and you said they would welcome us with open 
arms.’ And I heard Rumsfeld interrupt him: ‘Never said that. Never did. You 
may remember it well, but you’re thinking of somebody else. You can’t find, 
anywhere, me saying anything like either of those two things you just said I 

I heard Ahmed Chalabi, who had supplied most of the information about the 
weapons of mass destruction, shrug and say: ‘We are heroes in error . . . 
What was said before is not important.’

I heard Paul Wolfowitz say: ‘For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one 
issue, weapons of mass destruction, as justification for invading Iraq, 
because it was the one reason everyone could agree on.’

I heard Condoleezza Rice continue to insist: ‘It’s not as if anybody 
believes that Saddam Hussein was without weapons of mass destruction.’

I heard that the Niger ‘yellowcake’ uranium was a hoax legitimised by 
British intelligence, that the aluminium tubes could not be used for nuclear 
weapons, that the mobile biological laboratories produced hydrogen for 
weather balloons, that the fleet of unmanned aerial drones was a single 
broken-down oversized model airplane, that Saddam had no elaborate 
underground bunkers, that Colin Powell’s primary source, his ‘solid 
information’ for the evidence he presented at the United Nations, was a 
paper written ten years before by a graduate student. I heard that, of the 
400,000 bodies buried in mass graves, only 5000 had been found.

I heard Lieutenant-General James Conway say: ‘It was a surprise to me then, 
and it remains a surprise to me now, that we have not uncovered weapons. 
It’s not from lack of trying.’

I heard a reporter ask Donald Rumsfeld: ‘If they did not have WMDs, why did 
they pose an immediate threat to this country?’ I heard Rumsfeld answer: 
‘You and a few other critics are the only people I’ve heard use the phrase 
“immediate threat”. It’s become a kind of folklore that that’s what 
happened. If you have any citations, I’d like to see them.’ And I heard the 
reporter read: ‘No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat 
to the security of our people.’ Rumsfeld replied: ‘It ? my view of ? of the 
situation was that he ? he had ? we ? we believe, the best intelligence that 
we had and other countries had and that ? that we believed and we still do 
not know ? we will know.’

I heard Saadoon al-Zubaydi, an interpreter who lived in the presidential 
palace, say: ‘For at least three years Saddam Hussein had been tired of the 
day-to-day management of his regime. He could not stand it any more: 
meetings, commissions, dispatches, telephone calls. So he withdrew . . . 
Alone, isolated, out of it. He preferred shutting himself up in his office, 
writing novels.’


I heard the president say that Iraq is a ‘catastrophic success’.

I heard Donald Rumsfeld say: ‘They haven’t won a single battle the entire 
time since the end of major combat operations.’

I heard that hundreds of schools had been completely destroyed and thousands 
looted, and that most people thought it too dangerous to send their children 
to school. I heard there was no system of banks. I heard that in the cities 
there were only ten hours of electricity a day and that only 60 per cent of 
the population had access to drinkable water. I heard that the malnutrition 
of children was now far worse than in Uganda or Haiti. I heard that none of 
the 270,000 babies born after the start of the war had received 

I heard that 5 per cent of eligible voters had registered for the coming 

I heard General John Abizaid say: ‘I don’t think Iraq will have a perfect 
election. And, if I recall, looking back at our own election four years ago, 
it wasn’t perfect either.’

I heard Donald Rumsfeld say: ‘Let’s say you tried to have an election and 
you could have it in three-quarters or four-fifths of the country. But some 
places you couldn’t because the violence is too great. Well, so be it. 
Nothing’s perfect in life.’

I heard an Iraqi engineer say: ‘Go and vote and risk being blown to pieces 
or followed by insurgents and murdered for co-operating with the Americans? 
For what? To practise democracy? Are you joking?’

I heard General Muhammad Abdullah Shahwani, the chief of Iraqi intelligence, 
say that there were now 200,000 active fighters in the insurgency.

I heard Donald Rumsfeld say: ‘I don’t believe it’s our job to reconstruct 
that country. The Iraqi people are going to have to reconstruct that country 
over a period of time.’ I heard him say that, in any event, ‘the 
infrastructure of that country was not terribly damaged by the war at all.’

I heard that the American ambassador, John Negroponte, had requested that 
$3.37 billion intended for water, sewage and electricity projects be 
transferred to security and oil output.

I heard that the reporters from the al-Jazeera network were indefinitely 
banned. I heard Donald Rumsfeld say: ‘What al-Jazeera is doing is vicious, 
inaccurate and inexcusable.’

I heard that Spain left the ‘coalition of the willing’. Hungary left; the 
Dominican Republic left; Nicaragua left; Honduras left. I heard that the 
Philippines had left early, after a Filipino truck driver was kidnapped and 
executed. Norway left. Poland and the Netherlands said they were leaving. 
Thailand said it was leaving. Bulgaria was reducing its few hundred troops. 
Moldova cut its force from 42 to 12.

I heard that the president had once said: ‘Two years from now, only the 
Brits may be with us. At some point, we may be the only ones left. That’s OK 
with me. We are America.’

I heard a reporter ask Lieutenant-General Jay Garner how long the troops 
would remain in Iraq, and I heard him reply: ‘I hope they’re there a long 

I heard General Tommy Franks say: ‘One has to think about the numbers. I 
think we will be engaged with our military in Iraq for perhaps three, five, 
perhaps ten years.’

I heard that the Pentagon was now exploring what it called the ‘Salvador 
option’, modelled on the death squads in El Salvador in the 1980s, when John 
Negroponte was ambassador to Honduras and when Elliott Abrams, now White 
House adviser on the Middle East, called the massacre at El Mozote ‘nothing 
but Communist propaganda’. Under the plan, the US would advise, train and 
support paramilitaries in assassination and kidnapping, including secret 
raids across the Syrian border. In the vice presidential debate, I heard the 
vice president say: ‘Twenty years ago we had a similar situation in El 
Salvador. We had a guerrilla insurgency that controlled roughly a third of 
the country . . . And today El Salvador is a whale of a lot better.’

I heard that 100,000 Iraqi civilians were dead. I heard that there was now 
an average of 150 attacks on US troops a day. I heard that in Baghdad 700 
people were being killed every month in ‘non-war-related’ criminal 
activities. I heard that 1400 American soldiers had been killed and that the 
true casualty figure was approximately 25,000.

I heard that Donald Rumsfeld had a machine sign his letters of condolence to 
the families of soldiers who had been killed. When this caused a small 
scandal, I heard him say: ‘I have directed that in the future I sign each 

I heard the president say: ‘The credibility of this country is based upon 
our strong desire to make the world more peaceful, and the world is now more 

I heard the president say: ‘I want to be the peace president. The next four 
years will be peaceful years.’

I heard Attorney General John Ashcroft say, on the day of his resignation: 
‘The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has 
been achieved.’

I heard the president say: ‘For a while we were marching to war. Now we’re 
marching to peace.’

I heard that the US military had purchased 1,500,000,000 bullets for use in 
the coming year. That is 58 bullets for every Iraqi adult and child.

I heard that Saddam Hussein, in solitary confinement, was spending his time 
writing poetry, reading the Koran, eating cookies and muffins, and taking 
care of some bushes and shrubs. I heard that he had placed a circle of white 
stones around a small plum tree.

11 January

Eliot Weinberger’s 9/12 is published by Prickly Paradigm. He lives in New 

>From the LRB letters page: [ 17 February 2005 ] Judith Crosher.

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