Monday, November 17, 2003

1. Duluhaya: Destruction and Dignity

Message: 1
Date: Mon, 17 Nov 2003 03:35:37 -0600 (CST)
From: "CPT Iraq"
Subject: Duluhaya: Destruction and Dignity

Duluhaya: Destruction and Dignity

by Le Anne Clausen

Recently, CPT members Anne Montgomery and myself, and visitors Peter and
Meg Lumsdaine traveled north from Baghdad to the village of Duluhaya to
document human rights abuses by the US military. Duluhaya is a small
agricultural village just south of Samarra, in the ‘Sunni Triangle’ of

On the road, traffic was blocked for hours due to the ambush of a US
military Humvee. A sergeant blocking traffic one-half kilometer from the
ambush told us that Iraqi insurgents attacked the vehicle with an
improvised explosive device (IED) and a gunman firing an AK-47 after the
blast. He also said the soldiers inside the Humvee were very badly
wounded. However, something seemed awry: the Humvee was part of a
20-vehicle military convoy heading north along the road. There was
immediate availability of communications, but it was taking an unusually
long amount of time for a helicopter to arrive to transport the wounded.
I realized what this meant: the soldiers were likely already dead.

We next visited a farm near the village, which had been hit by US shelling
on September 29th. The 30kg shell destroyed a support pillar at the
corner of the house, as well as a one-square-meter area of the patio on
which it landed and shattered several windows. The shell hit the house at
10pm, when most of the family was inside the home. The family reported
that US forces had shelled the area nightly for the past three months.
The father of the home, who is a sheikh in the village, met with US forces
to ask them not to fight in civilian-occupied areas. “Every evening they
bomb my gardens,” he said. “We don’t need this; we need freedom and

The family members also took us to document walls around the village,
dozens of which had been bulldozed by US forces. “Any graffiti that
opposes the US military’s presence, they bulldoze the wall,” said one
relative. “They could use paint if they wanted to, but they want to teach
a lesson.” On one such wall, which fronted the village’s school building,
someone had written, “This is Democracy?”

Next we traveled to a large date palm grove which had been completely
clear-cut by the US military. The military said it was necessary to do
this because an insurgent fired upon US troops from the grove. Over 1,000
trees and two houses were destroyed in the process. Eighty families
nearby depended on the income from this grove. Date palms must grow for
fifteen years before they are able to bear fruit.

Our final stop for the day was a funeral. Men were lined up in mourners’
tents outside in a dusty field, while crowds of black-clad women filled
the house. We met the family of the man who had been killed by US forces
during a raid of their home. The man was killed as he was trying to
protect his wife from being beaten by the soldiers. The soldiers also
shot their 12-year-old son, wounding him in the shoulder, torso, and
thigh. The bullets are still in his body. Their house—doors, floors, and
even the refrigerator—-were pockmarked from the soldiers’ machine-gun
fire. The soldiers also ransacked the house and took $1,500 and several
family photographs. Just before we left, the dead man’s friends brought
out a letter to show us, signed by 1st Lt. Justin Cole at a nearby US
military base. The letter, bearing the dead man’s photograph, stated that
the man had been helpful to US troops previously and if US officials
needed anything else from him, he would willingly cooperate. The letter
closes, “Please treat this gentleman with the dignity and respect that he

Something has gone terribly wrong in my country’s quest to bring freedom
to the Iraqi people. Most of the human rights abuses I saw carried out in
Palestine by the Israeli military during my two years with CPT there I
have seen carried out in Iraq by US forces in just the two months since I
arrived here. Many Iraqis our team has listened to from this area speak
of initially welcoming the US troops, who removed Saddam. They were
hopeful for a peaceful, prosperous life on their farmland with their
families. What they received instead was house raids, and dead wives and
children. Now they support the armed resistance. In return for these
violations of dignity and human rights, daily my neighbors return to the
US in coffins draped with flags. At the end of these past several weeks
of numerous soldier casualties, what has my country learned?

Traveling back along the road blocked earlier by the Humvee ambush, we
noted that the site of the ambush was completely cleared of all evidence
of an attack. Even the burn marks were cleaned away. It is a practice
designed to increase morale of the soldiers who must still patrol the area
after an ambush, and to remove any signs which might raise the morale of
the resistance: Pretend it never happened. Our team has seen this
practice used by US forces on several prior occasions.

How much more will we pretend has never happened, and at what cost?

Photos corresponding to this release will be posted shortly on

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