A different view of the general's 'party'

Issue 

Former attorney general of the United States Ramsey Clark, returned from a trip to Iraq, gave a press conference which was broadcast over the Pacifica Radio Network affiliate in New York City on February 11. Clark covered over 2000 miles during his week-long stay in Iraq. He commented that the government didn't try to control his travels, and that with all the devastation in Iraq, it could not have done so anyway. There was just he, a cameraman and a driver in his car, and he said that the driver obeyed all his instructions. The following are excerpts of Clark's remarks.

The reports of the number of sorties over Iraq led me to the concern that there must be extensive civilian casualties ... The head of the civil defence in Basra agreed that when the bombs started falling in the middle of the night, he would come and take us to the scene ...

Once we got on the road, we'd see smoke and just go where the smoke was — that sort of thing ... The damage that we saw was staggering in its expanse ...

For instance, in a city like Basra, you can see six continuous city blocks that are almost rubble. They were homes. You'd see a guy sitting out there because they kind of watch over what's left ... You get 50 miles down the road, and there's a bridge out ... We saw hundreds of dwellings demolished ...

We got to one place in Baghdad. It was a heavy concrete home — three floors and heavy concrete slabs, and there was a 500 pound bomb hanging off the top. It hadn't gone off. And two had hit nearby and pretty much killed the family. The father was badly burned and in the hospital. Whether he would live or not, we didn't know. And there were a hundred angry people standing around wondering why these homes have been bombed.

You look around and you don't see anything that looks like any target whatsoever. You only see homes. You go to the centre of a town ... Devonia ... and there are three hotels destroyed ... the largest one had about 50 rooms ... a lawyer's office, doctor's office, shops.

The central market in Basra has about a thousand shops — and here you see a crater that's bigger than the White House swimming pool, except it's round. Its right at the entrance to the market and it shattered everything, and it landed right on a supermarket. It's not there anymore. I mean it's just gone. And around, you just see damage, and there's no possible military target there.

Driving through the countryside, you see food processing places, if they're big, fairly systematically hit. You see extensive bombing around bridges. It's hard to hit a bridge, apparently. I even saw

a US government count and they said it took 500 and some sorties to hit bridges, and they hit 31. But there're people living all around them. There's a big river through Baghdad, and there're a lot of bridges across it. And people don't stay away from them. They build right up toward them.

In Baghdad, the Ministry of Justice building has all its windows shattered. And right there — and I think he was trying to hit the bridge, probably, because there's just absolutely nothing else there [remaining]. But he didn't hit the bridge and he had four bombs coming in there, and he just knocked out all these — it's a poor part of town — little shops and stores. And the merchants and the people who survived, they've lost everything, and their families were killed and all.

The mosques: we came upon one mosque in Basra — it was particularly tragic, it was way out in the countryside ... there were three or four bombs that hit around there that just kind of messed everything up. When you hit a mosque, it's got no internal support, just this big dome, so it just comes down. It collapses in rubble. And there was a family of 12 who had sought refuge in there. ... They found 10 bodies in the mosque. The minaret was still standing there. Every type of civilian structure you could think of —

On the highways, I think we put over 1400 miles on the highways, and we saw hundreds and hundreds of vehicles damaged or destroyed. We saw a lot of these oil trucks. They were burned up pretty bad. But you don't find anything that looks like arms in there. When [US secretary of state] Jim Baker says that they were carrying arms, he's talking about something he does not know.

Now, in Jordan, along the road, we saw scores and scores of these trucks. They're pouring out ... bringing oil from Iraq to Jordan, which has an economic crisis ... When you're driving down the road, what you see are trucks — a lot of tractor-trailers.

We weren't 10 miles into the country when we came upon a tractor-trailer that was on fire ... John Alpert gets his camera out and he's taking a picture at night. It's dark. You don't leave your lights on, I'll tell you. I said "What is this here?" I thought it was sand. I picked it up and it was grain — feed. Looked like animal feed. They hit that truck and it's burning. And another one carrying asphalt tiles.

Buses, public buses, painted baby blue — and they're hit by shrapnel and torn up — burned. Mini-vans, taxis — lots of private cars — lots of private cars, on the highway from Baghdad to Amman. Not a military target on the scene. ... We didn't see a single tank that had been hit. We didn't see a single armoured car that had been hit, or an armoured personnel carrier. ...

In every city, town and village, we went in to see if anybody had running water. There's no running water in the city of Baghdad ... The minister of health said the single most important and urgent health problem in the country is bad water. Tens of thousands of people are getting sick and some are dying — from bad water.

There's no heat. There's no electricity. We've systematically destroyed electric plants. Some people have little gasoline generators, who can afford them — like CNN. In the hospital, you see a few lights on in emergency rooms — but you go into a ward at night. We went into four hospitals. There are people badly injured — men, women and children. Lots of children.

Lots of women. A little girl 12 years old — her leg cut off very near the hip, and no pain killer. And it's cold in there. And there is no light in there. And the doctors can't wash their hands. There's no water. One doctor told me, "I hate my hands. We've got no gloves. I go from this wounded person to this wounded person to this wounded person, and I can't wash my hands." It was getting to him! And people moaning in pain that you don't hear here because we anesthetise them when it gets that bad.

When General Powell says that this is a party — which he's said in his press conferences — he ought to think about the civilian population, or those hospitals in Iraq, and see what kind of a party he thinks it is.