Search Asia Times

Advanced Search

Middle East

Just another Baghdad car bombing
By Nir Rosen

BAGHDAD - Once again, a bombing, this time in Iraq, and the victims are mostly Arab Muslims. Perhaps they are used to it. Perhaps they do not feel the same pain that innocent victims felt in Ashdod this week, or in Madrid, or in New York. The lives of the occupiers go on, Americans are engrossed with their elections, or perhaps with Martha Stewart since all but the most sensitive have forgotten Janet Jackson's breast, the Spanish people have decided this is not their fight since the costs of participating are so high and the cost of withdrawing are none, but here in Iraq nothing changes, the innocent die, the bomb important only because of its consequences for George W Bush's public opinion polls.

I was sitting in my room, having just read about the report declaring my adopted city, Baghdad, the worst city in the world to live in, but not feeling it since it had been a slow day, when an immense blast hit me and sent my door flying off its hinges. Thatís a car bomb, I thought, and l ran to my balcony to see if any nearby buildings had collapsed. Downstairs, I sprinted past Fardus Circle to Andalus Circle, where the Mount Lebanon Hotel, which I had never heard of, no longer existed.

It was dark and hazy, with visibility nearly zero, but a huge orange glow the size of a building shimmered through the smoke and dust. Hundreds of people were running away, hundreds more were running towards it and hundreds more were standing in shock, crying, screaming. A woman walked by carrying the inert body of her child, American Humvees pulled up as did Iraqi police cars. "There are many dead people," shouted one man running out of the hotel's wreckage, asking people to help. Terrified and confused US soldiers tried to turn back the crowd of Iraqis who rushed to help, swinging in ever direction with their guns, looking for the enemy, as Iraqi police with guns drawn tried to push people back. Ambulances arrived, by now well practiced in quick responses to bombs, and carried away the lucky ones who survived, screaming, their shredded clothes and bodies drenched with blood. Everywhere angry men, stunned, hurt, feeling vulnerable.

Furious survivors attacked cameramen, seeking someone to vent their fury on, neighbors stood crying, friends rushed to the scene looking for loved ones, terror on their faces. Two fat women in their night gowns began screaming at an American soldier angrily. Bewildered, not knowing what they were saying, he told them "Everything's gonna be alright." From atop their Humvees other American soldiers swiveled their machineguns, screaming and cursing at the Iraqis and journalists below them. An Iraqi policeman with his gun drawn pushed me away. All the while, the glowing orange inferno lit the scene as the fire spread to a nearby building.

Journalists moved away to report on their phones in English, Turkish, Italian. Others stood still filming the scene. Arguments broke out between Iraqis who wanted the journalists to film and those who wanted them to leave. More and more bodies were carried out from the gaping wreckage of the flaming hotel building. Aljazeera, always first on the scene of any attack, didnít have to go very far since their hotel was across the street, its windows blasted out.

A rumor spread among the crowd that an American missile had hit the hotel and the crowd argued over who was responsible. Tomorrow the local papers will blame a coalition of Jews and Americans who want to divide iraq. The Bush administration will no doubt blame it on Zarqawi, and it had already announced it was offering its prayers for the victims, adding it would not change US policy, whatever that is.

I returned to my hotel. The staff were congregated around the television, I assumed to watch the aftermath on Aljazeera. But no, they were watching a soccer match and barely acknowledged the entry of the silly foreigner who runs to find explosions, the ambulance chaser with a notebook. Perhaps they are used to this; American missiles, far more powerful and deadly than car bombs, had fallen on them before, and this was just a bomb. They didnít seem to wonder, as I did, whether their hotel would be next.

(Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact for information on our sales and syndication policies.)

Mar 19, 2004

Just another Baghdad street killing (Feb 28, '04)


No material from Asia Times Online may be republished in any form without written permission.
Copyright 2003, Asia Times Online, 4305 Far East Finance Centre, 16 Harcourt Rd, Central, Hong Kong