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.
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.
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.
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