April 2nd, 2004


Fallujah. Just passing through.

It was interesting reading Fiona's post, describing her recent trip through Fallujah, just a few days before the recent violence. Scary trip. It sounds more like being smuggled rather than driven. Here's an excerpt.

"...as we approached Fallujah, the US presence on the road was steadily increasing, to the same degree that our travelling speed was decreasing .... If they see you taking pictures they will destroy your camera, regardless of whether you're civilian or Press.

Sallah tells us that Fallujah is the only place in Iraq where (even during Saddam�s regime) there was never a ruling Governor.The first Governor lasted a day before he was shot dead, the second, two .... he told us that both Fallujah and Ramadi were the most dangerous places for Westerners, as the US forces had come down hard on them, showing no respect for their traditions, beliefs, culture, dignity, intelligence... or the fact that they were actually, really, human beings.

So we find ourselves stopped by the US forces on the highway. Sallah (who speaks very good English) calls to a GI to find out if the road is being closed. The charmer he speaks to doesn't take his hand off his automatic rifle and tells him to stay in lane. This is traffic control, GI style.

A conversation in Arabic between the Fixer and the driver .... We can hear automatic gunfire. And it sounds quite close. We are hemmed in between the car behind and the car in front of us. Eventually the car behind reverses out and we too can set off at speed, over the desert sands away from the troops, through burnt out wrecks of trucks and oil containers .... Never have I been so grateful to be in a place that I should never visit. Safety in the fact that both Nasir and Sallah are from tribes in this area.

We pass a man who is being stopped and searched. By a US tank. His black Mercedes dwarfed by the barrel of gun .... Being patted down on the bonnet of a huge tank. And they wonder why the US forces aren�t welcome here. Having had a glimpse of the pride and dignity of these people it seems so unnecessarily humiliating.

Sallah tells me that he sees the US troops 'fuelling the fire' in Iraq's present situation. I worry that the resentment shown towards them and their behaviour will cause a spiralling down toward more anger and resentment and therefore rebellion and lawlessness.

Sallah tells us later that he told the driver to wait in line on the highway. Nasir knows this area better, so he knew to get us out and away from the troops as quickly as possible. He may well have saved our lives. We certainly believe so."