It is impossible to describe. It is like being submerged in a glowing yellow-orange cloud. Our Iraqi friends say they have never seen anything like it. Some say it is caused by a combination of the oil fires set by the Iraqi military, and the billowing smoke from the bombs. It's eerier than any science fiction film I've seen.
Both near and far, the bombs continue to fall. Heavy bombing woke me out of a deep sleep last night. Earlier, I'd been on the telephone with a friend who told me that in her neighborhood a missile had struck the day before, wounding 29 and killing five. Among the dead was a 12-year-old. "Cathy," my friend said, "please tell the U.S. to stop talking about humanitarian aid. Please tell them to shut up!"
The Bush administration said a couple of days ago that the war has been successful because so far there had been only 500 casualties. I am anxious to get the word out about some of these casualties, as I've been to the trauma hospitals these last three days to see for myself. As I write, the bombing continues and the windows threaten to explode. Should I move somewhere else? There really is no safe place.
Let me tell you about Amar, 7, whom I saw in the hospital this morning. He has a tube in his chest to drain blood from his multiple shell injuries. His mother, Hannah, died in the direct hit to their house this morning. Amar is from a farming village on the outskirts of Baghdad.
Then there is Mueen, 8 years old and also the son of a farmer, but from another area. He lies in the bed alongside Amar and also has a drainage tube, from his abdomen. The doctor showed us a plastic bag holding parts of Mueen's small intestine that had to be removed during surgery as physicians searched for shrapnel. His father died in that bombing, and his 6-year-old brother Ali was wounded in the head.
Ten-year-old Rusel was wounded in an explosion outside her door. We saw the shrapnel in her chest on the X-ray; she too has a chest tube. Her right hand is fractured. I had seen her the day before, and to my surprise she remembered me. We played with a frog finger-puppet for a while, and I told her what a brave little girl she is.
Her father said, "Bush said he'd bring democracy to Iraq. This is not democracy. This is terrorism."
We meet Ali and his wife in the hospital. They are the parents of four young children. They tell us that they want the war to stop for the children's sake, for the sake of all mothers. They say that families are leaving their homes to run away from the bombs. Ali and his family are all staying together at the home of a relative. "If we die, we want to die together."
Ali works in a food shop, but all of the stores are closed and there is no work. No money coming in, and the children no longer go to school. All of their children are fearful and hiding under the covers.
President Bush says the war is successful. But tell me, Mr. Bush, what do I say to people when they ask me, "What have we done?" They know I am from America. I meet their questioning eyes and despairing expressions and have no words.
© 2003 Pacific News Service