Dahlia Wasfi and the Tragedy of Iraq

Punching through Fallujah with maximum carnage. (Photobucket Commons )

Punching through Fallujah with maximum carnage. (Photobucket Commons )

Mac: Once you were in the city, did you see White Phosphorus or Willie Pete being called in?

Ross: No, I think it was just used once on one incident during the bombing campaign before the ground troops got pulled in there.

Mac: So it was used to soften up the city?

Ross: You know, I asked a Lieutenant about it because I saw it kind of like floating down in the wind and it looked like an extremely inaccurate weapon, so I don’t know, thinking “Oh, that can’t be legal.”

So I asked this Lieutenant next to me and he said, “It’s legal because we weren’t using it offensively. We were using it as a smoke screen. We were dumping it in the desert to screen what we were doing.”

That sounds like bullshit, first of all because there was an incredible amount of smoke coming out of the city from all the bombing, and from my vantage point and his vantage point, there was no way he could know where we were dumping that. There just wasn’t enough visibility. And secondly, there were no ground troops in the city, so what exactly were we screening? So it didn’t make a lot of sense, his reply.

But that’s the line we stick with. We don’t deny using White Phosphorus anymore. They say they weren’t using it offensively, so it was legal.

Mac: OK. Could you tell if some of it was actually drifting over the city?

Ross: No, I couldn’t tell. There was just too much smoke. I couldn’t see where it landed. It was pretty close though.

Carmelized remains of a White Phosphorus victim in Fallujah (Photobucket Commons)

Carmelized remains of a White Phosphorus victim in Fallujah (Photobucket Commons)

Mac: I’ve actually seen photos of bodies that were carmelized by WP, where their skin turns leathery and dark-brown.

 

Ross: I’ve seen that documentary put together by the Italian journalists. [see my article on White Phosphorus use in Fallujah - Mac]

Mac: Yeah, that’s the one I’m referring to. And then I saw some still photos too. Did you see any bodies that were burned like that?

Ross: I didn’t see any burned bodies.

Mac: So, did you see very many civilians running around during all these firefights, or was everyone just hunkered down?

Ross: The chain of command told us that there were zero civilians inside the city, that the only people left were these hardcore international Jihadists. On the very first day, though, we saw that that wasn’t true. We saw civilians on the first day. We saw women and children trying to cross the street with a white flag. But the way we had justified like the way we were doing combat, in a way that there would be extreme levels of collateral damage, like using tanks in an urban center, was that we kept maintaining that there were no civilians in the city, so, I mean, from the very first day we knew that was bullshit, but we kept doing it anyway.

And we even started using this tactic called reconnaissance by fire, which is basically when you fire into a house to see what’s inside. So if you fire into it and hear screaming and stuff, then you know there’s people inside.

Mac: That’s right out of the Geman Wermacht playbook!

Ross: But I’ve heard reports from friends from my same unit that they ran into civilians too. They take a very different point of view on this from me. They think that we were extremely compassionate toward civilians, that when we did see civilians in the city, that we called in trucks to truck them out into the desert. From their point of view we were being compassionate.

Mac: Before I forget, let me ask you a couple of background questions. Where are you from?

Ross: Fitchburg, it’s like central Massachusetts.

Mac: And what prompted you to join the Marine Corps?

Ross: Free college, money, benefits, respect.

Mac: After the three weeks in Fallujah, then where did you end up?

Ross: What did I end up doing?

Mac: Yes

Ross: Well, I knew what we were doing was bullshit way before Fallujah, but I guess there was a certain level of hypocrisy I was willing to tolerate, but after Fallujah I couldn’t stomach it anymore. I slowly made up my mind I wanted out, and was looking for different ways to get out, and within maybe six months, no, seven, eight months after Fallujah, I told them that I had (PTSD) and I wanted to get out, and they dragged me along for about nine months after that, so May, 2006 I ended up getting out of the Marine Corps.

Mac: Once you told them you wanted out, did they keep you at the command you were with for awhile?

Ross: The schedule that we were on, we were supposed to stay at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for a year and a half before deploying again, so they kept me in my unit and basically just made me errand boy, phone watch, barracks watch. I did that for about nine months straight, and that was it. There was a certain amount of harassment that went along with it, but nothing too severe.

Mac: When had your unit returned to Camp Lejeune?

Ross: Back in January, 2005.

Mac: How many Marines had a sympathetic position toward you?

Ross: Well at that point it really wasn’t totally clear to me what my position was, so I couldn’t really explain it to my friends. I knew something was wrong; I knew something wasn’t sitting right with me, but I couldn’t totally put it into words. I really thought I had PTSD back then, but now I just think I felt guilty about being involved with Fallujah, but now that I can fully articulate what was bothering me about Fallujah and our entire deployment in Iraq, our entire mission as Marines in general, everyone from my unit hates me. They call me a terrorist basically.

Mac: You’re with us or against us! So, when you separated, did they give you an Honorable Discharge or a General Discharge?

Ross: General under Honorable Conditions.

Mac: How long before you decided to join Iraqi Veterans Against the War?

Ross: I’m not actually with them. I guess I am a member of March Forward, but I mostly just do campus activism. I run the Anti-War Coalition chapter at Boston U. I’m in Students for Justice in Palestine and I have my own project called the Justice for Fallujah Project, which is outside of the school I guess.

After I got out, I went to Italy for a year and a half and really didn’t want to be involved in anything. I didn’t want to live in this country. I didn’t want to think about it, and then a year and a half later I came back and started getting involved in activism on the campus.

Mac: What are you studying?

Ross: Lingusitics, Italian and Spanish.

Mac: OK, thanks. Let me start asking Dahlia some questions now.

*********

This is where I will end Part One, and then we will get heavily into what Dr. Dahlia Wasfi has to say about Iraq in Part Two.

mac mckinney******

I suggest you visit Ross’s praiseworthy Justice for Fallujah Project site online. The board of advisors includes such notable people as Noam Chomsky, Susan Akran, Dahlia of course, and noted journalist Dahr Jamail.

Mac McKinney

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