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[casi] Dr Geert Van Moorter: Six weeks in Baghdad under the occupation

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Dear all,

Dr Geert Van Moorter, who was 2 months in Iraq during the war, in cooperation with SOS Iraq, has 
returned from a six weeks stay in Baghdad. Here is his part of his testimony (translation in 
English thanks to the International Action Center).


Dirk Adriaensens.

Six weeks in Baghdad under the occupation

Exclusive testimony of the Belgian Doctor Geert Van Moorter regarding the U.S. occupation.

Geert Van Moorter, a doctor in the Belgian organization Medicine for the Third World, who was in 
Baghdad during the U.S. bombing in April, returned to Baghdad from the beginning of July to 

Pol De Vos

August 20, 2003

Geert Van Moorter. At first one has the impression that everything is going more or less OK. Life 
goes on, numerous stores are stocked with goods. Only the U.S. Jeeps disturb the peace. But as soon 
as night falls, all this illusion disappears. Before the war, the city woke up at nightfall. Until 
1 or 2 a.m., groups of people would be talking and joking around in the streets. Now, at night, 
Baghdad is a dead city. Besides, the U.S. command decreed a curfew that begins at 11 p.m., so no 
one can go out.

I quickly noticed that the population was still suffering terribly from the consequences of the 
war. The Iraqis can't understand how it could be that four months after the official end of the 
conflict there are still only a few hours of electricity available each day. There are still 
enormous problems with drinking water. The gas supply is still gravely disrupted. Many people told 
me that after the devastating first Gulf War, in 1991, when most of the country remained in the 
control of the Iraqi government, all these problems were resolved in less than two months. Now, the 
entire administrative structure of the country is topsy-turvy. Most public services and ministries 
are still closed down. The state enterprises are shut. There are hundreds of thousands of Iraqis 
who lost their job and are more or less running in place. How do they stay alive? I have no idea, 
they cannot still have savings, after two wars and 12 years of sanctions. By good luck, the "Oil 
for food" program functions more or less. About 80 percent of the distribution structure put in 
place by the prior regime seems to still exist. Considering what it is, naturally, it is a pitiful 

De Vos: But, they have still installed a "provisional government," no? Hasn't that succeeded in 
resolving the problems?

Geert Van Moorter: Everyone I've spoken to has expressed only contempt for this council of 25 who, 
today, claims to lead the country. "In the past we had ONE Saddam, today we have 25," joked 
someone. "The majority are profiteers who have been abroad for years. They entered Baghdad with the 
American tanks." It is the U.S. forces who pull the strings. The so-called "ministers" have in 
reality nothing to say.

The scars are still painful

De Vos: Have the people succeeded in forgetting the war? Can they put aside the anxiety and tension 
of those days?

Geert Van Moorter: Too many people are still confronted daily with the consequences of the 
bombings. For example, I was able to see Mohammed Ali Sarhan again. During the war, the had lost 
both his legs. On April 7, he was accompanying in an ambulance his wife, who was in the final stage 
of pregnancy and another woman on the verge of giving birth. Then they became the target of a U.S. 
tank. Mohammed was blown out of the ambulance, the two women and the babies about to be born were 
burned to death. When witnesses at the event wanted to come to Mohammed's aid, they were shot down. 
Later, I was able to round up other witnesses, that of the father and of the sister of the other 
pregnant woman. They were also in the ambulance. The sister is still recovering from here grave 
burns and has a serious fracture. They confirmed the story: U.S. troops had fired on the ambulance 
without reason.

An occupation without a future

De Vos: How do the people experience the presence of the U.S. military?

Geert Van Moorter: An interpreter told me: "I feel like a foreigner in my own country. Each time 
that I see the Americans, I'm overcome with anger." She told me how earlier she had led a varied 
social life. But today she doesn't go out in the evening. She doesn't even dare travel by auto.

The U.S. soldiers are arrogant. Those Iraqis who had a neutral or a somewhat positive attitude 
toward the U.S. because they got rid of Saddam Hussein know today that the U.S. Army did not come 
to help them. At the international airport in Baghdad, thousands of people are being held. Everyone 
"suspect" is arrested and often even beaten without explanation. I went to see a young lad - 10 
years old - who was shot down at a control post. His shoulder was completely smashed up and he will 
be disabled for life. But this boy has nowhere to go. The U.S. Military Police, who have the task 
of following the crimes of the Army, won't raise their little finger to stop these abuses of power 
and the assaults committed by the U.S. troops. When I asked one of them haw they would react if 
they received complaints from the Iraqis, he reaction was: "It's war, man!"

De Vos: What are the U.S. soldiers thinking of their presence in Iraq?

Geert Van Moorter. A soldier told me that they could not eat any of the local food or drink any 
local drinks. Only their own rations. It is obviously untenable.

I had one friendly conversation with a soldier in a Jeep. He was wearing a heavy helmet and a thick 
bullet-proof vest. It was more than 104 degrees F. I was there in a T-shirt. I signaled him that I 
was very hot and asked if he wasn't suffocating under his outfit. His answer: "And not only that. I 
have the feeling of being a prisoner. We can't leave our Jeep, we are not safe anywhere."

The Iraqi resistance takes many shapes.

De Vos: What have you noticed of the resistance?

Geert Van Moorter. Naturally, there are many protest actions and demonstrations. Those are 
organized for many different reasons. The unemployed, the families of people who have been arrested 
without reason, the inhabitants who demand water and electricity, the soldiers that have not been 
paid for months. Then, there is naturally the armed resistance. I heard explosions regularly, often 
during the day. In the beginning of July, I was at the Hotel Palestine when, from the other side of 
the Tigris, in the presidential neighborhood, a bomb went off. I heard the rumbles, saw the clouds 
of smoke rising. Quite soon, helicopters were coming and going, as well as trucks. I was also able 
to see a U.S. Army truck burned up. About three hours after the attack, I was there. You have to be 
fast to see anything, because as quickly as possible the U.S. forces get rid of all traces of the 

It's a secret for no one that the official number of U.S. victims is always understated. In just 
the first two weeks in Iraq, at the first half of July, I learned from witnesses that 16 U.S. 
troops had been killed.

De Vos: Could one say that the resistance is intensifying?

Geert Van Moorter. I had the impression that it is getting better and better organized. The actions 
have grown in size, which require more preparation. I was told of military training that was 
organized by officers and generals of the former army. In certain regions, money is openly 
collected to support the resistance. I have seen many printed flyers opposing the U.S. occupation. 
The political opposition grows stronger and demonstrates with sharper demands. At the end of July, 
the colonial authority closed down three newspapers because they criticized the U.S. forces and 
because they wrote of the success of the resistance.

De Vos: You are one of the initiators of the charges against General [Tommy] Franks. What is your 
point of view regarding this after your visit to occupied Iraq?

Geert Van Moorter. One of the goals of my visit was precisely to collect supplementary information 
regarding war crimes. I succeeded. In addition, I even gathered another series of new charges and, 
indeed, all concerning serious war crimes. The case in Belgium against General Franks aims at 
obtaining an independent investigation of these crimes. But it is exactly at this time that the 
Belgian government has chosen to eliminate the law of universal competence. That is something that 
the Iraqis are unable to understand.

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