Solidarity | 23.10.2004 14:44
An Open Letter to British Troops Serving in Iraq
The US has asked the British government to send you
north to free up forces for another offensive against
Falluja. I’m writing to ask you to refuse any orders
to deploy to Baghdad or other areas currently under US
I was an ambulance volunteer in Falluja during the
April siege. I went because my friend Salam, a doctor,
said US troops were stopping medical supplies getting
in, cut off water, food, electricity and had closed
down the main hospital and controlled the road to the
smaller one with snipers.
Salam was evacuated with bullet wounds; a missile from
a US plane destroyed the ambulance in front of his. He
and his crew were under fire, pinned inside the
vehicle while their colleagues burned in the other
one. He thought the marines wouldn’t shoot us because
we’d look like their brothers and sisters. He was
right: in daylight we moved medical supplies,
evacuated people from the second hospital and homes in
the firing line, picked up sick and injured people.
We went to bring two sick women from a house in US
territory. Outside a man of about 60 was lying face
down in the road, shot through the back. You don’t
need me to tell you what it looks or smells like when
a man’s chest isn’t inside his body any more.
We could see the lines of marines along the tops of
the houses. Only when we got there did the family dare
to come out, the sons screaming that he was unarmed,
he just went out to get the car to take his wife to
the clinic. The daughters whispered, “Baba, baba”
[Daddy] as we walked them to safety.
Our clinic received countless sniper casualties, the
US’s preferred method of controlling its areas: a
small boy, trousers wet, shot in the head; an old
woman carrying a white flag; a young woman shot in the
jaw, all attempting to flee their homes in US
territory. Aircraft pounded the town with missiles and
cluster bombs. I think they denied using cluster bombs
but there’s no mistaking the rhythmic sound of them
As it got dark we were asked to pick up a woman in
premature labour in a US-held area, giving birth
without light, water or medical attention. We were not
visibly foreign any more and my ambulance, clearly
marked as such in English with flashing lights and
siren, was fired on by US marine snipers. We never got
to her. I don’t know what happened to her.
Cars packed with families queued at the edge of town.
Marines were firing at the cars. Troops inside the
town had been threatening people to leave by sunset or
they would be killed. As we left we were taken
prisoner by Iraqi gunmen, afraid that we were spies.
They, like the fighters near the clinic, were local
men, fighting for their homes and families. If there
are foreign fighters (other than US soldiers) in
Falluja now it is because that space was created for
them by the last attack. Another will only attract
An unnamed US official promises a “very bloody and
nasty” fight within what another official indicated
would be “the next few days” (Washington Post, Sat
16/10/04). Throwaway platitudes like “War is hell” are
not good enough. There are choices. The choice to be
complicit, to free up US troops to repeat that attack
must be consciously made. Each one of you has to
decide whether you accept that role.
I get quite a few e-mails from soldiers, US and
British, who are angry at what’s happening. They, and
you, didn’t risk your lives to go and make things
In April, when Falluja was attacked, there were
uprisings across the country, in Shia and Sunni areas
alike. In Shuala, Baghdad, there was fighting all
around the squatter camp where hundreds of homeless
people are living. Even Iraqi organisations couldn’t
help them and throughout April they got no aid
supplies at all.
Even in Thawra, where US troops once had something
like a welcome, there was fighting in the streets, in
Najaf, in Nasariya, in dozens of towns and villages
that never became news. Another attack on Falluja
emphatically won’t make the country safer for
British troops in Baghdad will sustain higher
casualties than in the south, will take the brunt of
the uprisings caused by US misjudgment and brutality.
The UK government will not be there for you or your
families when you are killed, maimed or poisoned by
depleted uranium weapons.
Please, don’t go. Please don’t make yourselves
complicit with the atrocities which will undoubtedly
be committed against ordinary Iraqi people in Falluja.
Please don’t put yourself closer to harm for the sake
of an ill-advised attack that will only make things