The Mystery of Black Bags Falling from the Sky*


Sabir Shawkat, Baghdad:


This crucial report has gathered facts and confessions about the American army’s disposal of the corpses of its soldiers by throwing them off airplanes into rivers and remote parts of the desert to be devoured by wild animals or disintegrated in streams, confirming that this will remain a humanitarian crime and a disgrace to the image of “supreme”America and her claims of being the home of contemporary humane civilisation.


The Americans were surprised when their corpses were returned to them!


Divine justice willed the simple people of Iraq to gather these bodies, which the American army had thought it had disposed of, and bury them in mass graves in a number of areas including along the Diyala River, the Tharthar region of Samarra  and the remote Wadi Hayran in the Rut’ba region. Perhaps the commanders who had given the order to dispose of the bodies of their dead in this brutal manner had thought that this crime would remain hidden among the tumultuous events in Iraq but they did not imagine that divine justice was lying in wait for them at that moment. They also had not imagined that the Iraqi people who would collect the corpses from the rivers and the valleys in the name of humanity and compassion and would then bury them in mass graves in their black bags were aware that they were collecting evidence of this horrific crime, that, with the passage of time, will remain a testimony to the brutality of the leaders and officials of the American occupying army in Iraq.


It was for this reason that when I went to the Diyala region, 60km east of Baghdad, to investigate the truth about the mass graves of the corpses of American soldiers there that one of the prominent fishermen, F.S. made me assure him that I would not take photographs or mention their names or his colleagues for fear that the American occupying forces will take revenge on them if they find out that it was they who had uncovered their crime. The fear of the Diyala River fishermen started at the end of August when they caught black bags in their nets containing the corpses of 3 American soldiers. They informed the American forces who took them from them and from fishermen from other areas on the Tigris and in remote regions. The bodies were disfigured and there were female corpses among them. Most of the bodies were naked and fire had completely disfigured their faces. They were surprised that the American forces then told them that these soldiers had committed suicide by throwing themselves into the river.


The fishermen thereupon realised that the American forces were hiding a crime that they did not want anyone to know about. Some of the fishermen thought that there may be a reward from the American forces for returning the bodies of their colleagues but they were surprised that, in some cases, they were accused of having killed them. The fishermen then stopped sending the corpses to the Americans and decided to bury whatever they caught in the nets in mass graves once the number of bags containing American soldiers being thrown out of helicopters at dawn started to increase; they were afraid that the river would become polluted by the corpses disintegrating in them.



The fishermen’s nets fill up on the dawn fishing trip


The Diyala River is a small river that has its source in Iran and flows into the Tigris and the outlying areas that are rarely frequented except by farmers and fishermen. The fishermen of the Diyala River area are good people who live a primitive lifestyle and cannot believe the latest thing that the Americans, who came under the pretext of liberating them from the tyranny of their ruler, are doing in throwing their own children into their deserted river because their corpses are disfigured. The fishermen stated that the matter began at the end of August when the fishermen gathered at dawn to start fishing as it was the best time for it. They were surprised to see American helicopters throw huge bags out into the darkness of dawn; the pilots had no idea that there were fishermen on the shore fishing at that moment and when the fishermen cast their nets, instead of catching fish, they caught what the helicopters had thrown out. Back on the shore, the fishermen opened the black bags and were surprised to find completely charred corpses inside them; among them were young women and all the bodies were naked, however, there were still a few features on them that proved that they were foreigners and not Iraqis and that they had the features of different nationalities. The smell of the corpses was putrid. The fishermen live a primitive lifestyle along their small river and have the sincerity of peace-loving people, thus they know that the dead deserve respect and that corpses should be buried in the ground and should not be left to dissolve in the river, so they dug a mass grave and buried them at a number of places along the shore of the Diyala River.


When I suggested to them that we dig up one of the holes to find out what is inside, the fishermen almost pounded me for making such a foolish suggestion, proving their respect for the dead and as there were a lot of female American soldiers among them, how could I look at the naked corpses? The fishermen confirmed that they had the corpses of more than 65 soldiers from the American army in their mass graves whom they had buried and that they were prepared only to reveal their secrets to neutral international organisations so that these victims may be returned to their families and to their mothers in America to calm the grieving mothers.


Wolves Led Us to Them!


Y.A., who is from Tikrit and lives in Samarra states that his brother works in civil defence with the American occupying forces and, with his colleagues, is in charge of moving the dead and injured American soldiers who are left behind after an attack by the Iraqi resistance; his brother told him that the number of dead announced by the occupation command after an operation by the Iraqi resistance is far lower than the real number. During the last operation in which an American helicopter was shot down in Falluja at the beginning of Ramadan, the occupation command announced that the number of American dead was 13 soldiers whereas the truth is that his brother and his colleagues collected the bodies of more than 30 American soldiers, most of whom had been burned and had suffered complete facial disfiguration through burns. Y.A also stated that in the isolated Tharthar region in the Samarra desert and in remote Wadi Hayran, some nomadic Bedouins had discovered the corpses of American soldiers in black bags. The inhabitants of the city of Rut’ba noticed an increase in the number of wolves in the area because of the large number of corpses which had been thrown in the desert by American helicopters in the hope that wolves and other wild animals would devour them, but the local people gathered many of the remaining corpses and buried them in a mass grave out of compassion for the dead and also to get rid of the wolves who had gathered around the corpses. The people of Rut’ba had assumed this same position at the beginning of the war on Iraq when there were Arab mujahideen in the area, positioned in trenches in the desert to fight the American invasion and to destroy American airplanes. The people of Rut’ba only knew that their corpses were scattered when the number of wolves increased so they went into the desert and started burying them in mass graves; after many months, they are burying American corpses in the same area and they are asking themselves perplexedly why American helicopters are throwing the corpses of their sons and daughters from the American army into the desert and the rivers to dispose of them instead of sending them to their families in America to be buried there such as is decreed by human and all divine laws? Is this the civilisation they want to spread in Iraq?


He pounced on me like a crazed animal!


Was it necessary to find an answer to this question?


American soldiers on the streets of Baghdad are armed to the teeth and protected by their armoured vehicles and tanks and their hands are constantly on the cock of their guns itching to shoot and kill some innocent people in the name of protecting themselves from resistance operations. For this reason, they do not allow us to approach them and talk to them; they are in a state of constant fear. Behind the Palestine Hotel which is surrounded by barbwire fences and intense security measures, there were two armoured cars taking a break; the soldiers inside were sleeping deeply in a state of fatigue and stress when I approached them, trying to take a picture of the driver next to the open door and of the machinegun that was thrown in front of him. He noticed me and attacked me like a crazed animal; his hand was on the cock of his gun while I raised my hand to the camera in surrender until his senior officer came and saved me. He took the film from my camera and swore at me. I tried to get an answer to the perplexing question but he reprimanded me and sent me away from the hotel.


I was afforded the chance to speak to one of them one morning in Sadoun Street. I started my discussion with Bird, an American conscript from Texas. She told me that her work focussed on supervising American soldiers and their discipline levels during patrols on the streets of Baghdad and that that was what her colleagues were doing in all the provinces of Iraq. I asked her the truth about some recruits running away and escaping over the borders. She replied coolly that they did not really belong to the American army because they were mercenaries working under special wages and arrangements from the beginning of the war; they were people of many nationalities from all over the world who dreamed of obtaining American citizenship. When they had joined the American army in response to advertisements published last year before the war, they joined under specific conditions, that they would receive a salary and honours during the war on Iraq and after victory and their return to the United States, they were entitled to change their status from being green card holders to being of American citizenship.


Bird said, ‘unfortunately since President Bush announced the end of hostilities and military operations in Iraq in May, these soldiers are entitled to terminate their service and to slip through the borders around Iraq without facing the penalty for running away from the battle field. The flight of these soldiers increased recently when resistance activities started to increase. Many of them when they are detained give the excuse that the battle is over and that they did not run away as there is no combat! We throw them in jail and some of them are sent to the command in Qatar to be dealt with there’. She said that the disciplinary police focus their work on the streets of Baghdad mainly on watching the discipline of these soldiers as the majority of them work under pressure and do not believe in the cause; ‘the majority of them want to run for their lives and relinquish the American citizenship for which they had joined the army’.


A conscript accuses her colleague of lying!


I took the liberty of asking Bird the perplexing question about the truth about the corpses which had been thrown from American helicopters into remote areas of Iraq and as to why they had not been returned to America.

She answered awkwardly, ‘these types of stories have spread to the soldiers’ camps and have caused a breakdown in their mental state because they fear such stories, but I assured them that they were only rumours, which was also what our commanding officers assured us that they were’.


All the while, Bird’s colleague Marta, another conscript, was sitting on her gun nearby watching us talk. Suddenly she became hysterical and stated that Bird was lying and that she knew that the truth was that her colleagues whose faces had been disfigured by the fire that destroyed their bodies and who could not be saved from being burned by the American rescue forces were disposed of in unknown parts of Iraq in mysterious ways; they are considered “missing” out of fear that if they are returned to their families in America, they will not be able to look at them to bid them a final farewell as their faces are disfigured’.


Bird said coolly that her colleague Marta was in a terrible state mentally as she had lost a friend in the army whose face had been burned and in fact, his body had not been sent to his family and we do not know exactly where he was buried in Iraq. She said, ‘Marta is a young woman of 20 years and we are worried about her health since she lost her friend. We are really helpless, especially the young women and I am like them; we love life and as fighters, we belong to the most powerful army in the world. We carry out orders efficiently and we can defeat any military power in any battle but here we are in Iraq and we don’t know exactly what is required of us. We have completed the task of liberating the Iraqi people and saving the whole world from the brutality of Saddam Hussein and we must turn around and go back to our country to enjoy our lives but we are here among civilians fighting phantoms that we can’t see and killing innocent civilians and children. Here we are really only protecting our lives from unknown phantoms who do not make themselves known and we do not know about them’.


Marta said, hysterically, ‘we don’t know exactly what Bush and Rumsfeld want us to do in Iraq. We are doing nothing here except losing close colleagues everyday that are killed by phantoms that we can’t see. We cannot even say goodbye to the bodies of our colleagues who are burned and have been disfigured; their recompense is that they are thrown into rivers at night and gotten rid of”. Marta said, “do you know what my ultimate goal is now? It is to return to my country soon to live with my family and my ultimate desire if I am killed in Iraq is to be killed only by a bullet and not to have my body burned so that I can return to my country and so that my mother can see me for the last time. This is the cherished goal here; all of us hope to go back alive or as corpses and to not meet the frightening fate of having our corpses disposed of at night’.


They are not our colleagues


At the gates of Baghdad University, an American tank stands guard; one of the conscripts inside has become friends with the sister of my driver who asked her for me, ‘America is a civilised country that believes in human rights, so how can you allow the corpses of your colleagues in the army to be thrown into rivers and remote desert?’ The conscript replied to her, frustrated and arrogantly, that ‘they’re not our colleagues. They are mercenaries who joined us under special conditions in the hope of obtaining American citizenship; among the conditions that they have to meet is that their families who live illegally in America have no legal right to ask for their bodies and to send them to their families in a grave state, but perhaps their families are happy to have achieved the dream of obtaining American citizenship for which their son died’.


One of the answers of the American conscript was that these people, in her opinion, do not deserve to have their corpses returned to the USA because at the end of the day, they are mercenaries without a cause for which they are fighting such as that which she and her colleagues in the American army believe in; ‘they are second class people and they have no rights and deserve to have their corpses thrown in the desert’. She views them as a great point of weakness in the American army and their actions and the flight of some of them is a direct cause for the downfall in the mental morale of the American army in Iraq!


What is the most secret American place in Iraq?

 In the conference palace in Baghdad, the headquarters of the American Media Centre, the contact officer answered the question because of my insistence and my assurance that I would not mention his name, saying, ‘the decision to get rid of the corpses of the disfigured soldiers and the volunteer soldiers in this savage way was an internal decision; it is said to have been issued by the high command of the allied forces at their headquarters in Qatar. The American administration knows nothing about it but I can say certainly that it is a decision that the American administration agrees with completely. This is so as not to allow President Bush’s popularity to fall at this critical stage of the election campaign so he can win the second round in office that he dreams of and so as not to provoke American popular opinion, by sending all the corpses to their families, into re-examining the immensity of the losses in Iraq and to not squander the dreams of President Bush’s supporters at the time of a second term as president as they would also lose their Iraq cake which they have not yet enjoyed eating because of the oil pipeline explosions’. The American officer said that what happens to the corpses of the American soldiers is a humanitarian crime that cannot be justified and they are hiding behind the decision to not send the burnt corpses to their families in America because they have been disfigured by fire and would not benefit from final farewell ceremonies.


The American officer stated, ‘but if hiding the corpses is to hide the facts that made them escape, then sending the wounded to hospitals in America daily would expose them. Everyday we send more than 50 wounded soldiers to America, most of them have been saved from death but they have lost limbs and have become the remnants of human beings. Since the Vietnam war, these are the first large groups of wounded in the American army who are falling everyday in a war we do not know exactly how to end, especially as we have achieved the goal and put an end to Saddam Hussein’s regime. There is no justification now for the loss of this huge number of soldiers on a daily basis and for getting rid of their bodies in mysterious ways. The place has changed from being for the use of medical services at the headquarters of the allied command in Baghdad to the place surrounded by the most secrecy so that the number of dead and injured does not leak to the forces and so that no one will ever know the true number of dead’.


* This article was first publish in

This article was translated from Arabic by Dr. Mohammed Al-Obaidi