March 31st, ten women and children were killed near Najaf when a van
they were in was riddled with fire from U.S. Marines who had tried
to get it to stop at a military checkpoint. After Saturday's suicide
bombing that caused the death of four U.S. Marines at another checkpoint,
coalition forces are now instructed to shoot at any vehicle or person
that does not stop.
U.S. Marines said they had shouted at the driver to stop but to no
avail. They then fired warning shots, but the van ploughed on. The
matter is still under investigation.
to the BBC, and quoting the Washington Post, there are
conflicting reports that the warning shots were fired too late to
warn off the van. "You just [expletive] killed a family because
you didn't fire a warning shot soon enough!" the paper quotes
Captain Ronny Johnson as telling his platoon leader.)
U.S. officials are worried this incident will weigh heavily on their
campaign to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people and convince
them that this is a war of liberation.
(Professor Des Ball, of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre of
Canberra's Australian National University (ANU), believes that the
coalition may already be losing the publicity war: "Saddam and
his regime will go but the coalition's other war aims, I believe,
are in tatters,")
Last week, embedded London Times reporter Mark Franchetti
gave the following
chilling account of a battle that ensued for a strategic bridge
over the Euphrates river:
"Down the road, a little girl, no older than five and dressed
in a pretty orange and gold dress, lay dead in a ditch next to the
body of a man who may have been her father. Half his head was missing."
Franchetti reports that the U.S. Marines have become disillusioned
after nearly two weeks of fierce fighting with Iraqi forces. The fight
for the bridge at Nasiriyah will likely be forgotten as just another
chapter in the war. However, for Franchetti it brought him face to
face with the horrid facade of a war plan gone wrong:
"But it was also the turning point when the jovial band of brothers
from America lost all their assumptions about the war and became jittery
aggressors who talked of wanting to 'nuke' the place."
While one soldier confided to Franchetti that he was horrified at
the civilian toll, other U.S. Marines have taken a different approach
to liberating Iraq:
"The Iraqis are sick people and we are the chemotherapy,"
said Corporal Ryan Dupre. "I am starting to hate this country.
Wait till I get hold of a friggin' Iraqi. No, I won't get hold of
one. I'll just kill him."
Innocent Iraqis are being killed by the dozens every day in the current
phase of the war.
Agence France Presse reported
that "20 people including 11 children, were killed Saturday when
a nighttime air raid hit a farm in the Al-Janabiin suburb on the edge
On April 2nd, Al Jazeera news network reported that Bartallah, a predominantly
Iraqi Christian town north of Mosul, suffered heavy civilian casualties
after a night of intense coalition bombing. The local chief surgeon
at the hospital reported that there were 120 dead and wounded civilians
brought into the hospital within the past week.
Al Jazeera showed footage of an Iraqi Christian with severe injuries
to his face and head. In the bed next to him lay his wife, who miscarried
shortly after being brought into the hospital. Local doctors said
her face required 200 stitches and will likely be disfigured. The
couple did not know at press time that their three-year old daughter
had died in the bombing.
By the time there is a cessation of hostilities, thousands of dead
Iraqi civilians will have been liberated. Supporters of the war are
echoing Madeleine Albright and stating that it is better for Iraqis
to be killed and liberated than to be butchered by Saddam. A popular
myth making the rounds on the internet is that Saddam butchers many
more Iraqis than anyone else, therefore this war is good for the Iraqis.
The dead in Bartallah might disagree. If they could speak, that is.
Al-Atraqchi, B.Sc (Physics), M.A. (Journalism and
Communications), is a Canadian journalist with eleven years of
experience covering Middle East issues, oil and gas markets, and the