Video shows the truth about Iraqi wedding

OK, so there’s a video of the wedding and a video taken after the US bombed the wedding that proves the Americans are lying.

In the face of such overwhelming evidence that they had killed innocent revellers, the US stubbornly insisted that the raid was against a “suspected foreign fighter safe house”. A statement even claimed that “during the operation, coalition forces came under hostile fire and close air support was provided.”

Brigadier Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations for the US military in Iraq, said: “We took ground fire and we returned fire. We estimate that around 40 were killed. But we operated within our rules of engagement.”

That, you see, is how Americans in Iraq have managed to turn the entire country against them and foster a murderous insurgency. AP reports:

The bride arrives in a white pickup truck and is quickly ushered into a house by a group of women. Outside, men recline on brightly colored silk pillows, relaxing on the carpeted floor of a large goat-hair tent as boys dance to tribal songs.

The videotape obtained Sunday by Associated Press Television News captures a wedding party that survivors say was later attacked by U.S. planes early Wednesday, killing up to 45 people. The dead included the cameraman, Yasser Shawkat Abdullah, hired to record the festivities, which ended Tuesday night before the planes struck.

Kimmitt’s Lie:

“There was no evidence of a wedding: no decorations, no musical instruments found, no large quantities of food or leftover servings one would expect from a wedding celebration,” Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said Saturday. “There may have been some kind of celebration. Bad people have celebrations, too.”

The truth:

But video that APTN shot a day after the attack shows fragments of musical instruments, pots and pans and brightly colored beddings used for celebrations, scattered around the bombed out tent.

The wedding videotape shows a dozen white pickup trucks speeding through the desert escorting the bridal car – decorated with colorful ribbons. The bride wears a Western-style white bridal dress and veil. The camera captures her stepping out of the car but does not show a close-up.

An AP reporter and photographer, who interviewed more than a dozen survivors a day after the bombing, were able to identify many of them on the wedding party video – which runs for several hours.

APTN also traveled to Mogr el-Deeb, 250 miles west of Ramadi, the day after the attack to film what the survivors said was the wedding site. A devastated building and remnants of the tent, pots and pans could be seen, along with bits of what appeared to be the remnants of ordnance, one of which bore the marking “ATU-35,” similar to those on U.S. bombs.

A water tanker truck can be seen in both the video shot by APTN and the wedding tape obtained from a cousin of the groom.

The singing and dancing seems to go on forever at the all-male tent set up in the garden of the host, Rikad Nayef, for the wedding of his son, Azhad, and the bride Rutbah Sabah. The men later move to the porch when darkness falls, apparently taking advantage of the cool night weather. Children, mainly boys, sit on their fathers’ laps; men smoke an Arab water pipe, finger worry beads and chat with one another. It looks like a typical, gender-segregated tribal desert wedding.weddingparty

As expected, women are out of sight – but according to survivors, they danced to the music of Hussein al-Ali, a popular Baghdad wedding singer hired for the festivities. Al-Ali was buried in Baghdad on Thursday.

Prominently displayed on the videotape was a stocky man with close-cropped hair playing an electric organ. Another tape, filmed a day later in Ramadi and obtained by APTN, showed the musician lying dead in a burial shroud – his face clearly visible and wearing the same tan shirt as he wore when he performed.

As the musicians played, young men milled about, most dressed in traditional white robes. Young men swayed in tribal dances to the monotonous tones of traditional Arabic music. Two children – a boy and a girl – held hands, dancing and smiling. Women are rarely filmed at such occasions, and they appear only in distant glimpses.

Kimmitt lies again:

Kimmitt said U.S. troops who swept through the area found rifles, machine guns, foreign passports, bedding, syringes and other items that suggested the site was used by foreigners infiltrating from Syria.

The videotape showed no weapons, although they are common among rural Iraqis.

Kimmitt has denied finding evidence that any children died in the raid although a “handful of women” – perhaps four to six – were “caught up in the engagement.”

“They may have died from some of the fire that came from the aircraft,” he told reporters Friday.

The truth:

an AP reporter obtained names of at least 10 children who relatives said had died. Bodies of five of them were filmed by APTN when the survivors took them to Ramadi for burial Wednesday. Iraqi officials said at least 13 children were killed.

Four days after the attack, the memories of the survivors remain painful – as are their injuries.

Haleema Shihab, 32, one of the three wives of Rikad Nayef, said that as the first bombs fell, she grabbed her seven-month old son, Yousef, and clutching the hands of her five-year-old son, Hamza, started running. Her 15-year-old son, Ali, sprinted alongside her. They managed to run for several yards when she fell – her leg fractured.

“Hamza was yelling, ‘mommy,'” Shihab, recalled. “Ali said he was hurt and that he was bleeding. That’s the last time I heard him.” Then another shell fell and injured Shihab’s left arm.

“Hamza fell from my hand and was gone. Only Yousef stayed in my arms. Ali had been hit and was killed. I couldn’t go back,” she said from her hospital bed in Ramadi. Her arm was in a cast.

She and her stepdaughter, Iqbal – who had caught up with her – hid in a bomb crater. “We were bleeding from 3 a.m. until sunrise,” Shihab said.

Soon American soldiers came. One of them kicked her to see if she was alive, she said.

“I pretended I was dead so he wouldn’t kill me,” said Shihab. She said the soldier was laughing. When Yousef cried, the soldier said: “‘No, stop,” said Shihab.

Fourteen-year-old Moza, Shihab’s stepdaughter, lies on another bed of the hospital room. She was hurt in the leg and cries. Her relatives haven’t told her yet that her mother, Sumaya, is dead.

Read the rest, if you can stand it.

Death Total Tops 800

Another grim milestone was reached on Sunday with the deaths of two more American soldiers in Iraq. Despite the recent American pullout, the deaths occurred in the city of Fallujah, bringing the death total above 800. UPI reports:

    Two U.S. soldiers were killed and five others were wounded Sunday in a suicide attack near the city of Fallujah, in Western Iraq.

    Iraqi sources said a suicide bomber drove a booby-trapped car into an American military column near Fallujah, 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Baghdad.

    They said the attack was immediately followed by mortar fire directed at the same convoy, killing and injuring the soldiers.

As of Monday, the Department of Defense listed 797 American military deaths [pdf] in Iraq. Our count was in line with the military’s until a few weeks ago and the discrepency is still undetermined. We are, however, confident in our numbers.

Rumsfeld bans cameras

In keeping with the current neocon/republican argument that the Iraqi prisoner torture problem isn’t as bad as the fact that incontrovertible evidence of it in the form of gruesome video and digital images has been made public, Rumsfeld has banned…..not torture, but cameras.

Mobile phones fitted with digital cameras have been banned in United States Army installations in Iraq on orders from Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, The Business newspaper reported on Sunday.

Quoting a Pentagon source, the paper said the US Defence Department believes that some of the damning photos of US soldiers abusing Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad were taken with camera phones.

“Digital cameras, camcorders and mobile phones with cameras have been prohibited in military compounds in Iraq,” it said.

A “total ban throughout the US military” is in the works, it added.

Every thing secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show it can bear discussion and publicity.– Lord Acton

Sanchez present during torture?

From the Dow Jones Newswire:

NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- A military lawyer for a soldier charged in the Abu Ghraib abuse case testified that a captain at the Baghdad prison said the highest-ranking U.S. military officer in Iraq was present during some ” interrogations and/or allegations of prisoner abuse,” The Washington Post reported on its Web site Saturday, citing a a recording of a military hearing it said it obtained.

The Post reported that the lawyer said he was told that Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez and other senior military officers were aware of what was taking place on Tier 1A of Abu Ghraib. The lawyer, Capt. Robert Shuck, said a sargeant at the prison as prepared to testify that intelligence officers told him the abuse of detainees on the cellblock was “the right thing to do.”

According to the report, Shuck is assigned to defend Staff Sgt. Ivan L. “Chip” Frederick II of the 372nd Military Police Company. During an April 2 hearing that was open to the public, Shuck said that the company commander, Capt. Donald J. Reese, was prepared to testify in exchange for immunity. The military prosecutor questioned Shuck about what Reese would say under oath.

“Are you saying that Captain Reese is going to testify that General Sanchez was there and saw what was going on?” The Post quoted military prosecutor Capt. John McCabe as saying.

“That’s what he told me,” Shuck was quoted as sayijng. “I am an officer of the court, sir, and I would not lie. I have got two children at home. I’m not going to risk my career.”

Devastating UK memo leaked

The Sunday Times and the Scotsman are both reporting on a memo highly critical of American “heavy handed tactics” in Iraq and accusing the US of responsibility for the uprisings currently engulfing Iraq:

THE FIRST cracks in Britain’s coalition with the United States over the occupation of Iraq were exposed last night by a leaked government memo which revealed deep misgivings about America’s “heavy-handed” tactics in the war-torn country.

The damning document, produced by a team working for Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, disclosed private reservations within Tony Blair’s administration about Washington’s approach to the post-war occupation.

The detailed memo, sent to senior ministers and top officials last week as a “progress report” on the occupation, stressed the need for the UK government to press the Americans to soften their approach and avoid aggressive responses “which would jeopardise our objectives”.

It also talked of “the need to redouble our efforts to ensure a sensitive and sensible US approach to military operations”.

The revelations shatter the government’s long-held insistence that there are no differences between Downing Street and the White House over Iraq.

The six-page memo suggests that the US tactics have particularly damaged support among ordinary Iraqis and stirred up much of the unrest which has exploded into violence in recent months.

And, in a startling admission, it also declares that the “scandal” over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners in Coalition-run jails has damaged the “moral authority” of Britain and the US as they struggle to justify their decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial regime.

“We should not underestimate the present difficulties,” the document states, in a section headed ‘Problems’. “Heavy-handed US military tactics in Fallujah and Najaf some weeks ago have fuelled both Sunni and Shi’ite opposition to the Coalition and lost us much public support inside Iraq.”

The memo, reported in the Sunday Times, adds: “The scandal of the treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib [prison] has sapped the moral authority of the Coalition, inside Iraq and internationally.”

The memo continues to detail two possibilities for UK troops in Iraq, neither of them having anything to do with British troops mixing with the Americans. The Independent writes, in an article titled “‘Spray and slay’: are American troops out of control in Iraq?

“The British military tends to have far more open dealings with the local population than the Americans,” said Christopher Bellamy, professor of military science at Cranfield University. “While the British rely more on local intelligence to warn them of trouble in advance, US forces have a ‘stand-off’ posture, which means trouble tends to erupt without warning. As a result they need to deliver enormous amounts of firepower to overcome it.”

Eleanor Goldsworthy, UK forces specialist at the Royal United Services Institute, said the approach taken by British forces in Iraq was: “If we behave, we earn their goodwill.” The American attitude, by contrast, was: “If they behave, they earn our goodwill.” And if they don’t, others might add, US forces will punish them – the policy that appeared to be adopted when the Marines moved on Fallujah last month in the wake of the deaths of four American private security men.

The insistence of the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, on a “war lite” policy, said Professor Bellamy, meant that “American forces have to make up in firepower what they lack in manpower”. Because US soldiers specialised early in their careers, and received less overall training than their British counterparts, the majority were not effective combat troops, and had to be protected by those with the appropriate training.

“The philosophy is almost that of the wagon train, and tends to lead to the ‘spray and slay’ behaviour we have seen,” said the analyst.”It is hard to over-estimate the lack of awareness of most American soldiers in Iraq,” said a military source. “Many, perhaps most, have never been abroad before. They see their mission as giving democracy to the Iraqis and enforcing stability, and find it very difficult to understand why the Iraqis aren’t grateful. They have no idea that they are seen as arrogant and aggressive.”

In the view of British forces, the source added, such attitudes had led to a succession of “fundamental mistakes”, and had made senior officers extremely hostile to being put under American command. This is one of the options reported to be under consideration by Downing Street this weekend as the deployment of more British forces is weighed.

The US wants Britain to take over from the departed Spanish contingent in the Shia holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, where American firepower is being deployed against militias loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia cleric declared an outlaw by Washington.

“Seeking to adopt normal low-profile British tactics in the wake of American aggressiveness would be difficult enough,” said the military source, “but to have to go in under US operational command would be a disaster.”

The situation is clearly becoming untenable and unsustainable, as the Scotsman reports another scoop:

Scotland on Sunday has discovered that a private security company headed by former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind is making millions from a contract to protect Foreign Office staff working in Iraq.

ArmorGroup, the biggest security firm working in Iraq, is one of two companies that have raked in a total of £15m between them for providing round-the-clock cover in the treacherous environment of post-war Iraq during the past year.

Rifkind, the Tory candidate for Kensington and Chelsea, sparked protests from political opponents last month when he took over the chairmanship of ArmorGroup, which has 700 employees in Iraq.

Straw has admitted ArmorGroup and Control Risks are being paid a combined total of £50,000 every day to protect bureaucrats stationed in Iraq, amid mounting concerns about the safety of civilians in the war-torn country.

The fee was described as a “minuscule amount” by one government official last night. But furious MPs condemned the outlay as “appalling value for money”, and claimed the government should not be ploughing money into a controversial industry that is making huge profits as part of the reconstruction effort in Iraq.

More than a dozen firms, many employing former servicemen, have been registered to work in Iraq, protecting politicians, civil servants and staff at several of the companies that have won contracts to rebuild Iraq’s shattered infrastructure.

But the security bill is swallowing up a huge chunk of the $18bn set aside by the Americans for rebuilding the country.

“Some of the firms in Iraq provide very good protection, but I am very concerned that the government is paying so much money for it,” said Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay.

“There are few ground rules for what these companies are allowed to do. I would like to think our government could provide this sort of protection from its own forces, particularly when so many of the people working for these security companies have left the forces.”

Private security companies have an estimated 10,000 guards in Iraq. Their lucrative trade has provoked a series of complaints about the influence of heavily armed personnel who are not under the direct control of official forces.

Clearly, the British military realizes the disaster the American approach in Iraq has been since American-fostered hatred of the occupation is endangering the lives of British troops and bureaucrats. None of the “coalition” countries envisioned being dragged into a quagmire of the dimensions the US has created. Finally, some of them have realized that they must break ranks with the Americans and speak out against the violent American response to virtually every situation in which they find themselves, lest UK troops be overrun by enraged Iraqis, forced to fight in desperation by aggressive American arrogance and ignorance.

Tagging this on from one of my favorite Brit bloggers:

Whether Greenstock is dumb enough to believe the situation can still be turned around, which is possible given his previous statements; or whether he is trying to drum up support for the deluded Blair, one can’t say. But you can be sure that Greenstock has about as much credibility these days as Chalabi and should be taken about as seriously.

What Greenstock means of course is that when the US admits defeat in Iraq the whole Western policy towards the Middle East is finished and life will not look so good. So Greenstock is preparing us for the apocolyptic fight he thinks we should have. But of course no matter what happens now America and Britain have lost. Iraq has been turned into Afghanastan, we have enraged Muslim opinion worldwide, and the American military have been shown for the incompetent barbarian army many suspected they were.

“If” we lose indeed. What a fool.