U.S. forces storm Samarra
By Nicole Colson | October 8, 2004 | Page 12
"I BLAME the Americans for this tragedy." With those words, Abdel-Hadi al-Badri, a cleric at the al-Mubashroun al-Ashra mosque in Baghdad, broke down in tears during Friday prayers last week.
The day before, 35 children were killed when Iraqi insurgents attacked a celebration staged by U.S. forces to mark the opening of a small sewage plant. Nearly a dozen Iraqi adults were also killed, and more than 140 people were wounded.
"These ceremonies are pretty well attended by people in the neighborhood," Lt. Col. James Hutton, spokesperson for the First Cavalry Division, told the New York Times. But what Hutton didn't say is that U.S. troops specifically called to children in the neighborhood prior to the ceremony--telling them to join the crowd and promising them candy.
The purpose of this? "They wanted to make human shields out of our children," al-Badri, whose son lost a leg in the explosion, told the Associated Press.
U.S. officials--including the politicians of both parties--were quick to denounce insurgents for killing innocent Iraqis. But anyone who wants to understand the real source of the violence in Iraq doesn't need to look any further than the new U.S. offensives launched across the country as part of a plan to establish "stability" prior to Iraqi elections set for January.
The worst violence came in Samarra, where U.S. troops hammered the city in an attempt to retake it from insurgents--a force of 1,000 rebels, the Pentagon claims. "We are going to go in there and quiet it down," one American officer smugly promised as the invasion began. But "quieting Samarra down" meant terrorizing the city's civilian population. During the three-day storming of the city, 5,000 troops--3,000 of them U.S. soldiers--attacked Samarra from three sides. As soldiers swept through neighborhoods and conducted house-to-house searches, U.S. helicopters flew overhead, firing at will.
U.S. officials estimated 125 people were killed--all of them "bad guys and terrorists," according to the U.S. military. But doctors in the city told the media that women, children and the elderly were among the dead--and that bodies were still being brought into hospitals. According to Britain's Independent, of 70 bodies brought to Samarra General Hospital, 23 were children and 18 women. "There were American snipers on rooftops who were shooting people trying to get to their homes," said resident Mohammed Ali Amin. "Even at the hospital, the Americans arrested injured boys of 15, saying they were insurgents."
When families tried to bury their dead, they found that the road to the cemetery was blocked--by U.S. soldiers. More than 500 families have been forced to flee Samarra, which lacks clean water and electricity. But according to Major Gen. John Batiste, the U.S. commander in charge of the assault, "This has been a successful operation...Operations will continue for a few days before we are satisfied that we've killed or captured as many of the enemy as we can."
In other words, the nightmare will continue for residents of Samarra. This kind of horror is being repeated, if on a slightly smaller scale, throughout Iraq--as the U.S. military tries to, as they put it, "soften up" cities where there is a large insurgent presence. The Pentagon is laying the groundwork for future assaults--attacks that the Bush administration will try to avoid carrying out in earnest prior to the November elections in the U.S.
In Falluja, the U.S. has begun regular bombing attacks--and according to a coalition spokesman, "A large number of enemy fighters are presumed killed." But residents say that at least 11 civilians have been killed in the recent wave of attacks--including eight at the home of a man known for his opposition to the militants. Video footage showed the body of a small girl being pulled from the rubble of the house. In Sadr City, a poor area in Baghdad, U.S. forces have been attacking with helicopter gunships and tanks, killing more than a dozen people early this week.
This chaos and violence will continue as long as the U.S. is allowed to remain in Iraq. We have to demand that the U.S. get out now.