Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people by, ya know, killing them:

QAIM, Iraq, June 23 -- Ahmed Hamad, a burly shepherd and smuggler, awoke to his mother's shouts. He looked at his watch. It was 1:10 a.m., he recalled. He gazed across a horizon illuminated by destruction, where U.S. aircraft were raining fire on four trucks. About a half-hour later, he said, a missile slammed into his house, killing his sister-in-law and her 1-year-old daughter.

The rest of his family, 10 in all, survived. On a hot summer night in Iraq's western desert, they had been sleeping outside on cots.

"Praise be to God," Hamad, 27, said from his hospital bed, shaking his head.

U.S. officials backed away from their initial assessments of whether the attack early Thursday near the village of Dhib killed top officials in the former Iraqi government, saying they had picked up no indications since the attack that Saddam Hussein or his sons, Uday and Qusay, had been in the convoy.

Angry and resentful, residents of the village interviewed today at Central Qaim Hospital, where two people wounded in the U.S. strike were taken, acknowledged that they could not know for certain all the occupants of the vehicles. And as smugglers, with a penchant for secrecy, they left some questions unanswered -- why the trucks were apparently empty, for instance. But they insisted the attack was a case of mistaken identity, that their houses were targeted unnecessarily and that the four vehicles were part of a smuggling attempt gone bad.

Residents said the U.S. blitz lasted two hours under cover of night. And they said they were left wondering why a village -- whose biggest change in the wake of the government's fall is that its sheep can graze closer to the Syrian border -- is now occupied by American forces.

"During the war, they flew over our village and never attacked us," Hamad said. "Why now?"

The U.S. military in Qaim refused to comment today on the attack. "The bottom line is it's an ongoing operation," said Capt. Aaron Barreda of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which is based locally in a cement factory outside the city.

No, Capt. Barreda. The bottom line is that by killing innocent sheepherders you are losing the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, and it might help explain why we're now involved in a guerrilla war against the same people we want to "save".

Thanks to BlogLeft for the link.