US War Planes Kill 40 Iraqis Near the Syrian Border
The NYT report on the US helicopter gunship attack that killed 40 Iraqis, including 15 children and 10 women is typical of reporting on this incident in showing puzzlement at what actually happened. The US military claims that they were hitting arms smugglers coming across the border from Syria, and have good evidence in the form of captured materials that that is what they did hit. Local people told reporters that the US had hit a wedding party. My suspicion is that the US military mistook the wedding party, which included celebratory fire, for combatants. They did this once before, in Afghanistan. And I wish the US military spokesmen could be more gracious about such errors. They seemed to deny having hit civilians, and insisted it was a righteous strike, even as all the reports were coming on the Arab satellite channels about the dead at the wedding party.
Can’t they just say that they are deeply sorry for the Iraqis’ loss, and that they are not sure what went wrong, and will investigate? If they did kill so many women and children, surely that is a mistake no matter how you parse it, and they may as well admit it. It is this arrogance and instistence that the US is always right that has caused almost 90% of the Iraqis to come to view the Americans as occupiers rather than liberators.
Update 5/20: I just saw Gen. Kimmit on television denying that US forces saw any children at the site that was hit. But video and Arab television and press reports clearly show women and children casualties! This way lies a further erosion of the credibility of the US military in Iraq.
A reader writes:
As someone who has spent 8 years in the Middle East, mostly in Saudi Arabia, I just had to shake my head when I read the following quote;
“Ten miles from Syrian border and 80 miles from nearest city and a wedding party? Don’t be naive,” said Marine Maj. Gen. James N. Mattis in Fallujah. “Plus they had 30 males of military age with them. How many people go to the middle of the desert to have a wedding party?”
This guy obviously doesn’t know Arabs or Arab culture. On many occasions, Saudis I know spent the weekend “in the desert” for a wedding or other celebration. On one occasion, a Saudi that I worked with . . . asked me if we could trade cars for the weekend so he could attend a relatives wedding being held “in the desert”. I had great fun driving his Mercedes around Riyadh that weekend while he had great fun driving my jeep to and from the desert. And his “30 males of military age” comment? That’s truly ridiculous. I’ve been to LOTS of weddings that had “30 males of military age with them”. That comment was just plain stupid.”
Cole here: I concur. In my trips to the Gulf I was always taken to the desert late at night by my hosts for a kind of extended picnic, with lots of (gender segregated) festivities, poetry, singing.