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Re: [casi] Right, again .. again...

Dear List,

The following article is a bit old, but I am offering
it to those who claim Iraqis are happy with the


Farah tried to plead with the US troops but she was
killed anyway

The death of two innocent Iraqis was thought so
unremarkable the US military did not even report it,
but Peter Beaumont says it reflects an increasingly
callous disregard of civilian lives in coalition

Sunday September 7, 2003
The Observer

Farah Fadhil was only 18 when she was killed. An
American soldier threw a grenade through the window of
her apartment. Her death, early last Monday, was slow
and agonising. Her legs had been shredded, her hands
burnt and punctured by splinters of metal, suggesting
that the bright high-school student had covered her
face to shield it from the explosion.
She had been walking to the window to try to calm an
escalating situation; to use her smattering of English
to plead with the soldiers who were spraying her
apartment building with bullets.

But then a grenade was thrown and Farah died. So did
Marwan Hassan who, according to neighbours, was caught
in the crossfire as he went looking for his brother
when the shooting began.

What is perhaps most shocking about their deaths is
that the coalition troops who killed them did not even
bother to record details of the raid with the
coalition military press office. The killings were
that unremarkable. What happened in Mahmudiya last
week should not be forgotten, for the story of this
raid is also the story of the dark side of the US-led
occupation of Iraq, of the violent and sometimes
lethal raids carried out apparently beyond any

For while the media are encouraged to count each US
death, the Iraqi civilians who have died at American
hands since the fall of Saddam's regime have been as
uncounted as their names have been unacknowledged.

Mahmudiya is typical of the satellite towns that ring
Baghdad, and the apartment block where Farah died was
typical of the blocks to be found there - five storeys
or so high, set among dusty paths lined with palms and
stunted trees. In Saddam's time, the people who lived
here were reasonably well-off - junior technicians for
the nearby factories run by the Ministry of Military
Industrialisation. These are not the poorest, but they
are by no stretch of the imagination well-off.

When the Americans arrived, say neighbours, the
residents of this cluster of blocks liked the young
GIs. They say there were no problems and that their
children played with the troops, while residents would
give them food as the patrols passed by.

But all that came to a sudden bloody end at 12.30am
last Monday, when soldiers arrived outside the
apartment block where Farah and her family lived. What
happened in a few minutes, and in the chaos of the
hours that followed, is written across its walls. The
bullet marks that pock the walls are spread in arcs
right across the front of the apartment house, so
widely spaced in places that the only conclusion you
can draw is that a line of men stood here and sprayed
the building wildly.

I stood inside and looked to where the men must have
been standing, towards the apartment houses the other
way. I could not find impacts on the concrete paths or
on the facing walls that would suggest that there was
a two-way firefight here. Whatever happened here was
one-sided, a wall of fire unleashed at a building
packed with sleeping families. Further examination
shows powder burns where door locks had been shot off
and splintered wood where the doors had been kicked
in. All the evidence was that this was a raid that -
like so many before it - went horribly wrong.

This is what the residents, and local police, told us
had happened. Inside the apartment with Farah were her
mother and a brother, Haroon, 13. As the soldiers
started smashing doors, they began to kick in Farah's
door with no warning. Panicking, and thinking that
thieves were breaking into the apartment, Haroon
grabbed a gun owned by his father and fired some shots
to scare them off. The soldiers outside responded by
shooting up the building and throwing grenades into
Farah's apartment.

The randomness of that firing is revealed by a visit
to the apartments. Windows are drilled with bullet
holes; ceilings in kitchens and bedrooms and living
areas are scarred where the rounds smashed in.
Hodhbain Tohma was on the roof, fiddling with his new
satellite dish to make it work, when the soldiers
came. 'I heard the shooting first, then an explosion.
Then I heard women screaming. I looked over the roof
and saw a line of soldiers on the path firing weapons
wildly towards the building as a helicopter arrived
above us. The shooting all seemed to me to be on one

Abdul Ali Hussein was in the apartment next door to
Farah's when the shooting began. 'I was asleep when we
heard the shooting, and then an explosion blew open my
door and filled my apartment with smoke. I grabbed my
family and took them to another room and covered them
with my body.

'I went to see if anyone needed my help next door. I
went into three rooms, saw Farah lying in the kitchen
near the window. She was injured and burnt, but still
alive. I ran to get cotton wrapping and bandages to
try and treat her. We didn't have enough and so tore
up a head-cloth to try and stop the bleeding. The
soldier shouted at me: "Where are the fedayeen ?" They
told me to leave her because she was dead.'

As we were talking, a weeping man in a head-cloth
arrived - Qasam Hassan, the brother of the second
fatality, Marwan. Qasam told us how Marwan died. 'When
I heard the heavy shooting, I was in another apartment
building visiting friends. My brother was worried, so
he went out to look for me. He was not carrying any
arms. He could not find me, and as he came back to the
building the Americans shot him. He ran and fell
behind the building and died. Among all of them they
only had one translator. How could people know what
was going on?'

What is most curious about this story is that, when I
called the US military press office in Baghdad, it
said it could find no record of the raid or of the
deaths. It is curious because the police in Mahmudiya
have told us how US military policemen delivered the
bodies to their station the next morning; how the
local commander had expressed his commiserations; how
the same Iraqi police had complained that the new
troops from the 82nd Airborne Division, who arrived
fresh from the US last month, had apparently reversed
the policy of the previous US unit in the town to take
local police on raids.

It became less puzzling when I spoke to Nada Doumani,
spokeswoman for the International Committee for the
Red Cross, who confirmed what she has said before -
that despite repeated requests from the Red Cross, it
can neither get information nor figures on civilian
deaths during raids.

What happened at Mahmudiya would be disturbing enough
if it was unique, but it is not. It is part of a
pattern that points not to a deliberate policy but
perhaps to something equally worrying, an
institutional lack of care among many in the US
military for whether civilians are killed in their
operations. It is not enough to say, as some defenders
of the US military in Iraq do, that its soldiers are
tired, frightened and under pressure from the
simmering guerrilla attacks directed against them. For
it is the impression that the US military gives of not
caring about those innocent Iraqis that they kill that
is stoking resentment.

Iraqis have been killed at vehicle checkpoints and
killed in their homes in night-time raids. Policemen
have been shot down doing what US forces have asked
them to do, trying to keep the peace. Indeed, the
allegations that US soldiers are too 'trigger happy'
even led to complaints, in mid-August from Ibrahim
al-Jaffri - then holding the rotating presidency of
the Iraqi provisional government - urging US troops to
exercise more care before firing.

'All we want are answers,' said Qassam Hassan. 'All we
are asking for is justice.'

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