Even as General Richard B. Meyers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, toured Iraq last week protected by his five Blackhawk choppers and proclaiming the American victory, the guerrilla resistance struck at will, killing two Americans on Wednesday, three on Thursday, four on Saturday, one on Sunday, and two on Monday.
In response to the continued killing of Yankee soldiers, U.S. commanders are staging raids on whole neighborhoods—killing those thought to be guerrillas, rounding up hundreds of others, ransacking homes. Last week, the American military kidnapped the wife and child of an Iraqi general and held them as ransom until the man turned himself in. On Sunday, a man got out of his car to tell American troops searching an area that he was not involved. They shot him.
The ingredients of guerrilla wars past, from Northern Ireland to Israel, are all around. There are plenty of loose weapons, from AK-47s to shoulder-fired missiles. A command structure can recruit from the 400,000 pissed-off former members of the Iraqi military. The place is awash in money—with an estimated $1.7 billion in stolen bank funds available—to pay the reported $1,500 bounty on each dead American. Religion, which once separated the secularized Baathists from religious Muslims, is becoming a unifying factor, with people gathering at mosques for anti-American sermons. And as is continually reported, there is little security and often no water or electricity. The liberators are unable to provide safety to the populace even from their own soldiers.
Consider the story of little Mohammad al-Kubaisi, as Amnesty International described it last week. On June 26, Mohammad was carrying the family bedding up to the roof, where they slept each night. As he climbed, Mohammad saw American soldiers searching nearby houses. He stopped to watch. Across the street, an American soldier spotted the boy and raised his gun. An Iraqi standing near the soldier said something about “that baby.” But the soldier said, “No baby,” and shot the boy.
When his mother heard Mohammad had been hit, she raced home and saw that he was still alive and scooped him up, but American soldiers searching the house “kicked her aside,” offering no medical treatment. Two neighbors rushed the boy to the hospital. But the road was blocked by an American tank, and when one of the neighbors tried to explain to an interpreter what was going on, the soldiers “handcuffed them behind their back and threw them face down on the ground.” After 15 minutes, the Iraqis were allowed to get up and told to go home because the curfew had begun. It was too late for little Mohammad. He had died.
So goes the battle for the hearts and minds of Iraq.
Additional reporting: Phoebe St John