September 17, 2004
Samarra bridge-pushing update
You may have missed this one from last week:
"Criminal charges against two of four Fort Carson soldiers accused of forcing Iraqis to leap from a bridge into the Tigris River have been dropped, the Army said Tuesday.
"Sgt. Reggie Martinez and Spc. Terry Bowman, of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, will receive nonjudicial punishment..."
Martinez, is, of course, the fellow who it turns out actually pushed Zeyad's cousin off a dam, drowning him. He was acquitted on the involuntary manslaughter charge, claiming he was only following orders. Amazing that still works, isn't it?
Here's a little more background:
"Sgt. Alexis Rincon, a member of the patrol that night, testified the soldiers forced the men to jump and that Martinez leveled a rifle at one of them. Rincon said the man hesitated, but jumped after the second Iraqi said something to him in Arabic.
"None of soldiers thought the men were in danger because one quickly made it to shore, Rincon said. He said he would not have left the scene had he known one of the men was drowning, but asked if he would have gone to the man's aid, Rincon replied: 'I don't know about jumping in and saving him.'"
The 1st Sgt and Lieutenant also faced charges, but those are likely going to be dropped soon, too, reports the Rocky Mountain News:
"Army investigators testified that they never saw [the victim] Hassoun's body and had no evidence confirming that a body existed, except for the account of Hassoun's cousin and a videotape of a body during funeral preparations by Hassoun's family.
"Other members of the platoon testified they saw two men standing on the riverbank and believed both men were safely out of the water.
"The soldiers' testimony coupled with the lack of a body prompted the hearing officer, Capt. Robert Ayers, to recommend that manslaughter charges be dropped..."
Who's going to tell Zeyad? Be careful if you do... Andrew Sullivan is already concerned today that he isn't sounding "too optimistic." Meanwhile Jeff Jarvis, who has constantly promoted everything Zeyad has had to say that buoyed the pro-occupation viewpoint, continues his nine-month silence on anything related to this incident.
Air power, vs. air time
"As a US military spokesman announced on Monday that it had mounted a "precision" raid on Islamic militants in Fallujah, Iraqis were watching television pictures of a Red Crescent ambulance in the city torn apart by a US bomb. It killed the driver, a paramedic and five patients."
--Patrick Coburn, the Independent
Nice little piece on memorial here
The Star and Post both did the Pickersgill-Macalister memorial, but the Post is subscription and the Star didn't put it on their site, so I'm linking instead to this nice little local paper piece with a teeny-tiny pic of the event. Well, there's another of my 15 minutes gone.
Truth or half-truth?
"The last thing the Americans are going to do now is Stalingradize Fallujah. They're Marines; they're good at this. They'll come up with something far more subtle than, say, the Russians would in this same situation, so much so that I think a lot of the jingopunditry will be disappointed by the apparent mildness of the response, if and when one becomes obvious."
--Flit, April 5
"We felt like we had a method that we wanted to apply to Fallujah, that we ought to probably let the situation settle before we appeared to be attacking out of revenge,"
--General Conway, commander of the first Fallujah offensive.
Conway goes on to say he was overruled by higher on the need to attack, which was obvious, and that he was also then overruled on the need to stop it. Conway's comments have been interpreted in the blogosphere as Washington suddenly one day (with Conway on the cusp of victory, no less!) saying, "stop, we're flinching over here."
It's interesting, though, that he says the final decision that the Marines would stop and pull out came only three days into the attack. Given that the Marine attack began on April 5, that meant the American senior leadership had decided it was going to be a failure somewhere around April 8... so that next three weeks of siege, culminating in the "Fallujah Brigade" announcement of April 30, were all just extrication, without any plan of returning to the attack. Conway doesn't spell out what exactly happened on April 8, but one presumes he's referring to the decision, under IGC pressure, to lift the cordon to allow aid from Baghdad into the city around that date... once the Fallujans had a road in and out, with food and medical supplies coming in again, the Americans accepted the battle was effectively over.
Remembering that the 1st Sadrist revolt was in full swing on April 8, and that the Iraqi IGC was threatening to resign en masse if Fallujah wasn't preserved, ending any hope of keeping the inexplicably crucial June 30 deadline (remember that one?), one can understand the political calculus here, too, of course. Conway sees the stopping and starting of what he clearly sees as an episode of unforgivable knee-jerkism as equivalent sins. I disagree. At the time, allowing the Marines to continue would have destroyed the Administration's political plan (however ill-advised it might have been), cost many more lives, and allowed the Sadrists to dig in in their new gains in the Shiite areas while attention was focussed on Fallujah. I agree, the starting WAS a stupid disaster.... but the stopping was best-of-a-bad-situation damage control. It's a microcosm, anyway: we shall inevitably see the same excuses and arguments made about any future American disengagement from Iraq as a whole, too.
"endearingly macho" -- Mark Steyn
"wonderfully detailed analysis" -- John Allemang, Globe and Mail
"unusually candid" -- Tom Ricks, Foreignpolicy.com
Bill & Bob
Ghosts of Alex