There was a raid in Ishaqi last week. Armed men crept upon the sleeping houses in the dead of night. Armed men stirring in the darkness, in a land still open, like a flayed wound, to violent death and chaos from every direction, many years after the savage act of aggression that first tore the country to pieces.
They crept toward the houses. They said nothing, gave no warning, could not be clearly seen, did not identify themselves. “Thieves!” someone shouted. Someone grabbed a rifle – one kept ready at hand to guard the sleeping family – and fired a shot to scare away the raiders.
But the men creeping in the darkness were not local thieves. They were soldiers of the foreign army that still occupied the land. Foreign invaders, accompanied by forces from the local army they had raised for the government they had built on the mound of a million rotting corpses.
Armed to the teeth with expensive gear bought with public money from bloated war profiteers in the invaders’ home country, the creeping men were not to be frightened off by a rifle shot fired blindly in the darkness. They saw the flash – and lit up the village with heavy gunfire and grenades. They called in a helicopter gunship hovering nearby to support them against the rifle of a villager awakened by the sound of unknown, unidentified, armed men creeping near his house and family.
In the tumult, a 13-year-old boy began running through the garden, frightened, confused, trying to escape the hellish metal flying all around him. But the metal found him; it tore into his fleeing body – the body of this scared, unarmed boy running away from the well-armed soldiers – the bullets tore into his body and killed him in the garden where he used to play.
The armed men then stalked through the village. Kicking down doors, dragging people out, hogtied, and throwing them into the dirt. They ransacked, they smashed, they ripped, they broke – and, like thieves, they stole.
“We heard gunfire near our house, and my son woke up and went to the garden because he was afraid,” said the boy’s mother, Nagia Gamas, 51. “They shot him and my husband.”
... Muhammad Farhan, a 62-year-old farmer in Ishaqi ... said Iraqi and American forces knocked down his door around 2 a.m. Friday, tied him and three of his relatives up and took them outside.
He said that the Iraqi and American forces searched his house, stole a check from him and took his brother’s passport. “The Americans were telling us we are liars and terrorists,” Mr. Farhan said. “Why do you attack us? We are just innocent people.”
It was just another night in the unending American war against Iraq. It was just another non-combatant death added to the million or more such deaths caused, by direct or collateral hand, by the illegal American invasion, now in its eighth year.
And it was just another atrocity in Ishaqi, where the American invaders and their colonial helpers had already inflicted horror and death on the area’s children in years past. The 13-year-old boy – who had been only five when the invasion began, so many years and so many deaths ago, probably knew the little children, some just a few months old, killed in the earlier attacks. As I noted here in March 2006:
We know that U.S. forces conducted a raid on a house in the village on March 15. ... We know that two Iraqi police officials, Major Ali Ahmed and Colonel Farouq Hussein – both employed by the U.S.-backed Iraqi government – told Reuters that the 11 occupants of the house, including the five children, had been bound and shot in the head before the house was blown up. We know that the U.S.-backed Iraqi police told Reuters that an American helicopter landed on the roof in the early hours of the morning, then the house was blown up, and then the victims were discovered. We know that the U.S.-backed Iraqi police said that an autopsy performed on the bodies found that "all the victims had gunshot wounds to the head."
We know that Ahmed Khalaf, brother of house's owner, told AP that nine of the  victims were family members and two were visitors, adding, "the killed family was not part of the resistance, they were women and children. The Americans have promised us a better life, but we get only death."
We know from the photographs that one child, the youngest, the baby, has a gaping wound in his forehead. We can see that one other child, a girl with a pink ribbon in her hair, is lying on her side and has blood oozing from the back of her head. ... We know from the photographs that two of the children – two girls, still in their pajamas – are lying with their dead eyes open. We can see that the light and tenderness that animate the eyes of every young child have vanished; nothing remains but the brute stare of nothingness into nothingness. We can see that the other three children have their eyes closed; two are limp, but the baby has one stiffened arm raised to his cheek, as if trying to ward off the blow that gashed and pulped his face so terribly.
Later, the Pentagon changed its original story about the raid, in which it claimed that "only" one man, two women and a single child had been killed. Following an "investigation," the Pentagon said that one terrorist had been killed, along with "three noncombatant" deaths and an estimated nine "collateral deaths." (As I noted at the time: The difference between these two categories is not explained. And of course it doesn't matter to the innocent people killed; whether they are "non-combatants" or "collaterals," they're still just as dead.) The invaders categorically denied that any children had been shot in the head. But the evidence indicated differently:
First is the photographic evidence: pictures taken of the aftermath by Agence France Presse, and a video that emerged this week on BBC. These clearly dispute the Pentagon's account, which holds that the house was first raked with gunfire, then attack by helicopter gunships, then finally bombed by American jets: a massive barrage of firepower that left the house in ruins. But the video shows that part of the house was left standing. The photographs, which have been widely available for months, show five dead children, one of them only a few months old. They have been laid out by grieving relatives. Their bodies show no signs of having been ripped up or damaged in the course of an all-out air and ground assault; as the BBC's John Simpson points out, they had not been crushed by the collapse of the house, as the Pentagon claimed. Instead, they are unmarked, their clothes dusty but in most cases untorn. In the photographs I saw, one child clearly has blood oozing from the back of her head, while the baby has a hole in his forehead, and other damage to his face. The other children are laid on their back, with their wounds invisible, their bodies remarkably whole. Simpson, shown viewing the film, said it was clear that the children had been shot.
Second is the testimony of the villagers, and of two officials of the U.S.-backed Iraqi police, Major Ali Ahmed and Colonel Farouq Hussein. These are men who risk their lives by their cooperation with the Coalition. The villagers say soldiers entered the house and killed the occupants; the house was later hit by the helicopter then bombed, apparently to cover up the killings, some of the villagers surmised. The Iraqi police said "all the victims had gunshot wounds to the head." Later, a Knight-Ridder reporter saw a preliminary report indicating that the 11 victims had multiple wounds. This tallies with Simpson's viewing, which showed that one of the dead children had been shot in the side. Everyone who saw or examined the bodies agreed that the victims had been shot, most likely by bullets from the large pile of American-issue cartridges found inside the house, which can also be seen on the video.
This was in March. Just a few months later, there was an even greater massacre:
So what happened on December 9 in the village of Taima in the Ishaqi district, on the shores of Lake Tharthar? The official U.S. military version states that unidentified "Coalition Forces" entered the village shortly after midnight and targeted a location "based on intelligence reports that indicated associates with links to multiple al-Qaeda in Iraq networks were operating in the area." During a search, they took heavy fire from a nearby building. Returning fire, they killed "two armed terrorists" but couldn't quell the attack, so they called in an airstrike that killed "18 more armed terrorists." ...
The identification of the victims as terrorists was made through a "battle damage assessment," said U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver. "If there is a weapon with or next to the person or they are holding it, they are a terrorist," he said.
Garver firmly refused to identify the troops involved in the raid; he wouldn't even say if they were American, Iraqi, or from some other Coalition ally, the Daily Telegraph reports. "There are some units we don't talk about," he said. But the conclusions of the official report were unequivocal: 20 terrorists killed, no collateral damage. ...
But local officials from the U.S.-backed Iraqi government had a different view: they said the raid was a bloodbath of innocent civilians. Ishaqi Mayor Amir Fayadh said that 19 civilians were killed by the airstrikes that destroyed two private homes. Fayadh said that the victims included seven women and eight children. An official in the regional government of Salahuddin said six children had been killed. All Iraqi officials agreed that the victims were mostly members of the extended families of two brothers in the town, Muhammad Hussein al-Jalmood and Mahmood Hussein al-Jalmood, the NYT reports. ...
Soon after the attack, reporters and photographers from Associated Press and Agence France Presse arrived on the scene. They took pictures, shot video and talked to grieving members of the al-Jalmood family. Local police gave them the names of at least 17 of the victims, which indicated they were from the same family. The names of at least four women were among them. Many of the bodies had been charred and twisted beyond recognition; some were "almost mummified," AP reports. However, AFP videotaped at least two children among the dead.
When shown the pictures later, Garver said: "I see nothing in the photos that indicates those children were in the houses that our forces received fire from and subsequently destroyed with the airstrike." He did not speculate on where the dead children being mourned by family members after being pulled from the rubble of the bombed-out houses might have come from otherwise. Perhaps the al-Jalmoods kept them in cold storage for just such a propaganda opportunity.
All of this was back in the bad old days of George W. Bush. But it is still going on, and has been going on, throughout the tenure of the Great Continuer. And if the Nobel Peace Laureate has his way, it will keep going on. Read carefully the statement on the most recent raid by a PR mouthpiece for the invaders, where he bravely and boldly heaps all blame for any “collateral damage” on the colonial troops:
“This was an Iraqi-planned and -led counterterrorism operation,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, an American military spokesman, said in a statement. “The operation was enabled by U.S. support that included helicopters. Also, there was a small number of U.S. advisers taking part in the operation, although it was predominantly Iraqi forces, and they were in charge of all activities on the ground.”
“Advisers.” This is the new term-of-art for invasion forces. This is the word now being used by the Obama Administration and the Iraqi government in their relentless efforts to weasel out of the agreement to withdraw all American “military forces” from Iraq by the end of the year. This follows the line of the Peace Laureate’s earlier scam, when he claimed to have kept his promise to withdraw “all combat troops” from Iraq by simply renaming the tens of thousands of occupying soldiers left behind as “non-combat troops” – although they continued, and continue, to carry out combat missions. (And of course, the “withdrawal” agreement doesn’t include the thousands upon thousands of “security personnel” and mercenaries who will guard the vast embassy-fortress the invaders have built in the center of Baghdad.)
So we will no doubt see more of Ishaqi’s children shot and killed by occupiers and their colonial proxies in the months and years to come. We will no doubt see more villages and neighborhoods invaded in the dead of night by armed men creeping up on their houses, kicking down their doors, shooting, looting, breaking and beating, in this now-hidden, now-forgotten but still-ongoing act of mass murder.