Friday, February 02, 2007

Coverup in Najaf?

What if the heroic battle in Najaf that occurred earlier this week turns out to be no different than Steve Tillman's infamous death? Tillman left the NFL to serve in Iraq and died "in battle", only later it turned out to be a military cover-up for him being shot in the back by friendly fire. Earlier this week there was a story of a big battle in Najaf where 300 heavily armed religious terrorists "Soldiers of Heaven" were killed by US and coalition forces. The US suffered 11 soldier deaths and lost a Blackhawk helicopter. The area was restricted to journalists and civilian tensions are high.

Well independent european journalist Patrick Cockburn released another version of the now famed battle against "soldiers of heaven" covered in a DemocracyNow broadcast. With thousands of Shi'ite pilgrims converging on Najaf to celebrate Ashoura, one of the holiest Shi'ite holidays, there could have been an ideal opportunity for a sectarian attack. But what if it was a horrible miscommunication elevated to epic proportions because of the increased tension of all the converging pilgrims?

What is unfolding through interviews with doctors, the wounded, the morgue and interviewing the hundreds of witnesses, is that there most likely was a thwarted attack, but there possibly were a large number of innocent pilgrims caught in the crossfire and unjustly attacked in a confused frenzy of language and battle chaos. The US used heavy gunfire from Blackhawk helicopters and dropped 500lb bombs from F-18s doing high speed flyovers. The reports to the US say the terrorists were heavily armed and fought for several hours. The other account speaks of a tribe of pilgrims wearing arms because they traveled through the night to Najaf, being mistakenly attacked by security forces, resulting in retaliatory response from the remaining pilgrims. Then US Forces were brought in with only partial information. What resulted was a massacre.... and now another coverup?

If it comes to be true, isn't it an indication of what can happen when there are language barriers between our soldiers and the people we're supposed to be protecting? How many soldiers are fluent in several dialects of arabic? Now our troops are hitting the ground with less than three weeks training... and no language skills. No wonder the military wants to cover this up.

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