Sunday, October 23, 2005

Another dispatch from Occupied France 

The Poorman links to this story -- US troops fighting losing battle for Sunni triangle-- and he titles is "Hearts and minds". But to me, stories like this sound more and more like the stories out of Occupied France during World War II:
The mob grew more frenzied as the gunmen dragged the two surviving Americans from the cab of their bullet-ridden lorry and forced them to kneel on the street.
Killing one of the men with a rifle round fired into the back of his head, they doused the other with petrol and set him alight. Barefoot children, yelping in delight, piled straw on to the screaming man's body to stoke the flames.
It had taken just one wrong turn for disaster to unfold. Less than a mile from the base it was heading to, the convoy turned left instead of right and lumbered down one of the most anti-American streets in Iraq, a narrow bottleneck in Duluiya town, on a peninsular jutting into the Tigris river named after the Jibouri tribe that lives there.
As the lorries desperately tried to reverse out, dozens of Sunni Arab insurgents wielding rocket launchers and automatic rifles emerged from their homes . . . Within minutes, four American contractors, all employees of the Halliburton subsidiary Kellog, Brown & Root, were dead. The jubilant crowd dragged their corpses through the street, chanting anti-US slogans. . . . Perhaps fearful of public reaction in America, where support for the war is falling, US officials suppressed details of the Sept 20 attack, which bore a striking resemblance to the murder of four other contractors in Fallujah last year . . . The violence here seems to encapsulate the growing difficulties the US military is facing in trying to defeat the insurgency . . . The insurgency in eastern Salahuddin province is growing more intense, more deadly and more sophisticated.
Lt Col Gary Brito, the battalion's commanding officer, said that in recent months the number of roadside bombs targeting his men had increased by a third - even though journeys out of base have been cut back. They are having a more devastating effect too.
"Before only two out of 10 used to be effective," he said. "Now four or five have a catastrophic effect, blowing away a vehicle or causing casualties." In the past few months at least four American soldiers in this battalion alone have been killed. Another 39 have been wounded.
Even routine patrols are fraught with danger.
"What the hell was that," shouted Lt Chris Baldwin as a huge explosion rocked Baker Company's convoy of humvees trundling along a street in Dour, another town under Lt Col Brito's watch.
"Contact! Contact!" he bellowed into his radio as the gunners opened fire on a row of nearby houses from where the rocket-propelled anti-tank missile was fired.
As the gunfire died down, the soldiers burst into house after house, their facades peppered with bullet holes.
But, as is so often the case, the attacker had vanished down one of Dour's maze-like alleys.
Instead the Americans were confronted with sullen Iraqis, holding their terrified children to their sides. An old woman sat on her bed, clutching her heart, as the soldiers interrogated the family.
"They heard nothing, they saw nothing, same as ******* usual," said Sgt Jody Miller. Taking another deep drag from his cigarette, he turned to the company's translator.
"Tell them to tell us where the bad guys are so we stop frigging shooting up their houses," he said.
Nobody was hurt but the mutual distrust between the Americans and the local community deepened just a little bit more.
"Mutual distrust"? Try "hate".

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