[ That’s right. Bad intelligence … Again. Even the Voice of America News (June 20) reports no sign of any insurgents in the house flattened by the bombing, although there are at least 20 deceased civilians. The VOA article continues with the regular story of bad intelligence: “U.S. General Mark Kimmitt said U.S. forces had intelligence that members of militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s terrorist network were in the house at the time of the attack Saturday.”
What will these typical screw-ups mean after the alleged transfer of sovereignty? From the piece:
If [Iraqi ministers] gave the go-ahead and there were serious civilian casualties, then many Iraqis would see their government as a US puppet.
Missile strike by US kills 22 civilians in Iraq
by Patrick Cockburn in Baghdad and Raymond Whitaker in London
US air forces fired two missiles into a residential area of the troubled Iraqi city of Fallujah yesterday, killing 22 people and sparking a bitter row just 10 days before the country is supposed to come under Iraqi control.
Angry local people said at least five children and three women were among the dead, and that the Americans had sought to maximise casualties by firing a second missile at people trying to rescue victims. According to a US military spokesman in Baghdad, the target was a known hideout of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an al-Qa’ida-linked militant who is the Americans’ most wanted man in Iraq.
The dispute highlighted the problems likely to be thrown up by what the occupation authorities call the transfer of power to a sovereign Iraqi government on 30 June. The interim government expects to be consulted on major military operations, but it is uncertain whether US officers would clear air strikes with Iraqi ministers. If they gave the go-ahead and there were serious civilian casualties, then many Iraqis would see their government as a US puppet.
In Saudi Arabia, where another militant group connected to al-Qa’ida beheaded a kidnapped American engineer on Friday, national television showed what was reported to be the bodies of four of his captors. The authorities said the men were killed in a shoot-out after a witness reported the licence plate of a car used to move the body of Paul Johnson, their American hostage.
According to the Saudi government, Abdulaziz al-Muqrin, leader of the group calling itself al-Qa’ida of the Arabian Peninsula, and his two main lieutenants were killed, although an Islamist website denied this.
It was later reported that one of the cars confiscated from the group was connected with the attack on a BBC crew earlier this month. Cameraman Simon Cumbers was killed, while security correspondent Frank Gardner was seriously injured.
In the struggle for Arab opinion, the Fallujah air strike could be a severe setback for the US. The missiles tore apart two houses which were reduced to a heap of broken concrete. “An American plane hit this house and three others were damaged,” a witness said. “Only body parts are left.”
One man sat nearby crying. Asked how many members of his family had been killed, he said: “I don’t know, maybe 10.” Sabbar al-Janabi, the chief of police in Fallujah, said: “Scores were killed and injured. This picture speaks for itself.”
The strongest resistance to the occupation has come from Fallujah, besieged by US Marines in April after four American civilian security men were killed in the main street. But the siege turned out to be a disastrous miscalculation.