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May 23, 2004

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Kris Hasson-Jones

If it was a wedding at which major nasty guys were present, and may also have been planning an attack while there, would that make it an acceptable target?

What if it was just a party of the nasty guys?

From a CNN story at http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/05/22/iraq.main/index.html

"Kimmitt said troops did not find anything -- such as a wedding tent, gifts, musical instruments, decorations or leftover food -- that would indicate a wedding had been held.

Most of the men there were of military age, and there were no elders present to indicate a family event, he said.

What was found, he said, indicated the building was used as a way station for foreign fighters crossing into Iraq from Syria to battle the coalition."

Sarah

Since you clearly did not read the story there-linked, Kris, I will post it for you below. I guess if video proof does not trump the word of Kimmett, fine, believe what you will.

And you know, NO, I do not think it is okay to bomb weddings with "bad people" there. I think there are limits to warfare and where engagement should happen, actually. (And no 9/11 equivocations here, please -- Iraq has never been connected with bin Laden et al. Besides, I think we should be rising above those sorts of standards of engagement because, you know, we are America.)

May 23, 2004  |  RAMADI, Iraq (AP) -- A videotape obtained Sunday by Associated Press Television News captures a wedding party that survivors say was later attacked by U.S. planes early Wednesday, killing up to 45 people. The dead included the cameraman, Yasser Shawkat Abdullah, hired to record the festivities, which ended Tuesday night before the planes struck.

The U.S. military says it is investigating the attack, which took place in the village of Mogr el-Deeb about five miles from the Syrian border, but that all evidence so far indicates the target was a safehouse for foreign fighters.

"There was no evidence of a wedding: no decorations, no musical instruments found, no large quantities of food or leftover servings one would expect from a wedding celebration," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said Saturday. "There may have been some kind of celebration. Bad people have celebrations, too."

But video that APTN shot a day after the attack shows fragments of musical instruments, pots and pans and brightly colored beddings used for celebrations, scattered around the bombed out tent.

The wedding videotape shows a dozen white pickup trucks speeding through the desert escorting the bridal car -- decorated with colorful ribbons. The bride wears a Western-style white bridal dress and veil. The camera captures her stepping out of the car but does not show a close-up.

An AP reporter and photographer, who interviewed more than a dozen survivors a day after the bombing, were able to identify many of them on the wedding party video -- which runs for several hours.

APTN also traveled to Mogr el-Deeb, 250 miles west of Ramadi, the day after the attack to film what the survivors said was the wedding site. A devastated building and remnants of the tent, pots and pans could be seen, along with bits of what appeared to be the remnants of ordnance, one of which bore the marking "ATU-35," similar to those on U.S. bombs.

A water tanker truck can be seen in both the video shot by APTN and the wedding tape obtained from a cousin of the groom.

The singing and dancing seems to go on forever at the all-male tent set up in the garden of the host, Rikad Nayef, for the wedding of his son, Azhad, and the bride Rutbah Sabah. The men later move to the porch when darkness falls, apparently taking advantage of the cool night weather. Children, mainly boys, sit on their fathers' laps; men smoke an Arab water pipe, finger worry beads and chat with one another. It looks like a typical, gender-segregated tribal desert wedding.

As expected, women are out of sight -- but according to survivors, they danced to the music of Hussein al-Ali, a popular Baghdad wedding singer hired for the festivities. Al-Ali was buried in Baghdad on Thursday.

Prominently displayed on the videotape was a stocky man with close-cropped hair playing an electric organ. Another tape, filmed a day later in Ramadi and obtained by APTN, showed the musician lying dead in a burial shroud -- his face clearly visible and wearing the same tan shirt as he wore when he performed.

As the musicians played, young men milled about, most dressed in traditional white robes. Young men swayed in tribal dances to the monotonous tones of traditional Arabic music. Two children -- a boy and a girl -- held hands, dancing and smiling. Women are rarely filmed at such occasions, and they appear only in distant glimpses.

Kimmitt said U.S. troops who swept through the area found rifles, machine guns, foreign passports, bedding, syringes and other items that suggested the site was used by foreigners infiltrating from Syria.

The videotape showed no weapons, although they are common among rural Iraqis.

Kimmitt has denied finding evidence that any children died in the raid although a "handful of women" -- perhaps four to six -- were "caught up in the engagement."

"They may have died from some of the fire that came from the aircraft," he told reporters Friday.

However, an AP reporter obtained names of at least 10 children who relatives said had died. Bodies of five of them were filmed by APTN when the survivors took them to Ramadi for burial Wednesday. Iraqi officials said at least 13 children were killed.

Four days after the attack, the memories of the survivors remain painful -- as are their injuries.

Haleema Shihab, 32, one of the three wives of Rikad Nayef, said that as the first bombs fell, she grabbed her seven-month old son, Yousef, and clutching the hands of her five-year-old son, Hamza, started running. Her 15-year-old son, Ali, sprinted alongside her. They managed to run for several yards when she fell -- her leg fractured.

"Hamza was yelling, 'mommy,"' Shihab, recalled. "Ali said he was hurt and that he was bleeding. That's the last time I heard him." Then another shell fell and injured Shihab's left arm.

"Hamza fell from my hand and was gone. Only Yousef stayed in my arms. Ali had been hit and was killed. I couldn't go back," she said from her hospital bed in Ramadi. Her arm was in a cast.

She and her stepdaughter, Iqbal -- who had caught up with her -- hid in a bomb crater. "We were bleeding from 3 a.m. until sunrise," Shihab said.

Soon American soldiers came. One of them kicked her to see if she was alive, she said.

"I pretended I was dead so he wouldn't kill me," said Shihab. She said the soldier was laughing. When Yousef cried, the soldier said: "'No, stop," said Shihab.

Fourteen-year-old Moza, Shihab's stepdaughter, lies on another bed of the hospital room. She was hurt in the leg and cries. Her relatives haven't told her yet that her mother, Sumaya, is dead.

"I fear she's dead," Moza said of her mother. "I'm worried about her."

Moza was sleeping on one side of the porch next to her sisters Siham, Subha and Zohra while her mother slept on the other end. There were many others on the porch, her cousins, stepmothers and other female relatives.

When the first shell fell, Moza and her sisters, Subha, Fatima and Siham ran off together. Moza was holding Subha's hand.

"I don't know where Fatima and my mom were. Siham got hit. She died. I saw Zohra's head gone. I lost consciousness," said Moza, covering her mouth with the end of her headscarf.

Her sister Iqbal, lay in pain on the bed next to her. Her other sister, Subha, was on the upper floor of the hospital, in the same room with two-year-Khoolood. Her small body was bandaged and a tube inserted in her side drained her liver.

Her ankle was bandaged. A red ribbon was tied to her curly hair. Only she and her older brother, Faisal, survived from their immediate family. Her parents and four sisters and brothers were all killed.

In all, 27 members of Rikad Nayef's extended family died -- most of them children and women, the family said.

Kris Hasson-Jones

I did read the story. I also read the Kimmit story. They conflict, considerably. I was wondering how to reconcile them.

Here's one way to do so, which I didn't see until after I'd posted the previous comment.

http://belmontclub.blogspot.com/2004_05_01_belmontclub_archive.html#108545024918392189

"The working assumption of Wedding Party 2 was that two sites, the Rakat villa and the adjacent structure or tent were struck, largely on the basis of Mrs. Shahib's account in the Guardian. In the light of this new information, it seems the men were in the tent and the women and children in the villa with Mrs. Shahib. First, an earlier AP report claimed finding debris marked 'ATU-35'. "Footage that APTN shot a day after the attack shows bits of musical instruments, pots and pans, and brightly colored beddings scattered around a bombed out tent. It also shows fragments of what appear to be ordnance, one marked 'ATU-35,' similar to markings on U.S. bombs." Reader RIG points out that this appears to be related to the tail unit of a Mk 82 500 pound bomb. Mrs. Shahib would not have survived to rush out of the house during the infantry attack described in Wedding Party 2 had it been struck by a Mk 82 bomb. Her narrative describes the impact of 'shells'. But since the musical instruments of the male band were near the ATU-35 debris, and if it is true that the women and children sleep in one place and men in another, then the bomb hit the tent with the men. The women and children may have been killed in or as they emerged from the villa which was the subject of an infantry assault.

But where are the dead men? The Associated Press wedding video shows mostly men, yet the Guardian report claims that 11 of the dead were women and 14 were children."

Sounds like there was a wedding party (separated into a group of women and children, and their family men), and that there may also have been, in a nearby building, a group of armed men.

This does seem to reconcile the two otherwise contradictory stories.

Of course, I'm very sorry for the deaths of the persons at the wedding. We need better intel over there, obviously.

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