Thursday, June 28, 2007

Dead Iraqis


On 22 June the US military announced that its attack helicopters, armed with missiles, engaged and killed 17 al-Qaeda gunmen who had been trying to infiltrate the village of al-Khalis, north of Baquba, where operation "Arrowhead Ripper" had been under way for the previous three days.

The item was duly carried by international news agencies and received widespread coverage, including on the BBC News website.

But villagers in largely-Shia al-Khalis say that those who died had nothing to do with al-Qaeda. They say they were local village guards trying to protect the township from exactly the kind of attack by insurgents the US military says it foiled.

What's the truth? Who knows. But the bigger point is that US military has no idea if these guys were "al Qaeda," or, more specifically, "al Qaeda in Iraq," which isn't really "al Qaeda" in the sense of being "the bad guys who attacked on 9/11." They may have thought they were "bad guys," and they may in fact have been "bad guys," but most likely all they know is that they're dead Iraqis and we have a stenographic press.

When you're playing all sides in multiple civil wars the bad guys are anyone you point a gun at.

(ht pseud in nc)