Sam Smith: What Happened In Mosul?
What Happened In Mosul?
Sam Smith, PROGRESSIVE REVIEW
Commentary And Links To The World's Media
A number of innocent Iraqis were killed and many more injured by the U.S. troops in Mosul in an incident that has been generally downplayed by the U.S. media. Yesterday we ran the first story, from Agence France Presse. Since then the coverage has ranged from the initially silent - Washington Post - to the dutifully stenographic on behalf of Centcom - NPR - to the good - NY Times - to the truly Orwellian: the San Jose Mercury News ran a headline over its coverage of the massacre that read: U.S. SOLDIERS SHOOT AT MOB TO STOP VIOLENCE IN MOSUL.
[The Post subsequently added an AP story to its website and then its own account after more civilian deaths the next day. Note the difference between the balanced account of the NY Times and the Post's pro-military spin.]
The treatment of the Mosul killings offers insight into the nature of current war coverage. Clearly the American press relied heavily on "official sources" such as the Pentagon, despite the fact that such sources are among the most unreliable. While many people lie, government officials are highly trained prevarication professionals. For reasons never explained in the corporate media, reporters typically regard them as trustworthy. They daily accept "official" statements without a second source, a level of trust not accorded your average honest citizen.
Below are a number of accounts of the incident. Note the difference between American and foreign coverage and some of the internal conflicts in the Centcom story. In one account, military flack and Brigadier General Vincent Brooks said demonstrators fired at marines and special operations forces near a government building the Americans had occupied in the center of the city. Fire was directed at the marines and special operations forces in this complex. "It was aim fire and aim fire was returned against some of the demonstrators, against some of the agitators climbing the wall of the compound. It was lethal fire." If you want to test Brooks' assertion try ascending the wall of a compound with one hand while firing with the other.
Finally, there seems little understanding on the part of Brooks or the American press he spins that it is generally not wise to kill the people you are liberating. They tend to take it the wrong way.
SUNDAY TIMES, AUSTRALIA - US troops opened fire on a crowd hostile to the new pro-US governor in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul today, killing at least 10 people and injuring as many as 100, witnesses and doctors said. The incident overshadowed the start of US-brokered talks aimed at sketching out a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq and could ignite anti-US sentiment sparked in protests in Baghdad and at the talks in the southern city of Nasiriyah. Witnesses reported that US troops had fired into a crowd which was becoming increasingly hostile towards the new governor in the northern oil city, Mashaan al-Juburi, as he was making a pro-US speech. "There are perhaps 100 wounded and 10 to 12 dead," Dr Ayad al-Ramadhani said at the city hospital.
AL JAZEERA - Mishaan Al-Juburi, an Iraqi Arab Sunni and self-appointed leader in Basra, told Al Jazeera that Mosul has been relatively calm this morning, after yesterday's shootings that resulted in 17 deaths. "I think we had only one problem today. When some people tried to rob a bank, an exchange of fire took place between them and the police. Three thieves were killed. That is all, otherwise the city is fine," he said. Earlier, Al Jazeera TV's Waddah Khanfar had reported popular resentment at Al-Juburi's appointment. However, the governor criticized these claims.
"This news is an exclusive invention of Al Jazeera. I was among the protesters yesterday, I was trying to calm them as they were throwing stones on American soldiers. What happened was that the US commander moved from the airport to the Governor's palace and when the people saw US troops entering their city and raising the American flag, they became angry and started throwing stones on them," he explained.
"I am not the governor of Mosul. I am the one who liberated it, and preserved its security. I enjoy a warm relationship with the people of Mosul. The proof of this is in the fact that many have come to me for their needs," he added.
Blaming the US for the violence in Mosul today and yesterday, he said "the Americans committed a strategic mistake. I was forced to take my place with my people, and leave the building and find myself a different headquarters. We left the Governor's complex for the American ruler. The tension is between people and the American ruler, and I have nothing to do with it."
PATRICK COCKBURN, INDEPENDENT - American soldiers killed at least 10 Iraqis and wounded dozens of others yesterday when they reportedly fired on a political rally in Mosul. "There are perhaps 100 wounded and 10 or 12 dead," said Ayad al-Ramadhani, director of the Republican Hospital in Mosul. The shooting of civilians will further sour the mood in Iraq, where there were three other protests yesterday against an American occupation.
The events leading up to the deaths are still unclear. Said Altah, another doctor at the hospital, said: "The wounded say that the crowd was listening to a speech by the new governor, Mihsan al-Jaburi." Mr Jaburi is a member of the Iraqi opposition who entered the northern city with Kurdish forces last week. Mr Jaburi had said that co-operation with the Americans was necessary. This angered the crowd and, in circumstances still unexplained, the troops fired. An American military spokesman said that the troops were fired on before they returned fire.
DAVID ROHDE, NY TIMES - American marines killed at least 10 Iraqi men today and wounded up to 16 others in a chaotic clash with thousands of protesters in northern Iraq, Iraqi officials said. No Americans were hurt, and American military officials said they could give no precise estimate of the number dead. But Dr. Ayad Ramadhani, a doctor at the general hospital, said 10 Iraqis had been killed. . . The shooting began after a group of marines took control of the governor's office in downtown Mosul this morning. A first attempt to secure the building by a dozen American Special Forces soldiers on Friday ended with the Americans coming under fire and retreating. The identity of the gunmen is not known, but Mosul has long been a stronghold of President Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.
This morning, roughly 130 marines returned to secure the building for a civil affairs team that planned to reopen it as a sign of restored normalcy in a city racked by looting and gunfire. But a large crowd - 3,000 by Marine estimates - quickly formed around the building. American and Iraqi officials agree that tensions quickly rose, but their versions of what happened next diverge. Col. Andrew P. Frick, commander of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which began arriving here only two days ago, said the crowd was hostile toward the Americans. "There was a lot of pushing and shoving," he said. "A couple of drivers were spit on."
The crowd started beating Paul Watson, a reporter for The Los Angeles Times, who was rescued by the marines. Later, men in the crowd started shooting, and the marines withdrew into the building but continued to receive fire, Colonel Frick said. After the marines fired warning shots, most of the people dispersed, the colonel said. But when shots continued to hit the building, Colonel Frick said, "the marines said, `O.K., the fight is on,' " and they returned fire. The shooting went on for 10 to 15 minutes, until American planes arrived and the gunmen scattered. Colonel Frick said he did not know how many Iraqis had been killed.
Wounded Iraqis in the city's general hospital today gave a different version of events. They said an Iraqi opposition leader, Mishaan al-Jabouri, started speaking to the crowd and hailing the arrival of American forces in Mosul. . . His message angered the crowd, Iraqis said. "They began throwing stones," said Fateh Tata Abed, a 32-year-old man shot in the chest and upper arm. "And the American forces started shooting at us." Sadullah Ghanal, 39, who was also shot, gave roughly the same version of events. "After we threw stones at Mishaan Jabouri," he said, "the Americans started to fire on us.". . .
Outside the hospital, as an American jet roared a few hundred feet overhead and hospital workers glanced up fearfully, Dr. Ramadhani criticized American tactics. "This is terrorism!" he shouted, as the windows of the hospital rattled. "We are scared. What about the children? What about the sick people?" A few feet away, an American Special Forces soldier guarding the hospital said Iraqis misunderstood American actions here. "The marines took fire and had to return it," he said. The low-flying planes, he said, were to deter attacks. "It's a show of force, but people don't understand it," said the soldier, who did not want to be identified. "They're not grateful." http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/16/international/worldspecial/16NORT.html
PAUL WATSON, LOS ANGELES TIMES - U.S. special-forces troops, caught in the middle of a political power grab, battled a violent mob with assault rifles and heavy machine guns from the governor's building here Tuesday. A crowd of more than 2,000 repeatedly surged at the building for around an hour, hurling rocks and chunks of concrete, as U.S. soldiers drove them back with one barrage after another, including rounds from .50-caliber machine guns. There were unconfirmed reports that at least 10 people were killed and 16 injured. After the mob broke up, smaller groups formed throughout the afternoon to attempt new attacks. The special forces called in two American warplanes that shrieked just above the city's rooftops. But the low passes were no more frightening than a county-fair air show to the angry protesters.
What started the fighting was unclear. One chieftain claimed it came because U.S. troops raised an American flag above the governor's house, an accusation denied by the special-forces commander. Another cause could be rising tensions between rival Kurdish guerrilla forces that entered Mosul with U.S. troops last week. The unrest broke out around 11:30 a.m., when a crowd of about 1,000 people was listening to a speech by an official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of two Kurdish guerrilla factions. Misha'an Juburi, an Arab clan leader who laid claim to the governor's building last week, said the mob was enraged at the sight of a U.S. flag that he claimed was raised atop the building alongside three Iraqi flags during the speech.
Lt. Col. Robert Waltemeyer, commander of the 10th Special-Forces Group defending the building, said he gave no order to raise a U.S. flag there, and turning to one of his officers, added: "Make sure there's no American flag on the roof.". . . As the PUK leader, surrounded by members of his special-forces unit, was giving the speech, local Arab leaders appeared on the steps of the governor's house accompanied by fighters from the other Kurdish guerrilla group -- the Democratic Party of Kurdistan, or KDP -- and U.S. troops. The mob began hurling rocks and pieces of broken concrete at the politicians and U.S. soldiers and overturned a car near the building's front entrance. The crowd swelled to about 3,000, and U.S. soldiers rushed in to reinforce the building's defenses.
Spanish journalist Miguel Rovira, who was at the scene, said U.S. troops held their fire for around 20 minutes but began shooting when the crowd tried to rush the building. A .50-caliber machine gun mounted on a U.S. Humvee pounded off at least two dozen rounds. Other soldiers took up firing positions behind overturned desks in the lobby with assault rifles and light machine guns.
Several boys ran within a few yards of the front gate, hurling stones at the soldiers even as the air crackled with gunshots. Most of the firing was over their heads, and many people ran back into the fray when they realized they were not being shot at. Waltemeyer said he would not speculate about the number of casualties but insisted U.S. soldiers would not fire at stone throwers.
[Watson saves his own beating for another story]
PAUL WATSON, LA TIMES - In the middle of a riot Tuesday, a group helping a man with a long, deep gash on his forehead asked whether I would photograph them. When I did, about 300 people rushed me, shouting, "American! American!" As the mob approached, I saw that I had no escape. The only thing that kept them at bay - for several minutes anyway - was a group of about 20 people who tried to fend off my attackers. "He's innocent! He's innocent!" shouted one man. "Leave him alone!" But the mob wanted blood, and I could see two men who had pulled out knives. "Let me through - I want to kill him!" screamed one.
After several minutes of struggling and stone-throwing, the mob knocked me to the ground and kicked me repeatedly in the head and back before stabbing me in the buttocks. My defenders managed to drag me into a restaurant and the mob smashed the windows and door before the owner was able to pull down the metal security shutter. Just then, U.S. troops opened fire and the mob gave up the chase. Two of my defenders, who were Arabs, brought me and my Kurdish translator to the Mosul governor's building, where the Americans had taken up positions.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE - Many Iraqis fear US plans for the future of Iraq and popular anger has been mounting over the widespread anarchy and chaos since Saddam was toppled last Wednesday. That anger was visible in Nasiriyah as a crowd of 20,000 marched through the street chanting "Yes to freedom... Yes to Islam... No to America, No to Saddam." Such anger was also visible in the northern city of Mosul, when a firefight broke out as the newly-appointed governor was making a speech which listeners deemed was too pro-US, witnesses said. A doctor at the city hospital, Ayad al-Ramadhani, said 12 people had been killed and 60 wounded in the shooting.
US troops guarding the governor said they opened fire after gunmen on an opposite roof began shooting. "We didn't fire at the crowd, but at the top of the building," said a US military spokesman. At US Central Command in Qatar, Navy Commander Charles Owens said: "We're investigating, all we can say now is that we did not shoot into a crowd."
But witnesses said US troops fired into the crowd after it became increasingly hostile towards the new governor, Mashaan al-Juburi. "They (the soldiers) climbed on top of the building and first fired at a building near the crowd, with the glass falling on the civilians. People started to throw stones, then the Americans fired at them," said Ayad Hassun. "Dozens of people fell," he said, his own shirt stained with blood.
IC WALES - Jamal Mahmoud, a 40-year-old taxi driver, said he had seen the Americans shooting at people in front of the governor's office. Five men were hit and taken to a hospital, he said. "There were people inside the central bank, which is next door to the governor's office," he said. "They had been looting money for several days. Police were standing outside the bank and fired shots in the air to disperse the looters. "The Americans started firing at the people in front of the governor's office," he said - rather than at the looters.
The US military denied the Marines fired on the crowd. "It absolutely didn't happen," said Navy Capt Frank Thorp, a spokesman for US Central Command in Qatar. He said the marines did shoot, but were returning fire that came from a site away from the crowd. "The Marines were fired upon ... away from the crowd," Thorp said. "They fired back, but they never fired at the crowd. They fired to suppress the fire that was coming at them. I don't have any reports that they hit anybody." Thorp said the shooting ended as soon as the marines returned fire.
MICHAEL HOWARD, GUARDIAN - US special forces struggled to impose order in Mosul yesterday after a public address by the self-styled governor of Iraq's third largest city descended into a riot involving several thousand people, in which 12 were reported killed and at least 16 injured. The death toll and details of the unrest could not be independently confirmed. . . A witness told the Guardian that US troops protecting the city's government building had fired on a crowd which became hostile towards Mashaan al-Juburi, a prominent Iraqi opposition leader, as he was making a speech. The witness said members of the crowd had thrown stones at the self-styled city governor and one person had tried to attack him with a knife. His car had been overturned and set ablaze. In the ensuing chaos, US troops protecting the area had come under fire from a building opposite.
Some witnesses claimed the US soldiers had lost their cool and began firing into the crowd. Others said the killing had taken place after the American unit withdrew and a gunfight broke out between Mr Juburi's supporters and his opponents.
A US marine officer last night confirmed there had been a gun battle lasting about 15 minutes after US forces came under attack from elements within the crowd. They returned with "accurate fire."
DEBORAH PASMANTIER, AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE - Three witnesses questioned by AFP and casualties who spoke to hospital staff said US troops had fired on the crowd, which was becoming increasingly hostile toward Governor Mashaan Al-Juburi as he was making a pro-US speech. An AFP journalist saw a wrecked car in the square and ambulances ferrying wounded people to hospital, while a US aircraft flew over the northern city at low altitude.
At US Central Command's war headquarters in Qatar, Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks told a press briefing he had seen no military reports of the incident and could not confirm it. But the military spokesman in Mosul later said "there were protesters outside, 100 to 150. There was fire. We returned fire." He said the fire came from a roof opposite the building, about 75 meters away. "We didn't fire at the crowd, but at the top of the building," the spokesman added. "There were at least two gunmen. I don't know if they were killed. The firing was not intensive but sporadic, and lasted up to two minutes.
A man who said he was a witness told a different story. "We were at the market place near the government building, where Juburi was making a speech," said Marwan Mohammed, 50. "He said everything would be restored, water, electricity, and that democracy was the Americans. As for the Americans, they were going through the crowd with their flag. They placed themselves between the civilians and the building.
"The people moved toward the government building, the children threw stones, the Americans started firing. Then they prevented the people from recovering the bodies," he told AFP. . .
"Juburi said the people must cooperate with the United States. The crowd called him a liar, and tempers rose as he continued to talk. They threw objects at him, overturned his car which exploded," said Dr. Said Altah. "The wounded said Juburi asked the Americans to fire," he said.
Ayad Hassun, 37, another witness, said the trouble broke out after the crowd interrupted Juburi's speech with cries of, "There is no God but God and Muhammad is His Messenger." "You are with Saddam's Fedayeen," retorted Juburi, to which the crowd chanted that "the only democracy is to make the Americans leave."
He explained that 20 US soldiers escorted Juburi, an opposition leader installed as Mosul governor, back into the building as the situation ran out of control with the crowd's protests growing louder. "They (the soldiers) climbed on top of the building and first fired at a building near the crowd, with the glass falling on the civilians. People started to throw stones, then the Americans fired at them," Hassun said. . . According to a third witness, Abdulrahman Ali, a 49-year-old laborer, the American soldiers opened fire when they saw the crowd running at the government building.
BBC - US ADMITS MOSUL KILLINGS - A US commander has admitted that American troops did shoot and kill a number of Iraqis during a protest in the northern city of Mosul. Brigadier-General Vince Brooks said US marines and special forces soldiers fired at demonstrators on Tuesday after they came under attack from people shooting guns and throwing rocks. "Fire was indeed delivered from coalition forces, it was lethal fire and some Iraqis were killed as a result, we think the number is in the order of seven and we think there were some wounded as well," he said.
A BBC correspondent in the city says Mosul is extremely tense - and latest reports from there say at least three people have been killed and several others wounded by gunfire. The French news agency quotes an Iraqi police officer as saying the police fired into the air to disperse looters who were trying to rob a bank. Eyewitnesses said US troops then fired on a crowd close to the building from nearby rooftops.
US forces had earlier denied responsibility for the killings on Tuesday. Witnesses said US troops fired into a crowd growing increasingly hostile to a speech being given by the town's newly appointed governor. A US spokesman said troops were returning fire from a nearby building and did not aim into the crowd. . . Some reports suggest up to 15 people were killed in Mosul, with between 60 and 100 people injured. The trouble began as an angry crowd gathered outside the governor's building, demanding that Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Americans leave the city, witnesses told the BBC.
Mosul's new governor, Mashaan al-Juburi - an Arab associated with the peshmerga - appears to have tried to pacify the crowd. "He said everything would be restored, water, electricity, and that the Americans [were democratic]," Marwan Mohammed told AFP. "The Americans [troops] were turning around the crowd. The people moved toward the government building, the children threw stones, the Americans started firing. Then they prevented the people from recovering the bodies," he said.
But this account was contradicted by another witness who told the BBC the first shooting sounded like it came from a light weapon - "a Kalashnikov, not like the weapons Americans have".
[Mid-day Wednesday, the Post comes to Centcom's defense]
THOMAS W. LIPPMAN, WASHINGTON POST - The U.S. military's struggle to restore order in postwar Iraq suffered another setback today in the violence-plagued, ethnically divided northern city of Mosul, where three people were reported killed in a burst of gunfire that local citizens said came from American weapons. The reported shooting in an open market near the center of the city came a day after at least seven Iraqis died in a firefight with U.S. Marines. In that incident, Marines opened fire on a mob trying to scale the wall around a compound where the U.S. military was setting up an administrative post, military officials said.
[. . . now the justification]
That encounter appeared to represent exactly the sort of urban conflict that U.S. officials had feared they would face as troops entered Iraqi cities. U.S. commanders have stressed since the beginning of the war a month ago that all their planning was intended to minimize civilian casualties, but with the collapse of government authority U.S. troops are confronting a restive, fractious population in an environment where weapons are plentiful and it is difficult to distinguish true civilians from former military personnel who have doffed their uniforms.
[. . . probably just a bunch of Saddamites, anyway]
He put the number of dead at seven, but some news accounts said at least 10 Iraqi men died. There is no indication yet who they were, but Mosul -- a city of about 1.5 million residents -- has been a stronghold of Arab nationalism and of militias loyal to ousted president Saddam Hussein. If members of such militias are wearing civilian clothes and firing at U.S. troops in public places where civilians congregate, the distinction between civilian and military casualties becomes virtually meaningless to the troops taking fire.