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2003-12-01

U.S. Kills 54 Iraqis in Occupation’s Bloodiest Weekend; Non-U.S. Coalition Forces Suffer 14 Deaths

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We go to Spain as the bodies of seven Spanish intelligence agents killed in Iraq return home and we take a look at the reaction in Japan after two Japanese diplomats are killed. [Includes transcript]

U.S. forces killed up to 54 Iraqis Sunday in Samarra in one of the bloodiest battles since the fall of Baghdad. Pentagon officials claimed all of the Iraqis killed were fighters but Agence France Press reports that local medics said at least eight of the Iraqis were civilians including an Iraqi woman and child. The Los Angeles Times also reported that local residents said some of the victims worked at a pharmaceutical factory which was hit accidentally by U.S. tanks.

The U.S. said the killings came in response to Iraqi attacks on three U.S. convoys near Samarra.

It came at the end of a weekend that saw coalition forces suffer 14 deaths including seven Spanish intelligence agents, two Korean contractors, two Japanese diplomats, two US soldiers and a Colombian contractor. A total of 111 coalition forces died in November marking the deadliest month since the U.S. invaded Iraq.

In Spain, calls for the return of all Spanish troops increased. Polls show 85 percent of the country believe the war in Iraq was a mistake. The newspaper El Mundo editorialized "Nobody who saw the glee with which passersby trampled the corpses of our countrymen can still maintain that the majority of Iraqis consider coalition troops to be their liberators."

  • Dr. Andrew Oros, assistant professor of Political Science at Washington College.
  • Ignacio Carrion, senior writer with El Pais, Spain’s largest daily newspaper. He joins us on the phone from southern Spain.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Ignacio Carrion, Senior Writer with "El Pais," Spain’s largest daily newspaper, speaking to us from southern Spain, and Dr. Andrew Oros, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Washington College where we will begin. Dr. Andrew Oros, can you talk about the significance of the Japanese casualties in Iraq?

DR. ANDREW OROS: Yes. Well, the losses of two Japanese on Saturday, as you reported, raises once again in the front pages of the newspapers in Japan the question of whether it’s wise to be sending Japanese self-defense forces abroad for the first time to participate in an active combat mission. The critical question here is articulated especially by the opposition party in Japan, the Democratic party of Japan, about whether it’s wise to put Japan’s troops in harm’s way.

I think what’s especially significant here is the nature of the debate in Japan about sending troops abroad has changed substantially from ten years ago when the self-defense forces were deployed for the first time to Cambodia in 1994 to participate in U.N. peacekeeping operations. The question of whether the self-defense forces should go abroad at all. I do think it’s significant that that’s not the question today. The question is whether they can be deployed safely. Naturally, the death of two Japanese diplomats who after all are not military forces, raises that question quite substantially.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Oros, can you talk about what they were doing there?

DR. ANDREW OROS: Yes. I can. Mr. Masamori Inoue is the second Secretary in Baghdad. He was joined by actually the Head of the Cultural Affairs Department at the embassy in London. They were in Tikrit en route to a construction — to a conference on reconstruction of Iraq. I think this is also quite important because one of the rallying cries of Prime Minister Koizumi and his supporters in Japan is that the self-defense forces would participate in reconstruction efforts and would not be involved in combat operations. I think that this suggests that somehow the forces would be out of harm’s way.

And the fact that Japanese diplomats were the ones who were attacked here naturally calls that into question. I might also note that subsequent to the ambush on the Japanese diplomats yesterday in Iraq, two South Korean contractors were killed who were working on restoring Iraq’s power grid. So, once again, there are civilian South Koreans who are involved in just reconstruction efforts.

AMY GOODMAN: The attitude in South Korea towards the invasion of Iraq?

DR. ANDREW OROS: The attitude of South Korean citizens is similar to Japanese citizens and citizens in most of the world outside of the United States, which is not in support of U.S. operations in Iraq. I believe about 80% of South Koreans are against the U.S. efforts to reconstruct the government and infrastructure in Iraq. That’s a similar number to the percentage in Japan.

AMY GOODMAN: In addition to Professor Andrew Oros from Washington College, we’re joined by Ignacio Carrion, Senior Writer at "El Pais" in southern Spain. Welcome to Democracy Now!.

IGNACIO CARRION: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Can you talk about the death of the seven Spanish agents, the intelligence officers from Spain in Iraq and the response in Spain?

IGNACIO CARRION: Well, it has been a shock, painful situation here in Spain because, as you know, 85% of the population is against the invasion of Iraq. It’s against the participation of Spain in any possible way involving a decision that the government took without the approval of parliament, took that position, I suppose, as an attitude of — personal attitude of being serving and being a butler for Mr. Bush. I don’t think that the population at this point is at all agreeing with the continuation of the situation.

AMY GOODMAN: And what has Prime Minister Asnar, said, in response to the deaths?

IGNACIO CARRION: He said he was very sad, but he didn’t even go to the airport where the coffins came. And he sent the Minister of Defense and the Vice President. He said, in an announcement for tomorrow, officially parliament to debate about the question, and at the same time the family will be burying — these people will — that were killed in Iraq. So, it’s producing that divorce between what the population feels and what he thinks he has to do.

AMY GOODMAN: What were these intelligence agents doing in Iraq?

IGNACIO CARRION: Well, the intelligence service is always secret. We don’t know. They were probably gathering information. They were trying to see what the situation was, more or less safe, with the troops that we have there, which is not very numerous but still, we have some troops there with the mission of keeping peace and order. But now, we — the perception here as we are not willing to be but we are in war with the country that we never had the intention to invade.

AMY GOODMAN: Why is Asnar’s interests with President Bush?

IGNACIO CARRION: Well, I suppose that he — he’s always — he is a man with a complex of inferiority. I’m sure that he is trying to produce the image of Spain as a great, important country. The moment Germany and France said, well, we will wait and see what is going to happen. We think that the approval of the United Nations is essential for this mission, at the moment he hears that French and German populations were keeping a certain distance, a very wise position, I would say, then he was very intrepidly, I’m going to produce my own way of conducting things. As we have some problems with terrorism in the Bath province, he said, well, I know about this business. This whole theory is that it is not terrorism. It’s not only terrorism. It’s more than terrorism. It is a war If you have talks in your country that has invaded a country, your country, and then you have the possibility to kill these people. Then it’s — I suppose the resistance is all allowed.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with Ignacio Carrion, senior writing with "El Pais," Spain’s largest daily newspaper, joining us from southern Spain and father of former Producer of Democracy Now!, Maria Carrion, and Also, Dr. Oros, Professor of Political Science at Washington College in Washington DC. You are listening to Democracy Now!. When we return, we’ll talk to Rick Mcarthur of Harper’s Magazine, author of the book, "Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War" about Bush’s highly secretive trip to Baghdad this weekend. Stay with us.

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