Last week Christian Science Monitor reporter Scott Peterson filed a story titled “Setbacks in winning Iraqi hearts.” It began:
The night after Baghdad fell, three Bradley Fighting Vehicles, fresh from battle, came across some Iraqi military trucks loaded with ordnance in residential District 405.
What happened next would become a tragedy for both the American soldiers and the Iraqi civilians.
After warning the residents along Street No. 2 to stay in their homes, the lead US vehicle fired explosive rounds into the parked trucks. The resulting fireball destroyed four houses, broke windows up to six blocks away–and killed the Bradley commander.
As US troops attempt to restore safety and order to Baghdad, events like these are complicating the postwar campaign to win Iraqi hearts and minds. The incidents also raise the issue of who should pay for the unintentional mistakes of war.
Damaged beyond repair is District 405 resident Abdulkarim Al-Fardousi’s faith that Americans had come to free his people from dictatorship and make a better future for Iraq.
“The happiness at the fall of Saddam has faded away in that single incident,” says Fardousi, owner of an advertising agency, as he picks through mangled wreckage that included four computers and six monitors–brought home from work for safety during the war.
“If this is freedom, I don’t want it,” Fardousi says. The blast knocked out hearing in his right ear, but the 27 other family members crammed into the back of the house survived that night, April 10. In the block, eight people were lightly wounded.
“Who is going to compensate for all this loss?” Fardousi asks. “This was an American mistake–they told us that.”
- Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor reporter in Iraq.