Posted on Tue, Apr. 15, 2003
In bombed neighborhoods, everyone 'wants to kill Americans'
By CAROL ROSENBERG and MATT SCHOFIELD
Knight Ridder Newspapers
BAGHDAD, Iraq - In Baghdad's al Kharnouq neighborhood, five unexploded American-made cluster bomblets perch precariously in Qusai Abdel Majid's lemon tree and the flower bed beneath it. Stepping carefully, one can follow a trail of dozens of the 2-inch-long black bombs that have killed four of his neighbors so far.
"There was no military here to put the bombs on us. So, I imagine, they wanted to kill us," said Abdel Majid, 43, who is afraid to let his children play in the yard.
In the al Adhamiya neighborhood, men point to fallen walls, collapsed roofs and smashed cars riddled with bullet holes. They speak swiftly and angrily.
"A year ago, on these streets, we would have yawned if someone had mentioned America to us," Khalid Tarah said. "Now, look what they have done to us. Everyone feels this pain. Everyone here now wants to kill. Everyone here now wants to kill Americans."
At the end of the U.S. military's first week in Baghdad, gunfire of uncertain origin continued sporadically throughout the day Tuesday, picking up late at night, but looting had all but subsided. The Army's 101st Airborne Division said it was considering an 11 p.m.-to-dawn curfew in an effort to control the gunfire, but Marines who occupy the portions of Baghdad east of the Tigris River said they had no such plan.
Elements of the 4th Infantry Division drove through town on their way from Kuwait to northern Iraq, and were greeted by smiling and waving Baghdadis.
But many Baghdadis were angry as they talked about the destruction in their neighborhoods.
"The people are paying for this war, not Saddam or anybody else. Really, we wanted to get rid from him, but not in this way," said Kawther Hussein, 46, a British-trained chemical engineer and mother of three who lives in al Kharnouq.
"People lived here. Children lived here. Where will they live now?" a man in al Adhamiya said as the crowd picked up the bricks of a collapsed apartment building.
U.S. military officials acknowledge the damage in civilian neighborhoods. Two U.S. Army ordnance experts went street to street in al Kharnouq on Tuesday searching for the canisters that fluttered down April 7, leaving a virtual minefield amid the rows of split-level homes of designs that mix Frank Lloyd Wright and Mesopotamian inspirations.
"It's a big problem," said Army Corps of Engineers Capt. Thomas Austin, whose crews are responsible for disarming unexploded ordinance in part of Baghdad. "This is the worst neighborhood I've personally seen."
Austin defended the bomblets' use, saying the Iraqi military sometimes put anti-aircraft artillery in civilian neighborhoods and that the bomblets were meant to rain down on armor or anti-aircraft batteries, exploding when they hit their metal surfaces.
Instead, they landed on softer targets - lawns and trees, and in one instance the asbestos roof of 60-year-old Sabih el Bazzaz's carport - cushioning their fall, and failing to trigger them.
Residents say the closest anti-aircraft battery was on a highway a quarter-mile from their neighborhood. For them it is a sign that American forces didn't distinguish between the military and civilians in their so-called war of liberation.
The toll, they said, was four civilians. The house of Rashid Majid and his sons Ghassan and Arkan had a black banner of mourning outside Tuesday, declaring them "martyrs of the American aggression."
Around the corner, Uday al Shimarey's father said his son and the Majids were all killed because they were curious about the bombs and apparently leaned over to pick them up, or kicked them.
The view from al Adhamiya is just as bitter, though the U.S. bombing campaign left it largely unscathed. At 5 a.m. last Thursday, residents awoke to hear American tanks rolling down residential streets so narrow that a few got stuck.
Thirty people were killed, though the circumstances were uncertain. Tarah said they were "defending their homes ... hoping to keep away thieves and robbers, when the tanks rolled in." He said a 10-year-old boy was shot as he watched what was going on. Thirteen more were killed when they rushed to protect Imam al Nawman Mosque nearby.
Sheik Moaied al Aadhamiy offered a tour of the mosque. There were large holes in the four-story clock tower, caused by bombs, he said. The corners of the two-story arched entryway had been ripped off by tank fire. The tomb of Imam al Nawman is riddled with bullets holes, at least 20.
The sheik acknowledged that residents tried to drive the Americans away. But the damage was done before. "There was no one here when the Americans arrived," he said. "Those who came to defend the mosque arrived and tried to drive them away, when they were killed. But the mosque was empty when they did this."
Al Aadhamiy shook his head. The mosque is 1,020 years old, he said.
"I know the Americans said their war was with Saddam and not the Iraqi people," he said. "But this is now inside our hearts and will never leave. Each day when I come here, I have the same thought, everyone says the same thing. There is no other reaction. We hate the Americans."
(Knight Ridder Newspapers correspondents Andrea Gerlin and John Sullivan in Baghdad contributed to this report.)
© 2003 KRT Wire and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.