Friday, June 29, 2007

17 Dead Not Al-Qaeda, Just Civilians

By Cernig

When is a dead Al Qaeda In Iraq gunman not a real Al Qaeda In Iraq gunman?

When there are independent witnesses.

The U.S. military is investigating the killings of 17 people in a U.S. helicopter attack north of Baghdad a week ago, after residents of the area complained that the victims were not fighters from the group al-Qaeda in Iraq, as the military originally claimed, but members of a village guard force and ordinary citizens.

A U.S. military spokesman, Lt. Col. Christopher C. Garver, said the June 22 incident in Khalis, about 30 miles north of Baghdad, was under investigation "because of discussions with locals who say it didn't happen as we reported it." The attack occurred in the opening days of Operation Arrowhead Ripper, an offensive against al-Qaeda in Iraq that is centered on Baqubah, about 10 miles southeast of Khalis.

A U.S. military statement on the day of the incident called the dead men "al-Qaeda gunmen" and said they were killed after trying to sneak into Khalis.

"Iraqi police were conducting security operations in and around the village when Coalition attack helicopters from the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade and ground forces from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, observed more than 15 armed men attempting to circumvent the IPs [Iraqi police] and infiltrate the village," the statement said.

"The attack helicopters, armed with missiles, engaged and killed 17 al-Qaeda gunmen and destroyed the vehicle they were using," it said.

Garver said townspeople claim "the individuals were not al-Qaeda, but members of the community." He said additional details were not available, pending completion of the investigation.

The investigation came to light after the BBC reported on its Web site that residents of Khalis were "incensed" that the dead men were accused of being members of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Villagers "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 U.S. military says it foiled," the BBC reported.
Recently, Glenn Greenwald and many others have noticed that suddenly, everyone's Al Qaeda when the U.S. military in Iraq trot out their press releases. The equation used to be that still alive = suspected insurgent while dead = definitely insurgent, because dead people can rarely protest their innocence. Now "insurgent" has been replaced with "Al Qaeda member" - for no other reason than Bush wants it that way because he's underpressure for wasting time fighting a U.S.-created and homegrown insurgency in Iraq instead of attacking the real enemy, Al Qaeda, in it's strongholds like Pakistan. This report shows the truth of Glenn's assertion that the truth is being spun all out of shape to try to bolster flagging public opinion and poll numbers at home.