Reports are coming in that a suicide bomber driving a truck packed with explosives has managed to drop an overpass span onto the main highway South from Baghdad. A US Army checkpoint had been established at the overpass and the collapse trapped several soldiers. There has been no confirmation as yet of casualties.
Luckily, a convoy of private security contractors from the British company Armor Group International was just approaching the overpass at the time of the explosion and the contractors, almost all ex-military, were able to help US reaction forces with rescue work.
The Armor Group team climbed up with first-aid kits, stretchers and other aid.This is a highly significant attack, coming as it does after repeated attempts to blow river bridges and thus to hamper movement of security forces as well as chop areas of Iraq into ethnic segments. I'm sure my colleague Fester can provide us with some insight into how the US supply chain might have been disrupted if the bomber had succeeded in blowing both spans of the overpass and thus blocking the main highway link South from Baghdad.
With the Army's quick reaction force, they struggled to lift concrete shards off the men, pinned along the slope of what was once a roadway. At one point, a Bradley armored vehicle with a tow chain pulled a slab off a pinned victim to free him.
Then a shout went up, ``Morphine! Morphine!'' and one of the black T-shirt-clad Britons administered painkiller to the freed man.
``Another poor fellow looked crushed beneath a concrete slab,'' said Armor Groups Donald Campbell, 40, of Inverness, Scotland.
During the rescue, U.S. armored vehicles opened up with suppressing fire, possibly having spotted movement in the surrounding countryside, flat and baking in 100-degree-plus temperatures.
And the thing is, these kinds of attacks are just going to keep happening. The pro-war punditry have been full recently of something they call 'The Awakening", where Sunni tribes are coming to US commanders and asking assistance in fighting Al Qaida. It is their one shining hope for success in Iraq, now.
Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, who commands US forces immediately South of the capital, today spoke at length about U.S. efforts to draw Sunnis into the security forces. What he said should disabuse anyone that The Awakening is any kind of good answer for the US occupation.
``There are tribal sheiks out there who say 'Hey, just allow me to be the local security force. I don't care what you call me. ... You can call me whatever you want. Just give me the right training and equipment and I'll secure my area.' And that's the direction we're moving out there,'' the Third Infantry Division commander said.And once those Sunni tribes have dealt with Al Qaeda and successfully cleansed their areas of any Iran-loving Shiites, can anyone guess which way their guns and explosives - much now provided by US forces themselves - will be pointed next?
In a meeting with reporters, Lynch said contacts with the Sunnis, who make up the bulk of the insurgency, were a matter of pragmatism.
``They say: 'We hate you because you are an occupier, but we hate al-Qaida worse and we hate the Persians (Iranians) even worse' ... you can't ignore that whole population,'' Lynch said.