BAGHDAD — Now that the smoke has cleared and the rubble settled, residents of a group of bombed Iraqi villages see the raid as really a U.S. loss.
Many Iraqis view the attack Jan. 10 by bombers and F-16 jets on a cluster of villages in the Latifiya district south of Baghdad as overkill.
“The use of B1 bombers shows the terrible failure of the U.S. campaign in Iraq,” Iraqi Major General Muhammad al-Azzawy, a military researcher in Baghdad, told IPS. “U.S. military and political tactics failed in this area, and that is why this massacre. This kind of bombing is usually used for much bigger targets than small villages full of civilians. This was savagery.”
The attack on Juboor and neighbouring villages just south of Baghdad had begun a week earlier with heavy artillery and tank bombardment. The attack followed strong resistance from members of the mainly Sunni Muslim al-Juboor tribe against groups that residents described as sectarian death squads.
“On Jan. 10, huge aircraft started bombing the villages,” Ahmad Alwan from a village near Juboor told IPS. “We took our families and fled. We have never seen such bombardment since the 2003 American invasion. They were bombing everything and everybody.”
Residents said two B1 bombers and four F-16 fighter jets dropped at least 40,000 pounds of explosives on the villages and plantations within a span of 10 minutes.
“The al-Qaeda name is used once more to destroy another Sunni area,” Akram Naji, a lawyer in Baghdad who has relatives in Juboor told IPS. “Americans are still supporting Iranian influence in Iraq by cleansing Baghdad and surroundings of Sunnis.”
The cluster of Sunni villages was bombed just weeks after the U.S. military encouraged families to return to their village after heavy bombing earlier in which scores of people were killed. Many residents had fled fearing sectarian death squads, which they say were backed by the U.S.
Few people in the village now talk the language of reconciliation of U.S. President George W. Bush and of some Iraqis in the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad.
“We have no alternative but to fight this occupation and its allies,” a former army officer in Baghdad speaking on condition of anonymity told IPS. “We can see clearly now that Americans came with the idea that we, Sunni Arabs, are the enemies they have in mind no matter what we do to please them. We will fight for our existence, and this massacre will not go unpunished.”
“It was a miracle that I could evacuate my family at the last minute,” said Omar Hussein, who fled for Dora in Baghdad from the bombarded area. “My house and farm are on the outskirts of the village. I took my family out the minute I saw the aircraft in the sky.
“Apache helicopters later fired at the trucks that were carrying the families out of the area, and killed so many civilians. They took some wounded people to their military base. I am sure hundreds of people would have been killed. It is just like the Fallujah crime.”
Thousands died in prolonged attacks on Fallujah to the west of Baghdad, particularly in 2004 and 2005.
Taha Muslih al-Joboory, his wife and three sons were among those reported killed in the bombing. Juboory was an Iraqi journalist who lived all his life in the area. Many families were reported buried under the rubble of their houses.
The U.S. military said that the aircraft which bombed the area targeted “suspected militant hide-outs, storehouses and defensive positions.”
“We know they will get away with their crime now, but we will teach our children that America and the whole West are our enemies, so that they take revenge for these crimes,” 35-year-old Nada, a woman who has relatives in the village told IPS.
(*Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who has reported extensively from Iraq and the Middle East)