The Sheer Horror Of The
Tal Afar Incident
By James Donahue
The picture of the young
girl, her face showing the horror of what just happened . . . the blood, bone and brains of her parents still on her body
. . . has been sending shock waves across Iraq, the Middle East, and the world.
It happened on the night
of January 18, just two days before George W. Bush, the man that launched this evil war, was sworn in for a second term in
office. Consequently, the American media hardly mentioned the incident. Perhaps it was ignored.
But the pictures of what
happened, shot by Getty Images photographer Chris Hondros who happened to be nearby, are making their way to newspapers and
websites around the world.
It was dusk in the war
torn city of Tal Afar,
Iraq, and a family was rushing to get
home because the town curfew was eminent.
Hondros tells what happened
in his own words:
more happens than finding someone out after curfew, patting him down, and then sending him home. On daylight patrols, sometimes,
troops stop to briefly play with children or even drink tea. On evening patrols - past curfew - no one is on the streets,
and the men are extra-vigilant and professional.
”Tal Afar is an ethnically mixed town -- though primarily Turkoman,
and had only days before been the scene of a gun battle between U.S.
forces and local insurgents.
”On the evening of Jan. 18, as we made our way up a broad boulevard, I could see
car making its way toward us. As a defense against potential car bombs, it is now standard practice for foot patrols to stop
oncoming vehicles, particularly after dark. ‘We have a car coming,’ someone called out, as we entered an intersection.
We could see the car about 100 meters away. The car continued coming; I couldn't see it anymore from my perch but could hear
its engine now, a high whine that sounded more like acceleration than slowing down. It was maybe 50 yards away now.
that car!’ someone shouted out, seemingly simultaneously with someone firing what sounded like warning shots -- a staccato,
measured burst. The car continued coming. And then perhaps less than a second later a cacophony of fire, shots rattling off
in a chaotic overlapping din. The car entered the intersection on its momentum and still shots were penetrating it and slicing
it. Finally the shooting stopped, the car drifted listlessly, clearly no longer being steered, and came to a rest on a curb.
Soldiers began to approach it warily.
”The sound of children crying came from the car. I walked up to the car
and a teenage girl with her head covered emerged from the back, wailing and gesturing wildly. After her came a boy, tumbling
onto the ground from the seat, already leaving a pool of blood.
”’Civilians!’ someone shouted, and
soldiers ran up. More children -- it ended up being six all told -- started emerging, crying, their faces mottled with blood
in long streaks. The troops carried them all off to a nearby sidewalk.
”It was by now almost completely dark.
There, working only by lights mounted on ends of their rifles, an Army medic began assessing the children's injuries, running
his hands up and down their bodies, looking for wounds. Incredibly, the only injuries were a girl with a cut hand and a boy
with a superficial gash in the small of his back that was bleeding heavily but wasn't life-threatening. The medic immediately
began to bind it, while the boy crouched against a wall.
”From the sidewalk I could see into the bullet-mottled
windshield more clearly. The driver of the car, a man, was penetrated by so many bullets that his skull had collapsed, leaving
his body grotesquely disfigured. A woman also lay dead in the front, still covered in her Muslim clothing and harder to see.
the children continued to wail and scream, huddled against a wall, sandwiched between soldiers either binding their wounds
or trying to comfort them. The Army's translator later told me that this was a Turkoman family and that the teenaged girl
kept shouting, ‘Why did they shoot us? We have no weapons! We were just going home!’
That question is being
investigated by the military, of course. But the damage from this kind of incident is irreparable. Our ugly war in Iraq has now turned against the people of that country.
In spite of what the
politicians and the government controlled media tell us, this war is not going well for America. Incidents like the one in Tal Afar only serve to inflame the rebels to
fight us that much harder.