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In Cold Blood

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Blood And Brains

The Sheer Horror Of The Tal Afar Incident


By James Donahue

January 2005


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:


“Usually little 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.

’Stop 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.

”Meanwhile, 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.

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