Shots in Falluja echo round the world
Convincing Iraqis that US soldiers are there to help them will be all the more difficult after the shocking events in Falluja, west of Baghdad. Preventing already widespread popular opposition to the American military presence turning into concerted armed resistance will also be increasingly problematic unless the US army can explain why it was justified in opening fire on a crowd comprising a large number of children and teenagers, killing at least 13 and wounding 75. Local residents said that the children were protesting at the occupation of their school by the US soldiers and that the Americans started firing when a rock was thrown. The shooting reportedly went on for half an hour. People were hit by bullets, shrapnel and possibly by heavy machinegun rounds. Ambulance crews said they were also fired on.
A US officer at the scene, Lieutenant Christopher Hart of the 82nd Airborne Division, was quoted as saying his troops were defending themselves against an attack by two gunmen on a motorcycle and had at first tried to disperse the demonstration with smoke bombs. He claimed some people in the crowd may also have had guns. But this does not begin to explain the severity and duration of the in cident. Lt Hart could not say for sure how many people his men had killed. His vagueness is not surprising. On the basis of the known facts at this point, the Americans appear to have acted with staggering recklessness, turning a residential area full of kids into a murderous free-fire zone. Whatever rules of engagement they supposedly observe clearly did not work. Whatever force was required to ensure their own safety, the degree of force actually used appears to have been massively disproportionate.