...make the count, while it can still be done with the fingers of one hand: '03, '04, '05 and now '06. Soon, another bitter summer of heat and battle. Blood in the sun, flies, dogs, crowded morgues, too little water, too little electricity, the children fed with sweets too close to US tanks.
A child walks out through a bullet-riddled
entrance hit during a US army attack in the
town of Samaraa on December 1, 2003.
I don't mean picks them off in ambush and unprotected roads well salted with IED, I mean wipes them out.
Soldiers patrol the streets of Samarra
on Oct. 8,  following the U.S.
offensive, "Operation Baton Rouge."
[U.S. Army photo by Sgt. W. Wayne Marlow]
By Tom Lasseter
Knight Ridder Newspapers
SAMARRA, Iraq - The gunfight by the Tigris River was over. It was time to retrieve the bodies.
Staff Sgt. Cortez Powell looked at the shredded jaw of a dead man whom he'd shot in the face when insurgents ambushed an American patrol in a blind of reeds. Powell's M4 assault rifle had jammed, so he'd grabbed the pump-action shotgun that he kept slung over his shoulders and pulled the trigger.
Five other soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division scrambled down, pulled two of the insurgents' bodies from the reeds and dragged them through the mud.
"Strap those motherf-----s to the hood like a deer," said Staff Sgt. James Robinson, 25, of Hughes, Ark.
The soldiers heaved the two bodies onto the hood of a Humvee and tied them down with a cord. The dead insurgents' legs and arms flapped in the air as the Humvee rumbled along.
Iraqi families stood in front of the surrounding houses. They watched the corpses ride by and glared at the American soldiers.
Samarra 2004 [OC Register]
Fifteen months earlier, when the 1st Infantry Division sent some 5,000 Iraqi and U.S. soldiers to retake Samarra from Sunni Muslim insurgents, it was a test of the American occupation's ability not only to pacify but also to rebuild a part of Iraq dominated by the country's minority Sunnis.
More than a year later, American troops still are battling insurgents in Samarra. Bloodshed is destroying the city and driving a wedge between the Iraqis who live there and the U.S. troops who are trying to keep order.
Violence, police corruption and the blurry lines of guerrilla warfare are clouding any hopes of victory.
"It's apocalyptic out there. Life has definitely gotten worse for" Iraqis, said Maj. Curtis Strange, 36, of Mobile, Ala., who works with Iraqi troops in Samarra. "You see Samarra and you almost want to build a new city and move all these people there."
Samarra March 2005 [lenta.ru]
In the middle of town, in an abandoned schoolhouse, Sgt. Powell, 28, of Columbia, Mo., lives with his fellow soldiers from the 2nd platoon of Bravo Company in the 101st Airborne's storied Rakkasan Brigade. Patrol Base Uvanni is named for Army National Guard Sgt. Michael Uvanni of Rome, N.Y., who was killed in the city on Oct. 1, 2004.
A different name is painted in black on the door to the company's tactical operations center: the Alamo.
The 2nd platoon and two others - about 120 men total - are based at the Alamo and at another base on the edge of town. They replaced three companies from the 3rd Infantry Division that had a total of more than 400 soldiers.
"If they ever figure out that we don't have many guys here we'll be in trouble," said 1st Lt. Dennis Call, who commands the 2nd platoon. "If we're out on patrol with just seven guys, like usual, and we take two casualties we'll get messed up."
US soldiers Samarra October 2005 [Pravda]
As Call sat in the schoolhouse, preparing to go out, he heard two loud bursts from the .50-caliber machine gun on the roof.
Specialist Michael Pena, a beefy 21-year-old from Port Isabel, Texas, had opened fire. Boom-boom-boom. Boom-boom-boom.
Call and his men dashed out the front door. Pena had shot an unarmed Iraqi man on the street. The man had walked past the signs that mark the 200-yard "disable zone" that surrounds the Alamo and into the 100-yard "kill zone" around the base. The Army had forced the residents of the block to leave the houses last year to create the security perimeter. [...]
Looking at the man splayed on the ground, Call turned to his medic, Specialist Patrick McCreery, and asked, "What the f--- was he doing?"
McCreery didn't answer. The man's internal organs were hanging out of his side, and his blood was pouring across the ground. He was conscious and groaning. His eyelids hung halfway closed.
"What ... did they shoot him with?" McCreery asked, sweat beginning to show on his brow. "Did someone call a ... ambulance?"
The call to prayer was starting at a mosque down the street. The words "Allahu Akbar" - God is great - wafted down from a minaret's speakers.
The man looked up at the sky as he heard the words. He repeated the phrase "Ya Allah. Ya Allah. Ya Allah." Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.
Samarra December 2003 Grand Mosque of Ali Adi
He looked at McCreery and raised his finger toward the house in front of him.
"This my house," he said in broken English. [...]
Looking into the dying man's eyes, the medic said, "Haji, haji, look at me," using the honorific title reserved for older Muslim men who presumably have gone on Hajj - pilgrimage - to Mecca.
"Why? Why?" asked the man, his eyes beginning to close.
"Haji, I don't know," said McCreery, sweat pouring down his face.
An Iraqi ambulance pulled up and the Humvees followed. They followed the man to the hospital they'd raided a few days earlier. The soldiers filed in and watched as the man died.
An Iraqi boy gestures in front of a burned-out
car in Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north
of Baghdad, December 1, 2003. [...]
Attacks across Iraq at the weekend also killed
seven Spanish intelligence agents, two South
Korean contractors, two Japanese diplomats and
their Iraqi driver, a Colombian contractor
and two U.S. soldiers.
Call said nothing. McCreery, a 35-year-old former foundry worker from Levering, Mich., walked toward a wall, alone. He looked at the dead man for a moment and wiped tears from his eyes.
A few days later, Call's commander asked him to take pictures of the entrails left by the man Pena had shot, identified as Wissam Abbas, age 31, to document that Abbas was inside the sign warning of deadly force.
McHenry, who was driving, told him, "There's not going to be much left, sir. The dogs will have eaten all of it."
Pena was up on the schoolhouse roof manning the same .50-caliber machine gun. He didn't say a word about the man he'd killed. As he stared at a patch of earth in front of him, at Samarra and its wreckage, he couldn't contain his frustration.
"No one told me why I'm putting my life on the line in Samarra, and you know why they didn't?" Pena asked. "Because there is no f------ reason."
A US soldier inspects a store after its door
was blown off in the industrial section
of Samarra. [AFP/POOL/Stefan Zaklin]