The Wedding Party

Thursday, June 17th, 2004

We don’t mess around with suspected guerilla safe houses. If there’s a possible threat to America anywhere in Iraq, not even children can stop us from eradicating it.

The dead of May 19, in the remote village of Makr al-Deeb, included Wa’ad Ahmed, age 1 month; Kholood Talib, age 6 months; Ra’id Ahmed, age 2 years; Anood Talib, age 2 years; Raad Ahmed, age 3 years; Fatima Rekaad, age 4 years; Anood Mohammad, age 5 years. In all, 14 children under the age of 12 were killed, according to a doctor in the nearby city of Alqaim; so were 11 women. The total number of dead was said to be 45.

Perhaps they are martyrs for democracy — for the free Iraq we are forging house by house, village by village, wedding party by wedding party. Perhaps they are just collateral damage.

“There was a broken musical double stereo near the gate. Shoes of different sizes, many of them children’s, were scattered. There were pieces of clothes that women wear in rural Iraq, stained with blood. There were also children’s toys, girls’ hair buckles, domino pieces and camera batteries.”

Yeah, I know, this happened a month ago. It’s old news. The media’s pretty much done with it. Bombs, corpses, allegations, denials. What else is new? If you’re an American journalist, the incident falls into the category of “we said/they said.” No way to know what really went down, and besides, there are new deaths, new bombings every day. This is war.

But I protest. The compelling evidence of what actually occurred in Makr al-Deeb on May 19 must be part of the American public’s understanding of this war and of the ongoing U.S. “mission” that both major presidential candidates endorse (though only one, I think, fanatically believes in).

This is our mission: to stay at hair-trigger readiness, poised to respond with overwhelming military force — the only tool we have — to every flare-up of suspected insurgency, perhaps every allegation of anti-American back talk, we learn about through our intelligence sources, no matter how dubious.

The irrationality of this game plan becomes apparent when you look at results like Makr al-Deeb, described in harrowing detail by Eman Ahmed Khammas of Occupation Watch (quoted above). This international coalition of peace groups, with offices in both the U.S. and Baghdad, has a mission of its own: to bear witness to what we’re doing over there and to let the world know.

Where our own credulous, easily placated media mostly give us vague hints about the reality of occupation, sites such as present it unfiltered. Thus, a story that reads in the U.S. press as, at worst, a possible bombing mistake (oops, we thought that was hostile fire) becomes, instead, a willful, systematic mass execution.

According to the survivors Khammas interviewed four days after the incident, the two houses owned by the Rekaad Naif family were strafed by helicopter gunships beginning around 2:30 a.m. on May 19, as wedding guests — mostly mothers with their children, who were too tired to leave after the celebration had ended — slept.

“Then around 5 a.m.,” a young man named Hamid Ataalla told Khammas, “we saw many soldiers, more than 30, going around the houses, torch lights in their hands. We heard them shooting at the injured people who were lying on the ground. One of the injured women, her name is Iqbal, they found bullets from a light American gun in her body. They searched the house. They took all the money and the gold from the dead women. They took the camera and the films. …

“I saw Rekaad’s wife, she was lying here. This is her blood. The killing was brutal; many were killed by light weapons in the head. Around 6, two double fan helicopters came; they took all the soldiers. After a few minutes a black fighter came, it was not very high. It hit the two houses with missiles and put them to the ground, as you can see.”

This is what we do to suspected safe houses.

What glorious neocon future could be worth such horror? Surely our national revulsion at he occupation of Iraq must be nearing critical mass.

Yet even if this is the last gasp of pre-emptive war, what small consolation for the tiny martyrs of Makr al-Deeb.