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imperialism & war

Surprise attacks turns military's mood mean

One lieutenant told his platoon: "We came here to liberate these people. If they don't want to be liberated, we'll conquer them."
Surprise attacks turns military's mood mean
By Ron Harris Post-Dispatch
updated: 03/24/2003 11:44 PM



IN SOUTHERN IRAQ - As word of U.S. casualties traveled through the thousands of troops in this caravan of 7th Marines moving toward their next major offensive on Monday, their mood turned ugly.

"Now I just see every civilian as a potential hostile," said Cpl. Phillip Langley, 24, of Festus, Mo. "I'm not too damned worried about their safety anymore."

When this regiment entered Iraq last week, it was greeted warmly by many waving Iraqis. As it moved north, it cut through opposition forces with few injuries and no Marines killed.

Late Sunday and early Monday, they learned that others had not been so fortunate.

In one incident Sunday near An Nasiriyah, a crossing point over the Euphrates River, a group of Iraqis waved a white flag in surrender, then opened up with artillery fire. Another group, dressed as civilians, appeared to welcome coalition troops, then attacked them, U.S. officials said. Nine Marines died and a dozen U.S. soldiers were missing and presumed captured after the surprise engagements.

The 7th Marines are in a different part of southern Iraq - commanders would not permit journalists traveling with them to disclose the exact location. They are moving hundreds of tanks, armored amphibious vehicles, heavy machine guns, tow rockets and anti-tank weapons to join the Army in a major assault. The Army's 3rd Infantry Division was reported to be within 50 miles of Baghdad on Monday.

By the time the 7th Marines pulled out of camp early Monday morning, everybody had heard of the wounded and dead near An Nasiriyah. As they prepared to leave, commanders talking to their troops discussed the events, hoping to get them prepared for the battles ahead.

"Right now, everybody is suspect," Staff Sgt. Robert Taylor, of Detroit, told his platoon as the men gathered outside their amphibious armored vehicle.

"Friendly time is over. We don't wave. We don't smile. We don't do nothing."

One lieutenant told his platoon: "We came here to liberate these people. If they don't want to be liberated, we'll conquer them."

As they crossed the Euphrates River and moved forward Monday, the Marines were wary of civilians they encountered and of Iraqi soldiers who said they had deserted. Marines told them to lie on the ground, threatening to shoot them if they looked up.

Marines in one unit ate the humanitarian rations they are supposed to give hungry Iraqis and dumped the remains on the side of the highway.

One sergeant feigned a conversation with a hungry Iraqi who asks, "'Oh, you have humanitarian rations?'" The sergeant's reply: "No, but I have a bullet for you."



"Now, we're here to help ourselves"




Before their invasion of Iraq began, the Marines were told that their mission was to defeat the Iraqi Army while winning over the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. That remains their mission, but the attacks near An Nasiriyah appeared to harden their attitude.

The news of the attacks began to trickle into the 7th Marines' camp late Sunday night, when Marines gathered around the handful of short-wave radios to listen to the British Broadcasting Company reports.

"The way they came out there, waving at (the Marines) and then turning around and shooting them in the back, I feel like they are screwing us, stabbing us in the back," said Lance Cpl. Ramon Wells, 23, of New York City.

For many of these Marines, most of whom so far have not seen direct fire from the enemy, the news brought the war closer to home.

"I think it just made it a little more personal now, now that we have casualties and people killed in action," said Lance Cpl. Josh Rutherford, 20, of West Union, Ohio. "Before, we came here to help them. Now, we're here to help ourselves."

Before beginning Monday's march, many of the Marines asked commanders if the rules of engagement - rules that define when Marines can shoot and return fire - had changed, suggesting the rules were too restrictive.

Lt. Col. Michael Belcher, commander of the hundreds of men in the Third Battalion, said the rules had not been changed and that the Marines were wrong if they thought the rules put them in jeopardy.

"They give them the ability to protect themselves and to protect others," Belcher said.

Belcher said Marines who assumed that civilian Iraqis were not threatening were operating under the wrong assumption.

"They never should have had that mindset in the first place," he said. "It's like a police officer. He has to treat that suspect as dangerous until he has him in a secure position."

Lt. Paul Gillikin, of Beaufort, N.C., said that what happened at An Nasiriyah, though tragic, may be a good lesson for these Marines.

"They need to be in the mindset that we're here to fight," said Gillikin, 24. "We're not here to kill civilians, but bayonets are fixed, weapons are loaded and the focus is on the enemy. The focus is on what's going to kill us."

"They may have to kill people down the road, and they may not be wearing uniforms."

Lance Cpl. Stanley Brown of Chicago said the reports of casualties haven't changed his perspective, nor that of many other Marines.

"I just do my job, " Brown, 25, said. "I just want to go home alive and intact. Some of the Marines want (rules of engagement) changed, but most of them are just like me. They just want to go home."

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Attaboy Saddam! 25.Mar.2003 18:43

Oz

Saddam has managed to bufu the people in Iraq yet again.

Protestors take heed, you piss off the cops enough and they may actually start enforcing the laws.