April 14, 2004


Zeyad at Healing Iraq reports claims that, if true, are beyond obscene:

The body count in Fallujah till now is 518 Iraqis dead (160 of them women, and about 50 children) and 1250 badly injured. Doctors from Fallujah mentioned that a large number of the dead women and children were shot in the head and that they were saving the extracted bullets to prove that they were being targetted by Marines snipers in the city.

These claims -- that non-combatant women and children are being executed by US Marines -- warrant much greater attention prior to further comment. Meanwhile, in a frantic, terrible day:

• Around 40 hostages from 12 countries are reported kidnapped;.

• Russia’s largest contractor in Iraq is withdrawing its 370 staff;

• Four Italians have been taken hostage;

• And Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has warned the 200 or so Australians in Iraq that we won’t negotiate with any hostage takers:

"It's important to those Australians in Iraq that we send out this message loud and strong - that hostage takers will not be rewarded by the Australian Government or Australian people."

UPDATE. A ballistics-aware reader writes:

If Marine snipers are shooting Iraqis in the head it is highly unlikely that few, if any, bullets will be extracted because they will be passing clean through. If a sniper is using a Barrett 50 caliber there will be no head left to extract a bullet from.

This sniper stuff is bullshit unless the snipers are using .45s or 9mms.

Posted by Tim Blair at April 14, 2004 04:12 AM

Unless Lon Horiuchi is there, I don't believe it.

Posted by: Dave S. at April 14, 2004 at 04:24 AM

Snarkiness aside, what would be the point? Sounds like a typically clumsy frame-job. Far be it from me to say that an Arab would lie, but... well, yeah.

Posted by: Dave S. at April 14, 2004 at 04:28 AM

"Saving the extracted bullets"? Doesn't that mean that someone who willingly stayed in Fallujah is going to show up with a handful of American bullets, not exactly in short supply in Fallujah, and say, "Hey, these were in women's skulls a minute ago. And children's, too! Yeah, that's the ticket. I certainly didn't dig them out of the wall over there, or out of evil insurgents, nossir... that would be LYING, don't you know."

Posted by: Just John at April 14, 2004 at 04:28 AM

We also don't know if those "women and children" were carrying weapons when they were shot.

Posted by: Robert Crawford at April 14, 2004 at 04:35 AM

As mentioned at Zeyad's place, undoubtably lies. Remember Jenin. I say divide that number by 10 to get a more accurate picture. Still too high, but as reporters there have been reported, its been mostly men of fighting age that have been killed.

Posted by: FH at April 14, 2004 at 04:39 AM

I can see the operational briefing now-

"Here's the situation, gentlemen - it makes no military sense whatsoever to deliberately target individual women and children. It would be a public relations disaster to deliberately target individual women and children. So I want you men to go out there and deliberately target individual women and children. Except you, Vasquez - I want you to rape an Iraqi baby in front of a CNN cameraman."

Posted by: Dave S. at April 14, 2004 at 04:46 AM

Zeyad has not been a happy camper lately, I think the chaos is starting to really break him down...I hope that he can find a silver lining out there, because his reporting has been invaluable.

On a related note, I have a friend with three kids who is a Marine, and in Falluja right now. Ther is NO FREAKING WAY he would should a "large percentage" of women and children, no matter WHAT was happening. I know of other marines like this as well.

I'm sorry but "a large number of the dead women and children were shot in the head"- I simply don't buy it. Not the Marines I know...

Posted by: Tman at April 14, 2004 at 04:49 AM

This seems to run parallel to the "crushing dissent" line here in the States.

If I really were a doctor extracting Marine-fired sniper bullets from victims whose deaths aren't in the best interests of the US, the only thing I'd be worried about would be a matching bullet finding its way inside my head.

Posted by: david at April 14, 2004 at 04:51 AM

Just to be fair, not all snipers use Barret .50s. Some use bolt-action 7.62s and others use 5.56 M-16A2s. If the lying scum are smart, they're shooting cadavers (or, God help us, live women and children) with a stolen M-16. If they're stupid, they're using a 7.62 which would not match the rifling of a Marine sniper rifle (rather unlikely to be stolen or a battlefield pick-up.) If they're REALLY stupid, they'll try to pass off 7.62 Kalashnikov bullets as 7.62 Winchester (slightly different shape and diameter.)

Posted by: Dave S. at April 14, 2004 at 04:55 AM

Tim Blair is a level-headed guy- why does he call completely unsubstantiated & dubious rumors "...claims that, if true, are beyond obscene"?

Has Tim been kidnapped? Hypnotized?

I'm puzzled. Tim- get a grip! What's wrong with you?

Posted by: KH at April 14, 2004 at 04:58 AM

personally i can't wait for the movie "Fallujah, Fallujah". i can only hope that Scott (yum, little girls) Ritter can produce it.

Posted by: hen at April 14, 2004 at 04:59 AM

Sorry, Zeyad, just don't buy the line from the doctors about deliberate targeting of women and children. I do buy the line of typical "Arab insurgent's" tactic to run groups of women and children ahead of soldiers already firing, however. Remember, these guys (Arabs, Iraqis, etc.) simply do not value the lives of women especially, and children secondarily. A lot of this kind of stuff went on in Mogodishu and the Rangers there had no choice but to fire into the crowds to get at the gunmen in the rear. War is hell, man.

Posted by: Tom T Hall at April 14, 2004 at 05:03 AM

Tim Blair is a level-headed guy- why does he call completely unsubstantiated & dubious rumors "...claims that, if true, are beyond obscene"?

Um, what does the qualifier 'if true' mean to you?

Posted by: Roger Bournival at April 14, 2004 at 05:04 AM

"if true" gives this incredible lie a hint of credence - i can say with 100% certainty that this story is bullshit - grade A, prime, 100% USDA approved bullshit.

tim should be saying "Zeyad has now gone officially off the rails. Check out this line of crap that he is peddling".

but whatever, the more i see how "grateful" the Iraqis are the more i regret that even a single Allied soldier had to die to liberate them.

Posted by: hen at April 14, 2004 at 05:13 AM

There's a grammatical point that you cannot be gentle without being strong; and society is always uneasy with that fact. Stories will always have strong going wrong. It is enough to be strong, to set it off; be you ever so gentle.

That's where the story comes from. It comes up all over.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at April 14, 2004 at 05:19 AM

The source of the information is Fouad Rawi, senior member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, and he's citing ``hospital sources.''

Another doctor today said today he's received 9 dead and 38 wounded, of which 7 of the wounded are women and children. If this is representative, or indeed true, it means that 85% of the casualties are insurgents.

Posted by: chip at April 14, 2004 at 05:29 AM

"Um, what does the qualifier 'if true' mean to you?"

Um, it means that Tim Blair is giving the story the benefit of the doubt right now -- which is more than it deserves, given the state of the available information.

I'm still astounded that he took such an irresponsible approach.

Posted by: KH at April 14, 2004 at 05:38 AM

In the head? What happened to center mass?

Posted by: Ken J at April 14, 2004 at 05:39 AM

According to reports, Fallujah civilians were warned to stay away the day the contractors were killed and mutilated. None of these people tried to warn anybody in the Coalition what was about to happen.

Posted by: moghedien at April 14, 2004 at 05:51 AM

I was a United States Marine during the first Gulf War. THERE IS NO F-ING WAY MARINES ARE MURDERING WOMEN AND CHILDREN!!! Have people learned nothing? We are trying to win hearts and minds, and they are trying to win the New Times approval. It is ridiculous how the press calls Bush a liar, when Bush can't say anything without everyone analyzing it to no end. Yet, the word of some scumbag murderer in Iraq is taken at face value.

Posted by: Jimmy at April 14, 2004 at 06:01 AM

I have to second (or third or whatever) your ballistically aware reader's point, and expand on it. Even if they're using a poodle-shooter like the M-16, the slug's going to pass clear through a skull, quike likely bursting it like an over-ripe cantaloupe at normal engagement ranges. (A stray bullet that's passed through a few walls would be another story...) The 7.62x51mm NATO round that the Marine snipers use is a 168 grain Sierra Match King leaving the barrel at 2600 fps. (About 792.5 meters/sec) The bullet has a very destinctive shape (An open tip that's the result of the manucaturing process, and which provides no expansion.) If they try & pawn off 122 grain M43 slugs from an AKM, I doubt anyone but the press will buy it.

Posted by: Cybrludite at April 14, 2004 at 06:05 AM

Tim's tabloid "DAY OF DISASTER" post still positively shouts these dubious & unsubstantiated claims in boldface. This is so wrong -- even with his partial rowback via a quote from a "ballistics-aware reader."

Maureen Dowd, meet a new friend- Tim Blair.

Tim- what's wrong with you? It was the wee hours in Oz- perhaps a night of heavy drinking? Explain yourself!

Posted by: KH at April 14, 2004 at 06:12 AM

I'm in Sydney; Zeyad is in Iraq; and, on the majority of his past posts, he is not unreliable.

Therefore I quoted (and I've quoted him previously) Zeyad's reported claims. This isn't to say that I believe them; on the contrary, I'm inclined -- to say the least -- not to. But as yet we have no evidence either way.

The claims are extreme. I'm in no position to rule either way. Shortly, hopefully, we'll learn the truth.

Posted by: tim at April 14, 2004 at 06:18 AM

Sorry, Tim, trumpeting that revolting piece of propaganda in bold print and giving it the benefit of the doubt -- to be proved false only when and if "we'll learn the truth", is mind-boggling to me, having read (and appreciated)your blog for as long as I have.

p.s. - Zeyad is in Iraq, but not in Fallujah -- I would think he has no better idea what is actually taking place there than you do.

Posted by: docob at April 14, 2004 at 06:30 AM

I'm surprised (and disgusted) that YOU relayed such a report without at least commenting on the plausibility of a Marine unit deliberately targeting their sniper teams on "women and children". There is much about this report that is counter-intuitive and warrants discussion before presenting it with the two word admonition and bold lettering you added. No doubt a sack full of spent rounds will be provided as proof and your willingness to accept and relay such a dishonorable portrait of US Marines will be validated to your satisfaction.

Posted by: mikem at April 14, 2004 at 06:47 AM

Zeyad is getting info either from rumors on the street or from Al Jazeera etc. I am also extremely disappointed in Tim for even giving this the benefit of the doubt. Hundreds of women and children shot in the head by Marine snipers? C'mon, this kind of obvious bullshit is manufactured by propagandists for consumption among the abysmally ignorant and hateful population of the "Arab Street", not for readers of this site. Tim?

Posted by: Rob in Massachusetts at April 14, 2004 at 06:51 AM

"I quoted (and I've quoted him previously) Zeyad's reported claims."

Tim, you didn't just quote claims here- you trumpeted them. And these are not even Zeyad's own claims -- he was merely citing something "mentioned" by "doctors from Fallujah."

Dubious, utterly unsubstantiated rumors from Fallujah sources -- you say you're not "inclined" to believe them, but you're on the fence about it: "...as yet we have no evidence either way." "I'm in no position to rule either way.

You are absurd and outrageous.

I never thought I'd say this, but it's time to fisk Tim Blair.

Posted by: KH at April 14, 2004 at 06:53 AM

Just as importantly, a .308 round doesn't tend to hit the skull and stay in to be "extracted". It should go right on through the far side. (Do Marine snipers actually ever use .223? I've never heard of such a thing! Even SWAT team snipers (who generally work at much closer ranges, in places where overpenetration is more of a problem) seem to prefer the .308, by all indications. But I'm not a sniper expert, of course...)

I'd be flabbergasted if the USMC did such a thing. Utterly speechless. I'd bet significant money on a frameup or a simple lie.

Posted by: Sigivald at April 14, 2004 at 07:00 AM


/end of story

Posted by: Tongue Boy at April 14, 2004 at 07:04 AM

Tim, it's understandable that you wouldn't want to immediately dismiss Zeyad's concerns. He has been reliable. But there are other things you should consider besides mere ballistics.

Marine snipers are the best in the world. The Marine Corp itself emphasizes marksmanship more than other services. "Every Marine a rifleman". The average Marine is an excellent marksman. A Marine sniper will be the best of the best. (The Marine sniper school teaches snipers in the Navy SEALs.) Then there's the nature of the act of sniping. A sniper will spend more time looking, searching for targets and sneaking around than shooting. Patience is key. A sniper will take their time before they shoot a target, and using their scope they are often able to look the target in the eyes before they shoot them. It's an extreme experience, and it is very difficult for snipers to deal with just shooting armed men. The idea that you would find Marine snipers willing to embark on a campaign against women and children, looking them in the eyes before they shoot them, is far-fetched to say the least.

If the ballistic evidence were to show that they were hit by US soldiers (BIIIGG if), they would most likely have been hit by accident by regular infantry, not a sniper campaign. And that's assuming the doctors are honest.

Another thing to consider is how many of the wounded were women or children (morbid, I know). Looking only at deaths, naturally a head shot will be more lethal than a shot somewhere else, so of course you would find a high number of dead who were shot in the head. But you have to compare it to those who were shot elsewhere. It could even be a minority of the dead that were shot in the head, we don't know. I'd say probably a minority, since they're saying "large number" instead of "majority".

Posted by: scott h. at April 14, 2004 at 07:07 AM

People, this is obviously an attempt to set up a Jenin like massacre. There is no truth to it whatsoever. Sure, women and children were almost certainly killed in the fighting. But the notion of marine snipers shooting women and children is an attempt to create agit prop. As Wretchard at the Belmont Club has noted, there is obviously a massive propagana campaign underway in Fallujah by a special ops group attempting to frame the US. The only question is: Whose Special Ops group?

Posted by: FH at April 14, 2004 at 07:08 AM

In the past I’ve posted Zeyad’s positive news. I trusted him. All I’ve done here is cite a deeply negative view reported at his site. Why the highlighting? Because the claims are so very extreme -- not because I believe them. I thought the “if true” qualifier would have made that clear.

Posted by: tim at April 14, 2004 at 07:13 AM

Actually, it didn't.

Posted by: docob at April 14, 2004 at 07:20 AM

What it made clear was that you thought it a credible accusation, deserving of being propogated.

Posted by: docob at April 14, 2004 at 07:22 AM

I doubt very much that the Marines just lined up and shot a bunch of women and children, Sbrenica-style. More likely a few Marines lost it and shelled, mortared, raked a hostile civilian area in retaliation to some atrocity or another.

THe clincially extracted head-shots ballistics sounds dubious. Who has the time or resources to peform 200+ autopsies in the space of a few days?

Still, mass civilian casualties are to be expected in guerilla war, where the guerillas melt into the sea of people. The provocations of the insurgents have achieved their goal, which was to provoke disproportionate retaliation.

The insurgents are winning, on that score, at any rate.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at April 14, 2004 at 07:25 AM

Zeyad was right about his cousin.

Posted by: scott h. at April 14, 2004 at 07:25 AM

There were some 2000 Marines at Fallujah which has a reported population of 300,000.From this it could be gathered that the Marines would be a bit busy shooting at the ones with guns and rocket launchers.The Iraqis have a record of shooting their own civilians and using the population as a shield.Put it together with the intense propaganda war being waged in the press to influence public opinion.There will be more of this as the presidential elections get closer.
Tim's model with the asteroid should be applied to a snipers bullet,check the effects of cavitation,not for the squeamish!

Posted by: Peter UK at April 14, 2004 at 07:34 AM

"These claims -- that non-combatant women and children are being executed by US Marines -- warrant much greater attention prior to further comment."

Maybe you didn't mean it to come off this way, and I don't want to get into a big semantic argument, but what this statement indicates to me is that there is a willingness on your part to believe that it could be true- that you think it is possible US Marine snipers are targeting Iraqi woman and children, but you'll hold off until it's proven to be false (though how that will be proven I don't know). That really floored me considering what I've read here in the past. That's something I'd expect from a Pilger or Fisk, not Tim Blair.

Posted by: DanG at April 14, 2004 at 07:36 AM

"...it's understandable that you wouldn't want to immediately dismiss Zeyad's concerns. He has been reliable."

This is nonsense- go back and actually read the post. Zeyad said that "Doctors from Fallujah mentioned that a large number of the dead women and children were shot in the head..."

I have every confidence that Zeyad is 100% reliable in reporting that doctors from Fallujah are saying this. And let me add this: Some Iraqis say that the coalition has been behind the big terror bombings there. I am 100% reliable in reporting that this is being said, but I'm certainly not going to post the claim in huge boldface on my blog and say that it's "beyond obscene," "if true."

Tim Blair has failed us in a major way. I'm very puzzled and very disappointed.

Posted by: KH at April 14, 2004 at 07:38 AM

I'm sure that there were some women and children killed because they were caught in the crossfire during a gun battle, but Marines specifically targeting children with a sniper rifle and shooting them in the head? BULL SHIT.

I'm not someone who believes that america is perfect and doesnt do anything wrong, but this just doesnt make any sense at all.

Posted by: Oktober at April 14, 2004 at 07:39 AM

Sure, Tim. So I relay an account from your hypothetical angry neighbor regarding horrible and implausible charges against you, highlighting a paragraph of the worst accusations, plus "beyond obscene", "warrant much greater attention” and adding an un-highlighted "if true". You would accept that as expressing disbelief? My bullsh*t detector is wailing.

Posted by: mikem at April 14, 2004 at 07:43 AM

Tim -- quick question: I can't remember but was it Zayed who also relayed the bullshit story about a couple of Iraqi boys, kidnapped and marched off a bridge (to drown) by US troops, which you also reported as being "possibly" true? If so i wd say that once burned....

Posted by: hen at April 14, 2004 at 08:05 AM

A couple of issues with the shooting women and children story.

1. it's a waste of ammo in combat.

2. 5.56mm, 7.62mm or .50 cal, it's all going to pass through rather than be recovered from the head.

Posted by: Harry Tuttle at April 14, 2004 at 08:15 AM

scott - it seems that there might be some truth in this story, but not in the way it was reported by zayed -- very strange.

in any event this falujah sniper story stinks to high heaven and sh have only been linked to with many grains of salt attached.

Posted by: hen at April 14, 2004 at 08:34 AM

Tim, IMO, Zeyad demonstrates a basic anti-Americanism that is glossed over by his relief from being under Saddam's thumb. It's there in his willingness to believe the worst of American soldiers so he'll pass along rumors/spin as fact. Fact of the matter is, Arabs (I won't even call them fighters) like to hide behind women and children. They have no compunction about killing women and children to make the other side look bad. Moreover, I would want a crotch check to verify that the person in the burqa is a woman. To paraphrase Herodotus, the Arabs were always liars.

Posted by: Helen at April 14, 2004 at 08:56 AM

People! zeyad knows these type of storeys get hyped up.

(Third paragraph from the same article)

Arab satellite channels reported today that Al-Mustansiriyah university was under siege by US troops. We have a neighbour who is a professor there, so as expected we raced to his house when we had heard about it. We congratulated him for his safety, but he looked significantly surprised and asked us what was up? We told him about the siege. He chuckled at us and said "Oh, you mean that". It turned out there was no siege at all, there was an American patrol in the vicinity of the university, and they had witnessed someone climbing on the clock tower trying to paste a large poster of Muqtada Al-Sadr. The patrol called for backup, entered the campus and hollered for the fellow to come down. They teared the poster and removed a few others close to the university's main entry gates. According to our friend, the whole process didn't take any more than 20 minutes. Just to show how the Arab media conveniently distort events.

Lets not go into a frenzy and zeyad will do what he did in the past with a follow up. The problem is with westerners doing the job of al jazeera "The provocations of the insurgents have achieved their goal, which was to provoke disproportionate retaliation."-- Jack Strocchi.Chipping away at the Coalitions resolve in order to feel justified.

Posted by: Gary at April 14, 2004 at 09:11 AM

U.S. Marines will not do that. Period.
I don't need any "follow-up investigation" bullshit when some scumbag makes an allegation against my friends--I trust them, that's why they're friends.
Likewise, I trust the U.S. soldiers to behave honourably and they've more than lived up to that trust under conditions of extreme provocation.
Who gives a rat's ass what Iraqis or any other people claim? They're proven liars and thugs and to suspend judgement on their claims is to give them a legitimacy they simply don't warrant.
But tnen, I'm just a simple retired soldier, not a sophisticated media commentator.

Posted by: Keith at April 14, 2004 at 09:30 AM

Watching Tim getting mauled by his own pack of slavering wolves is probably the only amusing thing about this tragedy.

In the meantime, have any of you seen the reports in, among other organs, London's Daily Telegraph of British officers' reaction to US soldiers' tactics in Iraq? What do you make of them?

Posted by: Warbo at April 14, 2004 at 09:45 AM

I think it is highly unlikely that US Marines would be deliberately targeting unarmed women and children. That said, I'd be highly surprised if in the heat of battle they never misidentified a target and shot one by mistake.

Now if they are armed, then sad as it may be, they are legitimate targets, just as our female soldiers are.

Posted by: Donald S. Crankshaw at April 14, 2004 at 10:00 AM

Come on, give Tim a break. I've seen those claims in at least three other places before this blog (sorry Tim!) and this is the only one with follow-ups posted by people who know something about the subject of sniping. Not that I believed any of those reports anyway, but it must be nice for Tim to know that he has such capable backup.

Warbo: No I did not see the reports of British officers' reaction to US tactics in the British media. Could you post a link?

Posted by: Buzz at April 14, 2004 at 10:06 AM

I agree that first off, Marines simply would not intentionally shoot women and children. Ain't happening. Period.

Also, first thing that crossed my mind -- some one else beat me to responding about it -- is that there is no way that you are going to be able to recover rifle bullets from dead people's heads, if indeed there is even much of a head left. It is far more likely that if the body count is accurate, that the insurgents are using civilians for human sheilds and/or executing them for propaganda purposes.

Posted by: Tim in PA at April 14, 2004 at 10:18 AM

The media's appetite for this sort of agitprop (which this obviously is) is the most distressing thing about this report. The fact is that the big lie all too often succeeds, despite the comprehensive debunking of the Jenin massacre claims, it is clear that the claim rather than the truth still courses it's way like a virulent disease through most of the usual supects minds, and retains enough life to at least plant doubt in the minds of saner segments of the population who don't have the time to discover the truth.

This claim is a classic Big lie , so brazen and outrageous that even where it does not convince it plants doubt and sows dissension, witness Tim's reaction and the reaction of this board!

It is no use complaining about how dastardly the enemy is , the fact is that this sort of propoganda is effective, and that our own media will largely amplify it, and give it the benefit of the doubt, whilst sniffing contemptuously at any denials issued by the Americans, or for that matter any force used to protect the freedoms that they so happily abuse. I think that the media battle needs to fought more offensively by the military, both against the insurgents and the journalists who aid them. I am not talking about countering propoganda with propoganda - this is always a losing battle, but countering disninformation with a deluge of information, video feeds from the battle, more detailed exigesis of the ROE, and aggressive pursuit of shoddy journalism through exposure. Embedded journalists were a good start, but the media war in Iraq is THE critical battle in Psy-ops, and it's going to need the sort of manpower that can collect and counter the disinformation campaign within hours. The coalition press confernces should be used to openly attack this propoganda, with evidence, and to aggresively attack jouranlists who relay it without any investigation.

Posted by: Johan at April 14, 2004 at 10:33 AM

Buzz: this report, a couple of days old, pulls together copy from the Guardian, the Telegraph and PA.

Posted by: Warbo at April 14, 2004 at 10:57 AM

I think Johan got it exactly right. The Pentagon and the White House need to be far more aggressive in attacking inaccurate and/or dishonest reporting.And not in particularly diplomatic language either--the attack on this kind of reporting needs to be blunt and unequivocal enough to be newsworthy in itself.
I'd love to see Rumsfeld stand in front of a bunch of reporters and call Reuters 'lying scum".
Even the rest of the media would find it hard to ignore that.
Why be a gentleman when crushing cockroaches?

Posted by: Keith at April 14, 2004 at 11:07 AM

Tim Blair has failed us in a major way.

Speak for yourself.

Posted by: Teenage Diplomat at April 14, 2004 at 11:29 AM

Well Warbo its easy for people including the British officers to express concern when someone else is doing the heavy lifting. What do you expect the Marines to do?

Posted by: Gary at April 14, 2004 at 11:34 AM

Zeyad does indeed seem to be losing heart, lately. I have a theory about what's happening. I can't find the exact quote from Zeyad, but I noticed he mentioned he's getting most of his news from Al Jazeera these days. A steady diet of that would be enough to unhinge the most intrepid mind, especially under the stressful conditions of the last week or so. I can't understand why the Al Jazeera signal is not jammed or blocked in some way--lies, lies, lies.

I doubt that Zeyad followed what happened in Jenin, so he may find it hard to believe that Fallujah's doctors could be lying through their teeth. He has been raised on brutality and anti-Americanism his entire life, and, although he is a good guy in general, he may find it impossible to believe that we wouldn't descend to the same level as those he's always known who have been in power for most, if not all, of his lifetime.

Posted by: blogaddict at April 14, 2004 at 11:36 AM

Tim has not failed us. He's being professional about this. That's a lot more than can be said for other members of the media.

I don't believe a word of this sham. I would believe "friendly fire" casualties, God knows those happen more than we care to think. But snipers deliberately targeting women and children? What a crock!

Posted by: JeffS at April 14, 2004 at 11:43 AM

First, I agree that the story as reported is nonsense. But American soldiers are not some unique breed of moral uprightness in uniform. For those of you with short memories, I'll just say "My Lai".

Fred "Son of a Marine officer" Drinkwater

Posted by: Fred Drinkwater at April 14, 2004 at 11:53 AM

If they had been shot with metal jacketted 7.62mm, 5.56mm, .30 or .50cal there would be no rounds to recover- they are designed to pass straight through a human. If any rounds are recovered from the bodies they will more than likely be handgun rounds; I would suggest they will turn out to be of soviet origin- nothing like a bit of civil strife to cover up getting even for some longstanding beef that seem endemic in Arab culture, or perhaps croak a few members of disliked tribes for some propaganda benefit.
They've tried to create a Mogadishu and failed, why not create a Me' Lai?

Posted by: Habib at April 14, 2004 at 12:18 PM

"But snipers deliberately targeting women and children? What a crock!"

Well, yes -- but what Tim does is amplify the accusations in boldface and write: "...as yet we have no evidence either way." ... "I'm in no position to rule either way."

And that is why he has failed us.

Posted by: KH at April 14, 2004 at 12:24 PM

The marine snipers I came across in my time in the Australian Army used a 7.62mm bolt action job which if you got a head shot with would go straight through. As for using 0.50 cal - won't be no head left at all. Snipers generally aim for the center of seen mass, giving them the best chance of hitting the buggers because they tend to move around a lot. Snipers shoot high value targets and women and children don't fit that discription. And as for deliberately targetting women and kids - nup.

Tim, this is a great site, but regurgitating that report did a dishonour to the USMC.

Posted by: Razor at April 14, 2004 at 12:42 PM

How old are these "children?"

15??? 13??? Old enough to fire a weapon?

Don't forget, Spiegel Online intercepted this, via David's Medienkritic:

Al-Anbari: All of the people in the area have started to move, men and women. I didn’t think that the people in this area were so heroic. The mothers are even pushing their children into the fight.
Kamal: Whatever God wants! Blessed be the Almighty!

Al-Anbari: Imagine: I encountered a boy who was not even 15 years old who was carrying a weapon, but without ammunition (…). When I saw this heroic impetuousness, I pulled my magazine out and gave it to him.

Kamal: Oh God! God is great!

Al-Anbari: I also saw a young guy who bravely stood up to the Americans and threw things at them, and they just couldn’t react to it, even though they were so many.

Kamal: Such news strengthen ones pride. (our translation)

Posted by: Sandy P at April 14, 2004 at 12:47 PM

Oh shut up, KH. We heard you the tenth time.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at April 14, 2004 at 12:48 PM

Actually Tim's repeating the obvious canard is not such a big deal because not too many of us here will believe it. But unfortunately much of the arab world, and some of the Left, will.

Posted by: S.A. Smith at April 14, 2004 at 12:50 PM


I don't see any problem with what Tim said. I also see not the slightest chance that U.S. Marines are acting like Gestapo thugs. Ain't happening, no way.

The one problem I do see is that when you leave the enemy in possession of their positions, they get to count the bodies there, and with enemies like these, that means lies like Jenin, guaranteed. So whoever told the Marines to stop, and stick to "ceasefires", "truces" and "talks" even temporarily, did a terrible thing. This gives the terrorists an unearned victory over the U.S. Marines (because in a case like this, after the atrocities against the contractors, standing your ground and not being wiped out is a win). Even worse, it guarantees a propaganda mauling, because it's a perfect setup for the bad guys to lie about. Whatever concerns there may have been about the PR consequences of going all the way, they should have been stifled. Just let the troops win!

Posted by: David Blue at April 14, 2004 at 12:55 PM

Gary, are you suggesting the British forces in Iraq haven't been doing any heavy lifting? Are you comfortable with the fact that officers of the US's closest ally have expressed extreme unease about the tactics being used?

"My view and the view of the British chain of command is that the Americans' use of violence is not proportionate and is over-responsive to the threat they are facing. They are not concerned about the Iraqi loss of life in the way the British are.

"The US troops view things in very simplistic terms. It seems hard for them to reconcile subtleties between who supports what and who doesn't in Iraq. As far as they are concerned Iraq is bandit country and everybody is out to kill them."

This is a sernior army officer talking here. You can't laugh off his remarks.

Posted by: Warbo at April 14, 2004 at 12:56 PM

Sure we can. Especially when he doesn't follow up these vague generalizations with any concrete examples. "Show, don't tell" -- I learned that in grammar school.

By the way, it's funny that a peacenugget such as yourself is willing to believe the word of a "senior military officer" in anything.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at April 14, 2004 at 12:59 PM

Thanks, Andrea, for your able contribution to the debate!

Posted by: KH at April 14, 2004 at 01:04 PM

Freddy Drinkwater:

First, I agree that the story as reported is nonsense. But American soldiers are not some unique breed of moral uprightness in uniform. For those of you with short memories, I'll just say "My Lai".

No one here has suggested that American soldiers walk on water. But My Lai was a confirmed atrocity committed by American troops, based on an investigation. The military justice system may not have been perfect in the end, but no one (including the military) disputes the fact there was an atrocity.

The point here is that US Marines are being accused of viscious atrocities in a very blatant and stupid manner. The manner of the claimed killings is the sort of staged sensationalism one expects of a bunch of loonies trying to sell their brand of fertilizer. No solid evidence, no independent inquiry, just lots of yelling and shouting into cameras. It is nauseatingly familiar -- we see it in every left wing anti-war demonstration.

Oh, and ask your father about "Article 32 investigations" -- you'll get an idea of what "evidence" is.

Posted by: JeffS at April 14, 2004 at 01:33 PM

Hasn't been much of a debate, KH...

KH: Blair's reporting something he heard! Blair's reporting something he heard!

So Tim's reporting on something he heard from another blogger, something that's been on the net for a while now. Is it possible that it's true? Yes. Is it likely that it's true? No. Did Tim lie about anything? No.

So what's the problem?


Disclaimer: Even though I said that what Tim posted is possible, I want to emphasize that I really don't think it's even close to the truth. My saying that it's possible runs in the same vein as saying that anything's possible.

Posted by: david at April 14, 2004 at 01:38 PM


In cities like Fallujah and Tikrit it is not ridiculously hyperbolic to suggest that to the US soldier everyone is out to kill him. And P.S. don't assume that the self-serving statements of that officer are true.

Posted by: S.A. Smith at April 14, 2004 at 02:10 PM

Meanwhile, Baghdad gets back to normal. Firas suggests last week's trouble was the tail end. Who knows?

Posted by: ilibcc at April 14, 2004 at 02:31 PM

I applaude your approach on the sniper accusations, Tim.

Yes, the claims that US Marine snipers are targetting women and children appear to be far fetched. For a range of reasons, most discussed above.

But, just as he floated the idea that the story behind the Japanese hostages may run a little deeper than being suggested, so too this deserves investigation.

Posted by: Sincerity Slips at April 14, 2004 at 02:47 PM

Warbo quotes "As far as they are concerned Iraq is bandit country and everybody is out to kill them."

That's the conclusion that any sane soldier fighting in Iraq should make. Acting with the "nuance" that this "senior British officer" advocates is a good way to get yourself blown away.

Posted by: goldsmith at April 14, 2004 at 02:58 PM

"The officer, who would not be identified..."

Conveniently so for the story the reporter may have wanted to write. Was there really a Brit officer who made these comments criticising American tactics? Ask Jack Kelly at USA Today or Jayson Blair about sources. As others have said here, Americans don't walk on water, but a nameless source stating that Americans are doing it all wrong doesn't prove much to me. And certainly doesn't lend credence to claims of the war crimes described.

Posted by: DanG at April 14, 2004 at 03:33 PM


I have intension of belittling the British forces, I was talking in this instance that it is not there personal being fired on. But it is clear you are trying to belittling the US Marines so I do laugh off your remarks.

Posted by: Gary at April 14, 2004 at 03:40 PM

Andrea, I'm not sure what a peacenugget is, but if you think I'm a pacifist, you're wrong.

Gary, I'm not belittling the US Marines; I'm pointing out that others on the same side - not me - are appalled by some of the tactics they're using.

As for those of you implying the reports are fabrications, I can only suggest you express your doubts to the editors of the publications and agencies and ask them to pass on your concerns to their journalists.

S.A. Smith claims the remarks of the British officer are self-serving. In what way? Some of the people posting here believe that all Arabs are liars. Is that sort of racism going to be extended to the British as well?

Posted by: Warbo at April 14, 2004 at 04:29 PM

David- context is the issue here.

Posted by: KH at April 14, 2004 at 05:12 PM

Tim, I can't believe you propagated this rubbish. Your little Zeyad piece belongs on the Democratic Undeground board, not here.

Posted by: Dan at April 14, 2004 at 05:17 PM

On France2 News they talked to a guy wearing a turban and holding a rifle, in Fallujah. The guy said (and I can pretty much quote him): "The Americans did not come here to liberate us, but to kill our women and children."

Right there, this suggests there's a planned propaganda line. Everyone knows that civilian casualties hurt the war effort more than dead Marines. There was talk of fake atrocities back when Saddam was in power. Why would anyone imagine that Fallujah doctors would not lie? They have to go home at night, you know. They have to worry about in their own head, or in their wife's.

This is a no-brainer to dismiss, even before you get into forensics and ammo.

Posted by: miklos rosza at April 14, 2004 at 06:51 PM

"Tim, I can't believe you propagated this rubbish. Your little Zeyad piece belongs on the Democratic Undeground board, not here."

Yes. Exactly.

Posted by: KH at April 14, 2004 at 07:41 PM

Tim. Congratulations on an excellent web site. Providing balance is always a high wire act, and the occasional slip (such as bold or italic emphasis) should not mean that you end up splattered on the ground.

Posted by: Greg at April 14, 2004 at 08:02 PM

KH: well, you're not debating, just whining. So thanks so much for your valuable "contribution" to the "debate."

Warbo: darling, I've encountered your, ahem, opinions on this matter (the war in Iraq) before. Perhaps I was mistaken in ascribing the sobriquet "peacenugget" to you -- that would indeed imply that you were a pacifist, when in fact you seem to be something much worse. And by the way, this is the first time that I've heard of the definition of "racism" being stretched to include disagreeing with the reported views of anonymous British "senior army officers." By that criteria people who don't like Chinese food are racist.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at April 14, 2004 at 08:17 PM

If Tim would just admit that it was a "slip," things would be different. But as it stands now, Tim indeed seems "splattered on the ground."

Is Tim too invested in Zeyad? Did he see an opportunity to appear more even-handed -- willing to be skeptical about the stock American position? I'd say this is the most likely scenario. But his response is still unseemly and unexpected. My (formerly great) respect for Tim Blair has taken a huge hit.

Posted by: KH at April 14, 2004 at 08:20 PM

Andrea, congrats on writing more than a couple of quips. Perhaps you're now in the "debate."

Posted by: KH at April 14, 2004 at 08:31 PM

Hmmmm... I'd say what we have here is a blogmire.

Posted by: Miranda Divide at April 14, 2004 at 10:36 PM

stop sniping, you brats; don't make me come back there.

Posted by: Habib at April 14, 2004 at 11:06 PM

This may sound a little far fetched, but what if Zeyad has been identified and threatened by "the resistance" and is blogging to say what the resistance wants him to say?

Posted by: Andjam at April 14, 2004 at 11:59 PM

Tim's first line--before anything is said--casts this as horrible--if true.

Posting it in such a way has prompted this discussion. A long and sometimes detailed description of why it cannot be true--at least ballistically. Zeyad's site has a similar thread attached to his post--520 responses so foar, many with the ballistic evidence pointed out. To an Iraqi. In Iraq. A point contradicting what Al Jazeera is probably saying.

A point that needs to be talked about until it's clear.

Tim did exactly the right thing--he pulled this into the spotlight. Now the terrorists(they're not 'insurgents') will have a skeptical West that is prepared for their lies when they try to bring this forth.

Posted by: jack at April 15, 2004 at 01:24 AM

While I think some people are being a bit overwrought about Tim's "couching" of this story, I too was very surprised that he took such a typical elite media "evenhanded" tack in his original post and then in his response to the criticism. His assertion that one must find out the "facts" before final judgment is technically true. But he certainly could have added a phrase in his original post such as, "while this seems highly unlikely..." And certainly at some point one must differentiate between those claims that require further fact gathering before judgment can be rendered and those claims that one rejects out of hand until there IS proof. For example, if these doctors were claiming to be saving the charred femurs and other remnants of baby parts that the marines had barbequed and partially eaten* I would hope that Tim would not report: IF TRUE, THIS IS BEYOND OBSCENE... I think what upsets people here is that they put the claim that marines are deliberately sniping women and children into the same category as claims that they would be cannibalizing babies, and Tim, apparently, does not.

*This claim is not without precedent. As recently as WWI, propaganda was circulated that the "Huns" were killing and eating Belgium babies.

Posted by: JohnPV at April 15, 2004 at 05:37 PM

Well put.

Although Tim wrote that these claims "warrant much greater attention prior to further comment," his breathless gullibility has already given them more attention than they ever deserved.

Outside of Indymedia and Al-Jazeera type coverage, it's a dead story. Nice one, Tim!

Posted by: KH at April 16, 2004 at 03:58 AM

Gee, KH, I should think you'd be happy.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at April 16, 2004 at 10:49 AM