Cliff Kindy Iraq Blog

Current entries are related to Cliff Kindy's fourth Iraq trip, beginning in October 2007. The blog archives contains letters from Cliff's third Iraq trip in 2004-5.

Monday, March 28, 2005

#18: Out of Control

(Sent by Cliff on Thursday, March 24. Sorry I am late getting this out. Andy Rich)

Dear Friends, Family, and All Good People,

In the last month the media have carried the prominent story of the shooting
of the Italian kidnap victim and her security guard. Almost exactly the
same time, a Bulgarian soldier died as US forces opened fire from a
checkpoint on approaching Bulgarian military vehicles. These stories are in
the news, but the regular incidents of Iraqis in similar situations are
usually untold.

Monday, an Iraqi friend visited to make arrangements for our departure for
Jordan. Almost apologetically, he asked if I would like to visit his cousin
who had been shot by a passing US convoy. I agreed to join him.

Lafta Rahim, 39 years old, with four children, was at home in his bed.
Immediately his smile drew me as we met. Then I noticed contraptions on his
body. His upper left arm had an 8-inch rod parallel to the bone and
attached with six pins and two clamps. His lower right leg had a similar
rod, this time with five pins and five clamps.

Lafta told his story. January 7, 2005, about 6:00PM, he and a companion
were on their way to visit a friend. As they passed some university
buildings, shots rang out. He kept moving to get away from the scene. But
a fusillade of weapons fire stopped his car. It had 52 bullet holes in it.
There were 8 in his body and 5 in his companion's body.

The weapons fire came from a US patrol of Humvees just pulling out of the
university buildings that had become a US base. Apparently, shots had been
fired at the buildings from across the road and the convoy was responding,
but aimed all its fire at the innocent passing vehicles.

Lafta's car was not alone on the street. His car was last in a line of four
cars and the shots from the convoy all hit his car from behind. Five people
in the other cars died and fifteen were injured.

At this point I asked if the soldiers stopped to assist when they saw what
had happened. My friend interrupted, "I was returning from Jordan about a
week ago. Near the 160-kilometer marker, a driver had parked his GMC along
the road to go to the bathroom at the gas station. He returned to see that
the whole side of the empty car had been sprayed with bullets from a passing
US convoy. The soldiers kept moving."

Lafta replied to my question too. "The soldiers did not stop, but two young
people took me to the hospital." He continued, "The bad things Saddam
Hussein was doing, now the US is doing, but now they give us no help."

He and four brothers manufacture metal frames for windows and doors. He has
good family support and has had a good job. Now he will be unable to work
because he is unable to move the fingers in his left hand. His right arm
had earlier been injured in the Iran/Iraq War.

Lafta has a nicely trimmed beard and moustache and a friendly shine in his
eyes. His brother had asked a US army officer, "Why did you shoot
civilians?" The officer responded, "We have in our army too many people
acting irrationally."

Whether from fear, anger, training, or lack of it, these stories of
uncontrolled US shooting at checkpoints or from convoys represent dozens or
hundreds we have taken testimony from or read about in NGO security reports
and Iraqi news.

As we parted, Lafta told me, "I respect and appreciate you. You changed my
view of the United States."

Working for an end to this war of madness,

Cliff Kindy


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