Imperialist "prerogative" rouses Shi'ites to action

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu Aug 14 07:11:17 MDT 2003

LA Times, August 14, 2003

U.S. Troops Fire on Iraqi Crowd, Killing One

By Robyn Dixon, Times Staff Writer

BAGHDAD -- U.S. troops fired on a crowd that had gathered for a
religious festival in a poor Baghdad neighborhood on Wednesday, killing
one person and wounding several others in an incident that threatened to
further alienate Iraqis from occupation forces.

Clerics in Sadr City, a predominantly Shiite Muslim district, said a
12-year-old boy was killed, and they warned that if U.S. troops tried to
return to the area today, residents were likely to open fire at them.

The U.S. and Iraqi versions of what happened differed widely,
underscoring the gap in perceptions that often exists between the two
sides. Shiites are a majority in Iraq, and the clash in one of Baghdad's
most populous neighborhoods could damage the Americans' relations with
religious leaders and people in other Shiite strongholds of the country.

Sadr City, an area that was strongly opposed to Saddam Hussein,
initially welcomed the U.S.-led forces that ousted the Iraqi president,
and until now has been relatively free of attacks against the Americans
and their allies.

An American military spokesman said the crowd had thrown rocks and fired
guns and a rocket-propelled grenade at American forces, triggering U.S.
retaliatory fire. The spokesman confirmed that one person was killed and
four were wounded but could not confirm that the dead person was a child.

Local Shiite clerics confirmed that the first shots came from the crowd.
However, they said people in the crowd only fired in the air to protest
the presence of a U.S. military helicopter that they said knocked down a
religious banner on a tower.


At the center of the dispute in Sadr City is a claim by many witnesses
that a U.S. military helicopter approached a tower Wednesday morning and
knocked down a black religious banner.

Local people are convinced the action was intentional.

Al Jazeera aired footage of a helicopter approaching a tower where the
banner was flying, appearing to almost bump the tower.

But U.S. officials said about 3,000 protesters had crowded around an
American patrol as it neared a mosque in the neighborhood. Muslim
clerics sometimes protest when U.S. forces approach mosques.

A helicopter was called in for support, and the religious banner was
accidentally blown down, the spokesman said, adding that when the crowd
opened fire, U.S. forces returned fire.

The U.S. spokesman said there was no reason for the Americans to apologize.

"If you throw rocks or fire at U.S. forces, then we'll return fire," the
spokesman said. "The proximity of non-Muslims close to a mosque is
somehow viewed as a threat. We disagree. It's our prerogative to travel
wherever we want to in this country."



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