Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Nov 21 07:58:14 MST 2003

Operation Iron Hammer: Make noise, kill cows

If the U.S. wants to capture or kill Iraqi insurgents, local residents ask,
why is it providing advance notice of its attacks?

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Jen Banbury,

Nov. 21, 2003  |  BAGHDAD, Iraq -- On the first night of "Operation Iron
Hammer," the continual and thundering boom of the American bombing sent me
and my housemates up onto our roof to try to figure out what the hell was
going on. The bass repetition of the sound clearly distinguished the
bombings from the occasional mortars launched by the Iraqi "resistance"
that we'd heard at night in recent weeks. There was no doubt: These bombs
were big, they were plentiful, and they were truly frightening. A group of
us leaned against the roof's low wall, peered into the dark and guessed
vaguely at the intended target. Around the neighborhood, silhouettes of
Iraqis on their own roofs stood out against the night sky. One housemate --
a guy who was in Baghdad throughout the war -- likened the sounds to the
"shock and awe" blanketing of the city during those days. After about 15
minutes, the noise ended and we went back inside to watch the news on


As we were driving away from the checkpoint, an Iraqi man with a
Kalashnikov and a Facility Protection Service badge (which means he is
officially employed by the U.S. as a guard) stopped us and spoke animatedly
to my translator, Amjad. After a minute, he jumped in the car and directed
us toward a nearby side road. "The Americans bombed his farm last night,"
Amjad told me. "He's taking us to see." We drove past a dilapidated
playground, then past some scattered trees where a few cows nosed around
the grass. Very quickly, we came to a small farm. We couldn't have been
more than a quarter-mile from the checkpoint. The man, who introduced
himself as Hamza, headed off with long and purposeful strides toward the
middle of his furrowed cabbage patch. He talked over his shoulder,
gesturing with one arm and holding his gun against his side with the other.
Amjad and I struggled to keep up. "He is saying the Americans killed three
of his cows last night with their helicopters," Amjad said. "And they
injured another. He's saying, 'Did they think they were terrorist cows?'"

Hamza showed us the straight lines of shell prints from the helicopter's
guns. Larger holes showed where heavy mortars had sent plants flying in all
directions. I asked him whether it was possible that the resistance had
used the farmland. No, he said, he and his family were here all the time.
No resistance. Just cows. Men and kids gathered from where they had been
working. No resistance, they insisted. They were eager to show me the
injured cow, but it was getting late and the cold air and my lingering flu
left me feeling wrecked. The three dead cows had already been sold for meat.


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