Yesterday in Iraq, four American civilians were brutally murdered and their corpses mutilated by a mob in the city of Falluja, thought by many to be the center of the ongoing insurgency against the U.S. occupation.
U.S. officials quickly downplayed the attack, blaming it on Islamist militants and calling it an isolated incident. But the crowd that mutilated the bodies of the American security contractors, whose SUVs were fired upon by militants, was made up of Iraqi civilians – men and boys as young as 10. The New York Times reported that one child put his foot on the head of one of the bodies and said, “Where is Bush? Let him come and see this!”
A little more than a year after U.S. forces invaded Iraq, violence against American troops and civilians continues unabated. The Bush administration and U.S. military officials insist the hatred toward the United States is limited to small groups of foreign fighters that have slipped into Iraq, but the attack yesterday in Falluja shows how very wrong this claim is.
Falluja is in the so-called Sunni Triangle, an area north and west of Baghdad with a majority Sunni Muslim population – the religious group Saddam Hussein belonged to and who received preferential treatment under his regime. They had the most to lose when Saddam was deposed, and the occupation administration has clearly not done enough to reach out to them.
The situation is so bad that 4,000 Marines near the site of the attack did not respond as the mob dragged the scorched corpses through the streets, mutilated them with shovels and then hung the bodies from a bridge. These were ordinary Iraqis who did this, not al Qaeda. The attack was deplorable, but we must ask why they were driven to such an extreme.
The Bush administration should forget about this year’s election for a moment and admit there are serious failures in Iraq. We cannot abandon the country, but we must begin to figure out a way to help heal Iraq’s wounds and help its people begin the secure, free lives they have been denied for more than a century.