Iraqis Strike Deadliest Attack Since War's End
Hard News Article - 3 November 2003
The deadliest single attack on Americans since the end of the war on May 1st occured yesterday in Fallujah as a U.S. dual prop Chinook helicopter was shot down by shoulder-fired missile. 21 soldiers were wounded and 15 were killed as the Chinook crashed into a field.
“Fallujah will always be a cemetery for Americans,” reads the slogan scrawled across the main street sign of this market town between Baghdad and Jordan. Local residents of Fallujah appeared elated at the crash and waved pieces of wreckage to journalists at the scene. Moments after the attack, soldiers secured the area, told journalists to leave the scene and confiscated footage. The downed helicopter will hurt already waining troop morale. The troops who died were about to go on leave.
President Bush was at his Crawford, Texas ranch during the attack and has yet to publicly comment on the incident. A recent opinion poll released yesterday in the U.S. showed that over half of all Americans disapprove of the President’s handling of Iraq and another poll showed that two-thirds of Americans reject his appeal for a further $87 billion to finance the Iraqi occupation. Bush makes this financial appeal at the same time as he pushes to stimulate the weak U.S. economy. Senator Dick Lugar has urged the President to make ammends with France and Germany who have offered no financial assistance towards reconstruction in Iraq.
Senator Joe Biden stated that the U.S. acts as if, “we have won some sort of prize. This is an awful, awful burden. We won the war unilaterally, but we cannot win the peace unilaterally.” More American soldiers have now died during the reconstruction and occupation of Iraq than did during the war to oust Saddam Hussein. Roughly 33 attacks on American personnel occur per day. The downed Chinook follows a deadly series of suicide attacks last week on police stations and the Red Cross which took 35 lives. Notably as well last Sunday a missile attack was launched on a Baghdad hotel within the U.S. secured area of the city killing an American colonel and nearly killing deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz.
In response to the downed Chinook, Donald Rumsfeld remarked, “In a long, hard war, we’re going to have tragic days, as this is. They are part of a war that is difficult and complicated.” Lieutenant-General Ricardo Sanchez, the U.S. commander in Iraq, recently referred to the persistent attacks against his 150,000 troops as “operationally insignificant.”
Certain analysts have stated that this particular attack may prompt America to rethink its attitude towards Iraq. To this point, American popular opinion, UN concensus or the will of the Iraqi people have not weighed too heavy in policy decision. “This is a new lesson from the resistance, a lesson to the greedy aggressors,” stated a Fallujah resident on the missle attack yesterday.
Last week the U.S. coalition singled out Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, number two in Hussein’s revolutionary command council, as the mastermind behind the anti-American operation in Iraq. Fallujah has been the strongest area of resistance to the U.S. occupation. The American military claims the resistance forces consist primarily of Hussein’s former Ba’ath government and foreign militants.
The helicopter fleet yesterday was transporting 50 soldiers from Habbaniyah air base outside Fallujah to Baghdad airport. Witnesses saw two missiles launch from a date grove. One missile struck the Chinook and the other missed the helicopters. The attack is believed to have been carried out by the Russian shoulder-fired SA 7 missile known as the “Strella”.
27 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq over the past eight days. At the same time as the missile attack on the Chinook, U.S. military vehicles were destroyed on the streets of Fallujah. Witnesses said that four soldiers were killed but the military has not confirmed this.