The Associated Press out yet again with a ridiculous piece of whitewash coverage from Iraq. “Young children fight U.S. troops in Iraq” reads the headline (the link here is to a local AP outlet).
Brazen vs. Delicate
We learn how rocks rain down on vehicles and troops are pelted by “unruly gangs.” Meanwhile, the gallant American troops are merely “seeking to curb Iraqi militias.” — sort of like you do with a young puppy, right? How very benign.
Indeed, this AP piece goes so out of its way to emphasize the restraint shown by the US forces. “We have to be so delicate with the rock throwers,” claims one US soldier. We’re benig delicate. Those rapscallious kids on the other hand “[…] are becoming even more brazen: Children recently have begun hurling bottles of oil and even a homemade firebomb at U.S. vehicles, soldiers say.” It’s just not fair. “The harassment started with small groups of youngsters throwing stones, then escalated into bigger groups of children hurling larger rocks and even pieces of cement blocks.” Let’s set the stage now. On the one hand: little kids with rocks. On the other: armored vehicles and guys in body armor.
Not surprisingly, here’s the thing: it’s repeatedly pointed out throughout the article that the acts of these kids do not, in fact, cause any real damage (“No serious injuries have been reported in the attacks by children, although one platoon commander was hit in the face with a rock.”), nor do they apparently pose much of a threat to the US forces (you’d sincerely hope not, or we’d really be fucked).
No threat. Given how much else is going on (IEDs, mortar attacks, etc.) the US troops should be able to just ignore the kids and their rocks. But the article goes on to emphasize at length how “firing back is considered out of the question” — uhm, yes, if the kids are merely a nuisance, why would you possibly even consider shooting at them? For target pratice? For the meat? But clearly the author thinks he’s onto something, so it’s made out to be a lot more complicated than that. “The soldiers are also leery of firing even warning shots in return – worried that could enflame sectarian passions.” I would have thought and hoped their primary concern was that they might kill or injure a kid, not simply the subsequent revolt from the ungrateful natives.
Look, you don’t shoot kids, even if they’re throwing shit at you. It’s really that simple (cue wingnut pundits: “but the toddler had a rock, and it looked like he was going to throw it. You’ve got to be firm. There has to be a consequence.”). No, I’m sorry, you don’t shoot kids. I believe there’s something about that in those quaint Geneva Conventions that King George would like to get rid of. Even the Israelis know that. Well, sort of. They just keep forgetting it.
We Told You So
“Army intelligence officers say they predicted before the offensive began this summer that militants in Baghdad would make use of children.” Might they be the same army intelligence officers who, along with Rumsfeld et al, predicted that the whole Iraq thing would be an overnight cake-walk, two weeks, tops, with the natives kissing our feet? More problematic of course is the fact that those same intelligence officers consistently have been quoted by sympathetic outlets like the AP as saying that things are under control and getting ever better. The “summer offensive”, complete with fights against pre-teens with slingshots, was never supposed to have been necessary, because in the spring/winter/fall/last summer etc. we had it all wrapped up and ready to go. Remember, “Mission Accomplished” and all that? You’re not implying that Dear Leader was lying on that aircraft carrier, are you?
Judging by the latest reports coming out of Iraq, “gangs of up to 100 children” gathered in Sadr City for whatever reason should be the least of our worries.
Have You Talked to a Kid Today?
Here’s what I think: perhaps instead of doing their best to depict this scenario as seen thru the scope of a sniper rifle the AP could have done a really good piece from the children’s point of view. Heck, would it have been too much to ask that a story with the headline “Young Children Fight” had at least one comment from a, you know, kid? They are stuck in the midst of a civil war (sorry, Dick Cheney, if it smells like civil war and sounds like civil war…), little or no school, not much else to do; the streets are already dangerous as hell, all because of those schmucks in the baggy khakis and idiotic sunglasses. It’s quite possible that the Mahdi army has some willing young recruits under such circumstances. We even get a quote from an al-Sadr rep who trots out some ludicrous line about how “[…] such behavior by Iraqi children is spontaneous and the natural reaction from innocent children who are witnessing horrible deeds committed by the occupation forces in Iraq.” But unlike the quotes from the US troops, his word can of course be dismissed instantly, so the story can move on to infer that “The tactic also shows the lengths to which militants will go in confronting U.S. troops in a high-stakes fight for control of the capital.” But instead of bending over backwards to write a piece about how — in the face of this nefarious, but completely ineffective non-threat from kids armed with rocks — our brave US soldiers are gallantly refraining from taking pot shots at 9 year-olds from their armored Humvees, wouldn’t it have been nice and perhaps more enlightening to learn about the kids, their life in the streets of Baghdad, and why they might be fighting?
And, no, the girl in the picture above wasn’t even throwing rocks when the US felt the need to kill her family and maim her with a “precision air strike” early in their efforts to liberate Iraqis like her from themselves.