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February 5, 2007

Exit Haifa Street

Leija1

If pictures from Baghdad have been hard to come by, last Monday’s NYT video of a U.S./Iraqi raid was a deadly exception.  The presentation left little to the imagination — except the swearing.  (Although why coarse language would be stricken, considering everything, is bizarre.)

The video raises various questions, some visual, some political, others tactical.

My first reaction was to think of the Leija family.  If I was the father or brother of squad leader, Staff Sgt. Hector Leija (above), and had this opportunity to see almost everything, would I want to see anything?

Leija2

On one level, the video seems like classic evidence of the over-simplistic thinking behind the surge.

Two weeks into the strategy, the feedback from Baghdad is that the U.S. suppression of Shiite paramilitary activity is not helping to pacify Baghdad, so much as destabilizing the situation and encouraging more and larger Sunni attacks.  The news this morning indicates that this weekend’s massive suicide bombing against Shiites — the largest of the war — probably occurred in this vacuum.  If you notice, Sgt. Leija’s unit was raiding a building freshly abandoned by Shiites.  Following the logic, it is more than likely the fire encountered by this platoon was facilitated by the mission itself.

The video’s largest red flag, however, involves the propaganda about the Iraqi military’s effectiveness and the supposed coordination between U.S. and Iraqi forces.  Notice, for example, the heavy-handed footage near the end (supplied by the military, I believe) where the Iraqi’s are grouped in a room, firing out the window, supposedly to demonstrate what a prominent role they are playing.

Leija3

If these Iraqi’s were truly “taking the lead,” however, what kind of message is sent when the American’s have to wait for them to show up?

More fatefully, if the Iraqi’s are out in front — as set up in the video, and by the government — how is it the Iraqi’s disappear, leaving the Sergeant to pay the ultimate price?

The video “Return To Haifa Street” can be found here with the story: “When One Bullet Alters Everything.”



(video: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty and Ahmad Fadam for The New York Times; produced by Diana Oliva Cave; reported by Damien Cave.  Baghdad, Iraq. published January 28, 2007.  nytimes.com)

  • Kitt

    What a f*cking collosal waste of time, money, and energy.
    I’ve seen that same footage of those Iraqis firing out the window. It’s a set up; there’s the distinct flavor of “is this how ya do it, poppa?”

  • curt

    I found it a very moving piece of commentary; a microcosm of the senselessness and utter futility of this whole thing of this whole thing. The military declares the operation a “success” (whatever that is), and one more family is left with an empty place that will never be filled.

  • http://ruinsofempire.blogspot.com/ Rafael

    There seems to be a lot of giggling and laughing…a sort of “Look Ma I’m on TeVee!” kind of moment. Not very serious, now is it.

  • http://www.woodka.com donna

    How do we ask these men to die for a lie?
    I guess it was easy for Bush. I’ve been screaming about this war for four years now, about this president for seven years.
    How could America not see disaster coming with Dubya the way I did?
    Sigh.

  • jtfromBC

    “Sacrificing Blood and Treasure” prattle the politicians. While the blood dries over there the bodies return as do the Treasures $$$ return unprecedented profits for Oil companies the MIC the Private Contractors and local business vultures capitalizing on patriotism and fear.
    His High School Teacher comments on Staff Sargent Hector Leija death and asks the question.
    “A former Marine, Garcia said many of his students go into the military. When they come back and visit, they strut the halls in full uniform, their chests puffed up.
    “It sends chills when you see somebody like that,” he said, proud.
    But he was torn about seeing service members like Leija go to Iraq.
    “Sure you have a duty to our country, but who are we fighting?” he said. “You are proud for them, but you start thinking, ‘What are we doing over there?”
    Valley soldier ‘chose Army’ Web Posted: 01/25/2007 11:07 PM CST Jesse Bogan
    Rio Grande Valley Bureau

  • jtfromBC

    “Sacrificing Blood and Treasure” prattle the politicians.
    While the blood dries over there the bodies return as do the Treasured $$$ return unprecedented profits for Oil companies the MIC the Private Contractors and local business vultures capitalizing on patriotism and fear.
    His High School Teacher comments on Staff Sargent Hector Leija’s death and asks the question.
    “A former Marine, Garcia said many of his students go into the military. When they come back and visit, they strut the halls in full uniform, their chests puffed up.
    “It sends chills when you see somebody like that,” he said, proud.
    But he was torn about seeing service members like Leija go to Iraq.
    “Sure you have a duty to our country, but who are we fighting?” he said. “You are proud for them, but you start thinking, ‘What are we doing over there?”
    Valley soldier ‘chose Army’ Web Posted: 01/25/2007 11:07 PM CST Jesse Bogan
    Rio Grande Valley Bureau

  • thom

    i feel for the soldiers and the people who have to live in that war zone. i get the feeling that everyday would be filled with fear and anxiety. so many lives turned upside down.

  • Chris

    “When One Bullet Alters Everything.”
    I saw the print version of this paper and below the fold, way down in the right hand corner was the mini-headline about 250 killed in Iraq Battle. So we get this huge story with huge pictures about a lone American casualty and the other story as almost an afterthought.
    Yes we should feel compassion for the hardships faced by American soldiers. They are human beings. Nor is there any question that each of the human beings killed by Americans directly or those who die as a result of the chaos the invasion and occupation have unleashed on the region also deserve an equal measure of compassion.
    PTSD will be a problem for many Americans for a long time to come as they attempt to come to grips with all they have witnessed and participated in. Generations of Iraqis and Middle Easterners of many other nationalities are and will be dealing with PTSD of a magnitude we can barely conceive of here in the U.S.
    When I see so much attention paid to the suffering of Americans and the simultaneous marginalization of the suffering of all others I can only feel ashamed of our “free” press and the culture that consumes and enables it.

  • ummabdulla

    “Sergeant Leija’s squad had no communication links with their Iraqi counterparts”? How stupid is that? They’re supposed to be doing this together, the Americans assisting in any way they can, but they have no communications links? Where are those billions of dollars going?
    And maybe I didn’t understand the situation, but when they were waiting for hours to retrieve his things from the kitchen, couldn’t one of them have crawled along the floor to get them? When he finally got permission, the soldier ran standing up, just crouched a little. If the sniper was below them, that doesn’t make sense.
    As the reporter says at the end, they clear an area and then leave it. Are we supposed to think that it will stay cleared after they leave? What a waste of lives and money…

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