Well… Perhaps not… Read the Updates at end of article.
It now seems that there is evidence that the 260 terrorists of a messianic Shiite cult who were killed by a combined force of Iraqi Army and U.S. forces on January 29 were not what we were told.
Abid Ali, who witnessed the Najaf fighting, said a procession of about 200 pilgrims from the Hawatim tribe had arrived in the Zarqa area near Najaf to celebrate the Ashura festival. After a confrontation over the procession, Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint shot dead Hajj Sa’ad Sa’ad Nayif al-Hatemi, chief of the tribe, as he and his wife sat in their car. Members of the tribe then attacked the checkpoint to avenge the death of their chief.
“It was after this that the Iraqi army called in the Americans, and the planes began bombing civilians,” Ali said. “It was a massacre. Now I believe internal Shi’ite fighting has entered a very dangerous phase.”
Ali said most people in the area believe the US military was told by Iraqi security forces loyal to the pro-Iranian government in Baghdad that “terrorists” or the “messianic cult” were attacking Najaf. They say the misinformation was intended to mislead occupation forces into attacking the tribe. (source)
If this is true, this is embarrassing to the U.S. and a great tragedy! The least bad way forward is to conduct a thorough and quick investigation, offer apologies to the survivors, promise to do better, and extract severe consequences for the Iran-allied Iraqi government forces who caused it.
If it is true.
Update: My hesitation about accepting this at face value seems well founded. This story springs from Dahr Jamail working with Ali al-Fadhily. I couldn’t find any references to the latter in Google other than articles that he wrote with Jamail (like this one). He seems to be a Sunni agitator, intent on making Shiites and Americans look bad. Jamail is a long-time independent journalist who refuses to imbed with U.S. troops and publishes in far-left venues such as Indymedia, Truthout, and Scoop. At the time of the Samarra bombing he accused the U.S. of it. Since then he has accused the U.S. of countless My Lais in Iraq, among the great number of anti-American-military and anti-Israeli-military articles he has published.
n other words, Dahr Jamail is a propagandist. It is possible there is a kernel of truth in the article about the Ashura killings, but it is not a sure thing. Still, even a stopped clock can be right twice a day. I’ll keep an eye on it.