Iraqi city is full of hatred
By Dexter Filkins, The New York Times
FALLUJAH, Iraq -- In the epicenter of anti-American hatred, even the most
generous of gestures is viewed with a suspicious eye.
The day after 16 American servicemen died when their helicopter was shot
out of the sky here, a group of American soldiers tossed handfuls of
candy from their Humvees to the Iraqi children who lined the road.
"Don't touch it, don't touch it!" the Iraqi children squealed. "It's
poison from the Americans. It will kill you."
The Humvees rumbled past, and the candy stayed in the dirt.
Loathing for the American occupiers of Iraq looms everywhere in this
hardscrabble city, where Saddam Hussein won strong support in exchange
for privileges and patronage. Hatred laces the conversations. It hangs
from the walls. It burns in the minds of children. As nowhere else in
Iraq, Fallujah bristles with a desire to confront the American soldiers,
to kill them and to celebrate when they fall.
Although large numbers of Iraqis elsewhere are cooperating with the
Americans, for the American soldiers trying to pacify this Saddam
stronghold, the road seems long and hard.
"These people hate the Americans," said Spec. Emily Donaghy, who lives
behind the high walls of an American base outside town. "It's going to
take generation after generation before these people realize what
America has done for them."
On Monday, American soldiers picked over the scene of the sharpest
demonstration yet of the locals' passion: the shooting down, with a
surface-to-air missile, of a U.S. helicopter loaded with soldiers.
The downing of the helicopter, which crashed and burned in a field
outside town, prompted celebrations from many of the locals. While anti-
American feeling does not extend to everyone in Fallujah -- American
soldiers have found a handful of allies to work with -- it is difficult
to find anyone here willing to express appreciation for the American
Even a group of American-trained Iraqi police officers, who American
officials hope will help crack down on the insurgents, could not bring
themselves to say anything positive about the occupation.
"We want them out of here," said an Iraqi officer who gave only one
name, Ahmed. Ahmed said he and his colleagues were regularly threatened
by local Iraqis for collaborating with the Americans, but he said his
detractors had it all wrong.
"I don't work with the Americans; I don't take orders from them," Ahmed
said. "I am doing this for my country."
Fallujah lies in the heart of what is known as the Sunni Triangle, an
area stretching west and north of Baghdad that was the foundation of
support for Saddam. It is this area where the overwhelming majority of
attacks on American soldiers have been carried out. They began shortly
after President Bush declared the end of major hostilities on May 1,
and they have continued since.
In other parts of the country, in the north and in the south, Iraqis
often welcome the Americans as their liberators and as their tutors in
fostering democratic rule.
In places like Fallujah, the locals often had a direct stake in Saddam's
rule, receiving preferential treatment in hiring and earning larger
One of the lucky ones was Saad Hamid, who now operates a sidewalk tea
stand in downtown Fallujah. Before the war, he said, he worked in an
Iraqi armaments factory, earning almost $1,000 a month, an extraordinarily
high salary in this country. Then the Americans arrived, the armaments
factory was closed, and Hamid lost his job. Today, he pours glasses of
tea for pennies a glass, and he nurtures his resentments.
"The old currency is better," Hamid said, pointing to the face of Hussein
on an old Iraqi note, "because Saddam is on it."
Central Baghdad was rocked by at least three mortars shells on
Monday evening, and two more Iraqi government officials were reported
assassinated. No casualties were reported from the mortar strikes.
Villagers celebrate the deaths of US troops
By Jack Fairweather, November 4, 2003
Holding up an American soldier's multi-coloured shorts that he had taken
from the helicopter wreckage, the dancing Iraqi could scarcely contain
"Tonight we will have a double feast," shouted Mohammed Saleh, an
unshaven, well-built man in his 40s, as he hopped from foot to foot in
front of 100 joyous villagers.
"The first feast will be when we break our fast for Ramadan. The second
will be in praise of those who struck down our American enemies," he
told the crowd.
Behind them, among the fields and palm trees, lay the twisted, blackened
debris of the Chinook, along with military equipment and the bodies of
dead American soldiers, killed on their way out of the country for a
rest and recreation break.
The nearby village of al-Husay, a mix of mud and concrete huts south of
Fallujah, was all but deserted as the residents milled around the crash
site. "This is war," shouted one.
Four Apache attack helicopters flying overhead did nothing to deter the
revellers, who rushed to the scene when the Chinook plummeted to earth
in a shower of smoke and sparks after being hit, apparently, by a heat-
Most of the villagers had been outside in their fields as two Chinook
helicopters left nearby Habbaniyah airbase on a 20-minute flight
ferrying soldiers to Baghdad airport.
One, Mohammed Saleh, said: "They are always flying around here, very
low and fast. I wasn't paying much attention until I heard a terrifying
Villagers said they saw a flash of light from a nearby grove of palm
trees as two weapons were fired. The impact of the blast buckled the
helicopter and it fell to the ground. The other projectile narrowly
missed the second Chinook.
Jassim Ahmadi, whose farm is near the crash site, said: "It was like
watching a large bird suddenly stop flying and drop out of the sky. I
couldn't believe what I saw. I ran over. There were bodies everywhere
and people screaming."
The undamaged Chinook briefly circled the burning wreckage, before
landing nearby to deploy its troops.
"They were very, very angry, shouting and waving their guns," said Mr
Ahmadi, "I ran away and hid." Helicopters from the airbase rushed to
the site to airlift the wounded.
US forces put a security cordon around the site and tried to disperse
the cheering Iraqis, with little effort on either side to disguise
"Here come the bastards," shouted Mr Saleh as a company of US soldiers
approached from the 10th Mountain Division, attached to the 82nd
Airborne, to which most of the men in the Chinook helicopters belonged.
Neither side understood the words but the meaning was clear enough.
"They are very bad people here," said Captain Scott Kirkpatrick. "The
guy who shot the rockets is probably standing in the crowd."
The villagers of al-Husay were quick to deny any involvement in the
attack, but proudly declared their commitment to fighting the Americans,
whom they blame for indiscriminate killings in the community and the
arrest of village leaders.
"We are cheering because every American soldier we kill brings us one
step closer to getting them out of the country for good," said one
Abdul Mahmud, a taxi driver, added: "We want Bush to see his
mercenaries lying dead on the ground. We want him to know that this
month we are going to harm even the women."