[Via AMERICABlog] The new Iraqi Ambassador to the United States, Samir Sumaidaie, presented his credentials to President Bush yesterday. With him however he brought more than his credentials, he also brought with him a personal story of the quagmire the United States finds itself in Iraq. Mr. Sumaidaie brought with him the story of his cousin’s death at the hands of American Marines.
After meeting with President Bush, the Iraqi Ambassador discussed his cousin’s killing with Wolf Blitzer on CNN:
BLITZER: But even months before the incident in November, you lost a cousin at Haditha in a separate battle involving United States Marines.
SUMAIDAIE: Well, that was not a battle at all. Marines were doing house-to-house searches, and they went into the house of my cousin. He opened the door for them.
His mother, his siblings were there. He led them into the bedroom of his father. And there he was shot.
BLITZER: Who shot him?
SUMAIDAIE: A member of the Marines.
BLITZER: Why did they shoot him?
SUMAIDAIE: Well, they said that they shot him in self-defense. I find that hard to believe because, A, he is not at all a violent — I mean, I know the boy. He was [in] a second-year engineering course in the university. Nothing to do with violence. All his life has been studies and intellectual work.
Totally unbelievable. And, in fact, they had no weapon in the house. They had one weapon which belonged to the school where his father was a headmaster. And it had no ammunition in it. And he led them into the room to show it to them.
BLITZER: So what you’re suggesting, your cousin was killed in cold blood, is that what you’re saying, by United States Marines?
SUMAIDAIE: I believe he was killed intentionally. I believe that he was killed unnecessarily. And unfortunately, the investigations that took place after that sort of took a different course and concluded that there was no unlawful killing.
I would like further investigation. I have, in fact, asked for the report of the last investigation, which was a criminal investigation, by the way.
[Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq] is aware of all the details, because he’s kept on top of it. And it was he who rejected the conclusions of the first investigation. I have since asked formally for the report, but it’s been nearly two months, and I have not received it.
This is a serious charge and you may be tempted to believe that the Ambassador is simply jumping on the Haditha bandwagon to score some political and decidedly undiplomatic points. However, Sumaidaie raised this incident with the United States military nearly a year ago while he was the Iraqi Ambassador to the United Nations. In addition to raising the issue with the US military the Ambassador also sent a letter to his colleagues. According to the BBC:
In a letter to colleagues, Mr Sumaidaie explained in detail what happened to his cousin Mohammed al-Sumaidaie on 25 June in the village of al-Sheikh Hadid.
He said Mohammed, an engineering student, was visiting his family home when some 10 marines with an Egyptian interpreter knocked on the door at 1000 local time.
He opened the door to them and was "happy to exercise some of his English", said the ambassador.
When asked if there were any weapons in the house, Mohammed took the marines to a room where there was a rifle with no live ammunition.
It was the last the family saw him alive. Shortly after, another brother was dragged out and beaten and the family was ordered to wait outside.
As the marines left "smiling at each other" an hour later, the interpreter told the mother they had killed Mohammed, said Mr Sumaidaie.
"In the bedroom, Mohammed was found dead and laying in a clotted pool of his blood. A single bullet had penetrated his neck."
The Ambassador’s own story highlights the confused and tragic situation of the United States military in Iraq. The Ambassador is no insurgent sympathizer. He is Western educated and is a supporter of the US military intervention. The killing of the Ambassador’s cousin, the killings in Haditha, and another killing that is also under investigation in Iraq just add to an emerging pattern of civilian killings and intimidation occurring in Iraq.
We have placed a heavily armed fighting force in the middle of a large civilian population who have been declared friendly by our Government. Our military is fighting a largely unseen insurgent force whose weapon of choice is the IED. In this circumstance the easiest target of revenge is the civilian population. It is tempting to kick down doors and interrogate and harass the population to try to gain intelligence about the insurgency. It is the way of heavy-handed counter-insurgency campaigns. It is also the surest way to lose the battle for hearts and minds. We have to ask ourselves if we are doing more harm than good in Iraq. We cannot destroy the village to save it.
The Bush Administration needs to step back and take a good look at its Iraq policy. Instead of writing off Abu Ghraib, Haditha and other atrocities as isolated incidents, it needs to ask itself if our policy in Iraq is leading to these atrocities. Upon examination I think the answer is likely to be yes. Then the question really is, "Are we as a nation willing to accept the loss of our moral authority to further our policy in Iraq?" I know what my answer to that question is; what is yours? Our collective answer as a nation will determine whether the United States withdraws from Iraq or continues down its current path.