Robert Fisk: How can the US ever win, when Iraqi children die like this?

Share
Related Topics

Yassin al-Sammerai was not. On 14 July, the second grade schoolboy had gone to spend the night with two college friends and - this being a city without electricity in the hottest month of the year - they decided to spend the night sleeping in the front garden. Let his broken 65 year-old father Selim take up the story, for he's the one who still cannot believe his son is dead - or what the Americans told him afterwards.

"It was three-thirty in the morning and they were all asleep, Yassin and his friends Fahed and Walid Khaled. There was an American patrol outside and then suddenly, a Bradley armoured vehicle burst through the gate and wall and drove over Yassin. You know how heavy these things are. He died instantly. But the Americans didn't know what they'd done. He was lying crushed under the vehicle for 17 minutes. Um Khaled, his friends' mother, kept shouting in Arabic: "There is a boy under this vehicle."

According to Selim al-Sammerai, the Americans' first reaction was to put handcuffs on the two other boys. But a Lebanese Arabic interpreter working for the Americans arrived to explain that it was all a mistake. "We don't have anything against you,''she said. The Americans produced a laminated paper in English and Arabic entitled "Iraqi Claims Pocket Card" which tells them how to claim compensation.

The unit whose Bradley drove over Yassin is listed as "256 BCT A/156 AR, Mortars". Under "Type of Incident", an American had written: "Raid destroyed gate and doors." No one told the family there had been a raid. And nowhere - but nowhere - on the form does it suggest that the "raid'' destroyed the life of the football-loving Yassin al-Sammerai.

InsideYassin's father's home yesterday, Selim shakes with anger and then weeps softly, wiping his eyes. "He is surely in heaven," one of his surviving seven sons replies. And the old man looks at me and says: "He liked swimming too. "

A former technical manager at the Baghdad University college of arts, Selim is now just a shadow.He is half bent over on his seat, his face sallow and his cheeks drawn in. This is a Sunni household in a Sunni area. This is "insurgent country" for the Americans, which is why they crash into these narrow streets at night. Several days ago, a collaborator gave away the location of a group of Sunni guerrillas and US troops surrounded the house. A two-hour gun-battle followed until an Apache helicopter came barrelling out of the darkness and dropped a bomb on the building, killing all inside.

There is much muttering around the room about the Americans and the West and I pick up on this quickly and say how grateful I am that they have let a Westerner come to their home after what has happened. Selim turns and shakes me by the hand. "You are welcome here," he says. "Please tell people what happened to us." Outside, my driver is watching the road; it's the usual story. Any car with three men inside or a man with a mobile phone means "get out". The sun bakes down. It is a Friday. "These guys take Fridays off," the driver offers by way of confidence.

"The Americans came back with an officer two days later," Selim al-Sammerai continues. "They offered us compensation. I refused. I lost my son, I told the officer. 'I don't want the money - I don't think the money will bring back my son.' That's what I told the American." There is a long silence in the room. But Selim, who is still crying, insists on speaking again.

"I told the American officer: 'You have killed the innocent and such things will lead the people to destroy you and the people will make a revolution against you. You said you had come to liberate us from the previous regime. But you are destroying our walls and doors.'"

I suddenly realise that Selim al-Sammerai has straightened up on his seat and his voice is rising in strength. "Do you know what the American said to me? He said, 'This is fate.' I looked at him and I said, 'I am very faithful in the fate of God - but not in the fate of which you speak.'"

Then one of Yassin's brothers says that he took a photograph of the dead boy as he lay on the ground, a picture taken on his mobile phone, and he printed a picture of it and when the Americans returned on the second day they asked to see it. "They asked me why I had taken the picture and I said it was so people here could see what the Americans had done to my brother. They asked if they could borrow it and bring it back. I gave it to them but they didn't bring it back. But I still kept the image on my mobile and I was able to print another." And suddenly it is in my hands, an obscene and terrible snapshot of Yassin's head crushed flat as if an elephant had stood upon it, blood pouring from what had been the back of his brains. "So now, you see," the brother explains, "the people can still see what the Americans have done."

In the heat, we slunk out of al-Jamia yesterday, the place of insurgents and Americans and grief and revenge. "When the car bomb blew up over there," my driver says, "the US Humvees went on burning for three hours and the bodies were still there. The Americans took three hours to reach them. Al the people gathered round and watched." And I look at the carbonised car that still lies on the road and realise it has now become a little icon of resistance. How, I ask myself again, can the Americans ever win?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'Our media are suffering a new experience: not fear of being called anti-Semitic'  

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk
David Cameron (pictured) can't steal back my party's vote that easily, says Nigel Farage  

Cameron’s benefits pledge is designed to lure back Ukip voters. He’ll have to try harder

Nigel Farage
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices