More Life Doesn't Count
TODAY the major news media announced
that one American who had been wounded in
the downing of the Chinook helicopter in
Iraq on 2 November had died in hospital in
Germany on Thursday, November 6, 2003.
This death, the story
went on, brought the number of dead in
that incident to sixteen.
news reports on 3
November were already listing the
number of dead as 16 (up from the
initially quoted figure of 15).
I include both reports
Arabist Eric Mueller
is this website's expert on Middle Eastern
November 3, 2003:
U.S. Seeks Clues
to Deadly Copter Attack
By CHARLES J. HANLEY,
AP Special Correspondent
BAGHDAD, Iraq - American troops
hunted for anti-aircraft missiles along Iraq's
trucking routes, digging through heaps of manure,
mounds of hay or piles of pomegranates Monday. The
U.S. Army retrieved the wreckage of a downed
transport helicopter and searched for clues about
who knocked it from the sky.
Attacks continued Monday -- a blast near a
Shiite Muslim shrine in the southern city of
Karbala that witnesses said killed at least one
person, and a barrage of three mortar rounds in
Baghdad that caused no reported casualties.
One clue in Sunday's helicopter shootdown may
lie in Ramadi, west of the crash site, where an
anti-U.S. leaflet warned, just two days before the
shootdown, that Iraq's insurgents would strike the
Americans with "modern and advanced methods."
The downing of the CH-47 Chinook, one of two
carrying dozens of soldiers on their way to Baghdad
airport and home leave, killed 16 Americans and
wounded 20 others. It was the heaviest U.S. death
toll in any single action since the invasion of
Iraq last March 20.
One victim, Ernest Bucklew, 33, had been
expected to stop at his Fort Carson, Colo., home
before traveling to his mother's funeral. His wife,
Barbara, wept as she spoke of breaking the news to
the couple's two children, 8-year-old Joshua and
"My oldest one is just a little numb," she said
at the Army post near Colorado Springs, Colo.,
shrouded in fog and a cold rain. "He understands
his nana and father passed away, but he hasn't
talked about it. The youngest one just doesn't
understand. He doesn't understand the concept of
death right now."
Sixteen of the injured were flown by U.S. Air
Force C-17 transport Monday to Ramstein Air Base in
Germany and treated at the U.S. military's
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Nine were
admitted to the intensive care unit, including five
in serious condition, said hospital spokeswoman
"They are being evaluated and surgeries are
planned throughout the day," she said.
Villagers who saw the
helicopter downing south of Fallujah, 35 miles
west of Baghdad, said it was struck from behind
by one or two missiles apparently fired from a
date palm grove in the area, deep in the Sunni
Muslim heartland that has produced the most
violent opposition to the U.S. occupation of
Hundreds of portable, shoulder-fired missiles
are unaccounted for in Iraq, potential threats to a
U.S. occupation army that relies heavily on the
slow, low-flying CH-47 Chinook craft for troop
transport. The U.S. command has offered Iraqis $500
apiece for each portable missile turned in but has
refused to say how many have been surrendered.
In one search operation Monday, U.S. military
police stretched out razor wire and set up
checkpoints along the main artery running north
from Baghdad, now dubbed "Highway 1," to look for
weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles.
"We have had indication that more of stuff like
this (missiles) are moving out there," said Lt.
Col. Dave Poirier, commander of the 720th
Military Police Battalion. "People know they are
taking a big chance in transporting weapons ... and
for some of these large weapons systems, you'd have
to have a truck to transport it."
Spc. Andrew Fifield of San Antonio, Texas,
jumped on top of a truck transporting pomegranates
and picked through the fruit carefully.
As he dug through dried manure atop a second
truck, he motioned to Iraqi policemen to join him.
"A lot of them were not police as we'd know
police back home to be," Poirier said. "Some of
them were never policemen before this."
The explosion in Karbala, 65 miles south of
Baghdad, apparently was caused by a bomb planted in
a parked car on a busy street less than 100 yards
from the gold-domed Imam Hussein shrine, said
Mohammed Abu Jaffar al-Assadi, a Shiite
cleric. Other witnesses said it might have been
concealed in a bag left outside a hotel.
In addition to at least one dead, it was
believed 12 people were wounded, al-Assadi said. It
was not immediately possible to get confirmation of
the report from Iraqi police or the U.S.-led
Karbala has been rocked by deadly clashes
between supporters of rival Shiite factions.
Here in the capital, U.S. occupation authorities
said three mortar rounds were lobbed from a firing
position somewhere in southwestern Baghdad late
Monday. Two landed in unspecified locations in
central Baghdad, and the third struck a camp of the
2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. They said no injuries
were immediately reported.
As a result of Sunday's shootdown, the U.S.
command may have to re-evaluate the routes and
flying tactics of its transport helicopters and
planes over Iraq.
The SA-7 Strela portable missiles known to have
been in Iraqi hands, weapons that home in on the
engine heat of an aircraft, can be fired to an
altitude of 14,000 feet, easily covering the usual
cruising altitude of a heavily laden Chinook.
Another shoulder-fired missile in the old Iraqi
army's inventory, the advanced SA-18 Iglas, is
equipped with special filters to defeat flares and
other countermeasures deployed by U.S.
The apparent successful use of such a weapon in
Sunday's attack is a sign of the increasing
sophistication of Iraq's elusive anti-U.S.
resistance, whose attacks have intensified in
The U.S. command in Baghdad said the 82nd
Airborne Division, umbrella unit for 12th Aviation
Brigade operations in Iraq, was conducting the
initial investigation into the downing of the
At the site Monday, a giant crane lifted pieces
of wreckage onto a truck, as soldiers sealed off
the immediate area. Villager Jamal Abed, 22,
said U.S. troops came to his house Monday morning
and told him, through an interpreter, that "if
American forces were subjected to fire,
they will open fire on every
house in the area."
In other developments:
- A neighborhood council chairman in west
Baghdad, Mustafa Zaidan al-Khaleefa, 47, was
fatally shot from a passing car as he walked
alone on a street late Sunday. Numerous Iraqi
local and national officials cooperating with
the occupation have been targeted for
- In the southern city of Basra, some 1,500
members of the Facilities Protection Service, a
new Iraqi security guard force, staged a noisy
protest and burned tires outside the mayor's
office. They complained that their $60 bonus for
Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, was only half
what police are receiving. Club-wielding British
troops rushed to the scene, but no clashes or
casualties were reported.
Associated Press writers Katarina Kratovac in
Tikrit, Bassem Mroue at the crash site, and Robert
Weller in Fort Carson, Colo., contributed to this
[AP story from November 7, 2003 adding one
new death bringing the total to . . . 16
Death Toll in
Iraq Copter Attack Hits 16 44 minutes ago
By ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Hundreds of
soldiers Thursday remembered their comrades who
were killed Sunday when their helicopter was shot
down in the deadliest single attack against U.S.
forces since the Iraq (news - web sites) war began
With some wearing ceremonial spurs and black
regimental hats, the soldiers gathered at al-Assad,
a windblown desert base 150 miles northwest of
Most of the fallen soldiers were headed to home
leave in the United States and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon (news - web sites)
announced that one of the soldiers injured in the
attack died Thursday at a medical facility in
Germany, raising the death toll to 16. Twenty-four
others were injured.
Also Thursday, Poland suffered its first combat
death since the aftermath of World War II when a
Polish major was fatally wounded in an ambush south
of Baghdad. Two American soldiers died in attacks
near the capital and along the Syrian border.
The Polish officer was wounded when insurgents
attacked a convoy of 16 Polish soldiers returning
from a promotion ceremony for Iraqi civilian
defense trainees near Baghdad. Maj. Hieronim
Kupczyk, 44, died at a military hospital in
Karbala, the Polish Defense Ministry said.
None of the other Polish soldiers was killed or
wounded, according to Polish Defense Minister
"This tragic event proves that the situation in
Iraq is getting complicated," Szmajdzinski told
reporters in Warsaw. "The level of professionalism
of the terrorists is
Elsewhere, one U.S. soldier from the 3rd Armored
Cavalry Regiment was killed Thursday when his truck
hit a land mine near the Husaybah border crossing
point with Syria nearly 200 miles northwest of
Baghdad, the military said.
A paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne Division
was killed and two others were wounded when their
patrol came under rocket-propelled grenade and
small arms fire near Mahmudiyah, 15 miles south of
Baghdad late Wednesday, the military said.
In Washington on Thursday, Bush signed an $87.5
billion package approved by Congress for Iraq and
Afghanistan (news - web sites), calling the money a
financial commitment by the United States to the
global war to defeat terrorism.
"With this act of Congress, no enemy or friend
can doubt that America has the resources and the
will to see this war through to victory," Bush said
at a White House ceremony.
At al-Assad, U.S. troops honored their
colleagues killed Sunday when insurgents shot down
a Chinook helicopter.
"Death was in the cause of freedom. They were
serving our country and answering our nation's call
to fight terrorists," said Col. David A.
Teeples, commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry
Regiment. "We honor them for their sacrifice. We
honor them as Americans, as soldier and as
The helicopter was shot down near Fallujah, one
of the centers of Iraqi resistance about 40 miles
west of Baghdad. On Wednesday, the 82nd Airborne
Division said it captured two Iraqi army officers
-- Lt. Gen. Khamis Saleh Ibrahim Al-Halbossi
and Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Adwan Al-Alwani -- who
were believed to have played a major role in
attacks in the Fallujah area.
The deaths Thursday brought to 141 the number of
U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq by hostile fire since
President Bush declared an end to major combat May
1. A total of 114 U.S. soldiers were killed in
action before Bush's declaration.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced plans to send
85,000 relief troops to Iraq early next year, part
of a rotation plan that assumes Iraqis be able to
assume more control and American troops in Iraq can
be reduced from 131,600 today to 105,000 by May,
senior officials said.
Concern over security mounted after a series of
attacks around the start of the Islamic holy month
of Ramadan, which began here Oct. 27. Since then,
insurgents have rocketed the Al-Rasheed Hotel, set
off deadly car bombs in Baghdad, fired mortars at
the coalition headquarters compound in Baghdad and
shot down the Chinook.
The number of daily attacks on coalition forces
dropped to 29 last week from a spike of 37 the week
before, a U.S. military spokesman said
However, the chief British representative here,
Jeremy Greenstock, said coalition forces
face a "rough winter" of attacks, The Times
of London newspaper reported in Wednesday's
Greenstock also said it would be difficult to
defeat the insurgents without the sort of
heavy-handed measures that would further alienate
the Iraqi people, the newspaper said.
The Polish major was the first Polish soldier
killed by hostile fire in more than a half century
of post-World War II peacekeeping missions,
including the Golan Heights, Lebanon, Haiti and the
Balkans. More than 500,000 Polish soldiers died
during World War II, and 20,000 more were killed in
fighting along the eastern border that continued
The United States, Britain and now Poland are
the only coalition members to have suffered combat
deaths in Iraq. One Dane was killed by
Poland has 2,400 soldiers in Iraq and are in
charge of a large swath of south-central Iraq where
about 9,500 soldiers of several nations help
maintain security. Poland was among the strongest
supporters of the U.S.-led
war to remove Saddam
Hussein, and 250 Polish special forces
soldiers fought in the conflict.
The killing of the Polish major took place a few
days before the planned visit of Polish Prime
Minister Leszek Miller, who is due here as
part of a Middle East tour.
Despite the growing risk to coalition forces, a
senior Japanese official said in Baghdad that his
country would honor its commitment to send
peacekeepers to Iraq.
The Japanese plan to send a 150-member advance
contingent to southern Iraq by the end of the year
and 550 soldiers early next year to provide water,
medical care and other services.
Associated Press writers Hamza Hendawi in
al-Assad, Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Jim Gomez in
Tikrit and Mariam Fam in Mosul contributed to this