Michael Ubaldi, January 8, 2004.
Zeyad has a letter from a Iraqi woman, from the Saddam-loyal town of Samarra, describes the cold-blooded murder of her son by American troops five days ago. According to the letter, the son and a cousin's son were stopped outside of Samarra, searched by an American patrol - then suddenly and inexplicably tied up before being thrown into the Tigris near the Tharthar dam. The cousin's son "got stuck in a tree branch" and survived. The son died. Like Glenn Reynolds, I've come to respect and trust Zeyad. Yet the letter itself is angry - very angry - and the story is questionable, even considering Zeyad hastily translated it. I hope to goodness no one is taking advantage of his generous character.
[I linked to a story describing a GI stationed at a "Tharthar Dam," but now suspect that some confusion exists between us outlanders, as there are either more than one "Tharthar dams" or several dams are colloquially referred to as such.]
Would the unit guarding the dam at night - probably stronger than a daytime garrison - be of the same as the patrol? If they weren't, would GIs at the dam at the time allow a patrol to toss two kids into the Tigris? If they all were in the same unit, would the lot be so unfit for duty that attempted murder could be considered an inside joke?
What about the search that occurred? The entire American encampment stood by? How far downstream must the family have needed to go to find the jacket, particularly when the current purportedly tore the son from the grip of the woman's cousin? How in the hell did a miles-long, days-long, family-wide search for a murdered civilian floating down the Tigris not launch its way into the news?
This doesn't add up. I'm skeptical.
GLENN'S REPORTING AS PEOPLE RESPOND: There are some interesting deductive critiques from readers at Glenn's link (provided above). [Ha, better than mine.]
GOOD THING ZEYAD ASKED US TO READ IT TWICE: More feedback is piling up at IP, including someone else who is wondering the same thing I am about which dam is being referred to in the letter. Just move northwest from Baghdad on this map and you'll find the "Tharthar Dam." Does that prove duplicity? Or what I'm wondering, which is that the Samarra Dam, close to a canal from the Tharthar Lake, assumed the name of "Tharthar" by locals.
SETTING IT STRAIGHT: Another IP reader says "I suspect the letter author meant that the kids were taken to the gates that divert water from the Tigris to the Tharthar Basin." Another writes about it here.
CORRECTED, AND OFFERING APOLOGIES: Zeyad was right. A crime occurred, and those who committed it will be held responsible.