“Why Casey Sheehan Was Killed,” is by Pacifica Radio reporter Aaron Glantz, who has covered the war in Iraq from the beginning. He is the author of How America Lost Iraq, which The Boulder Daily Camera summed up concisely:
“Die-hard Iraq war supporters and reflexive Bush bashers alike may chafe at parts of Glantz’s story. It is an unusual hybrid, a fact-packed memoir, based on solid reporting, rather than an analysis or polemic. Most of us will never see the Iraq war up close. But reading Aaron Glantz’s book, and watching his positions evolve as he learns more, is about as good a substitute as we are likely to find.”
I just spoke with Aaron for a few moments on the phone. Aaron stressed that he felt it is important to keep the focus on the real stories behind the Iraq war (and not the media circus). I hope to have more here from Aaron soon.
WHY CASEY SHEEHAN WAS KILLED
by Aaron Glantz
Since President Bush won’t meet with Cindy Sheehan to explain why her son Casey died in Iraq, I thought I would put forward the information I have. Like Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, I was in Baghdad’s Sadr City on April 4, 2004.
I was there as an unembedded journalist. Unlike Casey Sheehan, I wasn’t killed.
I had traveled to Sadr City to cover the Bush Administration’s undemocratic attack on the movement of Shi’ite cleric Muqtada Sadr. It didn’t matter that the cleric had millions of followers or that he was scion to an important political family with a history of standing up to tyranny. (His father was killed by Saddam’s regime for fomenting revolution in 1999. His uncle, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr, was killed for leading an insurrection against Ba’ath rule in 1980.)
It didn’t matter that Sadr’s forces were providing food aid to the poor, or organizing traffic patrol and garbage duty in an atmosphere with no basic services.
The problem for Bush and his Iraq Administrator L. Paul Bremer was that Sadr was against American occupation. So he had to be dealt with. First his newspaper was closed. Then his top advisor was arrested. Then, Bremer announced an unnamed judge was demanding Sadr be arrested on charges of murder.
“He’s effectively attempting to establish his authority in place of the legitimate Iraqi government,” US Administrator Paul Bremer told reporters. “We will not tolerate that.”
That was the last straw. Until April 4, 2004 Muqtada Sadr had urged his followers to protest peacefully against American occupation. But the American assault led him to urge his followers to “terrorize the enemy.”
In the first 48 hours of fighting Sadr’s followers seized police stations and government buildings across the country including the Governor’s Office in Basra. At least 75 Iraqis and 10 American servicemen were killed, among them Army Specialist Casey Sheehan.
As an unembedded journalist I saw only the Iraqi casualties (the U.S. casualties being taken away to military hospitals). My translator Waseem and I weaved through roads closed by American tanks until we arrived at Sadr City’s al-Ubaidi hospital. There, I interviewed 15 year old Ali Hussein. He lay in the hospital – an American bullet lodged in his gut.
He was barely able to lift his head, but he wanted to say a few words to the American reporter: “I was standing in my door-way and I was shot,” he said. “I don’t have anything to say to the Americans. It’s just between them and God.”
A few miles away at Baghdad’s Mustansuriye University, hundreds of students marched through the center of campus. They chanted: the dead want a brave people so we won’t follow the law of Bremer.
“We will act according to the situation that we face,” said Wassam Mehdi Hussein, head of the Islamic Union of Iraqi Students standing by al-Sadr’s declaration of jihad against the occupation. “We will use any means peaceful and violent.”
Another Mustansuriye student, Ali Mohammed, noted the violence started when the American military closed Sadr’s newspaper and arrested his top advisor.
“We don’t want to fight the Americans,” he told me. “We are very grateful to them. They are very dear to us because they released us from Saddam. But at the same time we want them to do something for humanity. A lot of people are suffering from hunger and sitting at home having no work.’
“These things make the situation bad and then we turn to explosions. We want to respect them and we want them to respect us.”
A year on, such respect still isn’t forth-coming – even to Americans like Cindy Sheehan, who deserve to know the truth of why their sons have been killed in Iraq.
This essay was received by email from Tarcher/Penguin Marketing and Promotions Associate Manager Terri Hennessy.