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04/26/2003 Entry: "Trouble ahead in progress for our occupation troops"

Stone-throwing children put U.S. troops on edge
MOSUL, Iraq, April 26 (Reuters) - The love affair between U.S. troops and Iraqi children is turning sour.

As the invading troops pushed north towards Baghdad in the first weeks of the war, it was always the children in every town that came out first to smile, wave, give the thumbs-up and shout the same greeting: "Good, good, good!"

That's because adults ran a good chance of being shot.

Happy to see a friendly face, the soldiers waved back and many handed out candies from their field rations.

Well, here's the problem: Our troops should have been handing out Prozac or Xanax, no sugar high from those.

But this correspondent, who has travelled with U.S. troops since the start of the war, has seen more and more of the encounters ending with some children, usually the older ones in their early teens, hurling stones at the soldiers.

For now. Um, how many Iraqi arms have disappeared since we got there? I mean, Saddam Hussain used to keep those automatic weapons locked up in the den for his own use.

It can be a Catch 22 situation for the troops. If they let the children swarm around them, they expose themselves to possible attack from adults who can use the cover to get close and throw in a hand grenade.

A kid with a shiv would be much less messy, but I really don't have any practical knowledge of these things. I did read Pearl S. Buck's "Dragon Seed" once, though, and her Chinese peasants would surround a Japanese solider and quietly hack him to death and bury the pieces in their fields.

But if they push them back, it hurts their efforts to win over the civilian population, and can spark the stone throwing.

Ah, well, the only solution is to get the hell out of Iraq and leave the ungrateful urchins to whatever it is ungrateful urchins do. Probably starvation this year, but no stones must be cast at us.

"It's frustrating. They're like little gnats that you can't get away," said Captain James McGahey, a company commander of the 101st Airborne Division who says almost every one of the patrols he sends out in the northern city of Mosul gets stoned.

Gnats? Insect-type gnats? Not children of a country you just trashed? But gnats? I think the attitude problem cuts both ways here, James.

"Everybody loves kids but it's impossible to love 300 of them when they all want to touch you, talk to you and grab you, especially when there are a few out there who want to chuck stones."

Everybody loves kids, eh? Is that why so many Iraqi kids have died in the bombing this year and in 1991?


In one typical incident this weekend, a group of soldiers on foot patrol attracted an ever-increasing posse of children as they moved past a local fire station and on through a rough neighbourhood of Mosul. By the time they reached a school building, at least 200 children and a small group of adults were around them, and the stones came raining in from about a dozen of the older kids.

"They were throwing them like they were pitching a baseball," said Sgt John McLean, who was hit on the helmet, in the back and on the heel.

It's that damn Yankee culture, it's everywhere!

The troops pulled away and took up a defensive position but even then the children and adults only dispersed when a warning shot was fired over their heads. "Everyone tries to be as nice as we can with them but it does get difficult. They definitely impede the job we're trying to do because you have to put half your guys on keeping the children away," McLean said.

See? This is where the Prozac and Xanax come in. Keep the little buggers calm while you do whatever it is you're doing, Sergeant.


The problem is not confined to Mosul. Crowds of 250-300 Iraqi teenagers hurled stones at U.S. Marines patrolling the holy city of Najaf in southern Iraq on Thursday and Friday, officers said. In Kerbala earlier this month, a group of children threw rocks and then kicked puppies over a wall and into a compound where U.S. troops were camped. When the soldiers handed the puppies back with a warning, it was only a few minutes before they were kicked back over the wall.

This is an outrage! Those puppies should be airlifted to freedom and good homes in Colorado, where they will qualify for "guardians" instead of "owners". Leave the ownership issues in Iraq, where they belong.

The problems arise once a crowd grows too large. When troops walk through quieter neighbourhoods, the mood is usually good and some soldiers still take pictures of their buddies posing with young children.

Anything for a photo-op.

When the crowds get bigger, army-hired interpreters ask adults to keep the children at a distance for their own safety. If trouble starts, the soldiers try to pull out of the area by truck and resume foot patrols once the crowd disperses. And there is much less sharing of sweets or pencils because it encourages more children to swarm in. "We call them seagulls because if you give one seagull a piece of bread, the next minute you'll have a whole flock of them," one soldier said.

Geeze, another unpleasant animal metaphor, no wonder y'all have a PR problem already, all this negative thinking. I wonder what animals the Iraqis think you guys are?

Stone-throwing children put U.S. troops on edge, by Kieran Murray, MOSUL, Iraq, Reuter, April 26, 2003

I know this isn't going to be as funny when our occupation troops start getting killed as occupation troops have been killed throughout history, but anyone with an ounce of sense can see where this is leading. I say bring the troops home right now, and let the locals work it out.




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