Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 24, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

THE WEDDING....This business with the "wedding" near the Syrian border that we bombed a few days ago gets stranger every day. Was it really a wedding? Was it a terrorist camp? Did we kill women and children or didn't we?

You can view a video of the wedding here. It's about four minutes long, edited down from hours of videotape, and clearly shows a wedding on one day followed by devastation the next day. Purportedly, the devastation is at the same site as the wedding, although it's not easy to tell based on the camera angles and overall poor quality of the video. However, there's this:

Video that APTN shot a day after the attack shows fragments of musical instruments, pots and pans and brightly colored beddings used for celebrations, scattered around the bombed out tent.

An AP reporter and photographer, who interviewed more than a dozen survivors a day after the bombing, were able to identify many of them on the wedding party video which runs for several hours.

There's definitely one person in the wedding video who also appears in the second half of the footage that was shot after the attack (as shown in this BBC story), and apparently there are more if the AP reporter quoted above is correct.

And yet the Army continues to strongly deny making a mistake:

At a briefing Saturday, [Brig. Gen. Mark] Kimmitt showed photographs of the interior of the targeted building that showed stacks of bedding -- more than 300 sets -- a table used for medical examinations, and medical supplies, including syringes with residue suspected of being cocaine. There were assorted firearms and a large number of pre-packed sets of clothing.

"The building seemed to be somewhat of a dormitory," Kimmitt said. He said the setup appeared to be a way station where foreign fighters slipping through the border could get bogus identification documents and clothes that would help them blend in with the Iraqi population.

Some of the dead had in their pockets foreign telephone numbers, including some from Afghanistan and Sudan, Kimmitt said.

About 35 men and six women were killed in the pre-dawn strike. There were no children among the dead, Kimmitt said. None of the bodies had any identification, he said.

"No ID cards. No wallets. No pictures. They had watches, and that was about the only way you could identify one person from another," he said. "We feel that was an indication that this was a high-risk meeting of high-level anti-coalition forces," Kimmitt said.

"There was no evidence of a wedding," Kimmitt said. "There was no decorations, no music instruments found, no large quantities of food or leftover servings one would expect from a wedding celebration. No gifts."

I can't figure out where the truth lies here. If the video is a fake, it's a remarkably sophisticated fake produced in only a few days. But if the Army is lying, they're doing it in the stupidest way possible. Neither explanation seems entirely plausible.

And one more thing. The APTN video was shot at "what the survivors said was the wedding site." Has the Army allowed any U.S. reporters to view the area that they say was the site of the attack? Why not?

Who knows maybe both sides are telling the truth. Maybe it was a terrorist waystation and a terrorist was getting married that day. Stranger things have happened. Stay tuned for more.

Kevin Drum 12:47 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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