Iraq war diary: 1 April, 2003

To mark the tenth anniversary of the Iraq war, I am re-posting diary entries that I wrote at the time for the Guardian's website...



The invasion forces suffered another self-inflicted disaster in the battle for hearts and minds yesterday when soldiers from the US 3rd infantry division shot dead Iraqi seven women and children.

The incident occurred on Route 9, near Najaf, when a car carrying 13 women and children approached a checkpoint.

A US military spokesman says the soldiers motioned the vehicle to stop but their signals were ignored. However, according to the Washington Post, Captain Ronny Johnson, who was in charge of the checkpoint, blamed his own troops for ignoring orders to fire a warning shot.

"You just fucking killed a family because you didn't fire a warning shot soon enough!", he reportedly yelled at them.

In another checkpoint incident this morning, US forces say they killed an unarmed Iraqi driver outside Shatra.

Meanwhile it has emerged – as a result of detective work on the internet by a Guardian reader – that the explosion in a Baghdad market which killed more than 60 people last Friday was indeed caused by a cruise missile and not an Iraqi anti-aircraft rocket as the US has suggested.

A metal fragment found at the scene by British journalist Robert Fisk carried various markings, including "MFR 96214 09". This, our reader pointed out in an email, is a manufacturer's identification number known as a "cage code".

Cage codes can be looked up on the internet (, and keying in the number 96214 traces the fragment back to a plant in McKinney, Texas, owned by the Raytheon Company.

Raytheon, whose headquarters are in Lexington, Massachusetts, aspires "to be the most admired defence and aerospace systems supplier through world-class people and technology", according to its website ( It makes a vast array of military equipment, including the AGM-129 cruise missile which is launched from B-52 bombers.

On the political front, two new quarrels have broken out. One centres on an attempt by the US to set up its own inspection team to find the alleged Iraqi weapons that United Nations inspectors did not find. The US appears unaware that such a project will have little credibility internationally and has pressed ahead, offering jobs to some of the UN inspectors.

The two chief UN inspectors, Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Authority, are reportedly furious. Dr Baradei, in remarks quoted by the BBC, insisted that the IAEA is the sole body with legal authority to verify any nuclear programmes in Iraq.

The other row concerns the new Pentagon-controlled Iraqi government that the US is establishing in Kuwait, with 23 ministries, each headed by an American and with four US-appointed Iraqi advisers.

Former US general Jay Garner, who was placed in overall charge of the "interim government", is annoyed by the efforts of Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defence secretary, to impose several controversial Iraqis as advisers in the government.

They include Ahmed Chalabi, head of the opposition Iraqi National Congress, who will be offered an advisory post in the finance ministry. Mr Chalabi was previously convicted in his absence of a multi-million dollar banking fraud in Jordan, though he denies the charges.

Mr Wolfowitz wants posts in other ministries to go to Mr Chalabi's nephew, Salem, and to three of his close associates, Tamara Daghestani, Goran Talebani and Aras Habib.

In an interview with the BBC yesterday, the British home secretary, David Blunkett, conceded that at present the invasion forces are "seen as villains", but he added:

"Once this is over and there is a free Iraq, with a democratic state ... the population as a whole will say that we want a free country, we want a state to live in where we can use our talents to the full."

The veteran American war correspondent, Peter Arnett, was sacked by NBC television yesterday for giving an interview to an Iraqi TV journalist in which he said the US had "misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces". He was immediately offered a new job by a British newspaper, the Daily Mirror, which opposes the war.

Another war-related tragedy has occurred in Israel, where two elderly sisters were found dead – apparently suffocated – in a room that they had made airtight against a possible Iraqi chemical attack. Three others died in similar circumstances a fortnight ago.

On the ground in Iraq, battles continue in various locations. US forces "testing" the southern defences of Baghdad are reportedly fighting Republican Guards and other forces at Hindiya, some 50 miles from the capital.

Fighting has also erupted along the Euphrates river near ancient Babylon. US marines entered Shatra, 20 miles north of Nassiriya, after storming it with planes, tanks and helicopter gunships, and British Royal Marines clashed with Iraqi paramilitaries south of Basra.

Bombing of Baghdad continued overnight. Targets included the Iraqi national Olympic committee, which is run by Saddam Hussein's son, Uday.

At least one American soldier has been reported killed at Hindiya. A British soldier was also killed yesterday – the 26th since the war began. The defence ministry said he died "in the course of his duties" but gave no details.


Posted by Brian Whitaker 
Monday, 1 April 2013