FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

They Were Waiting for Chicken Tenders When the Round Hit

in Baghdad
and JEREMY REDMON in Mosul

An explosion in a US Army mess tent at lunchtime in a base near the northern city of Mosul killed at least 26 people and wounded 60 others in one of the most lethal attacks on American forces in Iraq since the invasion. The dead included US troops, American and foreign contractors and Iraqi security troops.

The force of the explosion knocked soldiers off their feet and out of their seats. A fireball enveloped the top of the tent, and shrapnel sprayed into the diners. Amid the screaming and thick smoke, soldiers turned their lunch tables upside down, placed the wounded on them and gently carried them into the parking lot. “Medic! Medic!” soldiers shouted. Medics rushed into the tent and hustled the rest of the wounded out on stretchers.

Outside, scores of troops crammed into concrete bomb shelters. Others wobbled around the tent and collapsed, dazed by the blast. “I can’t hear! I can’t hear!” one female soldier cried as a friend hugged her.

Near the front entrance to the canteen, troops tended a soldier with a gaping head wound. Within minutes, they zipped him into a black body bag. Three more bodies were in the parking lot.

Soldiers scrambled back into the hall to check for more wounded. The explosion blew out a huge hole in the roof of the tent. Puddles of bright red blood, lunch trays and overturned tables and chairs covered the floor.

Grim-faced soldiers growled angrily and cursed as they worked on the wounded. Sergeant Evan Byler steadied himself on one of the concrete bomb shelters. He was eating chicken tenders and macaroni when the bomb hit. The blast knocked him out of his chair. When the smoke cleared, Sgt Byler took off his shirt and wrapped it around a seriously wounded soldier.

After the wounded man was taken away, the NCO held the bloody shirt in his hand, not quite sure what to do with it. “It’s not the first close call I have had here,” said Sgt Byler, from Virginia. He survived a blast from an improvised explosive device while riding in a vehicle this year.

The heavy American losses are likely to lead to inquiries about why so many soldiers were crowded into the mess tent. The US Army said there had been a single explosion but did not know if it was caused by a suicide bomber, a rocket or a mortar round. The militant group Ansar al-Sunna later claimed it had made a suicide attack. Insurgents have fired mortars at the chow hall more than 30 times this year. One round killed a female soldier with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division in the summer as she scrambled for cover. Workers are building a new steel and concrete chow hall for the soldiers down the dusty dirt road.

Lieutenant Dawn Wheeler, of Richmond-based 276th Engineer Battalion, was waiting in line for chicken tenders when a round hit on the other side of a wall from her. A soldier who had been standing beside her was on the ground, with shrapnel buried deep in his neck. “We all have angels on us,” she said as she pulled away in a Humvee. The officer quickly joined other officers from the 276th for an emergency meeting minutes after the blast.

Major James Zollar, the unit’s acting commander, spoke to more than a dozen of his officers in a voice thick with emotion. He urged them to keep their troops focused on their missions. “This is a tragic, tragic thing for us but we still have missions,” he told them. “It’s us, the leaders, who have to pull them together.” Major Zollar eventually turned the emergency meeting over to Chaplain Eddie Barnett. He led the group in prayer. “Help us now, God, in this time of this very tragic circumstance,” the padre said. “We pray for your healing upon our wounded soldiers.” With heads hung low, the soldiers trudged outside. They had work to do.

The US military position in northern Iraq has been deteriorating rapidly in the past two months. During the first nine months of the occupation, Mosul was portrayed as a model for the rest of Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division firmly in charge. Guerrilla warfare was slower to develop and was not as well organised as further south in Fallujah and in the Sunni Arab provinces around Baghdad.

 

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
August 16, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Uncle Sam was Born Lethal
Jennifer Matsui
La Danse Mossad: Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein
Rob Urie
Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity
Stuart A. Newman
The Biotech-Industrial Complex Gets Ready to Define What is Human
Nick Alexandrov
Prevention Through Deterrence: The Strategy Shared by the El Paso Shooter and the U.S. Border Patrol
Jeffrey St. Clair
The First Dambuster: a Coyote Tale
Eric Draitser
“Bernie is Trump” (and other Corporate Media Bullsh*t)
Nick Pemberton
Is White Supremacism a Mental Illness?
Jim Kavanagh
Dead Man’s Hand: The Impeachment Gambit
Andrew Levine
Have They No Decency?
David Yearsley
Kind of Blue at 60
Ramzy Baroud
Manifestos of Hate: What White Terrorists Have in Common
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The War on Nature
Martha Rosenberg
Catch and Hang Live Chickens for Slaughter: $11 an Hour Possible!
Yoav Litvin
Israel Fears a Visit by Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib
Neve Gordon
It’s No Wonder the Military likes Violent Video Games, They Can Help Train Civilians to Become Warriors
Susan Miller
That Debacle at the Border is Genocide
Ralph Nader
With the Boeing 737 MAX Grounded, Top Boeing Bosses Must Testify Before Congress Now
Victor Grossman
Warnings, Ancient and Modern
Meena Miriam Yust - Arshad Khan
The Microplastic Threat
Kavitha Muralidharan
‘Today We Seek Those Fish in Discovery Channel’
Louis Proyect
The Vanity Cinema of Quentin Tarantino
Bob Scofield
Tit For Tat: Baltimore Takes Another Hit, This Time From Uruguay
Nozomi Hayase
The Prosecution of Julian Assange Affects Us All
Ron Jacobs
People’s Music for the Soul
John Feffer
Is America Crazy?
Jonathan Power
Russia and China are Growing Closer Again
John W. Whitehead
Who Inflicts the Most Gun Violence in America? The U.S. Government and Its Police Forces
Justin Vest
ICE: You’re Not Welcome in the South
Jill Richardson
Race is a Social Construct, But It Still Matters
Dean Baker
The NYT Gets the Story on Automation and Inequality Completely Wrong
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Retains Political Control After New US Coercive Measures
Gary Leupp
MSNBC and the Next Election: Racism is the Issue (and Don’t Talk about Socialism)
R. G. Davis
Paul Krassner: Investigative Satirist
Negin Owliaei
Red State Rip Off: Cutting Worker Pay by $1.5 Billion
Christopher Brauchli
The Side of Trump We Rarely See
Curtis Johnson
The Unbroken Line: From Slavery to the El Paso Shooting
Jesse Jackson
End Endless War and Bring Peace to Korea
Adolf Alzuphar
Diary: What About a New City Center?
Tracey L. Rogers
Candidates Need a Moral Vision
Nicky Reid
I Was a Red Flag Kid
John Kendall Hawkins
The Sixties Victory Lap in an Empty Arena
Stephen Cooper
Tony Chin’s Unstoppable, Historic Career in Music
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bruno Latour’s Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime
Elizabeth Keyes
Haiku Fighting
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail