Official: U.S. Acted with 'Arrogance' in Iraq
LIANE HANSEN, host:
From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Liane Hansen. In Baghdad today, at least two people were killed after bombs hit crowds of shoppers at a market. Shoppers were stocking up on sweets to celebrate the Muslim feast that comes at the end of Ramadan this week. Yesterday, the U.S. military announced that three Marines were killed in action, bringing the American toll for October to 78, making it the deadliest month of the year for U.S. forces. President Bush acknowledged in his weekly radio address that, as he said, the last few weeks have been rough for our troops in Iraq. But the president insisted that the United States would remain.
Also yesterday, in an interview with Pan-Arab satellite network Al-Jazeera, Alberto Fernandez, the director of public diplomacy in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department, said the U.S. has acted with arrogance and stupidity in Iraq. State Department spokesman Sean McCormick, in Moscow with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, later said that Fernandez disputes the description of his comments, and another official from the Bush administration questioned whether the words were translated correctly. NPR's Jaime Tarabay joins us from Baghdad. Jaime, what did Fernandez actually say?
JAIME TARABAY: He actually did use those two words, arrogance and stupidity, in his comments. We've watched it. It's actually garnering a lot of press here. It's at the top of every news bulletin on every hour, and they're showing - the news reader is saying it, and then they show Mr. Fernandez repeating the words himself. And we listened, and we got a translation, and he says, and I quote: "Historians and history shall decide the U.S. history in Iraq. God willing, we've tried to do the best, but I think there is room for strong criticism, because undoubtedly there's been arrogance and there's been stupidity from the side of the United States in Iraq."
HANSEN: Al-Jazeera is also showing a video which shows snipers allegedly shooting American troops. What can you tell us about that?
TARABAY: Al-Jazeera says that this video was issued to them by the Islamic Army in Iraq, which is an insurgent group linked to al-Qaida. CNN had come under a lot of fire itself for airing a similar video. It shows American troops allegedly being killed by more than one sniper. But what's really interesting about the footage that was shown on Al-Jazeera today is that they have an interview with one of the leaders of this sniper group, and he talks about the effect in the West of the release of their first sniper video and the influence that it had in the press. They noticed that it got a lot of exposure, which is something that they're after themselves, and that they're ready to put out more videos to manipulate the media and the opinion and to do whatever they can to give themselves greater exposure. So it shows that they're quite attuned to what goes on in the Western press.
HANSEN: October isn't over yet, and as I said, already it's one of the deadliest for American troops since the end of the invasion. Does the U.S. military expect this to continue?
TARABAY: Yes, unfortunately. In his weekly press briefing, the U.S. military spokesman, Major General Bill Caldwell said that the military has had to revise upwards its expectations for the death toll of American troops in October. Major General Caldwell said there was a 22 percent increase in attacks between the first three weeks of Ramadan, which began, you know, three weeks ago, and three weeks before that. Also the fact that there are more soldiers on the ground because of this Baghdad security plan, they're more exposed to attacks. And also because there is a midterm election coming up, and there are some insurgent groups out there who are using this as an incentive to encourage more attacks against U.S. troops, because they know of the reaction that it gets in the Western press and in the States.
HANSEN: NPR's Jaime Tarabay in Baghdad. Jaime, thanks a lot.
TARABAY: Thank you.
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