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What Happened?

A wedding party Mukaradeeb, a small village in Iraq near the border with Syria, was the site of American shooting and bombing on May 19, 2004. The ceremonies began on Tuesday morning and stretched through until the late evening. "We were happy because of the wedding. People were dancing and making speeches," said one of the neighbors. People fired shots into the air in celebration. Late in the evening the guests heard the sound of jets overhead. Then in the distance they saw the headlights of what appeared to be a military convoy heading their way across the desert. The party ended around 10:30pm and the neighbors left for their homes. At 3am the bombing began and was soon followed up by a raid that killed 42 men, women and children.

American officials stated that the location was a "suspected foreign fighter safe house." In response they had launched the bombing and a follow up raid, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt the coalition deputy chief of staff for U.S. operations in Iraq, stated that the location was a legitimate target. "We took ground fire and we returned fire. We estimate that around 40 were killed. But we operated within our rules of engagement. American fire included both bullets and bombs, leaving behind craters." In the aftermath, Kimmitt said, "There was no evidence of a wedding: no decorations, no musical instruments found, no large quantities of food or leftover servings one would expect from a wedding celebration. There may have been some kind of celebration. Bad people have celebrations too." Kimmitt's comments were in contrast to video footage from the scene and other reports that indicated it had, in fact, been a wedding.

Questions to Discuss with your Soldiers?

  • As a soldier, what is your responsibility to ensure that you are engaged against a legitimate target? What can you do when in doubt?
  • As a leader, do you represent the rules of engagement as being "all that matter" in a regulating behavior, or do you expect your soldiers to consider other values as important in guiding their conduct? As a soldier, are you comfortable with your understanding of rules of engagement? If you are not comfortable with ROE, where can you go for help or guidance?
  • As a leader, how can you positively influence your soldiers to make moral decisions in stressful combat situations? What is your role in helping soldiers deal with the emotional realities of combat?
  • As a soldier, what actions within the chain of command would like to see enacted to prevent similar events from happening? What can you personally do to act with personal and professional integrity to minimize such events?
  • Discuss this vignette from an Iraqi's point of view who was not anywhere near the incident.
  • Discuss this vignette from a US public relations point of view.
  • Discuss this vignette from an Iraqi public relations point of view.