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Interaction Of Civilians, Marines In Iraq
The Guardian (UK) ^ | 4-4-2003

Posted on 04/03/2003 7:16:57 PM PST by blam

Interaction of Civilians, Marines in Iraq

Friday April 4, 2003 3:50 AM

NASIRIYAH, Iraq (AP) - A flimsy donkey cart rolled slowly toward the heavily guarded bridge. In it rode a teenage boy, his legs horribly burned from accidentally spilling hot oil on himself.

The boy needed help. He found it from U.S. forces.

When the Americans reached Nasiriyah after days of heavy fighting, many anticipated an angry reception. Instead, the residents offered thumbs-up signs, cups of tea and an occasional precious cigarette in return for anything from medical aid to a stick of chewing gum.

``I think they are really happy we are here,'' said U.S. Navy hospital worker Rashon Kyle, 31. ``At first I had thought they were going to be hostile.''

Kyle and co-worker Kyle Norris, 39, tended to the boy after a Marine guarding the bridge spied his injured legs. The hospital workers carefully bandaged the boy's wounds.

The teen, Safah, smiled through his pain, and the Americans provided his family with antibiotics and instructions on their use. Another Marine ran off to bring the boy some hard candy.

``Tell him he's a good boy,'' Norris told the unit's interpreter, a message the U.S. soldiers hoped would spread through the locals.

Just as animosity against the Americans has largely dissipated, any animosity the Americans brought with them here has dissipated, too.

Cpl. Nicholas Beitia, 22, of Elko, Nev., survived a shootout on his first day in Iraq, and experienced the death of a fellow soldier. He was spooked by the chance of an ambush or a false surrender by Iraqi troops.

``At first I hated these people,'' acknowledged Beitia, a member of the 1st Platoon, Echo Company of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

But his attitude changed Wednesday during his first house-to-house search, when he was greeted like a long-lost relative. In one Iraqi home, he was treated to ``the best tea I've ever tasted.''

The civilians seemed terrified in the first house he searched. Beitia assumed they expected the Americans to murder the men, rape the women and plunder the home.

``Then I got down on my knee and gave their little girl a piece of chewing gum,'' he related. ``The father was ecstatic. It was like I was saying I was not better than them. When I got down on my knee, they almost started to cry.

``They brought us tea. There was a daughter in the house who could speak some English, and they gave us some fresh pita bread.''

He spoke of the tea and bread almost wistfully, since these Marines had lived exclusively on field rations for months. And he recalled how his hosts raced to neighbors' homes, telling them to allow the Americans to conduct their search and leave.

Within hours of their work, Beitia and his fellow Marines were boarding their impossibly crowded AAV-7A1 Assault Amphibian Vehicle for a new position a few miles north. It was a tense nighttime ride, with fears of Iraqi ambushes or attacks with rocket-propelled grenades.

But by daylight Thursday, Echo company was in place by the bridge, and civilians were gathering on all sides of the desolate four-way intersection.

Few flinched at the huge intermittent explosions, caused by Marines demolishing Iraqi weapons caches. They waited patiently to be searched and escorted across the bridge by the Marines.

Safah and his family were among a group of about 60 people - women with large bundles of hay or bags on their heads, a man on a donkey, some who apparently looted a nearby government compound.

Once the teen was treated, his family rejoined scores of Iraqis crossing the checkpoint. Some waved at the Marines, or flashed a thumbs up. Others mimed drinking, in hopes of getting water - a futile gesture, since the Marines were running low on food and water themselves.

One Marine held two fingers to his lips, as if holding a cigarette. The international message of smokers was received, and an Iraqi provided him with a smoke - a rare commodity, as most of the Marines had none left.

``They aren't afraid,'' said Lance Cpl. Chad Borgmann, 23, of Sydney, Neb. ``It makes you feel worthwhile being here, like you are doing some good.''

Beitia agreed. He said he'd be happy spending the rest of the war helping the Iraqis instead of fighting them.

``I'd rather swelter here (and help these people) than sit on the outskirts of Baghdad watching it get bombed,'' he said.

TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: civilians; interaction; iraq; iraqicivilians; iraqifreedom; marines; nasiriyah; welcome

1 posted on 04/03/2003 7:16:57 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
I'd rather sit here and watch Baghdad get bombed.
2 posted on 04/03/2003 7:18:10 PM PST by battlegearboat (Tag line is closed for cleaning.)
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To: blam
I live to read stories like this. Thanks!
3 posted on 04/03/2003 7:18:38 PM PST by XEHRpa
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To: blam
Thank you for posting this. I only wish that there were more articles like this in the American newspapers!
4 posted on 04/03/2003 7:19:04 PM PST by EllaMinnow ("Dark days are coming for the Dark Side")
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To: cyncooper
More good stuff, cyn.
5 posted on 04/03/2003 7:20:29 PM PST by EllaMinnow ("Dark days are coming for the Dark Side")
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To: blam
Awesome news, I wish more US networks (FOX excluded) would start reporting stories like this for a change.
6 posted on 04/03/2003 7:25:36 PM PST by livis_dad
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To: blam
Uplifting post, blam. Thanks.
7 posted on 04/03/2003 7:25:42 PM PST by janetgreen
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To: Poohbah; tet68; Texas_Jarhead; XJarhead; SamAdams76; SMEDLEYBUTLER
Ping to Marine freepers.
8 posted on 04/03/2003 7:26:18 PM PST by dighton (Amen-Corner Hatchet Team, Nasty Little Clique, Vulgar Horde)
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To: livis_dad
Actually, it will be CNN who eventually turns these people against us again.
9 posted on 04/03/2003 7:27:40 PM PST by linear
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To: celtic gal
Marine Ping


10 posted on 04/03/2003 7:27:43 PM PST by Servant of the Nine (We are the Hegemon. We can do anything we damned well please.)
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To: blam
Here's a guarded BUMP for the Guardian....
nice article
11 posted on 04/03/2003 7:30:00 PM PST by Principled
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Comment #12 Removed by Moderator

To: blam; Diogenesis; MadIvan
Thanks for the uplifing news. I love our soldiers... makes me wish I were 19 again... oh well. Ivan, did you see this from the Guardian???
13 posted on 04/03/2003 7:31:54 PM PST by TenthAmendmentChampion (The Coalition forces are in BadGhag!!)
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To: blam
14 posted on 04/03/2003 7:38:49 PM PST by mc10
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To: blam
Already posted here:

And yes, it is a breath of fresh air after all the crap being spewed by ABCNNBCBS and Al Jazeera.
15 posted on 04/03/2003 7:39:51 PM PST by laz17 (Socialism is the religion of the atheist.)
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To: Dower
"Well, there is at least one American newspaper that is going to have this story on the front page tomorrow."


16 posted on 04/03/2003 7:45:19 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
All well and well and good.

That said, please be careful lads, I want every one of you heroes to come home for the (well deserved) victory parade.

17 posted on 04/03/2003 7:47:05 PM PST by LibKill (MOAB, the greatest advance in Foreign Relations since the cat-o'-nine-tails!)
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To: battlegearboat
Religion of peace bump.
18 posted on 04/03/2003 7:51:37 PM PST by edsheppa
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To: blam
This kind of stories make my day.
19 posted on 04/03/2003 7:52:38 PM PST by Minty
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To: redlipstick
More good stuff

It certainly is!


20 posted on 04/03/2003 8:38:39 PM PST by cyncooper ("Some of the Iraqis... 'told me they would commit suicide if American bombing didn't start.'")
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To: cyncooper
great story!
21 posted on 04/03/2003 8:53:10 PM PST by lainde
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To: blam
It looks to me like these are really good people who don't really know what to expect from us. In their hearts they know we don't intend to hurt them but they've been told that we do. Their own military has never protected them, they don't understand that OUR military exists to protect and to guard. We don't even understand just how lucky we are.
22 posted on 04/03/2003 9:02:48 PM PST by McGavin999
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To: Servant of the Nine
Thanks, Swervie...great story and typical of Marines.
23 posted on 04/04/2003 10:36:23 PM PST by celtic gal (pray for the fallen and their families)
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