January 08, 2004


Interesting events at Instapundit, with discussion of Zeyad's claims of an American atrocity at Samarra.

Two things of note: ironically, the Samarra dams are the same place those Americans captured with Pte. Lynch were found and freed at war's end, in case you were wondering where you might have heard of the place before.

Also worth challenging is the Instaman's emailer (see his update at the bottom), who suggests there is no Tharthar dam within 50km of Samarra... as you can see from this photo, there are two, in fact, together forming the "Samarra barrage," the right one being the hydroelectric dam on the main course of the Tigris, and the left one being for flood control, leading to the world's second largest manmade reservoir, the Tharthar Reservoir. While it's true the reservoir itself is some distance away to the southwest, it's not impossible that in common usage this might be referred to as the "Tharthar dam," and would presumably be the one that Zeyad's relative is referring to (the Baghdad-Tikrit highway runs up from the bottom of the page and across the western dam, while the city of Samarra is in the other direction, just off the east of the image).

Not that this makes the story false or true, mind you, but it's going to be harder to refute than some might like, it seems.

UPDATE: In an update, Zeyad confirms my supposition, that the "Tharthar dam" referred to is in fact the flood dam on the left of the photo. So, to orient everyone to the ground, the allegation is that an Iraqi travelling up the road from the center-bottom of the photo, and intending to drive off the right side of the photo into Samarra proper, was stopped somewhere along the highway in between, and thrown into the watercourse in the lower left of the photo.

My point is that, even if this was a clever anti-American plot of some kind, they wouldn't be so stupid as to include facts that were refutable by some computer geeks back in the States using a map of the whole country. Even assuming disinformation, this story would have to be plausible, after all, not just to us here, but to people who actually live there, as well. If you live in Samarra, you're going to know whether a dam is 3 km or 50 km away from you.

I would add that those who have refuted this one with claims of American paragonism ("American soldiers never drink," "American soldiers would never use white light," "American soldiers would never ignore an allegation like this") have spent little or no sustained time around actual soldiers. Soldiers on sustained occupation duty will inevitably do stupid and bizarre things to even a peaceable local population from time to time: cf. Lawrence's Turks at Deraa, Canadian soldiers in Somalia, etc. etc. And when they're occasionally shooting at you, it's only going to be more likely... even among soldiers of what I will freely admit is the best military in the world at present. Does that mean it did happen? No. Does that mean it should be fully investigated? Probably... although I see Diana raises another concern.

Posted by BruceR at 04:38 PM