Thursday, July 19, 2007

Perspective: Who betrayed the soldiers at Karbala?

Left, top: Johnathan Millican was the first to die in the attack when he threw himself atop a concussion grenade to save 4 others in the room. Severely wounded, he was shot in the back of the head by the attackers. Left, bottom: Brian Freeman was the only one found alive when help finally arrived, but mortally wouned he died on the way to the hospital, the last of the four abducted soldiers to die.

It was late afternoon six months ago in the government compound in Karbala, Iraq. In a moment of respite from the war, Army Pfc. Johnathon Millican was instant-messaging with his wife back in Anchorage, Alaska, where a snowy day was just beginning.

An American soldier at the next desk was on his laptop, too, watching his son on a video camera back home. Three other soldiers were in the room, relaxing or sleeping. A captain and a lieutenant were in the room next door...

As Millican, 20, tapped on his keyboard, a fleet of sport utility vehicles was racing toward the compound: two or three Suburbans, a black Chevy Tahoe or two, and at least three white Toyotas. As is customary with contractor and U.S. Army vehicles, these bore placards in the rear windows, warning motorists in English and Arabic to stay back 100 meters.

The men inside were dressed in U.S. Army camouflage and carried American weapons. They knew enough English to bark simple commands and offer polite greetings.

They knew exactly how the U.S. soldiers would defend the compound. They knew that the compound's most important room was the command and control center, with its radio base stations; and they knew that at 6 p.m., the soldiers in the room would be off guard and relaxing. They even knew that the two senior American officers in Karbala would be in the room next door.

Read the rest at the Omaha World Herald