Hillah, Iraq – Dazed and blood-spattered, an Iraqi woman stumbled among the bodies of her relatives Wednesday on a strip of highway south of Baghdad where a U.S. military convoy had struck a passenger van in a deadly accident.
Badriya Hussein whispered prayers over the blanket-covered bodies and then looked at the stricken American soldiers standing nearby. “Why?” she asked. “Why?”
Iraqi forces and witnesses at the scene said the U.S. convoy was driving in the wrong lane when the vehicles collided, killing five members of one family and injuring seven more Iraqis and three American soldiers.
The 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which is part of the Oregon National Guard, disputes that its convoy was in the wrong lane, calling the incident a tragic accident.
Even if the military’s version proves to be true, the damage is done, however. Iraqi TV stations and wire services immediately reported that Americans driving on the wrong side of the road had caused the fatal crash, with one channel inexplicably bumping the death toll to 19.
It’s not a hard tale to swallow for Iraqis, each of whom seems to have a story about a near-miss with the hulking U.S. convoys that have ruled the roads for nearly seven years.