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Behind the UN Bombing By: Ralph Peters
New York Post | Wednesday, September 03, 2003


The terrorist is the pundit's friend. Plant one seed of terror and a thousand opinions bloom in the media's heavily manured fields.

In the wake of the recent bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, we heard, yet again, that the sky was falling, that our involvement in Iraq is damned and doomed. One online "intelligence" service even predicted a vast Arab uprising, from Morocco to the Iranian border, that would bury our soldiers beneath the desert sands.

Well, the Arab world can barely get out of bed in the morning, let alone rise up against America. Remember how the "Arab Street" was going to go on a rampage if our troops invaded Iraq, how our influence in the Middle East would be lost forever?

The more we listened to the debates about the UN bombing, the less we knew. Meanwhile, some remarkable facts about the lead-up to that attack and its aftermath have gone unreported.

Why? Because the truth involved American heroes. Wouldn't want that sort of thing to get mixed in with the constant accusations of American incompetence from the hackademic legions of the Left. (I'm waiting for Noam Chomsky, Radio Pacifica and Al-Jazeera to blame the UN bombing on the Israelis. Or on us.)

Here's the truth, relayed from within the UN compound:

In the weeks before the truck-bomb attack, the UN's veteran security officer on site struggled, argued and begged for better protection. He knew the Canal Hotel was a vulnerable and likely target - but the UN chain of command refused to acknowledge the dimensions of the threat.

The U.S. military did offer protection - repeatedly. But UN bureaucrats turned it down. They didn't want to be associated with those wicked, imperialist, ill-mannered Americans. After all, everybody loves the United Nations, don't they?

Repeatedly stymied by prejudice and inertia, the UN security chief - a retired U.S. Army Special Forces officer with a wealth of prior experience - nonetheless managed to cajole his superiors into letting him build a wall around the hotel.

That wall was made of reinforced concrete, almost 17 feet high and a foot thick. But UN officials refused to let the security officer push the wall very far out from the hotel. They didn't want to annoy anyone by limiting access to a public alley. Still, the security officer inched the wall as far out as he could.

The truck-bomber could not get inside the compound - the security measures in place at least prevented that. But the truck was able to speed toward the wall's exterior, using the alley that "had" to be kept open.

The driver knew exactly where he was going. He aimed his truck-bomb precisely to decapitate the UN's in-country staff.

We all know what happened: Two dozen dead, including one of the UN's most capable senior diplomats. Almost 150 wounded. A tragic day, indeed.

But without that wall and the security measures for which one American veteran fought, the hotel would have been leveled, with a death toll in the hundreds. The wall absorbed the initial force of three separate bombs packed into the truck.

And there is some justice in the world: Although his office disintegrated around him, the security officer walked out of the wreckage uninjured.

An active-duty U.S. Army officer, Lt.-Col. Jack Curran, was in charge of local medevac operations. Weeks before the truck-bomb attack, he, too, recognized the vulnerability of the hotel compound. Diplomatically, he asked if his pilots and medical personnel could "practice medevac ops" at the UN headquarters.. "Just for training." With the security officer's help, he got permission.

As a result, there had just been two full, on-site rehearsals for what had to be done after the bombing. Thanks to this spirited, visionary officer, our helicopters and vehicles knew exactly how to get in, where best to upload casualties and where a triage station should be set up.

With impressive speed, the U.S. Army medevaced 135 UN employees and Iraqi civilians from the scene, saving more lives than will ever be known for certain.

U.S. Army Reserve engineers and Army mortuary personnel moved in to do the grisly, demanding work of rescuing any trapped survivors and processing the dead.

Now that the damage is done, the U.S. Army's welcome. A company of our 82nd Airborne Division took over external security for the site last week.

But what were the first complaints we heard from the media "experts"? That the U.S. Army was to blame, because it failed to provide adequate security.

In fact, we offered the UN armored vehicles. They told us to take a hike. U.N. bureaucrats put more trust in the good will of terrorists and Ba'athist butchers than they did in GI Joe.

But when the U.N.'s own people lay bleeding, they were glad enough for our help. As one UN employee, speaking from inside the Baghdad compound, put it to me, "It was a proud day for the U.S. Army."

Of course, no one at UN headquarters had any public thanks to offer our soldiers. By the end of last week, the French delegation had already warned its U.N. colleagues not to be tricked into supporting American and British efforts to help the Iraqi people just because of a terror bombing.

And our own media didn't give five seconds of coverage to the superbly professional rescue efforts our military made after the bombing.

One is tempted to say, "Next time, let the French do it." But we're Americans, of course. We'll save your sorry backsides, even after you trash us.

If the United Nations won't say it, I will: "Thanks, GI."


Ralph Peters is a New York Post Opinion columnist and the author of "Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World."


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