Baghdad, April 9 (Reuters): It had all seemed so easy.
US Marines drove into Baghdad without firing a shot today. Their Abrams tank parked by the Martyrs Monument, a great, split dome commemorating the 1980s war with Iran. Standing up top, Staff Sergeant William Sherwood mused on why they had met so little resistance from the Iraqi forces. “They have no morale,” he postulated. Then... crack. A bullet out of nowhere.
“There’s the morale!” Sherwood concluded, jumping for cover behind the hull of his tank, “White Devil” daubed on the gun. “Let’s go over there and shoot!” yelled another Marine, running with an infantry comrade in the direction of the sniper fire as tank crews — and this reporter — ducked for cover. There was another “ping” and a small bunch of leaves was ripped out of hedge, metres from a French journalist.
“A sniper almost hit that lady, almost killed her!,” shouted Lt James Smithson from behind the tank, before two Marines dashed out to suggest she might like to take cover.
So much for catching breath after a hectic three-week dash through Iraq to Saddam Hussein’s capital: automatic gunfire crackled round the edge of the surrounding parkland for at least an hour after that. The fate of the sniper was unclear and there were no reports of casualties among Marines. It was a reminder that while US Marines thrusting into the city from the southeast have met no tanks or soldiers blocking their path, they can be, as they put it “harassed”.
The sniper nuisance can take a lethal form, but Marines play down its military significance: “That’s not resistance, that's just harassment,” Sherwood, 39, said. But it is a threat that may not go away quickly. Lt Vince Hogan, 26, said: “I guess they just don’t like us being on their monument.”