Coalition Vows ‘Deliberate’ Response to Attacks

By John D. Banusiewicz

A "deliberate, precise, overwhelming" response awaits the insurgents who killed four American contractors and five U.S. soldiers March 31, the coalition’s military spokesman said at a Baghdad news conference today.

Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations director for Combined Joint Task Force 7, promised an appropriate, if not immediate, military reaction. The civilians were in a vehicle escorting a food convoy in Fallujah, Iraq, when it came under attack by grenades and small-arms fire. The troops were patrolling near that city when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb.

"We are not going to do a pell-mell rush into the city (of Fallujah)," Kimmitt said. "It’s going to be deliberate, it will be precise, and it will be overwhelming. We will not rush in to make things worse. We will plan our way through this, and we will re-establish control of that city, and we will pacify that city."

Kimmitt said the restraint shown by military leaders in the aftermath of the Fallujah attack – in which the bodies of the victims were abused and desecrated – may have prevented more carnage. "I think that there was a well-thought-out decision on the part of the Marines" not to rush headlong into the city, Kimmitt said, given the possibility that the insurgents could have had ambushes set up or might have used civilians as human shields.

"While (the desecration of the victims’ bodies) was dreadful, while it was unacceptable, while it was bestial," the general said, "a pre-emptive attack into the city could have taken a bad situation and made it even worse."

But the lack of an immediate military response doesn’t mean there won’t be one, Kimmitt said. "We will be back in Fallujah," he vowed. "It will be at the time and the place of our choosing. We will hunt down the criminals. We will kill them or we will capture them, and we will pacify Fallujah."

At a Baghdad Police Academy graduation ceremony today for 479 new Iraq police, the coalition’s civilian administrator also condemned the attacks, according to chief spokesman Dan Senor, also at the news conference. Senor read reporters a portion of Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III’s comments.

"The acts we have seen were despicable and inexcusable," Senor quoted Bremer as saying. "They violate the tenets of all religions – Islam included – as well as the foundations of civilized society." Senor said Bremer promised the soldiers’ and contractors’ deaths "will not go unpunished."

Senor relayed Bremer’s expression of sympathy to the families of all civilian and military Iraqi and coalition families whose loved ones "have given their lives in the war to liberate Iraq and free it from terrorism."

Bremer termed the attacks as "a crime under law and a crime against the future of Iraq," Senor said, and labeled the attackers as "cowards and ghouls" who represent the worst of society. Bremer also expressed his determination that Iraq’s progress toward democracy would be undeterred by the attacks.

"These murders are a painful outrage for us in the coalition, but they will not derail the march to stability and democracy in Iraq," Senor quoted from Bremer’s statement.