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April 5, 2003
 
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(AP Photo)
Some Iraqis Show Gratitude for Liberation
Some Iraqis Say Thanks to U.S. Marines for Coming _ Now Show Us the Water

The Associated Press


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NASIRIYAH, Iraq April 5

A thirsty Iraqi mimed drinking from a bottle. A U.S. Marine shook his canteen to show it was empty.

Many Iraqis at a key crossroads in this southern city greet Marines with a thumbs-up meaning thanks for coming followed by an outstretched hand begging for food or water.

Help is on the way, U.S. Central Command promised Saturday. But far from its supply base, Echo company of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit can barely cover its own needs let alone those of Iraqis.

"They are still asking us for water but not as bad anymore because they realize we don't have any," said 22-year-old Lance Cpl. Garret Amerine of Laguna Niguel, Calif.

By day, the hot dusty crossroads bustled with activity women in black robes carrying bundles on their heads, children in brightly colored clothing, donkeys and horses pulling carts. On Saturday, Marines allowed cars, buses and trucks to cross as well, after searching them for bombs.

A young boy looked at the Marines and said something barely understandable that turned out to be an English word chocolate. A man shouted "Good, Bush" as he drove past.

It's hard to tell whether the appreciation is genuine, or just a way of playing it safe with the new masters. But Lance Cpl. Brian Cole, 20, of Kansas City, Kan., was bowled over by the 7-year-old girl who handed him a Christmas card with this painstakingly written text: "Thank you for liberate us. And thank you for help us. You are a great army."

"That made my day, after sitting out in the heat all day. It made it seem worthwhile," said Cole.

Now that traffic is moving again, buses and trucks are delivering tomatoes and other produce. A battered blue pickup truck carries two cows. Other trucks were loaded with brush for firewood.

But after nightfall, all traffic stops.

"It is too dangerous to come at night. It is too dangerous to approach any army at night," said Akeel Abdullah, a 22-year-old unemployed English teacher.

The Marines, short of cigarettes and thirsty for soft drinks, have proved a windfall for Abdullah and other budding businessmen.

"I am happy for the work, because I don't have a job now," he said. But he is also worried his father is ill, and the only hospital site of the dramatic rescue of Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch was looted by Iraqis after American forces left it.

"You need to have a doctor here," he said. The Marines told him humanitarian aid would probably be arriving soon.

These days, the southern port of Umm Qasr and the nearby city of Basra are the focus of humanitarian efforts, including restoring water supplies and building up food stocks. Nasiriyah, while in southern Iraq, is still some 150 miles away.

Getting supplies from Kuwait to troops near Baghdad, Maj. Gen. Gene Renuart said, is like "having a big old convoy of semi-tractor trailers running up and down that road, moving food and fuel and water."

For now, the closest doctors to Nasiriyah are medics like Navy Hospitalman Rashon Kyle.

"I see all these people with medical conditions and I would really like to help them," said Kyle. "I wish I had the medicine to help them all."

He does the best he can, but wishes he had a surgeon, a pediatrician, and a family doctor at the crossroads.

"And a psychologist. Some of these people need psychotherapy because of post-traumatic stress," Kyle said.

Gunnery Sgt. Robert Benoit, 33, of Leominster, Mass., said the Marines gave away flour they seized from a warehouse, and that Iraqi engineers are getting a local water treatment plant running again.

"We feel bad because we are here to help these people, but if we give food to one, then there will be 20 and then hundreds," he said.


photo credit and caption:
An Iraqi man gives a boutonniere to a US Marine with the 15th Expeditionary Units, Echo Company, at a checkpoint in Nasiriyah, southern Iraq Saturday, April 5, 2003. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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