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material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or