There are certainly greater issues at hand in Iraq than some drunken idiot trying to hand feed a tiger... only to be surprised when the animal mauls him.  Not surprisingly, the caged 14-year old tiger was shot dead by a fellow U.S. Comrade-In-Arms who was reacting to save his buddy... or to vent anger on the tiger for acting like a tiger when faced with some dimwit with dogtags.

The killing of a caged animal pales in comparison to the greater imperative of dealing with daily death and destruction in an occupied country.  It's not only the messenger, but the message that's being conveyed which is the most galling to the international community.  And that message is NOT one of any semblance of respect.

The usual justification would go something along the lines of  turning the victim into the perpetrator.  "It was the tiger's fault.. and what was the onlooking soldier supposed to do?  Let the tiger kill him?"

No, of course not.  But let's assign responsibility on those who are responsible.

Drunk or not, the behaviour of Americans in Iraq is what Iraqis are using to form... or bolster... opinions of the United States.  Military personnel might get a crash course in Do's-and-Don'ts prior to settling in on foreign territories, but no one seriously believes these people are paragons of diplomatic virtue.

But common sense is both fashionable and well received around the world.  And if this were only more 'left-wing anti-American media hype', it wouldn't strike the collective sensitive nerve as much as it has.

The military personnel in Iraq are facing mounting frustration and an ominous future.  Few would envy their position.

One would hope the gravity of their mission would bring out the best in personal integrity... not irresponsible sophomoric teenage pranks.

And no, I don't have any sympathy for those who needlessly and recklessly tempt fate... and lose.

At least the tiger had its comeuppance.   



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BREAKING NEWS
Breaking International News   POSTED AT 12:10 PM EDT Saturday, Sep. 20, 2003
 

'Drunk' U.S. soldier shoots rare tiger in Baghdad zoo

Associated Press

Baghdad A U.S. soldier shot and killed an endangered tiger at the Baghdad zoo after it bit another soldier who had drunkenly reached through the bars of its cage to feed it, a security guard said Saturday.

The soldiers had been drinking beer when they entered the zoo Thursday night after it closed, said the guard, Zuhair Abdul-Majeed. After the man was bit, the other American shot the tiger three times in the head and killed it, he said.

The head of the zoo confirmed the story in an interview with Agence France-Presse.

"The soldiers arrived in the evening with food and beer, accompanied by a group of Iraqi police officers," Adel Salman Musa said. "One of the soldiers, who the Iraqi police said had drunk a lot, went into the cage against the advice of his colleagues and tried to feed the animal, who severely hurt his arm."

The tiger tore off one of the soldier's fingers and mauled his arm. Another soldier immediately fired at the animal and killed it, Mr. Salman Musa told AFP.

"The soldiers don't have the right to behave like that. That was the most precious and valuable animal in the whole zoo. It was 14 years old and had been born here," he said, adding sadly that he has no way of stopping the regular parties held at the zoo by occupation forces.

It was impossible to reach the U.S. military spokesman's office because the telephones have not worked for three days, Associated Press said.

The zoo reopened July 20, three months after Baghdad was captured by the Americans.

It had 1.5 million visitors in 2001 but hit hard times more recently. When zoo workers returned after U.S. forces occupied Baghdad, some animals lay dead in their cages. Others had escaped when mortar rounds blasted open the bars and yet others had been looted. Some wild animals roamed the park freely, including a bear that mauled and partially ate three civilians, and three lions that were shot to death when they tried to pounce on a contingent of invading American soldiers.

Since then, the surviving animals have been nursed back to health, and more animals have been brought in from a small private zoo across town and from the private zoos found in the palaces of Saddam Hussein's family.

 
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