It seems these violent days need more prayers than hours can hold, but the old man prays anyway, raising his hands and closing his eyes, whispering verse as the tribal boys watch from the dusty courtyard.
They know what Mohammed Mousa Tahir prays about. They have heard the low moan of his voice, like wind through a field. Tahir says U.S. troops shot his son in a car on an overpass. He buried the boy, and then, a few days later, word came through the littered streets of his neighborhood: Six nephews and cousins had been slain and mutilated and left alongside a road by unknown attackers.
“The Americans killed my son, but if they come to my house, I will tell them: ‘Peace be upon you,’ ” said Tahir, a Shiite tribal elder, basing his account on unconfirmed reports. “I only want the Americans to help my society and stop this war. I must be patient. I don’t know exactly what happened to my son. I just know I waited for him to return home, but he did not come.”
Bloodshed in Iraq is both calculated and indiscriminate. The unluckiest are caught in explosions and insurgent ambushes. Others, like Tahir’s cousins and nephews, are killed over religious and tribal loyalties. And then there are the ones like his son, Haithem, a 25-year-old Baghdad University student heading east on a highway toward a military convoy in a jittery city, the kind of place where the hands of suicide bombers are found duct-taped to steering wheels.