RAY SUAREZ: The army Chinook helicopter carried a full load of 33 passengers and three crew members when a missile struck at 9:00 Sunday morning. In addition to the 16 dead, 20 were wounded at the scene near Fallujah. It's a one-time Saddam Hussein strong hold west of Baghdad. Several nearby residents celebrated the bloodshed.
MAN (Translated): One helicopter was down. Tomorrow there'll be another, and it will continue until the Americans leave our country.
MAN (Translated): In the name of god the merciful, this is a new lesson from the resistance. It is a lesson to the greed of the aggressors. They will never be safe until they get out of our land.
RAY SUAREZ: Many of the passengers were soldiers headed out of Iraq for temporary leave from active duty. Witnesses to the explosion said a second heat-seeking missile nearly hit a second Chinook. The attack came a day after U.S. Administrator Paul Bremer predicted more attacks and two days after leaflets appeared in area mosques warning of new strikes by "modern and advanced methods." Military officials say ground missiles have targeted Chinook choppers in Iraq at least two dozen times in the past three months. The problem, said Defense Secretary Rumsfeld on ABC's "This Week" yesterday, is that Russian-made SA-7 missiles are common place in Iraq.
DONALD RUMSFELD: Oh, there have to be more than hundreds. There are weapon caches all over that country, and all of the ones that have weapons that are mobile and can be moved away easily are in fact guarded. That we know about. We keep finding additional ones every week, every month, because there are so many in the country.
RAY SUAREZ: Every day in Iraq, Chinooks make hundreds of trips, carrying ammunition, equipment and personnel. They're meant as an alternative to ground convoys which have been targeted repeatedly. And Sunday was no exception. Witnesses also in Fallujah say the bombing of this U.S. vehicle killed four. The U.S. Military has not confirmed it. Counting the confirmed deaths, the events of the week ending Sunday killed 27 U.S. soldiers, the highest one week total since major combat ended in May. The violent surge was noted today in Washington where the U.S. Senate wrapped up debate on the Bush administration's $87 billion spending request for Iraq and Afghanistan. A number of senators had tried to convert some of the money from a grant to a loan, but the effort failed. Democrat Mark Dayton said the violence suggests a disconnect between reality and the administration's version of events.
SEN. MARK DAYTON: On last Saturday, a U.S. Commander says that the opposition's attacks are "strategically and operationally insignificant." What are we supposed to believe the day after the most damaging fatality-filled day of the war for Americans there -- because for $87 billion, the American people, all of us deserve to be told the truth.
RAY SUAREZ: Several Republicans justified the price tag, saying it was in the best interest of both U.S. GI's and the larger war on terror.
SEN. TED STEVENS: We will not walk away from Iraq. We will not withdraw our forces from Iraq. We will not leave the Iraqi people in chaos, and we will not create a vacuum for terrorist groups to fill. Our nation has always had one goal: We finish what we start.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: I believe that this package will pave the way to the day when our soldiers finally come home from Iraq. We must not waver in our mission eliminate terrorism and bring democracy and stability to Iraq and to the Middle East.
RAY SUAREZ: But for Democrat Dick Durbin, the attacks show the bush administration miscalculated when it went to war with insufficient allies.
SEN. DICK DURBIN: Every day when we see these bloody headlines of Americans soldiers being killed, we are reminded that, had this been a global coalition, a broader coalition, had we moved in concert with our traditional allies, what we're facing today could have been so much different. The burden of Iraq weighs heavy on the shoulders of America.
RAY SUAREZ: Ultimately the aid package passed by voice vote late today. The House version has already passed.