"We have no business being here"
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jul 1 07:09:11 MDT 2003
Mistrust Mixes With Misery In Heat of Baghdad Police Post
Frustrated Reservists See a Mission Impossible
By Anthony Shadid
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, July 1, 2003; Page A01
BAGHDAD, June 30 -- To Staff Sgt. Charles Pollard, the working-class
suburb of Mashtal is a "very, very, very, very bad neighborhood." And he
sees just one solution.
"U.S. officials need to get our [expletive] out of here," said the
43-year-old reservist from Pittsburgh, who arrived in Iraq with the
307th Military Police Company on May 24. "I say that seriously. We have
no business being here. We will not change the culture they have in
Iraq, in Baghdad. Baghdad is so corrupted. All we are here is potential
people to be killed and sitting ducks."
To Sgt. Sami Jalil, a 14-year veteran of the local police force, the
Americans are to blame. He and his colleagues have no badges, no
uniforms. The soldiers don't trust them with weapons. In his eyes, his
U.S. counterparts have already lost the people's trust.
"We're facing the danger. We're in the front lines. We're taking all the
risks, only us," said the 33-year-old officer. "They're arrogant. They
treat all the people as if they're criminals."
These are the dog days of summer in Mashtal, and tempers are flaring
along a divide as wide as the temperatures are high.
Throughout the neighborhood, as in much of Baghdad, residents are almost
frantic in their complaints about basic needs that have gone unmet --
enough electricity to keep food from spoiling, enough water to drink,
enough security on the streets. At Mashtal's Rashad police station,
where Pollard's unit is working to protect the police and get the Baath
Party-era force back on its feet, the frustrations are personal and
Many of the Iraqi officers despise the U.S. soldiers for what they see
as unreasonable demands and a lack of respect. Many of the soldiers in
Pollard's unit -- homesick, frustrated and miserable in heat that soars
well into the 100s -- deem their mission to reconstitute the force
The Rashad station, where a new coat of paint has done little to conceal
unmet expectations, is an example of the darker side of the mundane
details of the U.S. occupation. While perhaps not representative, it
offers a grim, small window on the daunting task of rebuilding a capital
and how the course of that reconstruction, so far, has defied the
expectations of virtually everyone involved.
"I pray every day on the roof. I pray that we make it safe, that we make
it safe home," Pollard said. "The president needs to know it's in his
hands, and we all need to recognize this isn't our home, America is, and
we just pray that he does something about it."
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