[Marxism] US-trained Iraqi Soldiers Shot, Humiliated by Americans for Not Killing Iraqis

M. Junaid Alam junaidalam at msalam.net
Sat Apr 17 17:23:50 MDT 2004

FULL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4766616/

As fierce fighting erupted in parts of Iraq in early April, the U.S.-led 
coalition tried to deploy U.S.-trained Iraqi units to quell the 
fighting. The results were disastrous: During the violence, many Iraqi 
police and civil defense personnel abandoned their posts, or joined 
Shiite militants loyal to renegade cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. What’s more, 
some soldiers of the first U.S.-trained battalion of the New Iraqi Army 
(NIA) deserted their unit or refused to follow orders. “There were a 
number of troops, there were a number of police that didn’t stand up 
when their country called,” concedes coalition military spokesperson 
Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt.

In exclusive interviews with NEWSWEEK, Iraqi soliders and civilian 
witnesses described what happened.

When bloodshed erupted during the first week in April, the U.S. military 
command scrambled to put down local uprisings led by Shiite militants in 
the south and by Sunni extremists in and around Fallujah. U.S. 
authorities wanted to give Iraqi troops a pivotal role in maintaining 
security in Fallujah and in the largely Shiite community of Shulla on 
the northwest edge of Baghdad. The idea was to show Iraqis taking 
responsibility for security matters, and to help U.S. personnel lower 
their profile in preparation for the Coalition Provisional Authority’s 
transfer of sovereignty to Iraqi institutions on June 30.

The job fell to the 2nd Battalion of the New Iraqi Army, deployed at the 
Taji Military Complex northwest of Baghdad. Its 620 men had graduated 
from the Kirkush boot camp in January, and were the first Iraqi army 
soldiers to be deployed in a field military operation since the U.S. 
began reconstituting the post-war army.

One of the first signs of trouble was a terse U.S. statement, issued on 
April 11, confirming that an Iraqi army unit had refused to deploy to 
the conflict in Fallujah after being shot at in a Shiite neighborhood of 
Baghdad. But battalion members, some of whom were fired, and other 
eyewitnesses from Taji, paint a much more complicated and dramatic 
portrait of the incident.

Fighting between coalition troops and pro-Sadr Shiite militiamen had 
already broken out April 4 in southern Shiite cities and in Baghdad’s 
sprawling slums Sadr City and Shulla when the battalion received news of 
its mission. “We were first informed that we would have a task the next 
day,” recalls army recruit Khadhim al-Zubaidy who has left his unit and 
returned home in the southern city of Kut. “The American officers did 
not reveal anything about the nature of the task they wanted us to 
accomplish, and we didn’t even know where we were going,” says Zubaidy, 
a Shiite. (Despite requests from NEWSWEEK to interview U.S. officers at 
the Taji base about the incident, they declined to comment.)

The Iraqi soldiers were brought to Shulla, an impoverished community 
where adrenaline-charged Shiite militants were angry about the detention 
of one of Sadr’s top aides. Zubaidy said that his U.S. officers ordered 
Iraqi soldiers to open fire on the angry crowd in Shulla. “The American 
officers hysterically ordered us to shoot the 'traitors',” he recalls, 
“We were not asked beforehand to go fight our people in Shulla. If we 
had been….we would have resigned at the camp right away.”

Many Iraqi soldiers refused to fire, abandoned their weapons and fled 
from the scene, says Zubaidy. Another soldier from the battalion, Hamid 
Tamimi from Dijeil district in Salahuddin province, says some Iraqi 
troops even turned against the Americans and opened fire on U.S. 
personnel while chanting slogans and songs glorifying Sadr and his late 
father. A number of Iraqi soldiers did stay by the side of the 
Americans, Tamimi says, mostly from Kurdish militias. But most soldiers 
from Iraq’s predominately Shiite southern cities fought against the 
Americans, he alleges.

A number of residents in Shulla, some of whom took up arms against U.S. 
troops, have similar accounts. Hayder al-Maliki, 26, received minor 
wounds in the leg and the scalp from U.S. gunfire. He alleges that he 
witnessed American personnel open fire on Iraqi soldiers they refused to 
fight alongside the U.S. and sided with pro-Sadr forces. “In the 
beginning the Americans tried to push the Iraqi army into the fight. But 
when many of them declined, the Americans started to shoot at them”—and 
even incited other Iraqi soldiers to “shoot their friends in the army,” 
he says. His account could not be independently confirmed.

Iraqi officers and soldiers assigned as guards at the Taji military 
complex reported that members of the 2nd Battalion who’d been deployed 
on the mission returned later that day in two groups. Some came back in 
cars with American personnel, weapons hanging on their shoulders. A 
second group arrived on foot, without weapons, according to Ra’ad Ahmed, 
a recruit who guards one of the gates of the camp.

The convoy that returned with the Americans—mostly Kurdish peshmerga 
fighters—were then reinforced with other soldiers and sent to fight in 
Fallujah, says Wissam Al-Majma’i, a first lieutenant in charge of 
security at one of Taji’s gates. Neither U.S. personnel nor Kurdish 
soldiers at the Taji base were willing to comment on the events of the 
day. One of the Kurdish troops, on condition of anonymity, simply says 
that “we are soldiers. We receive our orders from our military officers, 
whether American or Iraqi, and we have to abide by these orders.”

The second group got a different reception. Eyewitnesses at the Taji 
base report seeing the startling sight of soldiers from the 2nd 
battalion clad only in their underwear. “I was surprised to see more 
than 30 soldiers barefoot with only their underclothes on,” says Qais 
Al-Dulaimi, a contractor for the Baghdad Tower Contracting Company 
involved in U.S.-supervised reconstruction work in the camp. When 
Dulaimi asked an Iraqi officer about the nearly naked soldiers, the 
officer replied that they were being punished for disobeying military 
orders. “I served in the army for more than ten years without 
experiencing anything like this,” says Dulaimi.

In all, “about 70 Iraqi troops were left barefoot and without clothing 
outside the camp,” says Sabah Majeed, a resident of Al-Mizrffa village 
in the al-Taji river district. (The estimated figure of 70 was confirmed 
by Wissam al-Majmaa’i, the first lieutenant guarding the camp’s gate.) 
“They were told that they were sacked for non-compliance with military 
orders, and had no hope of returning to military service. I helped about 
18 of them, with assistance from local tribes and families,” says the 
villager, who offered his own clothes to a soldier and drove off in his 
BMW wearing just his underwear.

Dulaimi said he organized civilians to provide clothes, money and food 
for some of the troops, as well as transport to Baghdad.

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