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Ugly Americans in Iraq
Posted on Jun 27, 2006
By Nir Rosen
Many of his missions in the Anbar province of western Iraq involved ?ground insertion,? which meant that ?we had to shoot our vehicles through multiple narrow streets to hit the objective. I remember one night vividly breaking the rear-view [mirrors] of every car parked on both sides of the street for three blocks, because our Stryker vehicle couldn?t be accommodated on the road. When we reversed the vehicle after a wrong turn, we backed right into a Red Crescent van, putting a four-foot dent into the side of the ambulance and shattering its rear lights. Every time we went out, vehicular damage onto Iraqi-owned cars was always common in urban terrain.?
One evening his unit thought it had a breakthrough of ?actionable intelligence,? he told me. ?Some leading figures in the insurgency were believed to be at a meeting in a farmhouse off the Euphrates River—some six officials in total. The mission was treated with an abnormal level of planning. We rolled out with a large group of men, using both ground and air assets. When reaching the objective, men in the house burst out running in multiple directions. Brought just for that scenario was an attack dog trained to stop insurgents from getting away. Trained to attack the arms, he was sent to catch one of the fleeing men. By the time the guy returned, his arm was so torn up, it looked like it had been shot by an AK-47 7.62-millimeter round. We rushed the man back for immediate medical assistance. An American doctor sewed his arm back together. After a thorough investigation, it was concluded that all six men had no intelligence value. Our interrogators smelled a rat, so they brought the accuser into the room of the men we captured. From what I heard, they were livid. ?He is a car thief! He is a criminal!? Apparently he was from a rival tribe and had a feud.
“They were taken back to their home, courtesy of the U.S. ?Oops, We Fucked Up? cab company. They dropped off all of the captured men and the accuser at the same location. After all of the time and resources spent on that one, street justice was given its time to take care of that one. This would be one of the few cases that I was aware of when the innocent men were given reparations—medicine for the arm and $500, a decent sum by Iraqi standards.?
The only ice cream my friend ever had in Iraq was when his unit raided an ice cream parlor run by two suspected resistance fighters in a major Sunni city. ?After grabbing them in a daytime raid in front of hundreds at a local souk,? he told me, ?we dumped enough of their ice cream to feed our entire platoon in one of our assault packs. By the time we got back to base, most of it had melted. A hole at the bottom of the pack made to let out water was flowing out with a stream of white vanilla cream onto the sand. It must have been 110 degrees. We ate what we could and couldn?t stop laughing about what had transpired.?
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My friend described a ?highly planned mission that utilized many military assets ? over 200 special forces went on a head hunt against a high-value target in the heart of Al Anbar.? The mission occurred at 1 p.m. on a Friday, prayer time in the Muslim world. ?What essentially transpired was the seizure of two central mosques right in the middle of prayer time—our target was believed to be in one of the mosques. Two other platoons were in charge of taking over three surrounding blocks of families ?sympathetic? to the insurgency. When we rolled up to the central mosque, you could see hundreds of pairs of shoes and sandals lined out by the front door. By the time my platoon had raided a local house, which including the standard demolition of a locked gate door with a linear charge, we launched into the family?s two-story house with three fire teams. Our entrance included accidentally stepping all over the family?s freshly prepared lunch of salad and kabobs—Arabs typically eat on the floor. After kicking down every door, busting open every cabinet and flipping over every mattress, unearthing every prayer rug and breaking every lock in the house in the search for weapons and bombs, we proceeded to detain a 15-old-kid (?male of active age,? i.e. possible insurgent) and tossed him in our Humvee while his mom cried and pleaded with us that he was innocent (at least that?s what I thought she said—none of us had an Arabic vocabulary besides ?Shut up? ?Stop or I?ll shoot? and ?Get the fuck out of my face?).
“It required a unique form of telepathic genius to understand the people we were liberating if you didn?t understand Arabic, and none of us possessed that skill. After our block was pacified, we linked up down the road at the central mosque. By that point another platoon had very clearly disrupted prayer service, as testified by hundred of Sunni Arab men standing on the front landing of the mosque giving us what I could only refer to as the ?Arab look of death.? Another team herded a line of stumbling blindfolded and handcuffed men like cattle into one of our vehicles. By that time at least 20 of us had our weapons pointed at the Muslim congregation, not taking any chances. A fire team across the road was jumping over a nearby wall and breaking into a backyard shed. Two F-16s flew in figure eights overhead, buzzing the city and reminding any cavalier haji (our affectionate term for Arab citizen) that day to think twice before they act.
“We detained some 15 men, including the target?s brother (the main target was apparently a no-show that day). We rolled out staring at a thoroughly humiliated community on their most sacred day. Their home doors blown off their hinges, some of their teenage children stolen by Kafirs, and in the house that I raided, a hard-earned lunch kicked across the dirty floor. We would later return to the same neighborhood three times during that deployment, looking for the same guy. Each time, doors were blown off their recently repaired hinges, house glass was broken, car tires were slashed, the few interior possessions found in the houses were thrown around, damaged and destroyed. But still, we couldn?t find the guy we were looking for. We would go on to conduct a follow-on mission on that specific day, raiding a building reported to house ‘eight hard-core Syrian fighters.’ We blew down the door with electrical charging tape to find a broken Kawasaki dirt bike. We also went down the road to an elementary school (school was out that day) that was reported to be an arms cache for the insurgency, and our orders were to raid the entire building. After breaking into one room only to find school books, one of our officers ? called back the mission and decided any further damage to the school was folly, given the apparent effort to win ?hearts and minds? across Iraq.?
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