Wednesday, May 05, 2004

My Friends Cheer After Killing Innocent Iraqis; General Attempts to Justify Abu Ghraib Behavior; Eerie Full Moon on Muhammed's Birthday

5 May, 2004 An-Najaf CPA 1340

I just finished eating my lunch at Camp Baker. Yesterday I was there eating at a large tent dining facility when mortar fire started going off next to the tent. About 300 people were in the tent at the time of the initial blast. Everyone looked up from their plates after the first “BOOM!” A second, louder “BOOM” went off closer to the big white tent. Baker was under attack, I left my plate, grabbed my rifle, and exited the tent along with some Backwater security guys, some State Department guy, and our mortar section platoon sergeant (SFC Rocker). “Under here, under here!” the Backwater guys yelled. We ran under a concrete mortar shelter and waited for the attack to cease. Soldiers laughed and relaxed in the shade in the shelter. Some of us went back in the tent to recover our food and bring it back out to the shelters. The Pakistani, or whatever they are, workers that work for the chow hall huddled together under their own shelter across the way.
Inevitably, soldiers started telling war stories. I looked out of the shelter and saw LT Orr walking on the sidewalk casually, like he was on a Sunday morning stroll. He was wearing a grin and striding along in time. ‘Sir!’ I yelled in an advisory tone, ‘You may want to get in here!’
“Na,” he answered without a care, “the attack is over!” He came into the shelter anyways, not to protect himself, of that I was sure, but to sit in the shade with the soldiers. “I figure if I constantly put myself in the most dangerous situations, I increase my chances of going home,” LT Orr said. I thought he was joking, but I wasn’t completely sure because I’d just seen him strolling down the road during a mortar attack.
‘What do you mean, Sir?’
“Well, if I stay outdoors during every attack, maybe I’ll get wounded, not killed though, just sent home.”
‘Like in Catch 22?’ I asked laughing.
“Yeah, it’s like trying to finish your 50 missions so you can go home, only that when you reach 50, they tell you that you have to do more,” LT Orr said grinning. He’s a Catch 22 scholar. All our experiences are relative to Catch 22, proving that war has been stupid for a long time, at least the experiences from a soldier’s perspective.
Some soldiers from C Company began talking about the previous night. “I can’t believe anyone lived in that car,” one soldier said. “I emptied two magazines and some change into it as we passed.”
“Yeah, our tank fired at least 150 coax rounds and some .50 cal,” the boyish-looking LT said. “There wasn’t two square inches in the windshield without a bullet hole in it.” The car was full of armed men, and if a U.S. patrol sees you with an AK-47, they will kill you. “One of the guys was shot down, and we thought he was dead,” the LT said, “but then he started flopping around, so we brought him in for treatment. His buddy took off running, but we caught him.”
SFC Rocker started talking about the CNN crew (Ms. Sharif) that was at the checkpoint when an Iraqi at the checkpoint said, “You’re about to get attacked.” One second later, an RPG struck a pole about 3 feet from a soldier and smashed into the rear windshield of the Iraqi’s car – embedding itself in the dashboard.
“We had those CNN people on the ground, yelling at them to stay down, they had to bleep out more than a few choice words when they aired the tape. We were freaking them out. During the attack, some soldiers were smoking near a ditch, and just kept smoking calmly as if the attack wasn’t going on. My guys even laughed as the RPG impacted and they told the camera crew to get down,” he said in his trademark, perfect military manner. “The RPG round looked like a crumpled beer can with duct tape around it.” It never exploded.
“Yeah,” said the C Co. soldier, “I read they put tape around the warhead to reduce the magnetic signature. The Hajjis think our tanks have magnetic sensors that shoot out interceptor explosives and that’s why their RPGs aren’t working.” We all laughed. The Iraqis think our night-vision goggles are X-ray vision and our flack jackets are air-conditioned.
Now, I’ll tell about the previous few days, beginning on the night of May 2, 2004.
The night before the attack on our camp, I walked over to the aid station building where the telephone is sitting out back. To get to the aid station, you have to cross a courtyard that gets mortared every night. It’s the spot right out below my 2nd story window that gets his all the time. Knowing this, and knowing that the most active time for mortar attacks is at night, I walked rapidly towards the aid station patio steps. I didn’t have my helmet or vest on, for the first time since I arrived at Camp Golf, because I was lazy and didn’t feel like wearing it, since we hadn’t been hit while you and I talked on the phone.
I went to the phone on the backside of the aid station and found SFC Budding on the phone. He’s harmless, but sometimes tries to hustle like a thug. Ever since the battalion’s satellite phone for soldier morale got taken away (all phones in 1AD were taken away because some soldiers abused the system of 7 minutes a week, or whatever time was allotted), he’s been forced to use our military phone. If it wasn’t for the sat phone being gone, he’d still be using it as if it belonged to him. NCOs can be real corrupt.
I waited for Budding to get off the phone. I walked back to the front of the building and stood on the porch under the overhang. I was thinking of you and anxious to hear your voice. I love you Nora. You know, even as I write this, the little bird family is chirping away, and I can’t help looking at your picture and daydreaming of you. I love you Nora, I just want to come home to you.
I thought about what would happen if a mortar round hit the courtyard. I guessed I would be safe because of the large pillars in front of me supporting the overhead roof. I walked back to the backside of the building to the phone. SFC Budding was still there.
I jumped up. It was a mortar attack, and more explosions were sure to follow. The first round fell very close. SFC Budding said goodbye to his wife quickly and ran away from the phone. “EVERYONE IN THE BATHROOM!” a sergeant yelled. We all went and took cover. Several more rounds landed and exploded. Some guards hurried up a ladder to take up defensive positions on the roof. No one was really nervous—we’ve gotten used to the mortars. After about 10 minutes, no rounds fell. I felt stupid for not bringing my helmet and vest, and wasn’t about to go back outside before I was certain the attack was over.
I went on the front porch and waited. Machinegun fire was going off from the towers. I then broke out in a sprint across the courtyard, as much to protect myself from mortars as gunfire from the towers. Visibility was low due to a sandstorm, and it’s not a good to be out walking during a sandstorm. I grabbed my helmet and vest and went back to the phone. Of course, no one was there.
I dialed the number and got the operator, and your number didn’t work, so I kept redialing for the operator. You know, sometimes you’ve got to redial over 100 times to get an operator.
I jumped up and went into the bathroom. An Alabama reservist guy ran in there too. “There it goes again, every night,” he said.
“CRABOOM!” extremely loud.
‘Goddamnit!’ I said in agitation.
“That one was close,” said the reservist, “I’m sure that hit the building.” We stayed in the doorway of the bathroom until all was quiet. Villarreal came running up to me.
“I came to see if you were OK,” he said, trying to catch his breath.
‘Yeah, I’m good, thanks.’
“You should see the front of the building,” he said in disbelief. I didn’t realize the mortar went off only about 20 meters away at the most. I followed him to the patio where I had been earlier thinking I was safe because of the roof. I guess I was wrong.
‘Spatzi, I’m sorry, but I think it’s better that I go inside for the night,’ I said to you in my mind. I wanted to talk to you so dearly though! I hated coming so close to talking to you and having to go, especially after waiting so long. ‘I’ll go back with you,’ I told Villarreal.
“We have to look for the impact point in the morning,” he said before we ran across the courtyard. Right as we started to run, we noticed some rubble on the steps. We found the point of impact and jumped over it. The mortar landed right on the steps of the patio. I didn’t sleep that night.
Mortar attacks continued out of Kufa to our east, at exactly 15 minutes before the hour – every hour – until daybreak. There was nothing we could do about it, and they were almost making a mockery of us, because we can’t fire back into the combat exclusion zone.
It was May 3, our 1 year engagement anniversary. Of all days, they had to attack us on that day. I thought about you and home, and how sweet home sounds, how you are all I want. I absolutely had to talk to you. Your voice and love are the only things keeping me sane. I took my latest read, Agnes Grey, from Anne Bronte and went over to the phone again to call you that morning. There was a line, but I waited. Stuart showed me his truck parked out back where the phone was, windshield punched with shrapnel holes and flat tires. It was the night before that a mortar landed inside an up-armored Hummer after flying in through the gunner’s hatch on the roof. That was a one in a million shot.
I tried to call you, after a lot of redialing, but I got no answer. I wanted to talk to you so bad, I was getting sick to my stomach. Right after I called, gunfire erupted on the main city street behind our building. It started out as AK-47 fire and small arms fire. I looked across to the road and noticed a Hummer firing its M240 machinegun down a road at something I couldn’t see. Soldiers ran forward and ran along the walls to return fire by the Hummer. A tank rolled up and began firing .50 cal on the road towards Kufa. Several explosions were going off as the gunfire intensified. I watched in amazement. Usually shots will be fired after an attack, but not for the length of time I was counting.
“You should come see this shit!” one soldier yelled from the roof. I decided it was time to go to the TOC. Mortar rounds were falling now.
It’s a little difficult to explain what happened next, because much of it is a blur. I went into the TOC, and the radios were crackling loud. LTC Jagger and MAJ Stanton and MAJ Ramirez were in there. People were yelling, confusion filled the air. I stood there and couldn’t believe my eyes. Everyone had a worried look on their face as gunfire and mortars sounded closer. MAJ Ramirez walked around saying irrational things and spouting off orders that made no sense. They were only to look good for the commander. It was so transparent. LTC Jagger’s patience was wearing thin. He sat in a chair in the middle of the TOC with his arms crossed and legs crossed. His brow was knotted up and he bit his lip. He listened to the confusion, and I could tell he was on the verge of losing his temper. I’ve never seen him lose his temper, but it was as close as I’d ever seen him to contemplating intensely – you felt a quiet storm brewing.
“DABOOM! CRACKBOOM CRACKBOOM! KAK, KAK, KAK, KAK, KAK, KAK! BOOM!” sounded loudly and all around. A checkpoint outside our main gate initially came under attack, and now tanks were rumbling past our building to reinforce our scouts outside of the base.
I grabbed my video camera and went on the roof of our building to see what was going on. Some Mahdi Army were running across a field to our west. The El Salvadorians and some of our guys fired at them, hitting one. I looked down and noticed Ms. Sharif’s CNN crew pinned down against a wall, as tanks pulled into the hospital parking lot to protect our west flank. Mortars continued to fall. I fired suppression fire at lens glares on a construction site that may have been binoculars watching us, and probably talking to the mortar men and telling them to adjust. He took cover immediately. I didn’t hit him, nor was that my intent, he was too far away to hit – BUT he didn’t come back. I kept low, the volume of gunfire was incredible. All of our office pukes and staff, including command drivers were on the roof. I went up towards CSM Brown and we watched as mortar rounds from Kufa airbursted over Apache Troop’s building. “INCOMING!” he yelled. We took cover.
Two of our tanks were taking RPG fire from the rooftops of buildings at a market across the street from us. I watched as the tanks pulled up on line with each other and took another RPG. The tanks opened fire on everything where the attacks were coming from. This also helped the scouts in Hummers to pull back. The tanks caught something ablaze and continued to fire. Gunmen in a makeshift hospital opened fire, but our guys responded and caught it on fire using machineguns, hitting a transformer. Mortar and gunfire was coming from all around.
CSM Brown and I went back downstairs. I wanted to see what was going on. “Tell Rider I do not advise them coming here,” LTC Jagger said on the phone, “we are in heavy contact.” Colonel Leroux wanted to come to our camp! He came anyways, under heavy escort. Knight X-Ray was looking for our air liaison officer, CPT Flake, so we could coordinate to use AH-64 Apache helicopters. He was stuck at another camp (Camp Baker). Major Stanton arranged the AH-64s and soon they were in the air and en route to Najaf to help assault the south, where most of the fire was coming from.
LTC Jagger continued to sit, looking angry – I could only imagine why. My guess was that regiment put us in a bad position (The Alamo) with little backup and no way to defend ourselves (can’t shoot into combat exclusion zone). Every night we get mortared and we can’t return fire even though we know where it is coming from.
“Sir,” a soldier said to the LTC, “CNN would like to talk to you.”
“Well, I’m a little busy,” he said. He waited a few seconds and politely went to see what they wanted.
A large explosion went off and it didn’t even bother me. It was a mortar impact. CSM Brown came in the TOC wide-eyed. “I just lit my cigarette when I heard that thing comin’ in and explode right in our parking lot.” It landed between two trucks and flattened all their tires and punctured both fuel tanks.
“POP, POP, POP!” rang loudly in the TOC. It was gunners on the roof shooting west.
“Go find out what they are shooting at!” LTC Jagger said.
MAJ Stanton and I went on top of the roof. I saw about 10 soldiers firing to the west. I wasn’t able to identify a target. Major Stanton ordered cease-fire because the distance to the target area was about 1000 meters, outside of the maximum effective range. Things began to grow quiet.
CNN was on our roof and filming. Foley and I handed out water as they filmed us. Ms. Sharif was talking live on air over her satellite phone as sporadic gunfire and mortars rang out. The CNN producer and cameraman began to bring suitcase-size cases to the rooftop that contained 2 transmitter satellite panels and a little LCD screen showing CNN International’s broadcast. I looked and saw a commercial for Larry King Live and the weather. I couldn’t believe we were on live breaking news. The cameraman set up the camera for the live videophone broadcast. Ms. Sharif put on her Kevlar helmet and began to speak, then Colonel Leroux spoke. As Colonel Leroux spoke of “restoring order to An-Najaf,” gunfire sounded and several explosions went off. The soldiers thought this was funny, as did I. LTC Jagger also spoke. I wondered if anyone back home realized that unit on TV was our unit in Najaf and our commander.
“Apache helicopters in the south, on the horizon!” someone yelled. Sure enough, our attack helicopters came into the exclusion zone and flew towards us and banked towards Kufa. I didn’t see them shoot, but I did see them turning near Kufa mosque. Some soldiers yelled, saying they saw the helicopters fire a missile. Actually what happened was the pilots spotted some men with RPGs in a red car, and circled hard to engage the car. As they circled, one chopper was hit with an RPG, breaking part of the clear canopy off, destroying the chain gun, and blowing off one side of the landing gear. The other helo took some of the shrapnel and was disabled once he tried to pull the trigger to shoot the car. Both helos were badly disabled, most electronic and avionics systems were out, but they were able to fly back to Babylon and land safely. One AH-64 was declared a total loss, and division denied us further air coverage.
[1] As soon as our air assets left, some attacks resumed, as expected.
I went back downstairs and found CPT Diamond milling around nervously on the second floor in his full battle gear. He had been on the roof earlier, but was taking a break. I thought about the nervous looks on the faces of the most right-wing, gung-ho Bush supportin’, anti-Iraqi people in our battalion. The natives were revolting, and the plantation masters were worried. I wasn’t worried though, at least in the middle of firefights, because it was just reality, and I expected this to happen. Everything happens for a reason, I understood the reasons, but I also knew that we had superior firepower.
I sat in the TOC for some time watching the people operate, people with little TOC experience who were too proud to admit it. The enlisted RTOs were under a lot of pressure, but they did their best – even though their best was of minimal help. That wasn’t their fault though, they had been put there with little training. SSG Siegel stood over the radio with a smirk while condescending to everyone around him. SSG Lawson and I stood back and watched the chaos and the abstract structure of information flow. “I decided today I am not going to reenlist,” he told me in a melancholy voice as he stared ahead. People were nervous.
I went back up to the roof and noticed the staff lined up against the south side of the roof.
Everyone was bragging about how many shots they fired into a car. “I know I put at least 14 shots in that car,” Foley said, barely able to control his joy. There were a string of other remarks made to the same effect. I didn’t realize at first, but the car was occupied. It sat in the market parking lot about 300 meters away where the tanks were firing earlier. I can’t recall all the remarks I heard, but I remember being absolutely revolted, and disappointed with Foley’s celebratory attitude. I went in the machine gunner’s nest and noticed the green Kevlar cover of the Alabama National Guardsman. On the back was drawn a 4-leaf clover with someone’s initials and “We will NEVER forget!” written over it. I looked on the young gunner’s wrist and noticed two black bracelets. They were memorial bracelets, with the names of two soldiers on them. I could perceive “AL” and “ANG” and “IRAQ.”
He turned around and smiled at me. ‘What’s going on?’ I asked casually. He respectfully turned to sit more towards me as his M240 trained forward out of the gap in the sandbag wall in front of him overlooking the road and disabled car.
“We had a suspicious car, that one there, come by and shoot at us. As soon as SGM Walker saw the muzzle flash, we opened fire. I lit that motherfucker up, corporal,” he said still in a rush. “All that’s from me,” he said like a child as he pointed to the spent brass on the ground. I felt sorry for him, because he was so young, but was going through so much, as was already evident from my observations about his Kevlar helmet, bracelets, and unnatural child-like manner. I don’t mean child-like in a derogatory way. He seemed to need reassurance he hadn’t done anything wrong. Maybe it’s a phenomenon linked to coping or not dealing with the reality that he killed. I didn’t show I was disturbed; I looked on with an expression of reserved interest. His sergeant was behaving like myself and I sensed he and I understood the situation wasn’t a videogame or something to be celebrated, as everyone was doing. Everyone was so excited. “Corporal,” the gunner asked, “could you hand me that round on the ground?”
‘Sure,’ I replied. I bent down and picked an intact round out from some spent ammunition. I handed it to him.
“This is my unlucky bullet,” he said as he stuck the round under a Velcro strap on his 9mm pistol leg holster. “Hey Sarge, I found the bullet that jammed the weapon,” he said looking for approval from the stone-faced, young sergeant. He nodded. The gunner seemed content to have proven the weapon did not jam on his account, due to lack of cleaning and such.
SGM Walker, Ween, Foley, Albert, and others stood laughing. “Those motherfuckers are dead…shouldn’t have shot at us!” I was skeptical, because I looked at all those people on the roof and recognized they were lazy, undisciplined staff soldiers that would use any opportunity to attain glory or even one-eighth the bragging rights their tanker friends had already certainly claimed. I looked at each face, each laughing, disgusting face and characterizations announced themselves in my head, in full, brutal honesty with each corresponding face. Trigger-happy, glory seeker, imbecile, fat tub of lard always overcompensating for his incompetence, sadist, loser. All those characteristics could be found on that roof in one person or another. I went to stand next to * MORTAR ATTACK GOING ON RIGHT NOW * SGM Walker to get a better view of the car in the distance.
“Look for movement,” he ordered. Just based on the type of people on the roof, I seriously doubted the car was enemy – I knew it would be innocents. I looked at the position of the sun to my back after seeing a passing Hummer’s side view mirror reflect a flash of sunlight.
‘Are you sure you saw a muzzle flash?’ I asked. ‘Look at the position of the sun.’
“No, I’m sure,” Foley answered, “We saw red flashing, it was no reflection.” Then I noticed CSM Wayne standing next to me looking out across at the car. SGM Walker began to excitedly describe how they engaged the car with all they had. CSM Wayne didn’t seem impressed at all. He looked out and squinted his eyes a bit to discern the damage to the car.
“Hmm,” CSM Wayne said, “I watched the whole thing.” Walker kept chuckling about it, but neither Wayne nor I thought it was funny.
‘I can’t believe these people can take life on a whim – what makes this acceptable? I can’t believe we are running this country,’ I thought. Soon, the tanks rolled up to the car to assess the damage. Some scouts went to the car and began to search it. We got a report from the scouts.
“2 dead, 2 wounded,” reported the scouts. Everyone cheered, again bragging about how many rounds they fired, and how they saw their round hit the driver for sure. I felt like I was in some Lord of the Flies nightmare. There’s nothing Christian about this, it’s evil. This is why I have to do something better with my life.
“Did they find a weapon?” Walker asked. I already knew the answer deep down. Many soldiers have “drop guns” hidden in their trucks. If they accidentally kill civilians and innocents, they sometimes plant an AK-47 or pistol in the car. So, some Iraqi parents think their kids spent the last moments on Earth with a gun in their hand firing at troops. Really, it was a halfwit with a gun in his hands shooting their son or daughter by mistake – only to bring shame and dishonor to their memory by planting a gun on the corpse. The scouts searching the white car must have been fresh out of drop guns.
“No weapon found,” the scouts reported.
“Guess they threw it,” SGM Walker said. My gut feeling was they were imagining things – BUT, you never know in Iraq. About 10 guys swear they saw automatic weapons fire from the car. In fairness to the soldiers, I did think it was extremely stupid to be out on the streets during the fight, and I blamed both sides of being victims of each other’s stupidity.
The scout trucks pulled the car into the compound, where it sat for two days with the dead bodies inside. Soldiers went out and fought off the flies to get a peek at the bodies. Soldiers pulled guard and drove through the gate nearby, hardly paying attention to the two dead guests baking in the car.
One man was detained from the car, and a wounded man was brought into our aid station with gunshot wounds, the biggest being in the head. Some soldiers went to the aid station to see the patient as they brought him in. LT Orr was there as the Iraqi died on the stretcher surrounded by U.S. Army medics and onlookers. “I watched someone die today, right before my eyes,” he said to me in a moment of frank reflection. “And it’s strange…I felt no sorrow at all.” He went on to describe the death. “They tried to insert a tube in his throat to help him breathe, but he kept fighting it. He kept trying to breathe, but a bullet entered the back of his head and traveled along his jaw, and stuck in his larynx. This made breathing difficult. I noticed him stop breathing, and the medics continued working on him, but his hands and arms slowly grew lifeless and limp. Then the medics stood back, ‘Time of death, 1615.’ His olive colored skin changed in tone – a grayish tone.”
“That was the most fun I’ve had since I got to Iraq,” I heard soldiers say, among other things. Later that night, the fat Sergeant Albert was bragging in the TOC,
“I put at least 18 rounds in that car,” he said in a repulsive way. “I’m satisfied with that,” he said proudly of himself. I couldn’t take hearing this.
‘What are you proud about?’ I asked him coldly. ‘You killed innocent civilians – one just a kid. What is so great about that?’ Everyone looked at each other nervously. He didn’t reply, but got a stupid fake grin on his fat, disgusting face. ‘I’m just glad I wasn’t there to see it.’
“What do you mean?” he asked. I walked away.
That night Foley and I were talking about it, and Ween came in. They were still hyped about their kills. ‘Guys, it’s really nothing to brag about,’ I said.
“Aw, you just didn’t get any action,” Foley said.
‘Well, I consider myself lucky in that respect,’ I responded. I didn’t want to say anything about him having to live with killing 3 innocent people.

* * *

“The moon is being blotted out of the sky,” one of the tanks reported on the radio tonight.
“What?” we asked on the radio.
“The moon, it’s disappearing!” the tank said again. It had already been a long, strange day, but the moon being blotted out? We went outside and looked to the sky. At exactly 12 a.m. (06 May) the full moon was in full eclipse, on Mohammed’s birthday. It was spooky.
“Did anyone know about this?” SGM Walker asked.
“No, we haven’t heard anything,” Sergeant Edward said. He’s our intel guy. All of a sudden, gunfire rang out across the city and the mosques aired messages. We heard a low “thud,” a mortar launch. It impacted our camp and we ran inside.
“Hey, I hope this isn’t a sign, like Jesus is coming or something – can’t he wait till we get to Germany! I want one last time to get drunk and stoned!” Stiller cried in frustration, but in jest. We laughed. Our days had been so surreal, Jesus coming would not shock us. We laughed.
When I went to sleep, or right before, I looked at the digital photos taken of the two bodies that were still sitting in the car at our gate. I wanted to know who our guys killed. The car was filled with blood on the inside. The older man who was driving the car looked like a passed out drunk, except his arms were torn to bloody shreds and disfigured. Dead, looking asleep – where did his life go? Then I saw a boy in the backseat. He could only, at the oldest, been 15. He sat in the backseat upright, even in death, and had his head turned very naturally to the right. He was riddled with bullet holes in his lower, skinny brown body. A picture taken from the other side showed a peaceful-looking expression, with blood smeared across his face. He looked like a sleeping child, as if you could tap him and wake him up. Now, he was dead, and no one really gave a shit. They celebrated it. “I got 2 kills!” someone would say.
‘Don’t you get it?! They were innocent!!’ I would think. Some mother is out there wondering why her son isn’t coming home tonight. He’s dead, rotting at our gate, in a freak show photo opportunity for G.I.s. It’s so unreal, and this thing called war is so evil. I prayed for those dead Iraqis, and for those soldiers who bragged of killing them.
Despite all of this, I am thinking of you all the time. It’s difficult to call at night because the mortars hit almost every night all around our camp. It is not safe at all to go out. It’s difficult to be upbeat and energetic on the phone when all this is going on, but I try. I love you with all of my heart Nora, I will always.

More information was developing about the incidents at Abu Ghraib prison. Considering the moral decay I had witnessed since December, I was not surprised to see this type of behavior. It angered me though. I thought those soldiers at Abu Ghraib were stupid to be taking pictures of what they were doing. They deserved immediate and heavy punishment. Those clowns, who I detest to this day, damaged morale, damaged the reputation of soldiers who were doing the right thing in Iraq, and mainly offered a major public relations bomb to opposition forces. Those idiots placed the lives of U.S. soldiers at risk – plain and simple. It was also an example of power corrupting those of weak character. In a later Senate hearing on the prisoner abuse scandal, General Abizaid would say the following:
“...and I would also like to add that some of these people that we are dealing with are some of the most despicable characters you could ever imagine. They spend every waking moment trying to figure out how to deliver a weapon of mass destruction into the middle of our country. And we should not kid ourselves about what they are capable of doing to us, and we have to deal with them.”
[2] To me, it sounded like he was trying to justify the treatment of the prisoners. He tried to make this easier to swallow by using the worn-out “weapons of mass destruction” catchword. The truth was, while there were many bad people in the prison, there were many who were common criminals. It was also true, and still conceivable, that many prisoners there were awaiting trial and not found guilty of any crime. With corruption in the police departments rife, and miscommunication and confusion within the American POW system, you can almost guarantee that many of those in Abu Ghraib were innocent or relatively harmless. Does Abdulla think we are stupid? How can he justify that treatment? It was wrong, they took pictures of it, and they have to pay the price for their stupidity! Here was an example of the mixed signals the leadership was sending to their troops: It’s wrong, but it’s OK. Abu Ghraib was wrong, but it was also OK because they are people waiting to put weapons of mass destruction in Oklahoma. That is exactly why Abu Ghraib happened in the first place. The generals were touting dignity and respect for others on paper, but their verbal messages and signals betrayed the contrary. The attitude that radiated from Washington D.C. was that of “Do whatever it takes to crush terrorism.” We were no longer the Army of dignity, we were now the “Bring it on” Army.
Much of this aggression stemmed out of anger over the September 11th attacks. Bush said the following:
“The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 ­– and still goes on. That terrible morning, 19 evil men - the shock troops of a hateful ideology - gave America and the civilized world a glimpse of their ambitions. They imagined, in the words of one terrorist, that September the 11th would be the ‘beginning of the end of America.’ By seeking to turn our cities into killing fields, terrorists and their allies believed that they could destroy this nation’s resolve, and force our retreat from the world. They have failed.”
We made these people out to be terrorists – the Iraqis, the Arabs. Then, when soldiers treated them like dogs, American leadership (many of whom spouted off this WMD/terrorist rhetoric) said that the soldiers misbehaved. Or, as Abdulla puts it, “dealing” with prisoners. What were they saying actually? Where were the soldiers’ minds during all this truth bending?
Bush talks about his war on terror, and capturing Osama Bin Laden, but yet a smalltime gangster like Muqtadr Al-Sadr (a terrorist) ran free in Najaf. His fatwas encouraged Iraqi youth to take up arms against Americans, he encouraged the capture of female coalition soldiers, and his actions lead to the destruction of property and Iraqi life on a massive scale. He ran free, and he runs free to this very day. He is a terrorist with American blood on his hands, the blood of several 3-32 Armor soldiers to count a few.

The car we engaged with the four civilians inside was reported to higher as a vehicle carrying insurgents. The civilian deaths were considered enemy KIAs.

[1] I later saw an advertisement for the Apache helicopter in a military magazine at BIAP. It boasted that the Apache could survive a hail of gunfire and defeat anything the enemy threw at it. Of course, this was a typical military exaggeration. I shook my head and thought about the Apaches that were knocked out in Najaf before my eyes. I was just thankful the pilots got back alive.



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