Friday, August 29, 2003

From Salam Pax, on the search by the American military of his parents' house on suspicion that they were holding secret Ansar al-Islam meetings there:

"While my family is waiting outside something strange happens, one of the soldiers comes out, empties his flask in the garden and start telling the medic to give him his, the medic shoos him away. They all think that the soldier is filling his flask with cold water from the cooler. Later it turns out that he emptied my father’s bottle of Johnny Walker's into his flask and was probably trying to convince the medic to give him his to empty another bottle. Weird shit."

The search for Baathists is lucrative for American soldiers, as we can see from this report on a search in Aadamiyah:

"A few nights later their target is a former senior Baath party official. He is not at home, but while the women and young men of the house are detained on the rooftop and patted down for concealed weapons, even in their hair, the house is ransacked for documents and weapons.

And, it seems, money. The Herald photographer Jason South watches as one of the US soldiers pockets a small wad of US cash from a handbag he comes across as he goes through the contents of a wardrobe in a ground-floor room."

There is a general pattern:

"In Iraq, it apparently goes like this: An American soldier at a checkpoint searches an Iraqi, finds something he likes and confiscates it. Thuraya satellite cell phones, costing the equivalent of U.S. $650, are especially in demand. Or, an Iraqi is caught with a large bundle of Dinars and a gun: most Iraqis don't believe in banks and carry their wealth with them in cash and a gun to protect it as well. The Iraqi is thought to be a terrorist and the money and gun are confiscated. But, contrary to regulations, the soldier doesn't provide a receipt for the property taken so that it is impossible to trace either one. The Iraqi complains to U.S. civil administration authorities, but has no means of locating or identifiying the soldier who took the property nor proof of what was stolen."

There was an infamous early incident in the attack where American soldiers paraded naked Iraqi men suspected of being thieves through a park in Baghdad. Someone had written the words 'Ali Baba - Haram(i)', which means 'Ali Baba - thief' in Arabic on the prisoners' chests. Now, Iraqis describe the American soldiers as Ali Babas. I suppose in an attack on Iraq that killed thousands of innocent people, with more murdered by American soldiers nearly every day, incidents of petty theft are relatively unimportant. But the Iraqis are not rich people, and they are often losing their life savings to pathetic American thugs who are allowed to act as they want through a combination of apathy, anger, racism, and stupidity (many of the soldiers blame Saddam, and thus the Iraqi people, for 9-11) from their commanding officers. The U. S. Army Manual FM3-06.11, 'Combined Arms Operations in Urban Terrain' regarding 'Urban Operations Under Restrictive Conditions' says (for a gazillion links on urban warfare and the U. S. Army see here): "Treat all civilians and their property with respect and dignity. . . . No requisitioning of civilian property without permission of a company-level commander and without giving a receipt. . . . No looting", but the almost complete collapse of discipline amongst the American forces renders such a rule meaningless. The thefts are indicative of the general attitude of the Crusaders to the Iraqi people, and the Iraqis are hypersensitive to it. The battle for hearts and minds is being lost one theft at a time.