Sunday, March 06, 2005
And you thought your commute was bad
Jawdat Abd al-Kadhum lost a leg to an American bullet fired from a convoy traveling ahead of him.
"There is no safety on the roads. Everyone should expect anything to happen on these roads. Foreigners, Iraqis we are all exposed to the same risks," said al-Kadhum, his left tracksuit trouser leg tied around the stump of his leg.
Many have a tale to tell of someone they know that has been shot at, killed or harassed by U.S. forces in convoys or at checkpoints dotted across the country.
Ok, so the roads are dangerous. But surely, as long as the Iraqis are obeying the rules, they should be safe. There's the rub:
The U.S. military says it cannot discuss the rules of engagement -- procedure for dealing with threats from suicide bombers or car bombs -- due to "operational security issues."
But ex-army officers say cars should be at least 50 meters away from any convoy, never overtake and that if a car speeds toward a checkpoint soldiers will shoot at the engine block to make sure the vehicle comes to a standstill.
The offical rules for not getting shoot are not availible. I wanted to say they're "on a need to know" basis. But that's not exactly the case. But at least there are back channels getting the necessary information out. Then again...
Al-Kadhum thought he knew the rules...He says they were a safe distance from the convoy.
"I cannot remember the exact distance, but we were first behind the convoy about 500 meters behind," he says. "But then there was an explosion on the convoy and they started shooting. Shooting everywhere."
Now Mr Al-Kadhum is unemployed and must wait for an Iraqi government before he can get benefits. Still cannot figure out why he doesn't qualify for US benefits. First gets his leg blown off, and then is felt dessitute. Keep in mind "many have a tale to tell". And how do they feel about the increasing tension trying to move around Iraq?
"But yes I blame them. We were not guilty. What have I done to deserve losing my leg?"
The US troops keep getting jumpier and jumpier when away from base. The Iraqis are perplexed by the situation, and getting angerer by the day. I can only imagine this is the sort of quagmire the insurgents strive for. Obviously the insurgents are outgunned. Their strategy will be derived from using small amounts of violence to generate the most strife. If this is the case, then the US command must to stop playing into their hands. I have to think, in terms of war, you plan assuming the worst. A basic idea that seems lost with the current bunch of nincompoops in charge.
Update: Article from WashPost also covers this matter: Shootings by U.S. at Iraq Checkpoints Questioned.
Human Rights Watch published a lengthy report on civilian casualties in Iraq in October 2003, which detailed incidents in which 11 Iraqis died at checkpoints manned by other U.S. units...News accounts have detailed at least 14 other deaths of civilians at checkpoints.
The group also reprinted excerpts from an Army task force's internal study that described its soldiers as untrained and unprepared to conduct checkpoint operations. The study asked: "How does the soldier know exactly what the rule of engagement is" when shifting from combat to policing?
The rest of the article is a good read, covers more indepth some of the policy issues hinted at by the Reuters article. Closes with this quote that I think gets right to the point:
"Soldiers who have just conducted combat against dark-skinned personnel wearing civilian clothes have difficulty trusting dark-skinned personnel wearing civilian clothes."