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June 28, 2006

More From Nir Rosen, World's Bravest Human

Here's more from Nir Rosen. Even if you've read a ton of reporting from Iraq, you haven't read this:

Americans, led to believe that their soldiers and Marines would be welcomed as liberators by the Iraqi people, have no idea what the occupation is really like from the perspective of Iraqis who endure it. Although I am American, born and raised in New York City, I came closer to experiencing what it might feel like to be Iraqi than many of my colleagues. I often say that the secret to my success in Iraq as a journalist is my melanin advantage. I inherited my Iranian father’s Middle Eastern features, which allowed me to go unnoticed in Iraq, blend into crowds, march in demonstrations, sit in mosques, walk through Falluja’s worst neighborhoods.

I also benefited from being able to speak Arabic—in particular its Iraqi dialect, which I hastily learned in Baghdad upon my arrival and continued to develop throughout my time in Iraq.

My skin color and language skills allowed me to relate to the American occupier in a different way, for he looked at me as if I were just another haji, the “gook” of the war in Iraq. I first realized my advantage in April 2003, when I was sitting with a group of American soldiers and another soldier walked up and wondered what this haji (me) had done to get arrested by them. Later that summer I walked in the direction of an American tank and heard one soldier say about me, “That’s the biggest fuckin’ Iraqi (pronounced eye-raki) I ever saw.” A soldier by the gun said, “I don’t care how big he is, if he doesn’t stop movin’ I’m gonna shoot him.”

I was lucky enough to have an American passport in my pocket, which I promptly took out and waved, shouting: “Don’t shoot! I’m an American!” It was my first encounter with hostile American checkpoints but hardly my last, and I grew to fear the unpredictable American military, which could kill me for looking like an Iraqi male of fighting age. Countless Iraqis were not lucky enough to speak American English or carry a U.S. passport, and often entire families were killed in their cars when they approached American checkpoints.

In 2004 the British medical journal The Lancet estimated that by September 2004 100,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the American occupation and said that most of them had died violently, mostly in American airstrikes. Although this figure was challenged by many, especially partisans of the war, it seems perfectly plausible to me based on what I have seen in Iraq, having spent most of the postwar period there...

It's a really long piece, but read it all.

Seriously, all of it.

Posted at June 28, 2006 03:33 PM | TrackBack

“Don’t shoot! I’m an American!”

...ah, sigh.

Posted by: darryl pearce at June 28, 2006 05:22 PM

Several points seem to stand out aside the horrific aspects of the article. I have almost given up on guessing what our crazy bastard of a prez is doing next. First we will stay in Iraq now we will leave Iraq, now we will say as far as Iran goes everything is on the table meaning of course nuclear bombing but now we will talk with Iran where before we refused to talk to Iran etc.

From the article you just have to wonder what the troops are supposed to be doing. In almost all other historical wars what troops did was fight other troops as in the battle of the bulge but that does not appear to be the case in Iraq. It is like Bush is just putting these guys in a holding pattern. It seems they are being sent out on these missions where they arrest people hauling them off to who knows where and why, because someone once had something to do with Saddam Hussein? Even from a military point of view does this even make any kind of sense? It really sounds like our good generals are just finding ways to keep the troops busy sending them out to arrest this guy or that guy for no real reason. It is just like a holding pattern, no plan, just passing time.

Until what?

Are we just waiting for the optimum moment when the most political points in favor of the Republican Party can be accrued? It would certainly seem so.

So what will these people be like when the come back home at some unknown date? Will they have the ability to tell right from wrong? If someone crosses their path will they just go berserk doing what they were trained and conditioned to do in Iraq?

Nir Rosen places the blame squarely on the people who sent them there and rightly so. I have read many of the troops believe Saddam was responsible for 9/11 so it would not be too much to say that they have been even more misled than the public as just by the nature of the military they are even more insulated from the truth than the general public and far more subject to constant indoctrination.

What really sticks out is the way the military leaders are keeping the armed forces separate from the general population, preventing them from getting to see these people on a normal basis, only when it comes time for these raids and sorties do the troops have any contact with the civilian population in Iraq. And that can only make matters worse which I suppose is really the general idea.

Posted by: rob payne at June 28, 2006 10:08 PM

"After the Center for Army Lessons Learned sent a team of personnel to Israel to study that country's counter-insurgency tactics, the Army implemented the lessons it learned and initiated house demolitions in Samara and Tikrit, blowing up houses of suspected insurgents."

Since the Mossad is world's most expert terrorist organization serving the world's most effective occupation force, where better to learn how to use the Caterpillar Kill-dozers and torture techniques that have been so effectively used in committing genocide against Palestinians for the past 6 decades?

No wonder the Iraqis are wary of the occupation forces. It has been painfully close since 1948 and now they are first-hand victims of this insane Crusade. Islam still hasn't gotten over the preceding ones and especially not the first Crusade, which produced a band of Holy Pranksters who roasted the so-called 'infidel' Muslims and ate them before capturing Jerusalem.

Anything goes as long it's in the name of God!

Posted by: americanintifada at June 29, 2006 02:01 AM

God speaks to us through his holiness the George of the burning Bush.

And the Lord spaketh unto his holy vessel and lo it was so. Go forth and multiply.

But I can’t even add spaketh George of the burning Bush.

Personally I think it is great Bush hears voices it fills me with confidence.

Posted by: rob payne at June 29, 2006 03:54 AM

The best bits in here are the examples -- the ammunition box Iraqis were "burying" in a hole that contained fragile irrigation pipes, the people with pictures of Saddam that were actually the popular CD, "Crimes of Saddam." Other hand if things are really like that I don't see how that old lady at the airport got the idea she could ask the soldiers about her missing son in Arabic without getting guns pointed at her.

Posted by: Noumenon at June 29, 2006 06:50 AM

It's a mystery to me what American troops are doing in Iraq--I mean that literally. Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institute said last fall (in a Seattle Times story in late October, but I'd have to google for it, so no link) that we were killing about 10,000 insurgents a year, and in another story I found (again, no link handy) earlier that year an unnamed Pentagon source told CNN that the US had killed 10,000-15,000 insurgents in 2004. So that would be an average of 30-40 a day. I certainly don't read about this kind of violence on a daily basis in the NYT.

If the numbers are in the ballpark, then based on historical experience I'd guess we're also killing thousands of civilians per year (many of those alleged insurgent dead are probably civilian, for one thing), but you don't read about that either. Iraq Body Count found only 370 deaths in the third year of the war that they could explicitly identify as the victims of US firepower.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at June 29, 2006 09:04 AM

Hey Johnathan,

Given your involvement with After Downing Street, and this mornings 5-3 ruling for the Geneva conventions, how soon till we see some filings for war crimes against the administration, its cabinet, and active supporters?

Posted by: patience at June 29, 2006 11:23 AM

It's all about the war-crimes trials. There's no way to restore peace without them.

Posted by: Balzac at July 1, 2006 02:12 PM

"After the Center for Army Lessons Learned sent a team of personnel to Israel to study that country’s counterinsurgency tactics, the Army implemented the lessons it learned, and initiated house demolitions in Samara and Tikrit, blowing up homes of suspected insurgents."

The only thing the US military has learned [copied] from Israel is a blueprint on how to facilitate a never-ending conflict. Which is exactly what the neocons in the US want.

Posted by: Musk at July 1, 2006 10:43 PM