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Many thanks to Hassan for taking time to circulate this series.   The Asia
Times-on-Line deserves to be read regularly. It publishes some the very best
online news with thoughtful commentaries by first-rate writers.  pg

----- Original Message -----
From: "Hassan" <>
To: "CASI" <>
Sent: Thursday, October 30, 2003 6:57 AM
Subject: [casi] EVERY TIME THE WIND BLOWS - Part 5

> By Nir Rosen, with the US 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment
> in Iraq
> PART 5 (final)
> The wrong Ayoub
> AL-QAIM, western Iraq - According to a major from the
> Judge Advocate General's office working on
> establishing an Iraqi judicial  process, at least
> 7,000 Iraqis are being detained by US forces. Many
> languish in prisons indefinitely, lost in a system
> that imposes English-language procedures on Arabic
> speakers with Arabic names not easily transcribed.
> Some are termed "security detainees" and held for six
> months pending a review to determine whether they are
> still a "security risk". Most are innocent. Many were
> arrested simply because a neighbor did not like them.
> A lieutenant-colonel familiar with the process adds
> that there is no judicial process for the thousands of
> detainees. If the military were to try them, that
> would entail a court martial, which would imply that
> the United States is occupying Iraq, and lawyers
> working for the administration are still debating
> whether it is an occupation or a liberation.
> The 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's (ACR) S2 section,
> responsible for intelligence, has not proved itself
> very reliable in the past and soldiers are getting
> frustrated. "You get all psyched up to do a hard
> mission," says Sergeant Scott Blow, "and it turns out
> to be three little girls. The little kids get to me,
> especially when they cry." Even the Central
> Intelligence Agency (CIA) operator could not recognize
> a large picture of Oday Saddam Husayn, one of Saddam's
> sons, hanging on a wall.
> The little confidence S2 deserves is made clear by the
> case of a man called Ayoub. Apache Troop, acting on
> intelligence Captain Ray and his S2 staff have
> provided it, raids Ayoub's home. Tanks, Bradleys and
> Humvees squeeze through the neighborhood walls as the
> CIA operator eyes the rooftops and windows of nearby
> houses angrily, a silencer on his assault weapon.
> Soldiers break through Ayoub's door early in the
> morning, and when he does not immediately respond to
> their orders he is shot with non-lethal ordnance,
> little pellets exploding like gun shot from the
> weapon's grenade launcher. The floor of the house is
> covered with his blood. He is dragged into a room and
> interrogated forcefully as his family is pushed back
> against their garden's fence.
> Ayoub's frail mother, covered in a shawl, with
> traditional tribal tattoos marking her face, pleads
> with the immense soldier to spare her son's life,
> protesting his innocence. She takes the soldier's hand
> and kisses it repeatedly while on her knees. He pushes
> her to the grass along with Ayoub's four girls and two
> boys, all small, and his wife.
> They squat barefoot, screaming, their eyes wide open
> in terror, clutching each one another as soldiers
> emerge with bags full of documents, photo albums and
> two compact discs with Saddam Hussein and his cronies
> on the cover. These CDs, called The Crimes of Saddam,
> are common on every Iraqi street and, as their title
> suggests, they were not made by Saddam supporters. But
> the soldiers saw only the picture of Saddam and
> assumed they were proof of guilt.
> Ayoub is brought out and pushed on to the truck. He
> gestures to his shrieking family to remain where they
> are. He is an avuncular man, small and round, balding
> and unshaven, with a hooked nose and slightly
> pockmarked face. It would be impossible for him to
> look more innocent. He sits frozen, staring numbly
> ahead as the soldiers ignore him, occasionally
> glancing down at their prisoner with sneering disdain.
> The medic looks at Ayoub's injured hand and chuckles
> to his friends, "It ain't my hand." The truck blasts
> country music on the way back to the base. Ayoub is
> thrown in the detainment center. After the operation
> there are smiles of relief among the soldiers, slaps
> on the back and thumbs up.
> Several hours later a call is intercepted from another
> Ayoub. "Oh shit," says Captain Ray, "it was the wrong
> Ayoub." The innocent father of six who has the wrong
> name is not immediately let go. If he is released they
> risk revealing to the other Ayoub that he is sought
> after. The night after his arrest a relieved Ayoub can
> be seen escorted by soldiers to call his family and
> tell them he is fine, but will not be home for a few
> days. "It was not the wrong guy," Captain Justin Brown
> says defensively, shifting blame elsewhere. "We raided
> the house we were supposed to and arrested the man we
> were told to."
> When the soldiers who captured Ayoub learn of the
> mistake, they are not surprised. "Oops," says one.
> Another one wonders, "What do you tell a guy like
> that, 'sorry'?" A third says: "It's depressing. We
> trashed the wrong guy's house, and the guy that's been
> shooting at us is out there with his house not
> trashed." The soldier who shot the non-lethal ordnance
> at Ayoub says, "I'm just glad he didn't do something
> that made me shoot him." Then the soldiers resume
> their banter. Lieutenant-Colonel Gregg Reilly, the
> squadron commander, acknowledges that he will have to
> make a big gesture of apology. "I can't just drop him
> off at home and say 'sorry'," he says. "We embarrassed
> him in front of his family."
> The tapes of the other Ayoub's conversations are sent
> for analysis. In them he speaks of proceeding to the
> next level and obtaining landmines and other weapons.
> This rightfully alarms the army's intelligence
> officers. They are confounded by the meaning of the
> intercepted conversation until somebody realizes it is
> not a terrorist intent on obtaining weapons. It is a
> kid playing video games and talking about them with
> his friend on the phone.
> The procrustean application of spurious information
> gathered by intelligence officers who cannot speak
> Arabic and are not familiar with Iraqi, Arab or Muslim
> culture is creating enemies instead of eliminating
> them. One intelligence officer of the 3rd ACR can
> barely hide his disdain for Iraqis. "Oh, he just hates
> anything Iraqi," explains an officer engaged in
> operations on Tiger Base, adding that the intelligence
> officers do not venture off the base or interact with
> Iraqis or develop any relations with the people they
> are expected to understand.
> A lieutenant-colonel from the army's civil affairs
> office explains that these officers do not read about
> the soldiers engaging with Iraqis, sharing cigarettes,
> tea, meals and conversations. They only read the
> reports of "incidents", and they view Iraqis solely as
> a security threat. They do not know Iraq.
> In every market in Iraq, hundreds of wooden crates can
> be found piled one atop the other. Sold for storage,
> on further examination these crates reveal themselves
> to be old ammunition crates. For the past 25 years
> Iraq has been importing weapons to feed its army's
> appetite for war against Iran, the Kurds, Kuwait and
> the United States. The empty crates are sold for
> domestic use. The soldiers of the 3rd ACR assume the
> crates they find in nearly every home implicate the
> owners in terrorist activities, rather than the much
> simpler truth.
> During Operation Decapitation, one of Apache's
> soldiers discovered one such crate overturned above a
> small hole dug into a man's back yard. "He was trying
> to bury it when he saw us coming," one soldier deduced
> confidently. He did not lift the crate up to discover
> that it was protecting irrigation pipes and hoses that
> had been dug into a pit.
> Saddam bestowed his largesse on the security services
> that served as his Praetorian guard and executioners.
> Elite fighters received Jawa motorcycles. Immediately
> after the war, Jawa motorcycles were available in
> every market in Iraq that sold scooters and
> motorcycles. Some had been stolen from government
> buildings in the frenzy of looting that followed the
> war and which was directed primarily against
> institutions of the former government.
> Soldiers of the 3rd ACR are always alert for Jawa
> motorcycles, and indeed it is true that many Iraqi
> paramilitaries have used them against the Americans.
> On a night that Apache receives RPG (rocket-propelled
> grenade) fire at the border checkpoint, they drive
> back to Tiger Base through the town. When they spot a
> man on a Jawa, they fire warning shots. When he does
> not stop, they shoot him to death. "He was up to no
> good," Captain Brown explains.
> Reilly maintains that Jawas are fedayeen
> (paramilitaries loyal to Saddam) motorcycles and that
> most curfew violators and placers of improvised
> explosive device use them. Sheikh Mudhafar of the
> local Huseiba mosque claims to know the victim. "He
> was an innocent construction worker," he says. "I saw
> the dirt from the gypsum on his hands myself. Now tell
> me if his father or brother is going to thank the
> Americans."
> The day after Tiger Strike, Reilly meets with the
> clerical and tribal leaders, deliberately arranging
> the meeting immediately after the operation so that he
> can explain to them what he has done and why. In
> previous meetings following operations, community
> leaders have informed him of innocent men he has
> arrested, and he has deferred to their judgment and
> released them.
> The clerics ask Reilly to release a religious leader
> he has arrested. "They said it looked bad to arrest
> him, they didn't say it was the wrong guy," Reilly
> explains later. The tribal sheikhs also ask for one
> man to be released because his wife has kidney failure
> and there is nobody else to take her to Jordan for
> treatment. The Solomon-like Reilly discusses the issue
> of paying reparations for the innocent man his
> soldiers killed by the border checkpoint, a common way
> of administering justice among Arab tribes of the
> region.
> Reilly is very concerned about the way Iraqis perceive
> US troops. "I am responsible for administering justice
> here for the whole area," he says. "We cannot treat
> the Iraqis as second-class citizens." He discusses the
> coming holy month of Ramadan with the clerics, meeting
> with them at the local Islamic school and agreeing to
> lift the curfew that normally extends from 2300 until
> 0400 for that month, when Muslims fast during the day
> but eat and enjoy festivities at night. Three RPGs are
> shot at the school. "The clerics were in terror,"
> Reilly says afterward. "They were very angry. It was
> good for them to feel that terror." It is the third
> time Reilly has personally been attacked.
> The next night the 3rd ACR's Bandit Troop departs the
> base at 0200, hoping to find those alleged al-Qaeda
> suspects who were not home during Operation Tiger
> Strike two days before. Soldiers descend on homes in a
> large compound, their boots trampling over mattresses,
> in rooms the inhabitants do not enter with shoes on.
> Most of the wanted men are nowhere to be found, their
> women and children prevaricating about their
> locations. Some of their relatives are arrested
> instead. "That woman is annoying!" complains one young
> soldier of a mother's desperate ululations as her son
> is taken from his house. "How do you think your mother
> would sound if they were taking you away?" First
> Sergeant Clinton Reiss asks him.
> They return to the base at 9am. That day there is a
> pizza party at the chow hall. Soldiers guard the
> detainees, go out on patrols, and battle the desert,
> sweeping away the sand desert winds have blown on
> their temporary home. But the sand comes back every
> time the wind blows.
> (Copyright 2003 Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. All rights
> reserved. Please contact for
> information on our sales and syndication policies.)
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