Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

A defectors tale.

He came down the hillside in the rain Tuesday night, picking his way past the land mines and the trip wires, slipping here and there in the mud, hoping not to be discovered by any of his fellow Iraqi soldiers.

He knew what awaited him if he were found out: 10 other would-be defectors had been executed in front of his unit the previous day.

The Iraqi defector, a 31-year-old watermelon farmer who joined Saddam Hussein's infantry three years ago, could not take it any longer: living in muddy trenches, the starvation rations, the monthly pay of $4, the plummeting morale and now, the terrifying bombs and missiles from coalition aircraft.

The illiterate, reed-thin private in the 108th Infantry Brigade turned himself over to Kurdish guerrilla fighters at this bleak outpost on the northern border between Iraq and the Kurd-held region that lies beyond Saddam's control. He gave his name, but it has been withheld for fear of jeopardizing his wife and child in Iraq. Still shaking with fear and anxiety, he was interviewed just an hour after his capture.

"We've been in the trenches for weeks and weeks, and we've had no leave to see our families," he said, his hands trembling as he accepted a glass of sweet tea from his captors. "All the soldiers complain, but only among ourselves. We are starving. We're being tortured."

But the defector did not think the Iraqi troops would put up much of a fight if attacked. Most would like to "escape," as he called it, but they were constantly watched by special units called "execution battalions" that are empowered to shoot defectors on the spot.

"This man Saddam is nothing, no good," the man said, then stopped short. He whispered to a Kurdish guerrilla fighter that he was afraid that Saddam would somehow learn of his comment and have him killed.

Kurdish intelligence officials said some of the claims the man made probably were exaggerations. For example, he claimed that his unit had taken delivery in the last few days of "chemical-weapon warheads" that are meant to be fired from mortars. But he couldn't describe the warheads, how they worked or what they might contain.

The Iraqi infantrymen have been prohibited from having radios, and the defector had no idea how the war was proceeding. His wife is living in Basra with their 5-year-old daughter, Dumoo. Her name in Arabic means "tears."

< email | 3/26/2003 11:53:00 AM | link

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