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
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Furthe proof that our forces fight by the rules. Just in case you have trouble deciding which government's spokespeople are more trustworthy.
Armed with $10,000 (7,000 pounds) in hard cash and a booklet of U.S. government IOUs, the 535th Engineers Company headed off to acquire a couple of basic items -- clay and rock.
They need the materials to help build a desert airstrip capable of handling large C-130 transport aircraft, planes the army will use to bring food, parts and ammunition to forward units on the long southwestern Iraq front.
Fortunately for the 535th, there's a lot of rock and clay in this part of southern Iraq. The problem is finding who owns it and then getting them to sell it.
Under the rules of war, public or government property can be seized and used by the acquiring force during a conflict. But if the property is private, the U.S. army is obliged to try to track down the owner and offer recompense in return.
That was lucky for Hussan, who owns a rock quarry close to where the airstrip is being built and whose grey, clay-brick home was the first stop on the shopping trip.
Unused to visitors, Hussan's pack of dogs was alarmed to see three camouflaged U.S. army Humvees loaded with soldiers pulling up to their owner's crumbling house.
As Hussan peered from his front step at the approaching vehicles, the 535th's only Arabic speaker leapt out and went to introduce himself.
"Can we have some of your rock?" asked Sergeant Dan Osborne.
"Sure, take all you want," was Hussan's reply.
"Well, we want to compensate you for what we take," said Osborne.
"Oh no, you don't need to do that," replied the Iraqi, perhaps unsettled by the presence of seven well-armed Americans.
The rock was taken and no money changed hands. But later in the day the commander of the 535th and his Arabic-speaking sergeant came back to make sure Hussan was reimbursed.
According to army rules, commanders can spend up to $2,500 a time on any item, and usually $10,000 in serial-numbered $50 notes travels with a unit in case of emergency purchases.
Hussan was offered a few hundred dollars. He took the money warily, although he could barely control the smile on his face. The sum represented more than 100 times an average Iraqi's monthly wage.
Next up was clay. All around Najaf are pits filled with the damp, honey-coloured stone, but since U.S. forces moved in, the many small factories in the area where clay bricks are fired appear to have been abandoned.
When it is not known if a piece of property is private or government-owned, and there is no one on hand to deal with, the army generally takes what it needs and leaves an IOU note.
Each commander has a receipt book entitled "Property Control Record Book", with an explanation: "For use in documenting the seizure of property acquired by military necessity".
Inside, receipts are written in English and Arabic. The preamble says: "This is a receipt for your property that has been used or taken by the Armed Forces of the United States of America. The unit commander determined that this property was essential to ensure the success of the mission...".
The receipt can be used to make claims for reimbursement against the U.S. government.
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