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

Friday, April 04, 2003

Human Rights Watch has some interviews with Iraqi deserters.

Case #1: According to a 28-year-old soldier from al-‘Amara (who deserted on March 26), “I know some my officers would like to desert. But since they are officers and known in the higher ranks, they fear reprisals against their families.”

Case #5: A 29-year-old soldier from Baghdad whose unit was part of the Iraqi army’s First Corps: “Our unit came under intense bombardment [by US forces]. On March 25 orders came for us to withdraw from our positions to [location withheld]. We were supposed to begin pulling back at four o’clock in the morning. There was no other choice – we had to flee quickly before we were moved further away from the Kurdish frontline. There were six of us. We were afraid because there was talk of execution squads among the soldiers. We heard the officers talking about them too, probably to scare us. We were not allowed to have any radios, but I managed to keep mine. I heard on the news that the Kurds were welcoming soldiers who surrendered. At two o’clock in the morning [on March 26] we crept away unnoticed and walked for four hours until we reached the Kurdish areas. The Pesh Merga welcomed us”.

Case #6: A 19-year-old soldier from al-‘Amara whose unit was part of the Iraqi army’s Fifth Corps: “We fled our unit at five o’clock in the morning on March 24. There were eight of us to begin with but two of them separated from us and I don’t know what happened to them. We walked for eight hours looking for ways to get back home to our families, but some Kurds we came across told us that if we did that we would be executed. So we surrendered to the Pesh Merga instead. We had heard there was an execution squad at the checkpoint on the river near Gwer. Our officers kept threatening us, saying that if we tried to desert we would be executed, and that if they didn’t kill us the Kurds would. We were forbidden to have radios so we didn’t know what was happening, but we thought that if we surrendered to Kurdish forces there was a chance that they would take us prisoner instead…Our living conditions were very hard. We were given soup and tea in the morning, rice for lunch without any sauce or meat, and very often nothing for dinner. Drinking water was filthy. We didn’t even have any tents to sleep in. The officers made us dig ditches in the ground and that is where we slept.”

Case # 8: A 22-year-old soldier from al-Nasiriyya whose unit belonged to the Iraqi army’s Fifth Corps: “Our unit was positioned in [location withheld], not far from Kalak. The bombardment was very intense. A friend of mine died during one of the raids. Those who are wounded are just left there on the ground to die. Three of us planned to escape together on March 31. One of them was a friend of mine and he was really frightened. I tried to force him to come with me but in the end he stayed behind. So two of us slipped away unnoticed and walked for a short while until we reached a Kurdish village. I don’t know what it was called but it was near Kalak. The Pesh Merga received us, and after about three hours they took us to the corps headquarters in Arbil where we saw three other soldiers who had surrendered. We stayed there for two days. Four foreign journalists came to ask us questions but they only filmed us from the back and our heads were covered. We did not give them our names, or details about our units. Then today they brought us to this camp in two Coasters [minibus], each one with 25 soldiers. There were others who fled from our unit before we did. Some of them went back to their families in the south. Those who had higher ranks stayed with the corps. They cannot afford to escape because Military Intelligence has a lot of information about them and can easily reach their families…We are young men but we feel old. We want our life back.”

< email | 4/04/2003 02:14:00 PM | link

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