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, May 09, 2003

Some Iraqi soldiers talk about the war.

After rummaging through a closet in his Baghdad home, Iraqi Lt. Col. Ala'din Ammari drags out a battered AK-47 assault rifle and four ammunition clips.

With Iraq's air force grounded during the U.S.-led invasion, Ammari and other military pilots were issued rifles and ordered into the streets to defend their nation. Now, one month after U.S. troops seized Baghdad and ousted Saddam Hussein, Ammari smiles and holds up his four clips, which are still packed with bullets.

"We swore among ourselves not to shoot at U.S. or British troops," says Ammari, explaining that he discussed the issue with fellow air force officers in the days leading up to the war. "We knew Saddam Hussein would be defeated."

One key to the allies' success, experts say, was cutting off the communications systems of the Iraqi military.

At one point, says Ammari, the air force pilot, he was ordered to drive between military bases to hand-deliver messages. During one such mission, he decided to go home.

After the war, he landed a job as a translator for U.S. troops in Baghdad, and he proudly displays an American flag in his living room.

"We had been waiting for this change for a long time," Ammari says.

An Iraqi army captain, who refuses to give his name, says he and his soldiers held the southern town of Samawah for a week. But the Americans had too much firepower. He recalls his frustration at firing rocket-propelled grenades only to watch them explode harmlessly against the armor of U.S. tanks.

"When I see the Americans, I feel angry because they are the invaders," says the army captain who fought in Samawah.

"The people of the south were brave, so they tried to defeat the Americans," says the captain, a 10-year veteran.

"We didn't think we would win, because the Americans had better weapons. But I fought for my country," says Mushtaq Ibrahim, 21, an Iraqi tank gunner who was wounded in the neck while fighting in the southern city of An Nasiriyah.

Other soldiers decided that the best way to defend their country was to ignore their commanding officers. Mohammed Jameel, a frogman in the Iraqi marines, was ordered to lay mines in the southern port of Umm Qasr. But he refused.

"Why should we destroy our own economy?" asks Jameel, who deserted with four other soldiers by stealing a small boat and motoring up the Shatt-al-Arab waterway to Basra.

"The leadership was falling apart by the day," says Nabeel, another air force pilot who would only give his first name.

About the only policy that worked, at least for a time, was Saddam's propaganda effort.

Nabeel says many Iraqi soldiers continued to fight, because they believed Information Minister Mohammed Saeed Sahaf's televised accounts of Iraqi victories against allied forces. There were rumors that Saddam had cut a deal to give the Americans control of the southern oil fields while leaving him in charge of Baghdad and points north.

< email | 5/09/2003 01:03:00 PM | link

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