This WaPo report from yesterday outlining the heavy-handed tactics of the 4th ID is pretty disturbing:
its first days in Iraq in April 2003, the Army’s 4th Infantry Division made an impression on soldiers from other units — the wrong one.
“We slowly drove past 4th Infantry guys looking mean and ugly,” recalled Sgt. Kayla Williams, then a military intelligence specialist in the 101st Airborne. “They stood on top of their trucks, their weapons pointed directly at civilians. . . . What could these locals possibly have done? Why was this intimidation necessary? No one explained anything, but it looked weird and felt wrong.”
Today, the 4th Infantry and its commander, Maj. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, are best remembered for capturing former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, one of the high points of the U.S. occupation. But in the late summer of 2003, as senior U.S. commanders tried to counter the growing insurgency with indiscriminate cordon-and-sweep operations, the 4th Infantry was known for aggressive tactics that may have appeared to pacify the northern Sunni Triangle in the short term but that, according to numerous Army internal reports and interviews with military commanders, alienated large parts of the population.
The unit, a heavy armored division despite its name, was known for “grabbing whole villages, because combat soldiers [were] unable to figure out who was of value and who was not,” according to a subsequent investigation of the 4th Infantry Division’s detainee operations by the Army inspector general’s office. Its indiscriminate detention of Iraqis filled Abu Ghraib prison, swamped the U.S. interrogation system and overwhelmed the U.S. soldiers guarding the prison.
Of course, as we all know, there is nothing to any of this, as this is merely the liberal media once again attacking Bush through the military. Or, on plane earth, it might be a pretty scary tale that could help to explain how a ‘get tough’ mentality, combined with Rumsfeld’s (“I stand for 8 hours so waterboarding can not possible be torture”) urging, complete and total abdication of oversight by the Republican Congress, as well as a few other variable, helped to turn Iraq into the mess it is today. But, again, don’ worry- things are actually going pretty well in Iraq, it is just that the press only reports the bad things. Like the 100 dead every day.
There are a lot of things that upset me about this article, but I think the one that makes me the angriest is how certain individuals in the leadership have managed to turn the perception of these well meaning American kids- guys and girls from small towns that you and I know, from that of soldiers there to help the Iraqi citizens to a group of thugs. These kids joined the military for all the right reasons- to serve their country, because they believed in the War in Iraq, to help pay for college and cement a successful future, and they, in the process of following orders and doing what they were told to do and probably believe are the ‘right’ things to do, were misused this way in Iraq.
And before Michelle Malkin or one of the other crazies reads this website and sends 9 million irate Rush Limbaugh listeners here to tell me I hate america, I am not calling our troops thugs. I am stating that the leadership has failed them, and that pisses me off.
And before someone defends the practices, read the entire article:
Lt. Col. David Poirier, who commanded a military police battalion attached to the 4th Infantry Division and was based in Tikrit from June 2003 to March 2004, said the division’s approach was indiscriminate. “With the brigade and battalion commanders, it became a philosophy: ‘Round up all the military-age males, because we don’t know who’s good or bad.’ ” Col. Alan King, a civil affairs officer working at the Coalition Provisional Authority, had a similar impression of the 4th Infantry’s approach. “Every male from 16 to 60” that the 4th Infantry could catch was detained, he said. “And when they got out, they were supporters of the insurgency.”
The unit’s tactics were no accident, given its commanding general, according to his critics. “Odierno, he hammered everyone,” said Joseph K. Kellogg Jr., a retired Army general who was at Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S.-led occupation agency.***
In July, a member of a psychological operations team attached to the 4th’s artillery brigade, which was known as Task Force Iron Gunner, filed a formal complaint about how its soldiers treated Iraqis.
“Few of the raids and detentions executed by Task Force Iron Gunner have resulted in the capture of any anti-coalition members or the seizure of illegal weapons,” wrote the soldier, whose name was blacked out from documents released by the Army.
Those were the folks (the worst of the worst) that we had in Abu Ghraib. I fully understand that some of them were a menace, but like Gitmo and some detention centers in Afghanistan, I can’t help but feel that more often than not, it is turning out that many of the people we did detain and subsequently abuse were innocents.
I don’t know what to believe anymore, but this is ust another depressing chapter.
And how many of them now hate the U.S. with a passion because of this?
There are two things you guarantee in war
1. People will be killed, maimed, injured, and victimized by the opposing army
2. Some of those people will be civilian.
This is why going to war is no laughing matter, and why this administration is guilty of betraying not only the constitution, but the public trust.
It has put American soldiers in harm’s way for specious reasons and what’s worse, it has done the same to Iraqi civilians; people who had no stake, say or choice in the actions of their government, in the gunsights of the world’s most advanced killing machine: the US military.
That kids from both small towns and the inner cities are essentially drafted into military service by the extraordinary lack of opportunities they face leaving high school is an indictment of our society as a whole.
Remove the economic incentives from the equation and the armed forces would have a much harder time producing the cannon foddder needed wage elective wars such as this one.
The gears of empire grind on.
Great post, but…
I wish I could tell you that I was surprised, or shocked, or something. But unfortunately this has been pretty clear to me for years now. And even more unfortunately, I doubt it’ll ever be clear to Malkin & company.
I’ve pointed these things out in the past, when torture apologists would babble about how all the people in Abu Ghraib or Gitmo or [secret prisons redacted] had it coming because they were terrorists etc., etc.; the next step is to look at the practices: there was an American MP at Gitmo who was nearly beaten to death because he was role-playing an insurgent in a surprise training exercise–they only stopped when they figured out that he was a soldier. He still suffers from it today, and what did they do? They tried to cover it up, and shift the blame. He’s suing. And after all that, he still wants to be back in the Army. The whole thing breaks my heart.
But if they hadn’t stopped, if he hadn’t been a soldier, it would have just been one more dead ‘terrorist’, aka, yet another dead anonymous foreigner detained without trial or due process, accorded none of the rights that we’d give to a dog in America. And Malkin and friends would be screeching at us about how we’re sympathizing with terrorists, and they all had it coming, and why do you think they were there anyhow, etc., etc., etc.
That’s the party of denial, the party of torture, the party of snatching innocent people from their homes, imprisoning them for years, and beating them to death at work in this country today. Because it’s far better for them to lie or to turn a blind eye while innocents are tortured and die.
This open Iraq thread seems like the best place to put today’s Bushism. Or has this category been universally retired? I guess that they just aren’t funny anymore, now that the veil of competence has fallen.
Bush with Maliki today:
“Conditions change inside a country,” Bush said at a joint White House news conference with the Iraqi leader. “The question is, ‘will we be facile enough to deal with them, will we be nimble enough.’ ” Bush said the answer is yes.
The use of the word facile in this context is way too accurate to be a mistake. See definitions 3 and 4 from Dictionary.com, which sum up the administration’s whole approach to Iraq:
1. Done or achieved with little effort or difficulty; easy.
2. Working, acting, or speaking with effortless ease and fluency.
3. Arrived at without due care, effort, or examination; superficial: proposed a facile solution to a complex problem.
4. Readily manifested, together with an aura of insincerity and lack of depth
Our administration has no soul. And they are taking the souls of all Americans with them. The utter contempt and disgust has become almost overwhelming. Americans who do not VOTE this november will be just as guilty of these crimes as those that continually vote for republicans who allow these crimes to happen behind their backs!
Spc. Patrick ZIegler
Hello, My name is Spc. Patrick Ziegler from U.S. Central Command. While it is not my place to get involved with any political debates or discussions, I would like to invite your readers to visit the U.S. Central Command website at http://www.centcom.mil . The CENTCOM site, especially the News Room, is a great place to get up-to-date information about what is going on not only in Iraq but all of CENTCOM’s Area of Responsibility and the Global War on Terror.
Nice post, John. And good follow-ups, Jamil and Pb.
As to your conclusion, John, I think you are starting to realize what to believe…that is, none of what you once did or want to.
The Other Steve
This is what happens when you put Cowards in charge of security.
John, ardent Bush supporters would like you to know that you hate America, think we should be coddling terrorists, hate America, hate our troops, hate America, hate American troops, hate America, and hate trooping across America.
The rest of us sadly nod our heads in agreement with you.
Wow, CENTCOM spam. Are they spamming all the right-wing blogs now? Let’s see if they have anything on this issue…
Hmm. Nope, I don’t see anything on this. Just bad things about the enemy.
Apparently, it can’t even do that. Nice try, though–I might check it out again if I ever get a lobotomy!
I agree, in particular because I doubt the word “facile” is in Bush’s everyday vocabulary; on the other hand, that would also suggest he may not really know what it means.
It’s funny how these people think blastocysts should have more rights than Iraqis.
What if we airdropped embryos all over the Middle East? Would we have to stop killing things that have embryos stuck to them?
Maybe we should just start a rumor that terrorist groups are holding millions of embryos hostage all over the world. Could we have world peace then?
Wow, someone from CENTCOM actually dropped by to post? What an interesting job. I wonder if they make them post at Daily Kos and such.
Not to be a buzzkill, but the American public voted for this administration in 2004 after knowing much the gameplan of the administration. There’s no way I think we can claim any trust was violated. People like Buckets and Darrell somehow percieve any person with a (D) in front of their name to be a poor choice even when compared to an incompetent like George Bush.
As much I agree this adminstration is pathetic, we also have to remember that even rational guys like Mr. Cole here voted for them in 2004. The solution in the United States is always to remember that the voting public ultimately has power, no matter how good it feels to want to just blame the guys at the top. (And yes, I know the GOP has done a damn good job of loading the dice in key districts in the U.S.)
Cole has already gone on record as stating he probably won’t vote GOP again in the near term future. Now the problem is going to be how to get folks who read RedState regularly to get off the righteous wagon of winning elections and look in the mirror and ask themselves if they *really, truly* like the direction this country is going or how the war is being fought.
The easiest way to do that, imho, is to remind a lot of GOP types that the military ultimately is run by civilians who are elected by us. In that regard, I think this post is a step in the right direction. If one truly “supports” the troops, then one has to hold the people we vote into office accountable for when military operations go sour.
Soldiers put their lives on the line for us. It is imperative then that we do our jobs and citizens and call bullshit on the people we vote into power that control the machinations of what those soldiers have to do on a daily basis. And when we don’t and we let the politicians botch it, we are to ultimately to blame and we are the ones who have failed those that sit on the front lines everyday.
Andrei, allow me to submit the Republican response: TAX CUTS. JESUS. FAGS. GUNS.
In light of the recent NAACP charade and Estate tax imbroglio allow me to add:
“The modern Republican Party. Come for the racism, stay for the tax cuts and enjoy the endless war.”
The answer to your question is yes.
I wonder if Spc. Patrick Ziegler even exists or if he is a gestalt entity.
In other news, Thomas Ricks reports that 2/3rds of the commanders in Iraq are ineffectual because they are either thickheaded or they just want to kill Muslims.
Does Spc. Ziegler care to comment?
He may exist, but what scares me more are the people replying to him on the various blogs–often with something of the form… “Thank you, I read it every day!” Man, that explains so much. Where would we be without our daily government-issued happy happy war propaganda report?
I liked it better when the government war propaganda looked like this instead… you know, back when we were actually *fighting* fascism.
Good post John. This especially.
War is Hell and it can bring out the worst that humanity has to offer. It is a sad fact that the best people can be taken by their darker urges and one of thew biggest reasons that war should always been the absolute last resort. When war is waged, especially an occupation war, leadership is even more responsible for keeping the darker side of it’s troops in check yet in this case it has been encouraged from the top.
I feel sorry for these kids and what they will have to go through when this Hell is finally over. I can only hope that every penny needed to help them cope with it is given without hesitation.
Spc. Patrick ZIegler Says:
Thanks for the link. Although I thought Iraq was a foolish adventure from before we invaded, I appreciate the information you provided. Whether you and I agree or not, I have utmost respect for those who serve in these trying times.
Oh, you mean like Broken just did? Heh. That didn’t take long.