Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Two "good" stories out of Iraq.

The first story is self explainitory, the second one is written by an ex-soldier. I have reprinted these stories because after a week you have to register with the papers I copied them from.

Iraqi teen turned in his father, faces dangerous future
The Associated Press
6/14/04 9:18 AM
The Wall Street Journal
HUSAYBAH, Iraq -- One day in December, a smooth-chinned 14-year-old approached American soldiers at a checkpoint here and asked surreptitiously to be arrested. He told the soldiers that his father, an Iraqi Army officer under Saddam Hussein, led a 40-man cell of insurgents, and he agreed to show the troops where to find the men and their weapons.
The soldiers put a sack over the teen's head, loosely cuffed his hands and led him away to a new life as an informant. U.S. officials say he has provided a wealth of military intelligence, allowing them to capture numerous insurgents in Iraq over the past six months.
But the teenager's decision to turn on his father, who he says beat him, has cost him his family and his freedom. Since he began cooperating with the Americans, he has lived among U.S. troops, knowing that losing their protection would mean almost certain death at the hands of those he betrayed.
With the handover of sovereignty to an Iraqi government less than three weeks away, the troops who have used and befriended the teen are desperately seeking a way to get him to the U.S. The soldiers aren't sure how they can legally take the boy -- who isn't an orphan -- out of the country without it looking like Americans are stealing Iraqi children while there is no local government to stop them. It isn't likely he would qualify for entry into the U.S. without special governmental dispensation. And even if soldiers get him to the U.S., they'd still have to find an American family willing to take in an illiterate, street-hardened youngster who speaks little English.
Insurgents in Iraq know the teen's identity and that he has provided information to the Americans, according to the U.S. military. While U.S. commanders asked that his name and tribal affiliation not be disclosed, they are eager for publicity that might help the boy gain entry to the U.S. His story has been pieced together from interviews with him and U.S. military personnel, and from military records. While aspects of his personal history couldn't be verified because people involved are either dead, in U.S. custody elsewhere in Iraq or have moved, soldiers and Marines who have dealt with the teen say information he has provided about the insurgency has been accurate.
The boy grew up in Husaybah, a border city of some 100,000, known for its smugglers of weapons, gasoline and other goods. His father was a powerful man around town, thanks to his ties to the Hussein regime. Speaking through a military interpreter, the teen says he had completed the equivalent of the third grade when he dropped out of school at age 13. He can't read or write Arabic, except for a few simple words.
Some of his family memories are warm. He remembers his father happily cooking rice and dolma, grape leaves stuffed with mutton, tomatoes, peas and spices. But he also recalls the time his father brought home photos that pictured him beating a bound man with inch-thick cables. He thinks his father was trying to impress his mother with a show of force.
His father appeared to snap, the teen says, after Mr. Hussein's regime fell in April 2003. He says his father spent time and money to build a network of insurgents to fight the Americans, and succumbed to frequent rages, beating his children more severely than ever before. Once, he says, his father tied his left hand to his left foot, and right hand to his right foot, and beat him "with anything that came into his hands."
His body bears witness to the violence around him. His scalp is a roadmap of scars from beatings and an accident. The skin on the back of his left hand is disfigured from the time he says his father accused him of stealing money and used a red-hot spoon to punish him. The teen recalls crying for days, in part because his mother didn't come to his rescue.
He says he joined the resistance at his father's insistence, and never fired a shot. During his first operation, an ambush of an American patrol in November, he wedged himself into a pile of garbage from a local hospital, he says, trying to hide. He pulled his long-sleeved black T-shirt -- the battle dress of the local mujahedeen -- over his nose to mask the stench. Then he says he hid his AK-47 rifle amid the soiled syringes and empty food cans, and ran home to his mother.
After the gunplay died down, the teen says he retrieved his rifle from the trash, emptied bullets from his magazines, and told his father he had fired at the Americans. His father patted him on the shoulder and said, "I'm proud of you," according to the boy. "You did a good job, my son." The Americans are all "Jews and Christians," he recalls his father saying. "They are strangers occupying our country. God will send our souls to paradise for fighting them."
A while later, his father and others placed a bomb some 30 yards from an overpass above a stream and waited until a military convoy passed, he says. The idea was to flush the troops out with the explosion, then gun them down as they left their vehicles. The teen says he was supposed to fire on the soldiers.
Instead, he says he hid under the bridge in shallow water during the attack, hitting his head on a steel bar and opening a long gash on his head. The scar that runs back-to-front down the middle of his head is a result of that, he says. He spent the night concealed under the overpass, narrowly escaping capture, he says, by an American soldier sweeping the area with a flashlight attached to his rifle.
By this time his qualms about fighting were overwhelming, he says. He knew his father to be a cruel man, and his father's description of the Americans didn't match the soldiers he saw in the street, who sometimes handed candy or clothes to children they passed. "The Americans hadn't hit me or tortured me, so I didn't want to shoot them," he says.
The morning after the bridge attack, he told his mother that he had been with his father. She was angry with her son and her husband. "You're still a child," he remembers her saying. "It's not fair to involve you in all of this."
The youngster tried to leave town once to stay with relatives elsewhere. His father's men found him at the train station, he says, and hauled him home. His parents fought over the incident, and his father accused him of cowardice. "I want you to be my backup. I don't want you to fear anyone," he recalls his father saying. "I want you to be a man."
"Do you think I'm a woman?" he says he answered. "I probably killed or wounded a soldier." But the teen suspected his father knew he was lying.
The next day, Dec. 3, he told his family he had decided to go to Syria to find work. Instead, he put on a white robe, beige jacket and blue sandals and sidled up to American soldiers near the border checkpoint. Through a military translator, he convinced them he had information to provide, and asked that the soldiers make a public display of arresting him, so he would not be seen as a collaborator, according to military records.
The soldiers pushed him into a Humvee and drove him to their camp, according to the teen and First Sgt. Daniel Hendrex, of Dragon Company, First Squadron, Third Armored Cavalry Regiment.
The boy's knowledge turned out to be immensely valuable, according to military records and officers who dealt with him. Soldiers immediately raided a yard next to the boy's house and arrested his father along with a second man, according to First Sgt. Hendrex and his company commander at the time, Capt. Chad M. Roehrman. The second man was a Syrian, the boy says. Hidden from view, the youngster pointed to several spots in the yard, and in each one, soldiers dug up a trove of rocket-propelled grenades, rockets and hand grenades.
Under interrogation by Army special forces soldiers, also known as Green Berets, the teen's father and the Syrian man denied any knowledge of the weapons. Then the interrogators, apparently hoping to get the men to confess, showed the prisoners a photo of the teen, revealing him as their informant, according to First Sgt. Hendrex and Capt. Roehrman.
The interrogators "thought that was the best and quickest way" to get information from the men, recalls Capt. Roehrman, who talked to the interrogators afterwards.
The interrogators had no evidence connecting the Syrian to insurgent activities, so they released him, according to Capt. Roehrman, a 29-year-old from Ellsworth, Kan. Inevitably, that meant the teen's actions became known in Husaybah, according to the captain and first sergeant.
"The next day, everyone in Husaybah knew I had betrayed them," the teen says. "I was terrified." Insurgents constantly threaten to assassinate collaborators in the area, and frequently carry out those threats, according to U.S. military officials and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, a U.S.-created force that polices the area. The teen says he was especially worried about his mother's welfare.
"It was beyond risky" to reveal the boy's role, says First Sgt. Hendrex, 34. "We weren't happy with it when we found out."
Yet even without the release of the second man, the teen's family probably would have guessed that he had turned his father in, says Lt. Col. Gregory Reilly, commander of the First Squadron, Third Armored Cavalry Regiment. "They can connect the dots," he says. The boy "goes away and we show up."
In response to questions about the incident, Col. Jill Morgenthaler, the top coalition public-affairs officer in Iraq, said the military is now investigating whether special forces troops gave away the teen's identity. "We're looking into this," Col. Morgenthaler said in a telephone interview. "This really goes against the principle of keeping one's sources secret for his or her protection."
The boy's father remains in coalition custody in Iraq, according to Col. Morgenthaler.
One day not long after the father's arrest, First Sgt. Hendrex says he was in the squadron's tactical-operations center when the boy pointed to a photo on a computer screen. "Mujahedeen," he said, describing the man pictured as a major financier of insurgent operations. First Sgt. Hendrex checked the files and found the teen's description matched military-intelligence reports. Soon the youngster had identified 30 of the 40 or so pictures the Army had on hand, according to First Sgt. Hendrex and military records.
"My jaw almost hit the floor," First Sgt. Hendrex says. "Here was a kid who knew the inner workings of basically all the people we were fighting against there in Husaybah."
The Army began taking the teen out on raids and patrols, with First Sgt. Hendrex -- who became the boy's closest American friend -- as his escort and protector. Soldiers would dress him in a balaclava, a headwrap that covered his face, and dark sunglasses, and take him in an armored Humvee. At 5-foot-6, he was small enough to fit in the cramped area behind the feet of the turret gunner.
As they drove down the streets of Husaybah, he would identify people and houses. In exchange, he received a total reward of about $1,000, and the affection of those around him, says First Sgt. Hendrex. He figures the soldiers took the teen on some 25 operations between December and the squadron's departure from Iraq in March. Military records show the youngster had a high rate of success in identifying alleged insurgents, whom he says he knew through his father.
On the day he approached U.S. troops, a soldier kiddingly gave the teen the nickname Steve-O. Another soldier thinks that was a reference to a character in Jackass, a raunchy MTV show. Along the way, the name stuck and became the teen's code name in military reports and on missions.
Before the boy arrived, "we just weren't getting a lot of information" from locals, says Lt. Col. Reilly, 43, from Sacramento, Calif. His tips led to arrests, which led to more intelligence, which led to more arrests. The boy "got the ball rolling," Lt. Col. Reilly says.
The Humvee that Steve-O rode in during his operations came under attack three times. Once, a huge roadside bomb -- made from a buried 155 mm artillery shell -- blew up as they passed by the hospital. The teen and the first sergeant escaped unscathed, but three others in the Humvee were wounded.
The Army judged the risk worthwhile. The boy's memory for names and faces was keen, First Sgt. Hendrex and Capt. Roehrman say. After a roadside bomb attack near a busy market street, Steve-O spotted the trigger man and led the soldiers first to the man's house and then to the man's grandfather's house. There, soldiers found him wounded and hiding, according to the Army's report on the operation. Steve-O even identified insurgents who were working inside the Army's base, according to military records and First Sgt. Hendrex.
On their last mission together before the Army turned over control of the area to the Marines, the first sergeant agreed to the teen's request to visit his home. "I wanted to see my mom one more time," he says. The Army had earlier given her money and encouraged her to leave the area, First Sgt. Hendrex says. This time, they found the home in shambles, and the family gone.
While the teen remained hidden in a Humvee and out of earshot, First Sgt. Hendrex talked to a relative. The relative told him an Iraqi gunman shot the boy's mother in the stomach in early January. The relative thought she was probably dead, but he wasn't certain.
It took the first sergeant until the next day to get up the nerve to tell the boy the news. He took him aside in front of the squadron's command post, its "Brave Rifles" logo above the door, and told him his mother had been shot by the mujahedeen. The boy sobbed, and the first sergeant wrapped him in his arms, both recall.
"Stay safe while we do everything we can to get you out," First Sgt. Hendrex wrote Steve-O, just before his unit left Iraq in March. The note included a couple pictures of the youngster grinning, his arm clutching the first sergeant at this side. The first sergeant gave him a floppy camouflage hat with "Hendrex" stitched into it in Arabic. "When you get to the States, you have to give it back to me," both the teen and First Sgt. Hendrex recall the soldier saying. The first sergeant is back at home in Fort Carson, Colo., where his regiment is based.
The Marines, who now control the area, have been more reluctant than the Army to use the teen as an intelligence source. He still identifies suspects when they're brought into the base, Marines say. But Lt. Col. Matthew Lopez, commander of Third Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment, refuses to allow him to leave the base. It is just too dangerous for a minor, he says.
"It's hard for me to comprehend how a 14-year-old could have been put through that by his own family," says Lt. Col. Lopez, a 40-year-old Chicagoan who says his own mother had often taken in foster children.
The boy picks up what English he can from the Marines, or speaks Arabic with the military's translators. He quickly became friends with Marine Lance Cpl. Akram Falah, a 23-year-old Jordanian-American from Anaheim, Calif. They ate together and spoke Arabic together. Lance Cpl. Falah urged Steve-O to save his money. The teen teased the Marine by pronouncing his name, "Falalalalalah" -- mimicking the ululating sound Arab women make when celebrating. But Lance Cpl. Falah was shot in the arm during an ambush in April, and evacuated to the U.S.
First Sgt. Hendrex says he and Capt. Roehrman are trying to get the boy to the U.S. They have contacted attorneys, lawmakers and the State Department. For the moment, First Sgt. Hendrex says, U.S. diplomats advise them to wait until there is a sovereign Iraqi government, and they know what Iraqi law will be regarding adoptions.
"What we're doing is looking for a safe, caring place for him to live," says Col. Morgenthaler. "The United States is one option."
Stuart Patt, a spokesman for the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, says a minor without skills or resources would be unlikely to qualify for a normal immigrant or visitor's visa. U.S. law bars adoptions without the permission of parents, unless a court rules the parents incompetent. "There has to be a court somewhere that has the capacity to remove the parents' parental rights," Mr. Patt says. "But the situation in Iraq is such that that's not likely to be accomplished in the immediate future."
The most promising option, Mr. Patt says, would be "humanitarian parole," a special status that was granted to the Iraqi lawyer who helped free Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch after she was captured last year. Bill Strassberger, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, says that until officials receive a formal application for the youngster, "it would be impossible to say whether he would qualify or not for some form of parole." No one has yet applied on the boy's behalf.
"If we bring him into the States, we want to tie him into a Muslim family," says First Sgt. Hendrex in a telephone interview. "We don't want to pull him completely out of a Muslim context." But the first sergeant, whose wife is pregnant with their first child, says if necessary the couple will try to find some way to adopt the boy themselves. The teen says he already considers the first sergeant to be like a father.
These days, he spends his time lifting weights, watching war movies or action films on DVDs owned by the troops, and hanging out with the seven Marines with whom he shares a plywood-walled sleeping area. He wears his hair Marine-style, tight on the sides and high on top, and sports a set of fatigues the Marines gave him. His bunk is curtained off by a zebra-patterned blanket, and he has wedged a stuffed bulldog into the metal footboard.
In a wooden ammo box, he keeps his belongings: an American flag folded with military precision into a triangle, deodorant sticks given to him by soldiers, a box of Crayola crayons, fingerless gloves for weightlifting, a digital camera and First Sgt. Hendrex's floppy hat. If all else fails, some Marines say, only half-jokingly, they will hand Steve-O a rifle and march him onto the plane when the battalion leaves Iraq, in late summer or early fall.
At night, the teen says he sometimes wakes up in tears, thinking about his mother. For comfort, he assures himself all that has happened has been God's will. "If they don't take me to the States, I'm definitely going to be killed," he says matter-of-factly. He says he would like to return to school and one day enlist in the Army or Marine Corps. "I just want to be one of the American troops," he says.

June 14, 2004, 8:29 a.m.
Iraqi Soldiers Save U.S. Marine
Good stories are not uncommon, but rarely reported.

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
“I was walking beside the Marine, then we heard gunfire, and I saw that the American Marine was shot. Then I realized it was just me and him, so I quickly started shooting at the enemy." — Private Imad Abid Zeid Jassim, Iraqi Civil Defense Corps
Portions of Iraqi Private Imad Abid Zeid Jassim's citation for bravery reads: "...[A]s the firefight ensued, under a hail of enemy fire that was accurately targeted on the wounded [U.S.] Marine, and without regard for his own safety, Private Imad Jassim moved forward into the enemy fire and came to the aid of the wounded Marine. He dragged the wounded Marine out of the line of fire to a covered and concealed position...reengaged the enemy...aggressively pushed forward...dislodged the enemy fighters.... His efforts clearly saved the life of the Marine...."
On the evening of May 30, 2004, Jassim and his fellow members of 4th Platoon, India Company, Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) were jointly patrolling the streets of Al Karmah, near Fallujah, with leathernecks from 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. All at once, the patrol was ambushed from the rear by enemy insurgents. A U.S. Marine was instantly struck down with a gunshot wound to the leg.
Reacting as they had been trained to do by their U.S. counterparts, the Iraqis swung into action.
Jassim, who was standing closest to the Marine when the latter was hit, immediately returned fire.
Sergeant Abdullah Sadoon Isa, Corporal Eiub Muhamad Hussane, and Private Ahmad Lazim Garib raced toward-and-beyond the downed American. Constantly under fire and simultaneously returning fire, Sgt. Isa quickly positioned other members of his platoon between the wounded man and the enemy.
Jassim and another private, Kather Nazar Abbas, stopped shooting long enough to begin dragging the American to a position of relative safety. Bullets and at least one rocket-propelled grenade zinged past their heads as they managed to pull the Marine behind a wall. A U.S. Navy medical corpsman rushed forward to render first aid. The Iraqis and the Americans continued battling the enemy force.
The response to the ambush was textbook. "The ICDC ultimately assaulted through the enemy's position and pushed them out," said 2nd Lt. Charles Anklin III, of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines.
On Friday, Maj. Gen. James N. Mattis, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, and Col. John A. Toolan, commanding officer of Regimental Combat Team 1; decorated the five aforementioned Iraqi soldiers for their "heroic achievement" during an awards ceremony at Camp India in Nassar Wa Salaam. The awards included two Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medals and three Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medals. Each of the medals included combat "V"s for valor.
"You've witnessed the bravery of these soldiers from India Company, who were willing to shed blood with Marines to make sure we get a free Iraq," said Toolan, before a gathering that included Iraqi military leaders and local village sheiks. "The important aspect is that the Coalition and Iraqi forces have worked together, and the bond you see between the ICDC soldiers and Marines has become rock-tight."
Private Jassim added that the firefight created an even stronger bond between Iraqi (ICDC) soldiers and American Marines. Speaking through an interpreter, he said, "I feel very, very bad the Marine was shot because they are like my brothers now, but I'm ready to go out again. I'm always ready."
The ICDC soldiers not only saved the life of an American, but their actions served as an example of the ongoing coordination and positive developing-relations between the U.S. and Iraq. This was good news. It was not an isolated event. Unfortunately, so little of this kind of news ever gets any ink.
This is one of the many "positive" albeit rarely told stories coming out of Iraq, U.S. Congressman Joe Wilson (R., S.C.) told NRO from his Washington office on Saturday.
Wilson believes such stories must receive equal time with the negative ones if the U.S. military is to continue garnering needed support at home and abroad. He should know. A 31-year veteran officer of the U.S. Army Reserve and Army National Guard as well as a current member of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, Wilson has recently traveled to both Iraq and Afghanistan as part of congressional delegations. And his keen interest in the futures of both countries is both professional and personal. Wilson has four sons. The oldest three are military officers: Two are serving in the Army. One is in the Navy. The oldest son is currently stationed in Iraq.

Last Thursday, Wilson was part of a group meeting with Iraqi president Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawar; al-Yawar said that there were more representatives of the various news media per capita in Iraq than anywhere else in the world. The Iraqi president added, that may well be the reason there seems to be only "bad news" coming out of Iraq.
"Of course, we want the media there," says Wilson. "But problems arise when there are too many reporters in one place, all in competition with one another, all trying to outdo each other." According to Wilson, there is a growing consensus on both sides of the political fence — particularly among those who have toured Iraq — as well as among members of the new Iraqi leadership, that competition for the "big story" is forcing reporters to concentrate on "the ten percent negative stories, while ignoring the 90 percent good, positive stories." That's not only unfair. It's strategically dangerous.
Recalling comments made during a meeting between U.S. Army Gen. John Abizaid and a congressional delegation in Afghanistan, Wilson said, the rejection of good stories by competing media is not just a belief shared by members of the Republican party. "I remember [Democrat] Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee making the comment that 'good news has no legs, and bad news has wings,'" he says. It's simply a reaffirmation of the newsman's clichéd adage, "If it doesn't bleed, it doesn't lead."
That's not to say there aren't important negative stories coming out of Iraq. But there are just as many — if not more — important positive stories that could be written about events taking place in that country. Unfortunately, stories about hospitals being renovated, little girls learning the basics of math and science for the first time, or five brave Iraqi men being decorated for saving the life of a wounded American, are not nearly as dramatic as a roadside bombing or an assassination.
— A former U.S. Marine infantry leader and paratrooper, W. Thomas Smith Jr. is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in a variety of national and international publications. His third book, Alpha Bravo Delta Guide to American Airborne Forces, has just been published.


At 4:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You have two evil bastards fighting it out in the desert. One is much larger and had recently held your embassy personnel hostage, the other one is a dumb ass you might be able to control to a degree by pretenting to be his friend.

They are going to fight each other anyway, but by encouraging them to slaughter each other, they are kept busy and leave everyone else alone.

Did you happen to notice that as soon as Saddam's armies recovered from the slaughter with Iran, his eyes turned to Kuwait and beyond?

Fools and idiots look at the details and always fail to step back and see the big picture. Which one are you? Both?
Steve H. USA | Email | Homepage | 06.15.04 - 1:14 pm | #


Sorry mate, but I have met plenty of Iranians, and not one of them have come across as evil. Your problem is that you are a trashy racist redneck fool who believes arabs are evil and dispensible in the US quest for world domination. It's guys like you that have helped use up the goodwill and sympathy towards the US that 9/11 created. - my name is Sheree and you will find me on ITM

At 7:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What wonderful stories. Thank you for posting them. I had read a shortened version of the first one on Drudge or somewhere.

At 5:18 AM, Blogger Steve H - USA said...

Wonderful comments, one from angry liberal trailer trash and one from someone seeking the truth. I hope the first gets a job and doesn't have children and I hope the second finds what he is looking for.


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