BAGHDAD — The recent killing of two U.S. soldiers by their Iraqi colleague has raised disturbing questions about U.S. military relations with the Iraqis they work with.
On Dec. 26, an Iraqi soldier opened fire on U.S. soldiers accompanying him during a joint military patrol in the northern Iraqi city Mosul. He killed the U.S. captain and another sergeant, and wounded three others, including an Iraqi interpreter.
Conflicting versions of the killing have arisen. Col. Hazim al-Juboory, uncle of the attacker Kaissar Saady al-Juboory, told IPS that his nephew at first watched the U.S. soldiers beat up an Iraqi woman. When he asked them to stop, they refused, so he opened fire.
“Kaissar is a professional soldier who revolted against the Americans when they dragged a woman by her hair in a brutal way,” Col. Juboory said. “He is a tribal man, and an Arab with honour who would not accept such behaviour. He killed his captain and sergeant knowing that he would be executed.”
Others gave IPS a similar account. “I was there when the American captain and his soldiers raided a neighbourhood and started shouting at women to tell them where some men they wanted were,” a resident of Mosul, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS on phone. “The women told them they did not know, and their men did not do anything wrong, and started crying in fear.”
The witness said the U.S. captain began to shout at his soldiers and the women, and his men then started to grab the women and pull them by their hair.
“The soldier we knew later to be Kaissar shouted at the Americans, ‘No, No,’ but the captain shouted back at the Iraqi soldier,” the witness told IPS. “Then the Iraqi soldier shouted, ‘Let go of the women you sons of bitches,’ and started shooting at them.” The soldier, he said, then ran off.
The Association of Muslim Scholars, a Sunni organisation, issued a statement saying the Iraqi soldier had shot the U.S. soldiers after he saw them beat up a pregnant woman.
“His blood rose and he asked the occupying soldiers to stop beating the woman,” they said in the statement. “Their answer through the translator was: ‘We will do what we want. So he opened fire on them.”
The story was first reported on al-Rafidain satellite channel. That started Iraqis from all over the country talking about “the hero” who sacrificed his life for Iraqi honour.
The U.S. and Iraqi military told a different version of the story.
An Iraqi general told reporters that Kaissar carried out the attack because he had links to “Sunni Arab insurgent groups.”
“Soldier Kaissar Saady worked for insurgent groups who pushed him to learn army movements and warn his comrades about them,” a captain of the second Iraqi army division told IPS. “There are so many like him in the army and now within the so-called Awakening forces (militias funded by the U.S. military).”
One army officer speaking on condition of anonymity described Kaissar’s act as heroic. “Those Americans learned their lesson once more.”
Sheikh Juma’ al-Dawar, chief of the major al-Baggara tribe in Iraq, told IPS in Baghdad that “Kaissar is from the al-Juboor tribes in Gayara — tribes with morals that Americans do not understand.”
The tribal chief added, “Juboor tribes and all other tribes are proud of Kaissar and what he did by killing the American soldiers. Now he is a hero, with a name that will never be forgotten.”
Many Iraqis speak in similar vein. “It is another example of Iraqi people’s unity despite political conspiracies by the Americans and their tails (collaborators),” Mohammad Nassir, an independent politician in Baghdad told IPS. “Kaissar is loved by all Iraqis who pray for his safety and who are ready to donate anything for his welfare.”
Col. Juboory said Kaissar who had at first accepted collaboration with the U.S. forces “found the truth too bitter to put up with.” The colonel said: “I worked with the Americans because being an army officer is my job and also because I was convinced they would help Iraqis. But 11 months was enough for me to realise that starving to death is more honourable than serving the occupiers. They were mean in every way.”
Independent sources have since told IPS that Kaissar was captured by a special joint Iraqi-U.S. force, and he is now being held and tortured at the al-Ghizlany military camp in Mosul.
Despite a recent decline in the number of occupation forces being killed, 2007 was the deadliest year of the occupation for U.S. troops, with 901 killed, according to the U.S. Department of Defence.
(*Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who has reported extensively from Iraq and the Middle East)