Army Reservist Reports On Iraq
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|He was a family man, a really courteous guy, a devout Christian. I was stunned and said to him: "You shot an unarmed man behind barbed wire for throwing a stone." He said, "Well, I knelt down. I said a prayer, stood up and gunned them all down."|
April 1, 2005—Aiden Delgado, an Army Reservist in the 320th Military Police Company, served in Iraq from April 1, 2003 through April 1, 2004. After spending six months in Nasiriyah in Southern Iraq, he spent six months helping to run the now-infamous Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad. The handsome 23-year-old mechanic was a witness to widespread, almost daily, U.S. war crimes in Iraq. His story contains new revelations about ongoing brutality at Abu Ghraib, information yet to be reported in national media.
I first met Delgado in a classroom at Acalanes High School in Lafayette, California, where he presented a slide show on the atrocities that he himself observed in Southern and Northern Iraq. Delgado acknowledged that the U.S. military did some good things in Iraq. "We deposed Saddam, built some schools and hospitals," he said. But he focused his testimony on the breakdown of moral order within the U.S. military, a pattern of violence and terror that exceeds the bounds of what is legally and morally permissible in time of war.
Delgado says he observed mutilation of the dead, trophy photos of dead Iraqis, mass roundups of innocent noncombatants, positioning of prisoners in the line of fire—all violations of the Geneva conventions. His own buddies—decent, Christian men, as he describes them—shot unarmed prisoners.
Delgado's testimony tends to confirm the message of Chris Hedges, The New York Times war correspondent who wrote prior to the invasion of Iraq: "War forms its own culture. It distorts memory, corrupts language, and infects everything around it. . . . War exposes the capacity for evil that lurks not far below the surface within all of us. Even as war gives meaning to sterile lives, it also promotes killers and racists." Here is Aiden Delgado story.
Q: When did you begin to turn against the military and the war?
DELGADO: From the very earliest time I was in Iraq, I began to see ugly strains of racism among our troops—anti-Arab, anti-Muslim sentiments.
Q: What are some examples?
DELGADO: There was a Master Sergeant. A Master Sergeant is one of the highest enlisted ranks. He whipped this group of Iraqi children with a steel Humvee antenna. He just lashed them with it because they were crowding around, bothering him, and he was tired of talking. Another time, a Marine, a Lance Corporal—a big guy about six-foot-two—planted a boot on a kid's chest, when a kid came up to him and asked him for a soda. The First Sergeant said, "That won't be necessary Lance Corporal." And that was the end of that. It was a matter of routine for guys in my unit to drive by in a Humvee and shatter bottles over Iraqis heads as they went by. And these were guys I considered friends. And I told them: "What the hell are you doing? What does that accomplish?" One said back: "I hate being here. I hate looking at them. I hate being surrounded by all these Hajjis."
Q: They refer to Iraqis as "Hajjis"?
DELGADO: "Hajji" is the new slur, the new ethnic slur for Arabs and Muslims. It is used extensively in the military. The Arabic word refers to one who has gone on a pilgrimage to Mecca. But it is used in the military with the same kind of connotation as "gook," "Charlie," or the n-word. Official Army documents now use it in reference to Iraqis or Arabs. It's real common. There was really a thick aura of racism.
Q: Were there any significant incidents besides racial slurs and casual violence against civilians?
DELGADO: The last mission I ran in the South before we were redeployed North was strange. I was told to drive way out into the desert, off the road. When we got there, we found Kuwaitis excavating a mass grave site (from the Saddam era). Kuwaiti engineers wanted to identify and repatriate the remains. It was a solemn affair. I was with the First Sergeant. he said: "Give me that skull. I want to hold the skull in my hands." He picked up the skull, tossing it to himself. Then he turned to me and said: "Take my picture." It was taken while he was standing by a mass grave. This was a very surreal, dark time for me in Iraq. It was tough for me to see brutality coming out of my own unit. I had lived in the Middle East. I had Egyptian friends. I spent nearly a decade in Cairo. I spoke Arabic, and I was versed in Arab culture and Islamic dress. Most of the guys in my unit were in complete culture shock most of the time. They saw the Iraqis as enemies. They lived in a state of fear. I found the Iraqis enormously friendly as a whole. One time I was walking through Nasiriyah with an armful of money, nadirs that were exchanged for dollars. I was able to walk 300 meters to my convoy—a U.S. soldier walking alone with money. And I thought: I am safer here in Iraq than in the States. I never felt threatened from people in the South.
Q: What happened when you moved North, before you reached Abu Ghraib?
DELGADO: We were a company of 141 Military Police. We gave combat support, followed behind units to take and hold prisoners. I was a mechanic. I fixed Humvees. We followed behind the Third Infantry division. It was heavily mechanized with lots of tanks and scout vehicles. We could trace their path by all the burned-out vehicles and devastation they left behind. The Third pretty much annihilated the Iraqi forces. Iraqis did not have much of an organized military. They had civilian vehicles, and they resisted pretty valiantly, given how much we outclassed them. The Third Infantry slaughtered them wholesale. We took so many prisoners, we couldn't carry them all. Large numbers of civilians were caught in the crossfire.
Q: How were the civilians killed?
DELGADO: It was common practice to set up blockades. The Third Infantry would block off a road. In advance of the assault, civilians would flee the city in a panic. As they approached us, someone would yell: "Stop, stop!" In English. Of course they couldn't understand. Their cars were blown up with cannons, or crushed with tanks. Killing noncombatants at checkpoints happened routinely, not only with the Third Infantry, but the First Marines. And it is still going on today. If you check last week's MSNBC, they dug out a father and mother and her six children. We were constantly getting reports of vehicles that were destroyed (with people in them) at checkpoints.
Q: Your unit, the 320th Military Police, was stationed at Abu Ghraib for six months. Who were the prisoners at Abu Ghraib? Where did they come from? Do you have any new information not yet reported in the media?
DELGADO: There were 4,000 to 6,000 prisoners at Abu Ghraib. I got to work with a lot of officers, so I got to see the paperwork. I found out that a lot of prisoners were imprisoned for no crime at all. They were not insurgents. Some were inside for petty theft or drunkenness. But the majority—over 60 percent—were not imprisoned for crimes committed against the coalition.
Q: How did so many noncombatants get imprisoned?
DELGADO: Every time our base came under attack, we sent out teams to sweep up all men between the ages of 17 and 50. There were random sweeps. The paperwork to get them out of prison took six months or a year. It was hellish inside. A lot of completely innocent civilians were in prison camp for no offense. It sounds completely outrageous. But look at the 2005 Department of Defense Report, where it talks about prisoners.
|Posted by jeromie_esmond on 2005-04-15 09:30:14|
|ure a faggot just let the men work at iraq and u worry about your easy life here in america where you dont have to worry about getting blown up or shot every five seconds.|