Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Behavior Makes Difference

The editor in chief of Al-Sabah Iraqi newspaper guided me back to an issue which I mentioned in several previous posts, as a first hand experience and as incidents that encountered other people whom I know. Mr. Mohammed Abdul Jabbar, the editor, wrote yesterday in his daily column about an incident that he had witnessed. I translated what he wrote, hoping that the idea will be clear enough to be understood. Al-Sabah newspaper has the highest number of distributed copies among the Iraqi newspapers.
Mr. Abdul Jabbar wrote:

"Impermissible, impermissible, impermissible for an American soldier to kick the car of an Iraqi civilian. The soldier kicked the car because the Iraqi car driver could not get out of the way of an American convoy of trucks. There was a traffic jam in which the Iraqi driver was stuck. It was out of his hand. The incident happened yesterday and I witnessed it. I was on my way to Al-Iraqia TV studio, descending from Al-Jumhuryah Bridge. The traffic was crawling toward Karadat Mariam (a district in Baghdad) because of barricades, checkpoints and disorganized traffic control. The military convoy was protecting several civilian cars. It stopped at a point where the traffic was jammed. One of the American soldiers, in the convoy, lost his patience and rushed the car driven by the Iraqi civilian who had his family with him in the car. The American soldier kicked the car bravely like a lion (sarcastic), pointing his gun at the family. It is impermissible. It is not courageous & it is not a civilized way to solve the matter.

The American troops, together with the foreign ones, are no longer called occupation forces; they are called, now, the multinational forces. And their personnel are guests for the coming time.

Viewing the situation either side, occupiers or guests, it is assumed that these soldiers, whatever their nationality is, should respect the country they occupy & its citizens. The behavior of the soldier annoyed me since it is improper & unacceptable. Moreover, it is denounced & censured.

It is presumed that the MNF strive to win the hearts & minds of Iraqis. It can not be accomplished by improper, unacceptable behavior & insulting Iraqis. A guest should observe his/her behavior. I wish an interpreter could translate our old Arabic proverb which says "Hey stranger, be polite" for the commanding officers in the MNF, so they can explain it for the soldiers. And in turn these soldiers stop terrifying the Iraqis & their families and stop kicking their cars. This will help the MNF to be more polite with the most polite, generous and hospitable people in the world."

A member of the Iraqi national assembly had encountered a similar incident two weeks ago, when an American checkpoint insulted him intentionally.
Maybe, I can understand the behavior of a nervous soldier who is under stress, but I don't understand the behavior of a soldier who knows that he is dealing with members of the national assembly.


Blogger Lisa, New York said...

Well, I agree it's not acceptable to kick someone's car. On the other hand I can understand that it could happen out of nervousness or frustration. A traffic jam is very dangerous to the soldiers. They are boxed in and easy to attack.

About the National Assembly incident, what I read was that the assembly member (one of Sadr's former men) moved his car quickly out of the line at the checkpoint and into a different lane because he didn't want to wait. This is alarming because it's what car bombers do. He was stopped and got into a fight with an interpreter. There was a scuffle and he was restrained by U.S. soldiers. That's what I read. I don't know what actually happened.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Lisa, New York said...

Also, I just have to add something. While I agree the soldiers should be as polite as possible under the circumstances, I think this Al Sabah writer is living in a fantasy world. He's describing the soldiers as "guests" and that they should be polite and act as guests act. Well, sure. But how many guests do you know who get blown up and shot at everyday? Is that how "guests" are usually treated?

They're not really being treated as guests so they can't be expected to act completely as guests. They need to be alert or they die. But I agree they should strive to be as polite as possible.

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the editor for the most part.

I'm woundering where this soldiers NCO or officer was...

You'd also think running convoys during known times of heavy traffic would be avoided by our guys...

Anyways I hope that family understands that in time Iraq will be free of us becouse we WANT to leave... But not before the job is done.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Joe Rose said...

How about a little slack for these soldiers.
They may make mistakes on occasion. There may be a few who are incompetent. Some have a bad day occasionally. Then think about the mostly consistent acts of courage and kindness of these mostly heroic men. Look at this blog for a great example of courage and compassion:
I think you could find plenty to be thankful for, but you whine about a car getting kicked. I just don't get it!

6:10 AM  
Blogger Brian H said...

I believe what the soldier told the MP was that "the laws apply to MPs, too." To an arrogant Sadrist, this must have sounded like absolute lunacy.

9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have homicide bombers killing your people by the hundreds, including children, and the focus of your concern is a kicked car??
No wonder the terrorists are able to keep on killing you like they are. Get your head on straight and set some real priorities!

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Wardie said...

Yep, awful, hate to hear these stories about the US military. But to be fair...I think this story needs to be posted right next to this one...

6:53 PM  
Blogger Gadfly said...


I understand your frustration and that of your countrymen. That kind of "heavy handed" treatment will cause any people to be resentful and it is damaging to the mission in Iraq. The soldier was simply young, frustrated and afraid, but that does not lessen the sting of that kind of treatment. Although I don't really have a right to do so, I would like to apologise for that soldier's behavior. I understand what probably caused it, but it was crude and unacceptable behavior. I am hoping these young people can be returned to their homes soon and leave a free Iraq to find its own destiny.

9:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm.. lets say I'm a soldier in Iraq. Has a car ever gotten close to a convoy and blown up? Has a car with Family ever gotten close to a convoy and blown up? Has a child ever gotten close to a soldier and blown up? Has a women ever gotten close to a soldier and blown up? Has a dead body ever been loaded with explosives and blown up? Has a terrorist ever faked dead and killed a soldier? or Built a bomb in a Mosque? or used a retard or kidnapped person loaded down with explosives? worn the uniform of the IP ond the ING while doing their dirty work? The answer to all is YES!! If I were a soldier in Iraq I would kick the damned car and at the same time wonder with all the shit going on in your country, if there is an "Old Arabic Proverb" about doing your best to help rebuild and protect a country and avoid being blown up for your effort?

6:08 PM  
Blogger Joe Rose said...

Ibn, I would sure like to hear your reply to some of these comments.
Would you like for the US to send over some very plolitically correct thinking young Ivy League student types to very courteously try to solve Iraq's problems with thugs, criminals etc, or do you want warrior types who have some ability to overwhelm the thugs and criminals (who arn't too concerned with kicking cars and pointing guns incidentally).
It sounds like you think that if we wern't there as a military presence, everything would be alright in Iraq. Maybe that is true. If so, it sure isn't the impression we get from our news, or from reading most of the other Iraqi bloggers. Thanks_Joe Rose

10:06 PM  
Blogger CWhite said...

I've been reading the Iraqi blogs for some time.

For the most part, I'm amazed by how clearly the Iraq people see the situation.

This post makes me wonder:

Do Iraqi parents have young people who act inappropriately under pressure?

Do Iraqi security officers sometimes act inappropriately under pressure?

Are Iraqs accepting insurrgent "guests" blowing up your civilian car - and the occupants - while believing an American kid is insulting your nation by kicking a car? Which is more acceptable?

Do Iraqis expect ALL US soldiers to act properly 100% of the time? If so, have your government tell us to leave and I'm sure we'll do so.

I was a US National Guardsmen doing riot duty in Berkely, California during the Vietnam War. Trust me, out of nervousness, we did much worse than kick cars. Feel happy that the US military is much better trained and restrained now.

1:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Boxing in" a military vehicles is a basic tactic used by terrorists to launch attacks on soldiers. It is a very dangerous situation for a soldier's vehicle to be immobilized. Fear, frustration, and a small amount of panic may happen in such a circumstance.

9:40 PM  
Blogger Gadfly said...

The man has a right to complain, people.

You're basically telling him to "take this insult and like it"

Well, he DOESN'T have to like it.

I wouldn't like it either, even though I can see why it probably happend.

7:39 PM  
Blogger Louise said...

gadfly, no one is telling him he has to like it. They are simply explaining clearly and objectively the other side of the story. As the old saying goes, you shouldn't judge someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes.

2:43 PM  
Blogger Solomon2 said...

It's a great sign of evolving "normalcy" that Iraqis have such small things to complain about. Three years ago, no one would DARED have complained (and may have considered it normal?) if Saddam's soldiers behaved this way.

Problem is, "multinational forces" still have to worry about car bombs. The soldiers were not out for their own joyride, but were protecting a civilian convoy. They were not out demonstrating their "bravery".

Under "normal" circumstances, kicking a stationary car and pointing a gun at its driver would be impermissible. Under the circumstances of Iraq today, why isn't such behavior considered entirely proper?

I note that Mr. Abdul Jabbar does not tell us what the civilian's car was doing, only what it did not do. Perhaps the civilian driver caused the jam and the editor is choosing not to tell us? Perhaps he didn't see everything.

This is sloppy reporting. I believe editors should know how to write better than this, nor should they edit their own copy. Is Mr. A-J on some sort of ego trip here?

11:21 PM  
Blogger Gadfly said...

Solomon: That's true. The writer needs to go back to journalism school 101 and refresh himself on "who what where when why" There are a lot of things that could have been happening that could have made it the driver's fault.

12:02 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Hello from Oklahoma!

Thank you for this post. I agree with the first comment by lisa,ny.

Please remember that even though it is the national policy of the United States to see a free and democratic Iraq, individuals and groups of individuals, sometimes act on their own.

Sometimes this is done on impulse due to, among other things, being in a war zone. It is not good but it is NOT our national policy. After all, our soldiers are only people too.

Also, many readers may not realize that (I think.) KICKING ANYTHING does not just mean "move" but, because the foot is involved, is more like flipping someone off in America.

Thank you.


9:50 AM  
Blogger Dan said...


I would be very aggravated if a policeman or soldier flipped me off while he was trying to unsnarl a traffic jam that I was stuck in.


9:55 AM  

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