Intriguing story in USA Today this morning. I suggest reading the whole thing. It opens with an American soldier pointing a rifle at friendly Iraqi commanders before sitting down to drink some tea.
But the young Army private just stood there, his M-4 raised menacingly at chest level, his eyes focused on the Iraqi commanders in the room.
The other Americans had removed their helmets and flak jackets and were sipping hot tea during a regular meeting with their Iraqi counterparts. It wasn’t until Schmidt’s commander gave him a second direct order that Schmidt reluctantly sat on the edge of a folding chair against a back wall. He kept a tight grip on his rifle.
“I wanted (the Iraqis) to be nervous,” Schmidt said afterward. “I don’t trust anybody who’s not wearing an American uniform.”
This moment gets at one of more pernicious aspects of the war: the inability to know friend from enemy, when anyone who isn’t “wearing an American uniform” is automatically suspect. This is part of the larger problem of being a foreigner trying to subdue an insurgency in a country not of one’s own. It’s difficult too impossible not to treat all Iraqis as potential threats(which feeds an underlying racist subtext that’s always there, not as explicit as in wars past with “Japs” and “Gooks,” but still alive and well.)
It’s set in Mosul. I was there many a year ago, in 2005. Doesn’t seem like too much has changed. Still a persistent level of violence. And still, the Americans are worried that Iraqi soldiers are going to accidentally shoot them. From a section of the story called: Iraqis Need More Discipline
Ask Staff Sgt. Shawn Moriarity the biggest shortcoming the Iraqi forces must overcome, and he lets out a howling laugh. “Muzzle awareness,” he said.
U.S. forces are usually disciplined when on patrol, keeping their gun barrels down or aimed at specific targets. Their fingers are kept off the trigger. But Moriarity said the Iraqi forces — many of them newcomers to the military after the U.S. disbanded the Iraqi army following the 2003 invasion — routinely walk around with their guns waving in the air.
“They’re like this all the time,” Moriarity said, sweeping his M-4 rifle around with its muzzle waving high.
Another American nickname for the muzzle unawareness is “the death blossom.” That is, when Iraqi soldiers come under attack, they start shooting in all directions, petals of lead lethally blossoming.
Stories like this in USA Today have been around for the past four years at least, probably longer. Clumsy buffooning Iraqi soldiers needing to be disciplined by the U.S. Forces. There’s always been “significant progress,” “great strides,” etc; the Iraqis are always just about to become great soldiers who don’t shoot themselves in the foot. Almost! But this day still hasn’t come–thus the Americans already want to stay longer in Mosul than they promised.
(Dude, an aside: Where does this boundless American confidence in Iraqi soldiering come from? Aren’t the Iraqis, pace Walter in the Big Leboswki, “a bunch of fig-eaters wearing towels on their heads, trying to find reverse in a Soviet tank. This is not a worthy adversary.” Wasn’t the Iraqi Army a joke force that the U.S. beat in twenty minutes in 1991 and in three weeks in 2003? But since 2004 we’ve had expectations that they’ll be able to perform like Hessians because we’re giving them billions dollars worth of classes at the rifle range?)