Tuesday, April 8
US heavy-handedness baffles British
Daniel McGory,, April 03, 2003

THE American infantryman controlling the checkpoint on the road to Nasiriyah was clad in so much body armour he looked like Darth Vader.

Dark goggles covered most of his face, and a khaki scarf was wrapped around his nose and mouth. His M16 assault rifle was pointed at the windscreen of the car, which was clearly being driven by a young woman who had young children in the backseat.

This did not stop the young soldier from screaming at the occupants to "step out of the vehicle and move to the side of the road". How much of that muffled command the frightened woman understood was unclear, but as she hesitated and tried to comfort the youngest of her children, who was trying to clamber over the seat towards her, the infantrymen yelled even louder.

It was difficult to tell who was the more nervous. Rifles remained trained on the mother and children, who were made to stand 20m away from their car while it was searched. American patrols now appear to treat everyone as if they are suicide bombers.

British troops who have witnessed the Americans at close quarters in this war are baffled at their approach to Iraqi civilians. One captain in the Royal Marines, watching a US unit monitor a checkpoint, said: "The Americans are still behaving like invaders, not liberators. They behave as if they hate these people."

Many American troops speak as though they do.

You often hear them describe "Eye-rakis" in disparaging language. One US officer in charge of delivering humanitarian aid earlier this week likened the crush of people waiting to get hold of food and water to a pack of stray dogs.

His troops lashed at those pushing to the front with fists and rifle butts, even firing shots into the air.

When Irish Guards were nearly mobbed by a crowd trying to grab the food they were delivering to Zubayr this week, Major David Hannah urged his men to keep calm and get the people to sit down.

"They need to have their dignity respected," he said.

British commanders are appalled at how the Americans pulverise anything from afar before daring to set foot out of their armoured vehicles.

This was no better illustrated than in the first skirmish of the land war, where the American 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit was handed what should have been the easy capture of the port of Umm Qasr.

Royal Marine officers watched incredulously as their US compatriots bombed and shelled the town for five days. The experience of nearly 30 years policing Ulster has taught British forces that the only way to root out gunmen is to patrol on foot, searching house by house. [...]
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