Skip to comments.Iraqi prisoners: 'Happy to be here'
Posted on 03/24/2003 5:49:52 PM PST by MadIvan
ARRIVING in dribs and drabs at the holding compound near Basra, the Iraqi prisoners of war are nervous and edgy, clearly worried about the fate awaiting them.
The Royal Engineers attached to the Royal Tank Regiment have taken over an old Iraqi military training school to house their prisoners, its white-walled entrance decorated with a picture of a smiling Saddam Hussein surrounded by images of a tank and a soldier giving the victory sign.
Yet many of the prisoners say their initial fears are misplaced. Ali, who claims to be a member of Iraqs merchant navy, insists he is happy to be there.
His British captors say Ali - a married man with children, aged in his late thirties - has been the most helpful of all the prisoners, his broken English invaluable as the troops try to communicate with new arrivals. "We are happy to be here, we are very happy," he says. "We have food and water, we are happy to be here."
Smiling, he points to the cluster of men sitting on the ground, ringed by hoops of barbed wire behind him. Some of them jump up, also smiling, and wave.
Ali claims he is happy to see the British and US troops: "Here, it was hard before but now it is good."
At the mention of Saddam, he becomes animated, putting his hands around his throat, jabbing his finger at his head, gabbling over and over again: "Saddam, no, no, no," waving his hands again and again.
The prisoners receive medical attention, water and food; a rations box for two men contains two bottles of water, cheese, tinned stuffed aubergines, chocolate milk, biscuits, two tins of chicken luncheon meat, a can of orange juice, a tin of tuna steak, a tub of honey and two spoons.
At the compound gate, four heavily-armed soldiers stand guard, bayonets fixed to their machine guns and rifles. Behind them are armoured medical vehicles, their crews ready to offer medical attention to prisoners in need. For some, there is little that can be done; four were buried outside the compound last night.
On the perimeter of the compound, machine guns of armoured vehicles are trained on open land, criss-crossed with sandy ridges which offer perfect cover to bands of Iraqi soldiers who have thrown away their uniforms, but held on to their weapons, harassing and harrying British troops wherever they go.
Overseeing the PoWs is Sergeant Major "H" Harrison. He insists this is not a PoW camp but a holding compound, where prisoners are processed before being moved back to the rear.
Sgt Major Harrison says many of the officers who have given themselves up have freely offered information to the coalition forces. If someone of particular interest is found, they are fast-tracked through the system to be interviewed by intelligence experts.
He says: "Our priority is that once someone is taken as a PoW, they are removed from the combat area to be processed and identified."
Once the PoWs realise they are no longer in danger, the transformation is dramatic: "The reaction when they first arrive is one of uncertainty. You can see in their eyes it is clear that they are not sure what is going to happen. Startled rabbits is probably the best expression.
"But once they get food and water and medical treatment, thats when their whole attitude changes; there are big grins, they are happy to be here. If they had mobile phones, they would be calling their friends telling them to join them. Then all they want is a cigarette."
Agreed. The average Iraqi conscript will care more for the US soldier than the US human shield, when all is said and done.
Seems to me destroying or covering up that image should be a high priority.
Deface it. Draw a moustache on it. Oh, wait...
Abdul, can you hear me now? Good. Can you hear me now?? Good...
(Is that Sprint?)
IF??? Geez, give these guys some phones! What are we waiting for?
Great read. Thanks Ivan.
Cheers, CC :)
Dammit, give 'em the phones then. They can call home and the news will spread like wildfire. surrender and live, or fight and die.
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