HEARTS AND MINDS - US STYLE
Scott Taylor, Aljazeera, 11/27/03
As American troops exit the former Presidential Palace complex in
Tikrit, the last thing they see emblazoned above the arched gateway
is the 4th Infantry Division motto: Strike First.
Since the last of the organised Iraqi military resistance was crushed
in late April, these expansive palace grounds have been the
headquarters for the US 4th Division.
As the birthplace of ousted president Saddam Hussein, Tikrit has
proven to be a hotbed of Iraqi resistance throughout the US
I asked my escort Specialist Jack Craig, a military policeman from
Minnesota, how he correlated the "strike first" directive with the US
military's current policy of attempting to win the "hearts and minds"
of the local population.
"Actually, I see 'hearts and minds' as a tactical doctrine. To me, it
means that's where we should aim first," said Craig. " Shoot them in
the body or in the head, but just make sure you shoot them first
From his humourless expression, I presumed that he wasn't joking.
"We have two major factors effecting the ability for some of our
troops to understand restraint," said Eddie Calis, the civilian
security adviser at the US airbase at Kirkuk, in northern Iraq.
"One problem is that a lot of our soldiers are shit-scared and want
to get out of here alive, no matter what that entails.
"The second and much less widespread issue is that of misplaced
patriotism," said Calis, giving as an example one of the soldiers
stationed at the Kirkuk airfield will soon be rotated back to
America, and who feels that he has yet to fulfil his national duty.
"Every day he complains that he has not yet had the opportunity to
kill an Iraqi, and do his bit for the war," explained Calis.
"On several recent occasions he has initiated provocation
deliberately with local drivers at the gate, and I only hope that
[this soldier] will be sent home before he fulfils his quest at the
cost of an innocent life
MUSLIM CALL TO PRAYER ECHOES ACROSS US ARMY BASE IN SADDAM'S HOMETOWN
Patrick Moser, Agence France Presse, 11/28/03
After the call to prayer echoed Friday across a US army base in the
heart of Iraq's combat zone, US army Sergeant Mesahchai Whitaker took
off her combat boots and walked into a mosque.
Having swapped her kevlar helmet for a head scarf, she knelt on the
carpeted floor, facing Mecca. The only woman at the Al-Hara al-Gabir
mosque, she prayed at a distance from the other faithful.
Whitaker, 43, was also the only US soldier to attend Friday prayers
at the small mosque within the palace compound that serves as the 4th
Infantry Division's Iraq headquarters in the hometown of ousted
president Saddam Hussein.
As she prayed, the sound of mortar echoed outside, a reminder that
the US army base is located right by the center of Tikrit, a cauldron
of anti-American violence, 180 kilometers (110 miles) north of
The other worshippers all work at the base, some as members of the
US-trained Iraqi Civilian Defense Corps and others as civilian
contractors catering for the troops.
"It's a wonderful experience, as a Muslim to be here," said Whitaker,
from New Jersey, whose parents converted to the Islamic faith before
she was born.
But since she arrived in Iraq seven months ago, she has never been to
a mosque outside US military bases. Much as she'd like to, the risk
is too high. "We're still at war," she said.
Other than verses from the Koran and a few phrases she has picked up
in Iraq, Whitaker speaks no Arabic and has little contact with other
She also said none of her fellow soldiers have given her a hard time
over her religion, though some have expressed curiosity about it.
"I don't think most soldiers understand Islam," she said, as she put
on her desert boots on her way out of the mosque, which overlooks the
"They may have a hard time adjusting, sometimes ignorance is bliss,
sometimes it brings on fear," said Whitaker, the mother of a 22-year-
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