Iraq: US Soldiers' Everyday Violence
- NY: FROM 'GOOK' TO 'RAGHEAD'
Bob Hebert, New York Times, 5/1/05
I spent some time recently with Aidan Delgado, a 23-year-old religion
major at New College of Florida, a small, highly selective school in
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, before hearing anything about the
terror attacks that would change the direction of American history,
Mr. Delgado enlisted as a private in the Army Reserve. Suddenly, in
ways he had never anticipated, the military took over his life. He was
trained as a mechanic and assigned to the 320th Military Police
Company in St. Petersburg. By the spring of 2003, he was in Iraq.
Eventually he would be stationed at the prison compound in Abu Ghraib.
Mr. Delgado's background is unusual. He is an American citizen, but
because his father was in the diplomatic corps, he grew up overseas.
He spent eight years in Egypt, speaks Arabic and knows a great deal
about the various cultures of the Middle East. He wasn't happy when,
even before his unit left the states, a top officer made wisecracks
about the soldiers heading off to Iraq to kill some ragheads and burn
''He laughed,'' Mr. Delgado said, ''and everybody in the unit laughed
The officer's comment was a harbinger of the gratuitous violence that,
according to Mr. Delgado, is routinely inflicted by American soldiers
on ordinary Iraqis. He said: ''Guys in my unit, particularly the
younger guys, would drive by in their Humvee and shatter bottles over
the heads of Iraqi civilians passing by. They'd keep a bunch of empty
Coke bottles in the Humvee to break over people's heads.''
He said he had confronted guys who were his friends about this
practice. ''I said to them: 'What the hell are you doing? Like, what
does this accomplish?' And they responded just completely openly. They
said: 'Look, I hate being in Iraq. I hate being stuck here. And I hate
being surrounded by hajis.'''
''Haji'' is the troops' term of choice for an Iraqi. It's used the way
''gook'' or ''Charlie'' was used in Vietnam.
Mr. Delgado said he had witnessed incidents in which an Army sergeant
lashed a group of children with a steel Humvee antenna, and a Marine
corporal planted a vicious kick in the chest of a kid about 6 years
old. There were many occasions, he said, when soldiers or marines
would yell and curse and point their guns at Iraqis who had done
He said he believes that the absence of any real understanding of Arab
or Muslim culture by most G.I.'s, combined with a lack of proper
training and the unrelieved tension of life in a war zone, contributes
to levels of fear and rage that lead to frequent instances of
unnecessary violence. (MORE)
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