Friday, 19 September 2008

A schoolboy error

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These U.S. soldiers had orders today to collect terror suspects from Camp Cropper, America's highest-security jail in Iraq, and release them.

The 14 detainees might have killed U.S. troops. They were being released in the name of reconciliation because, commanders say, prisoner release is one of demands most often made by tribal leaders.

The Iraqis emerged blindfolded and were led onto a bus. For some reason it was a beautiful old chrome-plated touring bus with Dutch licence plates -- as if Camp Cropper was a faded European spa resort.

We drive some way to the release point on the outskirts of Baghdad.

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The detainees were supposed to be released into the hands of local tribal chiefs, who would promise to keep the young men on the straight and narrow.

Except that the officer in charge here today was a U.S. lieutenant of about 25 years of age who forgot that there was meant to be some kind of solemn handover -- and, releasing the bad guys, jumped back in his Humvee.

Within a few minutes the radio burst into life with colourful Airborne Assault-style language. The lieutenant was going to get a kicking upon return to HQ. Partly because the ceremony hadn't happened, but mostly because his team had messed up in front of a journalist.

3 comments:

Oliver said...

Is it just me, or is the whole situation over there increasingly resembling a Joseph Heller story?

travellingtype atgmaildotcom said...

Oliver thank you for reading it.

Iraq has turned the corner. Thanks largely to some very focussed and wise commanders there. But thanks too to the decency and good faith of the average GI. Even they see the bigger picture. And they themselves are responsible for some incredible acts of chivalry and charity that will not be recorded in the history books. - TT

mpclemens said...

It's a corner hard-fought. I can't help but be sad and angry at the number of lives needlessly lost to get us to this point. I would like to think that we're getting unstuck from the mire.