It is a culture unknown to us and rather than relying on people who knew the area, we followed ideologues and rashly committed The United States of America into nation building. It is painful to read and listen to the words of those that were the architects of this venture. We entered our first day of school when the tanks cut through the sand berms at the Kuwaiti border and have been getting a daily lesson in on-the-job-training. Our level of unpreparedness was most noticeable in that we could not take enough interpreters or native speakers. We had to outsource. Well the Iraqis have noticed and they have decided to start singling them out, hunt them down and slaughter them. Call it cutting our lines of communications. The first article discusses our growing communication problem.
Now I got to thinking about this. Having had a real recent big time experience and lesson in doing the wrong thing for possibly the right reasons maybe we should think a little more about undertaking the next big project, Iran. AFP in the second story hints of a signal from Iran that there may be a way to discuss the Iraq situation. Maybe during that discussion, should it take place, we could bring up a couple of other little bothersome issues between the US and Iran. The point is that we better start thinking about all that we do not know. Don’t you think?
Interpreters used by British Army 'hunted down' by Iraqi death squads
By Phil Sands in Amman The Independent
Published: 17 November 2006
Iraqi interpreters working with the British Army in Basra are being systematically hunted down and killed.
At least 21 have been kidnapped and shot in head over the past three weeks, their bodies dumped in different parts of the city. Another three are still missing. In a single mass killing, 17 interpreters were killed.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but militia groups fighting for control of the province - and opposed to the presence of foreign troops - are widely suspected.
"This is not a general threat against Iraqi security forces; interpreters are specifically being killed," an Iraqi police officer familiar with the case told The Independent by telephone from Basra. "It has been happening at a low level for the past year, but the campaign is getting worse.
"First they get letters warning them to stop co-operating with the occupation forces, then they are killed. The interpreters are the major target now. Word spreads about who is working with the British - neighbours, people in the street, police officers all see the interpreters. Their identities don't remain very secret and someone is going around trying to kill them and they're succeeding," he said.
A British Army spokesman, Major Charles Burbridge, said intimidation against Iraqi staff had recently surged. "Over the past week, a number of our locally employed civilians have received written threats - notes pinned to their door - and they've been shouted at and threatened in the street."
Major Burbridge said the military were aware of only one interpreter working directly for British forces being killed within the past month. Iraqi sources say the figure is higher.
The British and Iraqis also disagree about the general level of violence in Basra. While the British Army insists an average of two bodies are found daily - in Major Burbridge's words, a murder rate comparable to that of Washington DC or Bogota - Iraqi police say the unofficial number is now double that. Parts of the city, including the university district of Qarma, are so dangerous that they are considered by Iraqi security forces to be no-go areas.
British forces are trying to halt the rising power of militia groups linked to the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the splinter organisation Fadhila, which holds the governorship of Basra.
This effort, codenamed Operation Sinbad, has so far failed to contain the violence, and death squads still act with apparent impunity. The British embassy in Basra has been largely evacuated after becoming a regular target for insurgent mortar attacks.
"It used to be tolerable, but now everyone openly calls us traitors," a 27-year-old interpreter who worked for the British at Bucca prison explained. "When I leave the base no one is there to protect me, and we all know we're being hunted, the militias say we are spies.
"All of us live in terror for our lives. I want to stop this work, but my family needs the money. As far as the militias are concerned, I have turned my back on Iraq. All interpreters are waiting to be killed and in three months' time we probably will have been." Tshasin Difaee, a 30-year-old former interpreter, said he quit after being threatened by Mr Sadr's Mehdi militia.
"They knew my name and I got a call on my mobile phone, and was told to leave my job or lose my head," he said. "I'm still scared they're going to come for me, they can come at any time."
Other former interpreters, including one who worked for the Desert Rats (the 7th Armoured Brigade) in 2003 for the then going rate of $2 a day, have been found shot dead. Current interpreters are paid closer to $30 (£16) a day, but the risks are increasing.
"This is targeting the interpreters and I'm sure more will be killed," the Iraqi police source said. "The British don't seem to pay much attention. An Iraqi who did some menial work in the Shatt al-Arab Hotel [a British Army base] was killed the other day, and I'm certain they never even noticed. No one came to ask about him." Various armed factions operate in Basra, joined by a complex web of alliances and enmity. The Mehdi militia is the largest single group and has frequently clashed with British forces.
Speaking to The Independent in Amman, Abu Kamael, a member of the Mehdi militia, said translators were legitimate targets and subject to the group's death squads.
"Baathists, those involved in Saddam's government, Takfiris and Wahhabis [extremist Sunni Muslims] are all our enemies," he said.
"So are the occupation armies and those helping them. Interpreters are not working for the good of Iraq, they are working for invading powers, they are traitors and are to be punished like traitors."
Major Burbridge insisted security for almost 2,000 Iraqi staff was tight, but could never amount to round-the-clock protection.
"We take the safety of our locally employed extremely seriously, we advise them on security matters, like not setting regular patterns and making sure they go home before it gets dark.
"We are aware there are people here determined to see us leave and they are prepared to hit soft targets in order to make that happen."
(Comment: You have to love these comments)
But he said that there was "no evidence" of a systematic campaign by insurgent death squads to kill interpreters.
"It's something we are looking at extremely carefully. These are criminal acts but we don't necessarily see them as terrorist acts."
Give clear signals on Iraq talks, Iran tells US
16 November 2006
TEHERAN - Iran’s top national security official on Thursday urged the United States to give a clear indication as to whether it wanted to ask the Islamic republic for talks over stabilising Iraq.
“We are hearing different voices from the United States,” Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani told reporters after talks with Palestinian foreign minister Mahmud Zahar.
“The statements from their side are not very clear, and what is important is that they say clearly what it is they want,” he added.
There has been speculation that the final report of a Congressionally mandated panel charged with coming up with a new approach to Iraq would endorse contacts with Iran and Syria on ending Iraq violence.
US President George W. Bush said earlier this week that the only way for the United States to have dialogue with Iran would be for Teheran to suspend uranium enrichment, something it has so far refused to do.
But a senior State Department official who oversees Iraq policy said Wednesday the US was ready “in principle” for direct talks with Iran on Teheran’s role in the country.
“We are prepared, in principle, for a direct dialogue with Iran. The timing of that dialogue is one that we are considering,” David Satterfield told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Moves by the United States to open up talks with Iran in Baghdad to promote peace in Iraq earlier this year came to nothing amid mutual recriminations, despite initial cautious expressions of acceptance.
The US broke off diplomatic relations with Iran in 1980 after Islamic radicals seized the US embassy in Teheran, and ties have remained ruptured ever since.
Washington has accused Teheran of meddling in Shiite-majority Iraq, charges that Teheran vehemently denies.