View Full Version : Iraqi Colonel Calls for U.S Cultural Awareness

05-13-2006, 09:45 PM
13 May American Forces Press Service - Iraqi Colonel Calls for U.S Cultural Awareness (http://www.defenselink.mil/news/May2006/20060513_5126.html).

Iraqi Colonel Calls for U.S Cultural Awareness

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

CAMP TAJI, Iraq, May 13, 2006 "When you first came here, you passed out chocolates to the children. Now you trust no one," said Staff Colonel Malik Muhammed Hussein al-Jaburi over a cup of chai in his 1st Battalion 1st Brigade of the Iraqi 9th Division.

The colonel, speaking through an interpreter, asked for American soldiers to understand his country's culture, and not always use the fist when dealing with Iraqis. "Not everyone is a terrorist," he said.

The colonel knows. Americans arrested him in 2004 and held him for two days. "It was a mistake," he said. "They could not differentiate between me and those who mean harm to us."

Many who have been taken are not terrorists, the colonel said, and some have been held much longer than just two days.

The colonel graduated from the Iraqi military academy in 1982. He served in armor units during the Iran-Iraq War and was wounded in 1983. He served in a staff job during Operation Desert Storm and in the regular Iraqi Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He's a professional military officer.

He took command of the battalion earlier this week and his battle space includes the area north of Camp Taji toward the Tigris River. His unit is responsible for keeping open a main supply route out of Baghdad and safeguarding the water supply to Baghdad residents.

Some of what Americans are doing is out of ignorance, he acknowledged. "They need to understand the people they are among," he said. "They need to learn even a few words of Arabic to help form relationships with the people."

They also need to treat Iraqis with the dignity and respect that all people deserve, he said. "Do not insult our sheikhs," he said. "That is something that will spread and all members of the tribe will know of it."

The colonel acknowledged that no comparable position to a sheikh exists in the United States. So that means Americans need to learn the status of sheikhs and their importance in this very complex culture before they arrive here, he said.

"We Iraqis are centered first on family, then on the tribe and then on the country," he said. Friendships, he said, cut across all religious and sectarian lines. He pointed to a fellow colonel who will soon be a battalion commander in the 9th Division's newly formed 3rd Brigade. "He and I are brothers," he said. "We went to the military academy together. I am from Tikrit and he is from Karbala. I am Sunni and he is Shiia, but he is my brother."

Americans must stop being so heavy-handed in dealing with Iraqis. "Sometimes troops shoot when there is no threat and no need," he said. "All this does is drive Iraqis to the terrorists. More candy, fewer bullets (are needed)."