Images from Today's Fighting in Basra
Al-Hurra TV has incredible footage from the fighting today in Basra that pitted Iraqi security forces against a weird 'new-age' Shia cult. I found some of the scenes very disturbing.
First, the Iraqi security forces involved in this operation were very poorly trained; distribution of fighters, muzzle discipline and chain of command were all lacking. There were several fighters in civilian uniform and others wearing military-issue uniforms with civilian coats. Soldiers were shouting the names of the Shia Imams to give themselves courage; it looked like a mess and sounded like amateur hour.
Then five minutes into the video, we see a badly wounded cult member who seems as if he is dying. He is taunting the soldiers by encouraging them to kill him and calling them "cowards" and "debased". But the excitable reaction from the soldiers exposed them as undisciplined and thuggish: instead of providing medical aid, they left him to bleed and cursed him out by saying that the cult members were "Jews" and "infidels". One placed him boot on the dying man's mouth to keep him from talking and another spat on him. Others broke out into a chant, the longer version of which is associated with the Sadrist movement.
I was watching this and reminding myself of the footage showing Kamal Mustafa, Saddam's cousin and the head of the Republican Guard, kick the life out of civilians in the 1991 Uprising near Nassiriya.
Any US or Iraqi military officer watching this footage should be ashamed. Soldiers panic under fire and the worst in many people comes out. The Iraqi Army carried the day against a small, misguided and violent cult, but the damage that this footage has done to Army's reputation, which had been gradually improving, will be hard to undo quickly.
This behavior captured by Al-Hurra TV should turn into a scandal, and some politicians should be making a big case out of it.
UPDATE (January 20, 2008):
An Al-Hurra TV anchor puts the commander of the Basra police on the spot over the beating of the dying man. Nice work!
One thoughtful Talisman Gate reader suggests that blame for the poor training and discipline of the troops and police in Basra exhibited in the footage above should be assigned to the British, who have made a thorough mess of Iraq's most promising economic hub while managing Basra Province on behalf of the coalition for the last five years. Another observer has remarked that the British military in Basra resembles a "third world army when compared with America's warriors"; maybe that's why their legacy has proven so brittle and uninspiring. The British allowed Sadrist pipsqueaks to push them around while standing on the globe's largest oil lakes. Oh, that imperial sun has most definitly set.