Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily
Inter Press Service
01/09/07 "IPS" -- -- FALLUJAH, Iraq, Jan 8 (IPS) -
Ten-year-old Yassir aimed a plastic gun at a passing
U.S. armoured patrol in Fallujah, and shouted "Bang!
Yassir did not know what was coming. "I yelled for
everyone to run, because the Americans were turning
back," 12-year-old Ahmed who was with Yassir told IPS.
The soldiers followed Yassir to his house and smashed
almost everything in it. "They did this after beating
Yassir and his uncle hard, and they spoke the nastiest
words," Ahmed said.
It is not just the children, or the people of Fallujah
who are frightened.
"Those soldiers are terrified here," Dr. Salim al-Dyni,
a psychotherapist visiting Fallujah told IPS. Dr Dyni
said he had seen professional reports of psychologically
disturbed soldiers "while serving in hot areas, and
Fallujah is the hottest and most terrifying for them."
Dr. Dyni said disturbed soldiers were behind the worst
atrocities. "Most murders committed by U.S. soldiers
resulted from the soldiers' fears."
Local Iraqi police estimate that at least five attacks
are being carried out against U.S. troops in Fallujah
each day, and about as many against Iraqi government
security forces. The city in the restive al-Anabar
province to the west of Baghdad has been under some form
of siege since April 2004.
That has meant punishment for the people. "American
officers asked me a hundred times how the fighters
obtain weapons," a 35-year-old resident who was detained
together with dozens of others during a U.S. military
raid at their houses in the Muallimin Quarter last month
"They (American soldiers) called me the worst of names
that I could understand, and many that I could not. I
heard younger detainees screaming under torture
repeating 'I do not know, I do not know', apparently
replying to the same question I was asked."
U.S. soldiers have been reacting wildly to attacks on
Several areas of Fallujah recently went without
electricity for two weeks after U.S. soldiers attacked
the power station following a sniper attack.
Thubbat, Muhandiseen, Muallimeen, Jughaifi and most
western parts of the city were affected. "They are
punishing civilians for their failure to protect
themselves," a resident of Thubbat quarter told IPS. "I
defy them to capture a single sniper who kills their
Many of those killed in the ongoing violence are
civilians. The biggest local complaint is that U.S.
forces attack civilians at random in revenge for
colleagues killed in attacks by the resistance.
More than 5,000 civilians killed by U.S. soldiers have
been buried in Fallujah cemeteries and mass graves dug
on the outskirts of the city, according to the Study
Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, a
non-governmental organisation based in Fallujah.
"At least half the deceased are women, children and
elderly people," group co-director Mohamad Tareq al-Deraji
Overstretched U.S. soldiers appear to be punishing
civilians while suffering from some form of
post-traumatic stress disorder. IPS reported Jan. 3 that
new guidelines released by the Pentagon last month allow
commanders now to re-deploy soldiers suffering from such
According to the U.S. military newspaper Stars and
Stripes, service members with "a psychiatric disorder in
remission, or whose residual symptoms do not impair duty
performance" may be considered for duty downrange. It
lists post-traumatic stress disorder as a "treatable"
Steve Robinson, director of Veterans Affairs for
Veterans for America told IPS correspondent Aaron Glantz
that "as a layman and a former soldier I think that's
"If I've got a soldier who's on Ambien to go to sleep
and Seroquel and Qanapin and all kinds of other
psychotropic meds, I don't want them to have a weapon in
their hand and to be part of my team because they're a
risk to themselves and to others," he said. "But
apparently, the military has its own view of how well a
soldier can function under those conditions, and is
gambling that they can be successful."
Ali al-Fadhily is Baghdad correspondent. Dahr Jamail
has spent eight months reporting from inside Iraq and
has been covering the Middle East for several years.