Iraqi army veterans feel neglected

Observers inside and outside Iraq see the disbandment of the Iraqi army as one of the most strategic mistakes committed by US occupation authorities in Iraq.

    Iraqi army veterans have been protesting over unpaid salaries

    With the stroke of a pen, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi army employees were sent home last May. The decision touched off widespread resentment in Iraq and little favour inside the US military.

    Training new Iraqi army personnel in Arab countries has angered Iraqi army officers who see their army as one of the most qualified in the region more suited to giving training rather than receiving it.

    Captain Aws al-Qaisi, who served in the Iraqi Air Force, blames the disbandment of the Iraqi army for the chaos spreading throughout Iraq following occupation.
    "Iraqi army officers and soldiers are patriotic people, but they have suddenly found themselves bankrupt and degraded" he said. 

    "They had to do something to restore their dignity. It is widely thought that many of them have been engaging in anti-US actions.

    "Many of them demonstrated and warned the US even on Aljazeera screen, but the US and then the IGC did not listen to them. They (the occupying forces) have brought it on themselves" Captain al-Qaisi said.

    Young Iraqi army recruits
    celebrate graduation ceremony 

    "We are receiving very silly amounts of money, the so-called emergency aid payment. Many Iraqi military personnel are refusing money under this insulting title. Iraq is our homeland, and they have to pay us our salaries as Iraqi citizens not as beggars."  

    Resentful and redundant

    Another soldier, Colonel Mohamed al-Dulaimi, told that all his colleagues are annoyed by the disbandment.

    "The Iraqi army is one of the most reputable armies in the Arab world. It has an honourable record that all the Iraqi people are proud of."

    Al-Dulaimi says Iraqi army personnel can not accept the "so-called new Iraqi army", which he believes is based on standards to fit the US-led occupation.

    "I cannot join the new Iraqi army, they do not want us, and we do not want them. They are forming a fragile army composed of people who do not know anything about the military".

    As a result of the US decision many ex-army officers are living a frustrated life, and resent the fact they have effectively become redundant.

    "I am sitting at home watering my garden. Although, I hold a degree in electrical engineering, I can not work outside the army. I am a military man used to a certain type of life based on discipline and honesty.

    I can not work in commercial companies which are based on standards I am not used to. All my army colleagues are suffering the same problem."

    Expertise ignored

    An ex-top Iraqi officer spoke to Aljazeera on condition of anonymity and said army officers are infuriated to see new recruits being trained in some Arab countries.

    "Paul Bremer, the head of the coalition provisional authority in Baghdad, ordered the disbandment of the army on his own authority."

    General Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs

    "With all respect to our brothers in Jordan, why is the Iraqi army being trained there …… after all it (the Iraqi Army) was established 30 years before Jordan existed!"

    "We were training Jordanian and other Arab officers in our War College until shortly before the occupation of Iraq."

    "All Arab army officers acknowledge the high experience of Iraqi army" he said. "In 1936 we received the first batch of Iraqi warplane pilots, when most Arab countries did not even have an army college".

    Resentment in Washington
    The US Joint Chiefs of Staff were not consulted on the US decision to disband the Iraqi army shortly after the end of major combat operations in Iraq last May,

    General Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said Paul Bremer, the head of the coalition provisional authority in Baghdad, ordered the disbandment of the army on his own authority.
    "Those of us in Washington did not second guess those who were on the ground," he said at a question and answer session at the Council on Foreign Relations.

    "We were not asked for a recommendation, or for advice."

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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