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Monday, July 24, 2006

Wow, they just figured this out?

The 4thID in action

'It Looked Weird and Felt Wrong'

By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 24, 2006; A01

From its first days in Iraq in April 2003, the Army's 4th Infantry Division made an impression on soldiers from other units -- the wrong one.

"We slowly drove past 4th Infantry guys looking mean and ugly," recalled Sgt. Kayla Williams, then a military intelligence specialist in the 101st Airborne. "They stood on top of their trucks, their weapons pointed directly at civilians. . . . What could these locals possibly have done? Why was this intimidation necessary? No one explained anything, but it looked weird and felt wrong."

Today, the 4th Infantry and its commander, Maj. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, are best remembered for capturing former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, one of the high points of the U.S. occupation. But in the late summer of 2003, as senior U.S. commanders tried to counter the growing insurgency with indiscriminate cordon-and-sweep operations, the 4th Infantry was known for aggressive tactics that may have appeared to pacify the northern Sunni Triangle in the short term but that, according to numerous Army internal reports and interviews with military commanders, alienated large parts of the population.

The unit, a heavy armored division despite its name, was known for "grabbing whole villages, because combat soldiers [were] unable to figure out who was of value and who was not," according to a subsequent investigation of the 4th Infantry Division's detainee operations by the Army inspector general's office. Its indiscriminate detention of Iraqis filled Abu Ghraib prison, swamped the U.S. interrogation system and overwhelmed the U.S. soldiers guarding the prison.

Lt. Col. David Poirier, who commanded a military police battalion attached to the 4th Infantry Division and was based in Tikrit from June 2003 to March 2004, said the division's approach was indiscriminate. "With the brigade and battalion commanders, it became a philosophy: 'Round up all the military-age males, because we don't know who's good or bad.' " Col. Alan King, a civil affairs officer working at the Coalition Provisional Authority, had a similar impression of the 4th Infantry's approach.

"Every male from 16 to 60" that the 4th Infantry could catch was detained, he said. "And when they got out, they were supporters of the insurgency."

The unit's tactics were no accident, given its commanding general, according to his critics. "Odierno, he hammered everyone," said Joseph K. Kellogg Jr., a retired Army general who was at Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S.-led occupation agency.

But that criticism hasn't hurt Odierno's subsequent career. When he returned to the United States in mid-2004, Odierno was promoted to be the military assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He recently took command over III Corps at Fort Hood, Tex., and is scheduled at the end of this year to return to Iraq to become the No. 2 U.S. commander there, overseeing the day-to-day operations of U.S. forces.

In an interview, Odierno mounted a strenuous defense of his division's performance, and said any implication that "all we did was kill people wantonly and abuse prisoners -- in my opinion, that's totally false."

Odierno said that he had made detainee operations a major focus of his command after it became clear in the summer of 2003 that the division would have to hold prisoners. "That's what bothers me about this" discussion of the 4th Infantry. "I spent so much time on this. It was important to me that we did this right."

Two years ago at a meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army, Odierno explained that his aggressive tactics were born of experience. "We'd go in, do a raid on a house, and we wouldn't search any of the families, and as we were leaving, they would hand weapons from under their dresses to their men, who would shoot at us."

So, he said, "yeah, initially, we probably made some mistakes." But, he continued, "we adapted quickly."

First Combat in Decades

Unlike most Army divisions, the 4th Infantry hadn't been deployed for decades, missing out on Panama, the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. At its home base of Fort Hood, Tex., it sometimes was mocked as the second team, taking a back seat to its neighbor, the 1st Cavalry Division.

The unit was initially given the role of invading Iraq from the north in spring 2003,
but its assignment was changed after the Turkish government declined to permit the movement of U.S. troops through its territory. The 4th Infantry's equipment was shipped to Kuwait, and it entered Iraq from there after the invasion was over.
In mid-April, the division was assigned to relieve the Marines who had briefly occupied Hussein's home town of Tikrit. In language unusual for an officially produced document, the history of the operation produced by the Marines 1st Division is disapproving, even contemptuous, of what it calls the 4th Infantry Division's "very aggressive" posture as the unit came into Iraq.

The history dryly noted that the Marines, "despite some misgivings," turned over
the area to the 4th Infantry Division and departed April 21. "Stores that had re-opened quickly closed back up as the people once again evacuated the streets, adjusting to the new security tactics," the final draft of the history reported. "A budding cooperative environment between the citizens and American forces was quickly snuffed out. The new adversarial relationship would become a major source of trouble in the coming months."

In July, a member of a psychological operations team attached to the 4th's artillery brigade, which was known as Task Force Iron Gunner, filed a formal complaint about how its soldiers treated Iraqis.

"Few of the raids and detentions executed by Task Force Iron Gunner have resulted in the capture of any anti-coalition members or the seizure of illegal weapons," wrote the soldier, whose name was blacked out from documents released by the Army.
Another instance of abuse in the 4th Infantry carried no such ambiguity.
On Sept. 11, 2003, a soldier shot handcuffed Iraqi detainee, Obeed Radad, in an isolation cell in a detention center in Camp Packhorse near Tikrit, supposedly when the Iraqi attempted to cross a barbed-wire fence. Radad had turned himself in nine days earlier, after learning that U.S. forces were looking for him. The bullet passed through his forearm and lodged in his stomach.

Eighteen hours later, an Army investigator began to look into the incident, according to an internal Army summary. Maj. Frank Rangel Jr., the executive officer of a military police battalion attached to the 4th Infantry, was assigned to investigate. He didn't believe the soldier's account that Radad was trying to escape.
"I thought the suspect might have committed negligent homicide" and lesser offenses, Rangel said later. Lt. Col. Poirier, Rangel's commanding officer, thought the shooter should be court-martialed. "This soldier had committed murder," Poirier said.

But Odierno overruled that recommendation, and ultimately the soldier was simply discharged from the Army for the good of the service. "I made the decision to dishonorably discharge him because of mitigating circumstances," Odierno said in an interview. "He was a cook, he didn't get proper training, and this detainee was very aggressive, a bad guy."
Sassaman left the Army about the same time as Poirier. He made his departure defiantly, taking a swipe at Odierno, whose division had been headquartered in one of Hussein's former palaces in Tikrit.

"If I were to do it all over again, I would do the exact same thing, and I've thought about this long and hard," Sassaman testified. "I was taught in the Army to win, and I was trying to win all the way, and I just disagreed -- deeply disagreed -- with my superior commanders on the actions that they thought should be taken with these individuals [charged in the Tigris bridge case]. And you have to understand, the legal community, my senior commanders, were not fighting in the streets of Samarra. They were living in a palace in Tikrit."

This is the second of two articles adapted from the book "Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq," by Thomas E. Ricks. The Penguin Press, New York © 2006.

Now Tom Ricks figured this out.

Billmon has his breathless comments from 2003-2004

But as I noted in 2003, Odierno had a couple of battalion commanders who were fucking nuts and should have been relieved. One ran his Humvees on nightly patrol and then went on about how religious he was.

It was clear in 2003 that the leadership of the 4thID had issues and now, after the fact, Ricks tells a different story. It's the same story some of us had been telling since 2003. One Guardian story had snipers from the 4th ID blowing a bird selling kid away. But this commander was a good story to a naive press.

posted by Steve @ 2:29:00 PM

2:29:00 PM

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