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'It Looked Weird and Felt Wrong'
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.
He placed the blame with the artillery unit's commander, Col. Kevin Stramara. "This team has witnessed the colonel initiate these events." He said detention practices were capricious, sometimes based on the whim of the commander or because more than $100 in Iraqi dinars had been found in someone's possession.
One day in June, the soldier said, a Bradley Fighting Vehicle had opened fire on a house, causing it to burst into flames. In a separate incident, the father of a 12 year-old boy who had been accidentally killed by U.S. forces and then buried was made to dig up the body himself.
In a subsequent sworn statement, the soldier conceded that some of his charges were based on hearsay, but he stood by his bottom line: "My overall feeling of the treatment of the civilian population is negative. I go out to the civilian community about three times a week to communicate with the Iraqi population to get an overall assessment of how the people see us. Through interpretation the Iraqi people ask us why we are so unfair to them."
The Army's investigation found credible explanations for most of the charges. The house was fired on, the investigation concluded, because it had a bunker on its roof that was found to contain mortars and artillery rounds. The dead boy was buried because there was no place to keep his body, and unearthed without U.S. help because the family had asked that there be no U.S. participation.
But the fundamental question of whether the brigade's tactics were misguided wasn't addressed by the investigation.
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.