Interview with an Iraqi General
By: T. F. Boggs
boredsoldier.blogspot.com | Thursday, July 06, 2006
I wrote a story for Michael Yon’s Frontline Forum a week ago about the town I am stationed in right now named Qayyarah. Qayyarah is a model for other Iraqi cities because it was once a haven for terrorists but is now safe enough for anyone to travel around in without fear of terrorists. The main reason for the safety of Qayyarah lies with one man: General Ali. He is a myth-like figure around our base and everyone knows his name. He is a strict military man but is the type of man Iraq needs so desperately right now. I hope people the world over will read this interview and learn just what kind of men are in Iraq right now willing to take control of their own country. What follows is the truth. It comes directly from the mouth of a man who knows intimately what is going on in Iraq and knows where Iraq has come from and where it needs to go. I intend to post the interview in two installments due to the length and urge everyone to bookmark this page and come back for the rest of the interview.
General Ali in his office
Sgt. Boggs: How long have you been in the military?
General Ali: I first went to the army in 1976, I became a staff brigade general in 1997. In 2001 I left the army because there were many problems between my tribe and Saddam’s regime. He fired many of the officers and put some of them in jail. I am one of the officers who was put in jail for ten months and afterwards I was put out of the army. When the coalition forces came to Iraq in 2003 I worked with the 101st (Airborne American army unit) in Qayyarah (*the town I am in now and where he lives) as an advisor. In 2004 the terrorists destroyed all of the Iraqi police stations and in that time the terrorists controlled all of this area. They controlled Mosul, south Mosul, and 40 km from where we are now. In that time no one came to help. All of the people and soldiers were scared and went home. I came to help and the Americans invited me to come command this battalion. The name of this battalion was the 102nd ING before they changed the name to the 1st battalion 3 brigade Iraqi army. At that time I only had eight soldiers with my battalion. They could not go out in their uniforms because they were scared of the terrorists. If they went out on a mission with the coalition they wore facemasks because if the terrorists saw them they would kill them. First time I started training my soldiers I made 1000 soldiers in my unit. After one month I went out on a mission with them and captured all of the terrorists leaders.
Sgt. Boggs: At this point I asked kind of jokingly, kind of seriously “Really, on the first time out?” He replied in all seriousness:
General Ali: Yes the first time.
I worked day and night, 24 hours 7 days a week to clean my area because my area at that time was very dangerous. No one could move at that time, no market, no police, no Iraqi army. We continue to work with the Americans, we captured many bad guys, more than 800. We found caches we found mortars, many weapons. They attacked my house many times. They did not send messages to me but instead sent car bombs and mortars to my family. But I did not stop my mission. I encouraged my family but I did not go home. For three months I did not see my family, I stayed with the coalition to serve my country because my country needed me.
I was in this same position as battalion commander in 1987 during the war between Iraq and Iran which started in 1980-88. In that war I was injured 7 times and have 17 medals for courage. I did not go to Kuwait in 1991 because I did not believe in the old regime and also my tribe did not believe the old regime. He killed many people in my tribe from the military. But now that all the people believe me they work with me and help me.
As two local Sheiks sit across the room from us listening in on our conversation General Ali turns the conversation to them for a minute.
You see those two sheiks? They came to thank me because I made their area secure. They are very happy when they see the work being done in their area. When they see people working at night, people driving. Basra and Baghdad are dangerous but my area now is very safe. In my area the security is excellent. Now I can guarantee that you can go by yourself in your uniform with no armor, no helmet, no weapon, and I’ll give you my vehicle so that you can go to Qayyarah to shop in the market and come back to here and you will be safe. This happened because before the terrorists were in control there was no trust between the Iraqi army and the people. They just believed the terrorists but when I came I controlled this area and I had a meeting with all the sheiks and all the people and all the doctors and I made clear to them that all the terrorists and all the criminals were killers against Islam and they believed me and helped me. They gave me information and even caught terrorists and brought them to me. This is excellent. I told them that it was their job, that it was their country. All Iraqi people must fight the terrorists because it was not just the job of the Iraqi army. The terrorists were killing civilians and because of it the people believed me and they came to work with me.
Sgt. Boggs: How did Saddam treat you since you were in a different tribe than him?
General Ali: He was a bad guy against all of the Iraqi people, not just my tribe.
Sgt. Boggs: Have you liked working with the American soldiers?
General Ali: Yes, yes, yes. They believe me and I believe them. All the soldiers that have worked here know General Ali. I invite them to my house to eat with me and to train with me. I know they came to help the Iraqi people. That is why I work with them, that is why I tell my people the truth about the coalition. Before they might have disliked the US army because they did not have the real picture of the soldiers. I told the people though how the US army fought for us and also how they did projects for us. They fixed the schools, made roads, and made many things for the people of Iraq. The people see how we caught the terrorists, how we made it safe, they see that is more comfortable then under Saddam’s regime.
Sgt. Boggs: Do you have a different picture of Americans now then before we came?
General Ali: It is the same for me because I know exactly why the soldiers came to Iraq. I am not a small officer (*Just incase: Brigadier General is a high rank in any army). I work with the soldiers day and night. If you work with people for three years you get to know them. You see them more than your family. You work with them more than your brother. I believe and like the soldiers. If they make mistakes I tell them because they are my friends. If they don’t know about the Iraqi people I tell them. I am a soldier and an advisor. Sometimes the soldiers did not know about the Iraqi people. I also told my friends about the soldiers: how they speak, how they shake hands, how they sit down with them. Which subject they speak on because I know the US army soldiers read before they came over here. When they came to help though they needed advisors. If there were other good advisors like me then there wouldn’t be terrorists. My people help me because they believe in me and like me. And when the terrorists came they did not believe the terrorists, they fought against the terrorists. When the terrorists came from Mosul, Ramadi, and from any other town the people would call me on my cell phone and tell me about them.
At this time in the conversation I mentioned to General Ali about the day before when I saw him coming in the main gate to our base with three terrorists in the back of a truck. He laughed and told me he received a tip from some locals and he and his men dropped everything they were doing and went out to catch the men. They were assisted by an American helicopter in the capture, which made it a combined effort. He explained to me that those same sequences of events happen often and exuded confidence in the efforts of his men and of his fellow townspeople.
Sgt. Boggs: Do you think your soldiers have learned from American soldiers?
General Ali: Yes they have learned from the soldiers and so have I. I learned many things from the coalition forces.
Sgt. Boggs: What do you see as problems for the Iraqi army right now?
General Ali: The Iraqi army does not have clear leaders right now. This is bad. The coalition also supplies everything for us right now and the Iraqi government does not supply anything for us. We get fuel and uniforms from the coalition, but we do not have leaders checking what we need for the future.
Sgt. Boggs: When the Americans leave what will happen?
General Ali: No problem we will be able to take care of ourselves.
Sgt. Boggs: What would you say to the American people who think it was a bad idea for us to come to Iraq and whom think we should leave now?
General Ali: This message is from the terrorists. The terrorists encourage the media and they encourage the U.S. people. The U.S. soldiers who came to Iraq are heroes. The media do not convey the real picture of what the US soldiers are doing. Our problem from the very beginning has been the media. They think the U.S. soldiers just came to fight the Iraqi people. After this interview we will go to Qayyarah and help the people. We will talk with the people and do things for them. The U.S. media only show the bad to the U.S. people. And also the U.S. media is very bad, they are against the US people because they make sure only to show the bad and not the good of what the US heroes do here. They help the Iraqi people, they make projects, they make the Iraqi army and police, and make jobs here but the media does not show this. They only show car bombs, and they even change digital pictures to show Americans attacking Iraqi families (Haditha). The US people only see the bad they don’t see Qayyarah, only the dangerous areas. They did not see how the US soldiers shop in our market and meet the people and help the kids. They don’t see how the soldiers give gifts to the kids. The media do not show this, or how they do projects for schools, water, and roads. They only show the units that fight the bad guys and do not show the other units. This is a big problem. We fight the terrorists, and the terrorists are not just against the Iraqis but also against the whole world, all humans.
I want to say first hello to all the US people and second I need their trust and for them to encourage their soldiers who help us fight and also to encourage the Iraqi people. We need them to encourage the soldiers to do projects to help us. Encourage them to have a trust between them and the Iraqi people because we have a good future. Third I need them to believe me that the terrorists are down in Iraq. I only see terrorists on Al Jazerra, where are the terrorists? Show them to me! I go to Mosul by myself-no bad guys. I need to see terrorists. I have not been attacked in three years, except for once in April of last year and he only killed himself and did not hurt me. Where are the bad guys? We need the American people to know the truth.
Sgt. Boggs: Please tell the American people the terrorists are down. When we killed Zarqawi where were the media? They did not report on it. Where is Zarqawi?
At this point in the interview General Ali began speaking Arabic after my interpreter interrupted by saying Zarqawi went to hell. General Ali said in Arabic that Zarqawi went to the “historical trash bin.” Sounds good to me.
Sgt. Boggs: Do you think Iraq will look favorably upon American soldiers and what we have done here?
General Ali: This depends on the leaders of Iraq. If the leaders are good men and do good things for the Iraqi people then the people will believe him when he tells them about the Americans, they will trust him. But if we have bad leaders the people will not believe him. But if I work with the coalition and help make projects for the people then they will believe us. We will tell them “Look the terrorists destroyed all of these things, they killed civilians. But look at what the coalition did. They helped us.”
This picture will come in the future. We work to serve the people. God willing the story will be told right in the future about how the coalition helped the civilians. I am happy about our future and I think it is an excellent future.
Sgt. Boggs: What do you do for fun if you always work?
General Ali: I go home two days a month to see my family. I change the times I go home though. I do not have time to lie around. I see my family. I have 11 kids and one wife. I tried to get two wives but that didn’t work (chuckles).
TF: Do you think it is a good idea for IA soldiers to protect their own villages and cities?
General Ali: Right now yes but not in the future. The U.S. army is from all over not just from Washington. We need to be like that. The most important thing now though is to encourage the people from the towns to protect their own towns. When the security becomes good we will change. We will send different units to different places. You can move my battalion to Basra, to Baquba, to Ramadi, to Nasariyah with no problem, just like the American army. But right now we keep the soldiers in their own area because their own people help them to find terrorists. Right now we do not have a real army. Right now we just find the terrorists. A real army comes from all the people.
Sgt. Boggs: Do you think Arabs and Kurds can work together?
General Ali: Yes I have Kurdish and Arab soldiers in my battalion. We can work with Sunnis and Shiites no problem. We are one people and one army. My tribe is the military. I serve my country and do not wish to split up the army.
At this point I read to General Ali a note given to my by The Real Ugly American who asked me to share with him. The note is as follows:
“Americans support the people of Iraq. We want them to live in safety and freedom. When we hear news of Iraqis being killed our hearts break the same as when American soldiers are killed. People we love are fighting and dying beside you and your men. Do not throw away this precious opportunity that so few people in the world are given. History is calling on you and your men. Freedom needs you to be strong. The people of Iraq need you to be strong. The world needs you and your men to be heroes. May God bless you and your men”.
General Ali responded by saying “this is our hope too. My wishes and regards for this person and I am very hopeful for the future. I am sure we will get the victory”. He then asked me to ask him why Iraq is going to win against the terrorists.
Sgt. Boggs: Why are you going to win against the terrorists?
General Ali: Cause where are the terrorists!? Show me the terrorists!
At the end of the interview General Ali told me that the soldiers in his battalion call him “The Old Brother” because not only is he their commander but because he is a brother to them. After talking with this great man I understand why he is called “The Old Brother” because I feel that we are suddenly not so different anymore. He may be an older man who speaks a different language and lives on the other side of the world but we both yearn for freedom and are willing to give our lives for others. General Ali has my utmost respect because he is a lone beacon for hope in the midst of so many enemies of all faces that want to see him fail. He has single handedly changed the face of his town and given hope to all Iraqis that it is possible to stand up in the face of evil and prevail. If only there were more men like him in this world.
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