In Basra, Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul Kareem Khalaf said 407 Iraqi police officers had been fired for allegedly working with militias during the fighting.
The Iraqi government has not yet released desertion figures, but Hussein said five soldiers went AWOL in his area. As his situation showed, one challenge facing Iraqi forces if Shiite-on-Shiite fighting erupts again could be getting Iraqi soldiers to shoot at their brethren.
Like many soldiers in this area, Hussein has friends and relatives in Shula who faced repercussions if the military confronted the militias there.
"People were calling me on my cellphone, threatening to kill my kids," said Hussein, a husky man with a gray-flecked mustache and a red beret perched on his head. He commands the 4th Battalion of the 22nd Brigade in the Iraqi army's 6th Division.Hussein said he sent his family to another neighborhood as warnings and messages began pouring in to his forces from people they knew in Shula. They said, "Be cautious, be careful, because JAM and special groups are going to do something," said Hussein, using terms for the Mahdi Army militia and splinter groups.
The above is from Tina Susman's cautious "Can Iraq's soldiers fight?" (Los Angeles Times) -- cautious because the issue was addressed with more on honesty yesterday during the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee hearings that Joe Biden chairs. And just to clarify something "desertion" generally refers to those who stop fighting. A "deserter" is not generally someone who leaves one side to fight on another which is what happened during the assault on Basra -- happened repeatedly -- and just because domestic press doesn't want to report that doesn't mean Americans aren't aware of that fact from other outlets.
Meanwhile AP reports 7 dead and twelve wounded from a Mosul bombing overnight. Meanwhile Reuters reports that Moqtada al-Sadr has announced a march against the occupation for April 9th as well as for a Baghdad "peaceful sit-in" this Friday. April 9th, reminder, in the US is when the House Veterans' Affairs committee is scheduled to hear testimony about homeless veterans.
In other April news, Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, murdered and gang-raped, was supposed to be the focus of a civilian trial starting this coming Monday. That has been delayed. March 12, 2006, US soldiers invaded Abeer's home and gang-raped her while killing both of her parents and her five-year-old sister. They then killed Abeer. While other soldiers have confessed to their part in the planning of the conspiracy and in the crimes, Steven D. Green has maintained his innocence -- despite being fingered in courtroom confessions as the ringleader. Part of the plot was to plan the crimes on Iraqi 'insurgents' and Green was discharged from the US military while these mythical 'insurgents' were still believed to be the culprits. As a result of the fact that he had been discharged, he was set to face a civilian court and that trial was finally due to start this coming Monday; however, AP reports the trial has been delayed "by three weeks to accomodate a quilt show". No, that is not a joke. From Helen Zia's "The Casualties of War Crimes-- Who Weeps for Abeer?" (WMC):
The soldiers were so confident of their abilities to achieve their intended crimes that they rounded up the Al-Janabi family from their daily chores in broad daylight. Pfc. Stephen Green allegedly shot Abeer’s parents and 5-year-old sister to death in the room next to where she was being raped by Sgt. Paul Cortez. His buddy, Pfc. James Barker held the struggling, crying teenager down while two other soldiers, Pfc. Jesse Spielman and Pfc. Bryan Howard, reportedly stood watch.
Or as Captain Alex Pickands noted in his closing remarks during an August Article 32 hearing held for those still in the military: "They gathered over cards and booze to come up with a plan to rape and murder that little girl. She was young and attractive. They knew where she was because they had seen her on a previous patrol. She was close. She was vulnerable."
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