Visions Of Life
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2004-05-25 19:20:14 (UTC)

Thieving Soldiers

Kind of reminds me of Zionists....

By Luke Baker

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Besides the prisoner-abuse scandal,
there is another, more pervasive problem Iraqis say they
suffer daily at the hands of U.S. troops -- theft of money
and other property during aggressive American raids.

Over the past 14 months of occupation, U.S. forces have
carried out literally thousands of raids on homes across
the country, routinely seizing money, jewelry and other
property from Iraqis suspected of "anti-coalition

Items are generally confiscated on suspicion they could be
used to finance attacks against U.S.-led forces, and the
U.S. military says it has had some success in cutting off
funding for insurgents via the policy.

But Iraqis say the raids often target the wrong people, are
carried out in an aggressive, even destructive manner and
complain that lifetime savings, precious jewelry and family
heirlooms are regularly stolen in the process.

Adel Alami, a lawyer with Iraq (news - web sites)'s Human
Rights Organization, says the majority of the cases his
group deals with involve Iraqis seeking compensation for
lost property and cash.

"It's a huge problem, almost everyone has something to say
about gold, money and other valuables going missing and
they don't believe they'll ever get them back," he told

Last year, Wajiha Daoud, an 80-year-old widow, had her
house in a middle-class neighborhood of old Baghdad raided
by U.S. troops who said they had "high-level intelligence"
that the home was a safe house for Saddam Hussein (news -
web sites) loyalists.

During the raid, which lasted around 30 minutes, the woman
and her family, who live across the street, were kept

"When we went back in, the house was half-destroyed," said
her son Musadaq Younis, an English-speaking computer

"All the furniture was slashed with knives, tables and
chairs were broken and the windows smashed. They didn't
need to break down the front door -- I told them I had the


But that was not the worst. When Younis' sister arrived she
immediately rushed upstairs to a small cabinet and found it
empty -- $5,000 in cash, gold and other jewelry, including
her wedding ring, were missing. "She went white," said

The family filed a claim against the U.S. military -- a
complex process that took nearly three months to get a
reply. In response, the military said the raid was
justified and no compensation was owed. The officer who
commanded the raid told Younis: "My soldiers aren't

Being comfortably well-off and employed, the impact of the
loss on the family was not too great, but for hundreds, if
not thousands of other Iraqi families, raids on their homes
can prove devastating, socially and financially.

"Confiscation and theft during raids is rampant," said
Stewart Vriesinga, a coordinator for Christian Peacemaker
Teams, a non-profit group that documents abuses in Iraq.

"Soldiers don't seem to understand the Iraqi custom of not
using banks -- a lot of people keep fairly substantial sums
of money at home. A soldier from Kentucky or wherever sees
that and thinks the person must be up to no good, so he
takes it.

"We sure don't know how much money has been taken from
(Iraqis)...but it's enough to have serious socio-economic
consequences," he told Reuters.

A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition said he was aware of
Iraqi complaints of theft during raids and said some U.S.
soldiers had been disciplined for "inappropriate conduct."
But he said the problem was "very rare, extremely rare."

"We're aware of it... But there's also the possibility of
Iraqis making malicious claims," said Captain Mark Doggett.

Doggett said when are items are confiscated, a receipt is
always given. If the owner is eventually found to be
innocent, items can be recovered, he said. But many people
who have had property confiscated say no receipts were

Vriesinga estimates that in nine out of 10 raids, the home
owners raided are innocent, but suffer huge consequences.

"If the husband is hauled off as a suspect, the family has
lost its breadwinner and often lost its savings and cash as
well," he said, citing a recent Red Cross report which
referred to up to 90 percent of Iraqi detainees being

If Iraqis file complaints, it comes down to a case of the
Iraqi suspect's word against the American soldier's, he

"If there's any doubt, then it's assumed the Iraqi is
lying -- the Americans are creating enemies by the score."