Soon to come to a neighborhood near you
"Veterans described reckless firing once they left their compounds. Some shot holes into cans of gasoline being sold along the roadside and then tossed grenades into the pools of gas to set them ablaze. Others opened fire on children. These shootings often enraged Iraqi witnesses. During the course of the interview process, five veterans turned over photographs from Iraq, some of them graphic, to corroborate their claims.
"'And we were approaching this one house,' he said. 'In this farming area, they're, like, built up into little courtyards. So they have, like, the main house, common area. They have, like, a kitchen and then they have a storage shed-type deal. And we're approaching, and they had a family dog. And it was barking ferociously, 'cause it's doing its job. And my squad leader, just out of nowhere, just shoots it. And he didn't--mother [expletive]--he shot it and it went in the jaw and exited out. So I see this dog--I'm a huge animal lover; I love animals--and this dog has, like, these eyes on it and he's running around spraying blood all over the place. And like, you know, What the hell is going on? The family is sitting right there, with three little children and a mom and a dad, horrified. And I'm at a loss for words. And so, I yell at him. I'm, like, What the [expletive] are you doing? And so the dog's yelping. It's crying out without a jaw. And I'm looking at the family, and they're just, you know, dead scared... At least kill it, because that can't be fixed....
"'And--I actually get tears from just saying this right now, but--and I had tears then, too--and I'm looking at the kids and they are so scared. So I got the interpreter over with me and, you know, I get my wallet out and I gave them twenty bucks, because that's what I had. I... told them that I'm so sorry that [expletive] did that. 'Was a report ever filed about it?' he asked. 'Was anything ever done? Any punishment ever dished out? No, absolutely not.' Specialist Chrystal said such incidents were 'very common.'
"According to interviews with twenty-four veterans who participated in such raids, they are a relentless reality for Iraqis under occupation. The American forces, stymied by poor intelligence, invade neighborhoods where insurgents operate, bursting into homes in the hope of surprising fighters or finding weapons. But such catches, they said, are rare. Far more common were stories in which soldiers assaulted a home, destroyed property in their futile search and left terrorized civilians struggling to repair the damage and begin the long torment of trying to find family members who were hauled away as suspects.
Once they were in front of the home, troops, some wearing Kevlar helmets and flak vests with grenade launchers mounted on their weapons, kicked the door in, according to Sergeant Bruhns, who dispassionately described the procedure: 'You run in. And if there's lights, you turn them on--if the lights are working. If not, you've got flashlights.... You leave one rifle team outside while one rifle team goes inside. Each rifle team leader has a headset on with an earpiece and a microphone where he can communicate with the other rifle team leader that's outside.
"'You go up the stairs. You grab the man of the house. You rip him out of bed in front of his wife. His wife sometimes may be exposed, because of her night garments in the middle of the night, which is humiliating for that woman and for that man and for that family. You put him up against the wall. You have junior-level troops, PFC specialists will run into the other rooms and grab the family, and you'll group them all together. Then you go into a room and you tear the room to shreds and you make sure there's no weapons or anything that they can use to attack us.
"You get the interpreter and you get the man of the home, and you have him at gunpoint, and you'll ask the interpreter to ask him: 'Do you have any weapons? Do you have any anti-US propaganda, anything at all--anything--anything in here that would lead us to believe that you are somehow involved in insurgent activity or anti-coalition forces activity?'
"Normally they'll say no, because that's normally the truth," Sergeant Bruhns said. "So what you'll do is you'll take his sofa cushions and you'll dump them. If he has a couch, you'll turn the couch upside down. You'll go into the fridge, if he has a fridge, and you'll throw everything on the floor, and you'll take his drawers and you'll dump them.... You'll open up his closet and you'll throw all the clothes on the floor and basically leave his house looking like a hurricane just hit it. "And if you find something, then you'll detain him. If not, you'll say, 'Sorry to disturb you. Have a nice evening.' So you've just humiliated this man in front of his entire family and terrorized his entire family and you've destroyed his respect.
SPC. Garrett Reppenhagen added this in his DemocracyNow interview: "The house raids were a very difficult piece of my experience in Iraq. We conducted a lot of house searches. And, you know, we felt we had to. We didn't have the initiative in Iraq.... So a lot of times we're just -- we're searching homes. We're going on whims, hoping that we can catch the Iraqis, the ones who are trying to do the US forces harm. We kick in the doors, and we separate the people.
"And, you know, we had a checklist where we went through -- did they have contraband? If they did, we apprehended them, and we would put a bag over their head and marked it with an 'A.' Did they have an identification card? If they didn't, we'd mark them with a 'B,' we take them. If they didn't belong in that house, if they didn't live in that house, we'd mark them with a 'C,' and we'd take them. So we take a lot of these people out of their homes. And a lot of these people, we push out through the chain of command, and they get interrogated, and they get pushed up further. And a lot of these people never make it home the following day or ever again."
"Sgt. Dustin Flatt, 33, of Denver, estimates he raided 'thousands' of homes in Tikrit, Samarra and Mosul. He served with the Eighteenth Infantry Brigade, First Infantry Division, for one year beginning in February 2004. 'We scared the living J---s out of them every time we went through every house,. he said.