Thursday, February 03, 2005

Iraqi Police: Shoot First, Never Ask Questions

Iraqi Policeman enjoys radio
Michael Yon

Baquba, Iraq

The town has been relatively quiet since the elections. On a combat patrol two nights after the elections, we heard small-arms fire only twice; none of it was directed at us. The tempo changed slightly today when two policemen and an Iraqi soldier were killed.

We rolled out the gate at 2300, one hour before midnight. For the first hour we drove around the deserted streets of Baquba, dogs chasing us down practically every street, like they always do when it's not raining. Around midnight, we stopped in a field where insurgents often shoot mortars at us. Captain Derrick Burden and I conversed in the dark while a jet roared overhead. Why is this place so quiet?

We loaded back into the Humvees and headed into town, and soon found a car that was driving after the 2300 curfew. The Iraqi Police had been attacked earlier, and this car was in a good place to attack them again. Staff Sergeant Graves, the Humvee vehicle commander, wanted to stop the car. We flashed the lights but the car did not stop. Graves fired two warning shots, and the car stopped just in time to avoid direct fire from our machine gun.

Three of us piled out of the Humvee, the driver stayed behind the wheel, while Graves and an assistant told the Iraqi driver to come toward us. The driver hesitated. A little too much. And a little too long. I felt danger.

Seconds later we began receiving small-arms fire. The volume quickly increased and bullets were flying by our Humvee, where three of us vied for the sweet spot behind a tire. I got there first so I got the lucky place, in the middle. Ghost Platoon responded with machine guns, assault rifles and automatic grenade launchers.

We were being attacked by the Iraqi police, and at the same time, they appeared to come under attack by insurgents. After many hundreds of rounds were fired, we broke contact and Ghost Platoon rallied, then drove to the police station that had been firing at us. Captain Burden had the police assembled and proceeded to give them, let’s say, a briefing.

Incidents of the Iraqi police accidentally firing on American troops in Baquba are so common that practically nobody seems to pay attention. Except for those being shot at. If the IPs were proficient marksmen, no doubt some of us would have been killed. It's only a matter of time.