Skip to comments.Arab Fighters Say Iraqis Sold Them Out to U.S.
Posted on 03/15/2004 1:20:26 PM PST by TheDon
By Lin Noueihed
BERQAYEL, Lebanon (Reuters) - Ahmed Abdel Razzaq went to Iraq (news - web sites) to fight the Americans and die a martyr. He ended up in a U.S. prison camp after the Iraqis he went to defend captured and sold him for $100.
"I went to be a martyr in God's name," said Razzaq, from poor north Lebanon, where Sunni Muslim militancy runs deep.
"I went to jihad (holy war) for the Iraqis but they are all traitors; the people, the army, the Kurds. They say Saddam was bad, but the Iraqis deserve 10 Saddams."
Motivated by religious zeal or Arab nationalism, busloads of Arab volunteers crossed Syria to go to Iraq before and during the war.
Those who got home alive describe being abandoned by Iraqi minders as U.S. forces reached Baghdad, or escaping Iraqis hostile to interference as the Baath government crumbled into chaos.
Hundreds more were captured, often by Iraqi Kurds opposed to toppled president Saddam Hussein (news - web sites), and spent months in U.S. custody at Camp Bucca in the desert near the southern port of Umm Qasr.
A Syrian who fought in the Kurdish-run north said he walked and hitchhiked over 75 miles to get back to the border after the Iraqi officers in charge of his cell fled with his passport.
"We fought Kurds. We looked for Americans but found none," said the fighter, who was of Palestinian origin.
"We only knew Baghdad fell when some Arabs told us to lay down our arms because it was over ... One day they were supporting Saddam, the next they were beating his statue with their shoes."
DESERT PRISON CAMP
The United States, which partly blames "foreign terrorists" for a series of post-war suicide attacks, said in November it had over 300 suspected non-Iraqi fighters in its custody in Iraq.
It has criticized Syria for letting militants slip across the border. Damascus says it is doing its best to stop infiltrators, and diplomats say the number has dwindled since the war ended.
U.S.-led forces freed 63 Syrians in January, according to Mohammed, a medic of Palestinian origin who was among them.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said the United States also freed about 36 Lebanese and Jordanians in December and January, who it flew home on its own planes.
Those who are back say they endured scorching days and freezing nights living in tents at Camp Bucca.
They said the food was bad and they developed skin and breathing complaints in the hostile climate.
One Jordanian who returned to Amman in January complained "the Americans treated us like animals not like human beings."
But they got regular meals, were allowed to worship and exercise and had access to news and basic medical care.
At home in Damascus's Yarmouk refugee camp days after the end of his 10-month incarceration, Mohammed said his Kurdish captors handed him to U.S. troops, who flew groups of suspected Arab fighters, hands bound and heads enveloped in sacks, from town to town for repeated questioning before they reached Camp Buqqa.
"They swore at us, humiliated us, insulted us, hit and pushed us," said the 24-year-old, adding that he was in Iraq to help out at inundated hospitals, not to fight.
"They particularly scrutinized us Palestinians. One minute they would accuse us of being Islamic Jihad, then Hamas ... They searched our bodies for tattoos of Saddam's Fedayeen."
Lebanese Nadim Khoder denies firing a shot in Iraq but came home in a wheelchair after losing both legs in U.S. custody.
The 24-year-old said a fellow inmate tripped a cluster bomb while they were clearing rubbish by the perimeter fence.
A hairdresser who was the main breadwinner in a family of 10, Nadim says he plans to sue for compensation.
"When I was in the hospital far away from my family, surrounded by foreigners, I was always angry. I used to cry to feel better," he said.
"But the British doctors were kind."
Before Baghdad fell in April, Iraqi officials said more than 6,000 volunteers from across the Arab world -- half of them would-be suicide bombers -- were in the country.
Syrian volunteers came mainly from the Sunni heartland around Aleppo and Hama, from northern border regions that share tribal ties with Iraq, or from Palestinian camps.
Others went from Lebanon's teeming camps, where Palestinians have grown restive during a three-year uprising for a state, and deprived villages where unemployed youths turn to radical Islam.
The secular Baath government was traditionally hostile to Muslim militancy, but appealed to fellow Muslims to help it fight the United States, already resented by Arabs for supporting Israel.
The Iraqi embassies in Beirut and Damascus facilitated visa applications for volunteer fighters, bussed across the border to be received with fanfare by Iraqi officials on the other side.
Some volunteers said they were taken to vast camps outside Baghdad for training, before being sent to the northern and southern fronts.
They complained that the Iraqis armed them poorly, sending them into battle with too little ammunition or faulty guns.
Despite injury or incarceration, the volunteers said they would risk their lives again to defend Arabs from attack.
"We will help any Arab state that faces assault," said Mohammed. "...They are coming to Syria next. The equipment they have brought is enough to occupy the whole Arab world."
But hey, they got food, medical care, news, religious services, etc...
They're just lucky it wasn't up to me. I would have sent them home across the desert, buck naked with a big U.S.A. tattooed on their forehead.
I hope the deluded sad sack is half right. We brought enough weapons to destroy the Arab world, not occupy it.
Hey, Ahmed: Shiite happens, baby....
Given the military record of the Arab world (at least when fighting non-Arabs) that amounts to about 8 M16s and 2 M249s in a properly motivated and trained squad.
This has all the biased hallmarks of a typical Reuters "news" story. Here's a news flash for Reuters: We didn't go to Iraq to attack Arabs, we went to free them.
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