January 7, 2011
Haki Mohammed and his brothers were shovelling manure on their farm in Yusifiyah in the spring of 2003 when the soldier arrived. Dishevelled and distressed, the man had run a great distance. “Please,” he entreated, “are you true Arabs?”
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
The Iraqis, raised in a culture of obligatory hospitality towards needy strangers, immediately understood the subtext. The man needed help. Even had he not been a soldier (Haki thought he recognised the uniform of a Special Republican Guard), they were honour-bound to offer assistance. “Of course,” Haki assured the man. “What is it you need?”
The soldier held out his AK-47. “Take it.” He indicated the webbing around his waist, stuffed full of charged magazines. “Take them all. I don’t want them. But I need a dishdasha or a robe. Anything that isn’t a uniform.” Then the soldier started to undress.
The Mohammeds were indeed good Arabs. They fetched a dishdasha and the man slipped it on. Then, without warning, he flung the ammunition and the rifle down and ran off into the desert. Bemused, the Yusifiyans examined his belongings. He wasn’t a Republican Guard at all. His uniform, bereft of rank badges, was that of a rarer outfit: Manzaumat al-Amin, the Iraqi military’s security and protection agency.