At the risk of being branded a stinking liberal war hater or something silly like that, here is a news item I found online…
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 activities.”
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 Reuters.
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 outside.
“When we went back in, the house was half-destroyed,” said her son Musadaq Younis, an English-speaking computer technician.
“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 key.”
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 Younis.
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 thieves.”
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 written.
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 innocent.
If Iraqis file complaints, it comes down to a case of the Iraqi suspect’s word against the American soldier’s, he said.
“If there’s any doubt, then it’s assumed the Iraqi is lying – the Americans are creating enemies by the score.”