IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

U.S. officer: Iraqi soldiers are loose cannons

Iraqi soldiers being trained by American military advisers go on rampages, flee from dangerous situations and waste ammunition in undisciplined bursts of fire at any provocation, according to an account in a U.S. Army journal.
Car Bomb Targets Police Patrol In Baghdad
Iraqi soldiers secure the site of a car bomb explosion on Sept. 28 in Baghdad, Iraq.Wathiq Khuzaie / Getty Images file
/ Source: The Associated Press

Iraqi soldiers being trained by American military advisers go on rampages, flee from dangerous situations and waste ammunition in undisciplined bursts of fire at any provocation, according to an account in a U.S. Army journal.

In contrast to the iron discipline imposed during Saddam Hussein's regime, "the new army serves the cause of freedom, and officers and soldiers alike are a bit confused about what this means," Lt. Col. Carl D. Grunow wrote in the July-August issue of Military Review.

Iraqi soldiers frequently use excessive force, going on retaliatory rampages after colleagues are killed by insurgents, Grunow wrote in the journal, a publication of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

"The ‘burst reaction’ may be attributed to Iraqis experiencing denial, anger and grief all at the same time," he wrote.

Grunow, who spent a year with an Iraqi armored brigade north of Baghdad, also said that Iraqis often fail to report for training, and that sometimes up to 40 percent of some units flee from dangerous situations without fear of punishment.

"As of this writing, the only power holding them is the promise of a paycheck (not always delivered) and a sense of duty. Good soldiers leave after receiving terrorist threats against their families," Grunow wrote.

The old Iraqi army "executed deserters unhesitatingly," he said.

Another problem, Grunow wrote, is the Iraqi "death blossom," in which an attack by even a single sniper "provokes the average Iraqi soldier to empty his 30-round magazine and fire whatever belt of ammunition happens to be in his machine gun."

That is both dangerous and wasteful, he said.