Iraq — a democracy made in its conqueror’s image? According to a New York Times expose, in some respects, perhaps:
A number of the half-dozen badly wounded Iraqis interviewed for this article said they had been effectively drummed out of the Iraqi security forces without pensions, or were receiving partial pay and in danger of losing even that…
They’ve got the “official comment” bit down pat:
“The wounded soldiers from the M.O.D. still get their salaries after the incidents, depending on the reports from the medical committees,” said a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, Staff Maj. Gen. Muhammad al-Askari. “We are waiting for the Service and Pension Law for the veterans from the Iraqi Parliament, but they still get paid during that time.”
The veterans interviewed for this article disputed General Askari’s statement and said they were paid only a small fraction of their salaries, or nothing at all. They described the government’s treatment of them as at best indifferent and at worst vindictive.
And check “re-deployment of troops who shouldn’t be re-deployed.” They’ve got that one down pat too:
With the uncertainty of government pensions and Iraq’s desperate economic plight, some wounded security force members have stayed on active duty, knowing it is their only hope of making a living.
Nubras Jabar Muhammad, a 26-year-old soldier, was shot by a sniper in May 2007 as he was on duty at a Baghdad checkpoint. He nearly bled to death, losing a kidney and part of his liver, while suffering damage to his right hand. His torso is scarred, and two fingers are locked in a permanent curl.
He says he still has shrapnel lodged in his back, and rarely sleeps through the night. He has trouble digesting food. But the army refused him a disability pension, claiming he was able-bodied, and he was forced to return to active duty after nine months. He says he has already spent about $2,100 of his own money on operations, selling jewelry and a pistol to raise the cash.
Not to mention esprit de corps, cohesion, and all that morale-building stuff:
Though [Muhammad] had instructions from his doctors to avoid standing for long periods, the army quickly returned him to checkpoint duty, where he is on his feet all day long in temperatures up to 120 degrees. “I demanded that my superiors give me a desk job,” Mr. Muhammad said. “They told me if I keep complaining, they’ll kick me out of the army.”
And yet there are some universals to being a soldier, it seems:
Despite what they have suffered, most of the veterans interviewed said they were proud of their military service. “I consider my injury an honor,” said Mr. Ameen, the paraplegic army veteran. “I am only sorry the government does not pay attention to us.”
We should all be sorry for what has been done in our name.