The view from the other Side of the Jebel (Hill), by Vern Liebl
[ED’s Note: Vern Liebl served as a USMC intelligence specialist and was in the KTO during the entire Gulf Crisis. The following is excerpted from a conversation he had with a captured Iraqi officer—MAJ Imad "B," commander of an artillery bataliion-on 2 March 1991]
Q: Did you think there would actually be a war with the United States?
A: I never thought there would be a war with the United States. We all thought Saddam Hussein would withdraw from Kuwait on maybe 14 January. Just before 14 January, I went home on vacation and spoke with my father. My father is a lawyer, a very educated man. He has had many contacts with Americans over the years. I told my father there would be no war with America; Saddam Hussein will withdraw. My father disagreed. He said the United States were not sending all these forces to Saudi Arabia for nothing. I told him all the Americans were protesting in the streets against the war, and it will not happen. My father was right.
Q: How many of your soldiers were killed by the air war?
A: To be honest, for the amount of ordnance that was dropped, not very many. Only one soldier was killed and two were wounded. The soldier that was killed did not die as a result of a direct hit, but because the vibrations of the bomb caused a bunker to cave in on top of him.
Q: So, then you feel the aerial bombardment was ineffective?
A: Oh, no! Just the opposite; it was extremely effective. The planes hit only vehicles and equipment. Even my own personal vehicle, a "Waz," was hit. They hit *everything*.
I explained to my soldiers that they should not fear the American soldiers. If the Americans wanted to kill us, I said, we would already be dead. The Americans just wanted to take away our ability to fight.
Q: What is the Iraqi soldiers’ opinion of the American armed forces?
A: We have always believed the American soldiers were professionals. From the officers [on down], we believed even the U.S. Army was better than our best units, and every Iraqi officer knows the U.S. Marines are much better trained than the U.S. Army.
We can see a big difference between the Marines and our own army. For example, here in the prison camp we notice the guards. The guards stay at their post until another Marine relieves them. IN our army, when a soldier’s time is up he leaves his post to go wake up the next soldier. This can take from one to two hours of a six-hour watch.
Another thing the Iraqi soldiers have noticed is the good relations between the [Marine] officers and the Marines. The officers do not have to shout at the Marines in order to get them to do something. The officers and soldiers speak very nicely to each other.
I always told my soldiers not to fear the treatment by Americans. Americans are very logical people; if you are good to the Americans, they will be good to you. Americans are very different than Arabs. WE know that the Saudis or the Kuwaitis will beat us and hate us because we are Iraqis.
Q: What is your opinion of Saddam Hussein?
A: We are very afraid of this man. Even now that I am talking to you, an American, you will notice that by habit, I will lower my voice when I want to say his name. He has spies *everywhere*. If he knows that I say bad things about him to you he will kill my wife, my children, and my parents in Iraq. If my division commander every ordered me to turn my guns against Saddam Hussein, I will do it. But who will be the officer to give this order? I will never give this order. But I will follow the man who does. Saddam Hussein is crazy and there can never be peace if he is alive. WE have war with the Kurds in the north. Then we have war with Kuwait in the south. Now we have war against the whole world, not just the United States. Everyone knows we cannot win a war against the world.
Everything that Saddam Hussein does is for war. Our people are not educated because they must serve in the army. There is no money for food, education, health care—just for war. What is the reason for this?
Q: What types of tactics were to be used against the Americans?
A: There were no tactics. You do not understand the way the Iraqis think. We are not like the Americans; we are not logical. We do not plan; we do not train. We may write on the training schedule that we train for three hours a day, but we do not really do this. On a busy day we might train for one hour, but not hard. They just told us to shoot to the last bullet and the last man.
In the Iran-Iraq War, we would first shoot the artillery at the Iranians. Then the Iranians would charge our positions and we would shoot at them. If we did not hit them, they would be killed by our minefields. That is the Iraqis’ idea of "tactics."
Q: Do you believe any Iraqis will fight?
A: I do not believe so. Every Iraqi knows this is wrong. Kuwait is Arab brothers; this is not our land. Many of us look down when we see Kuwaitis because we are ashamed of what we have done. But what can we do? If we refuse to go to Kuwait, Saddam will kill our whole families.
Q: Do you want to go back to Iraq?
A: Not if Saddam Hussein is president. If he is not president, I will go back, but I would rather live in the United States, where there is freedom and peace. You, for example, are in a war but at least you know your family is safe. I do not know this [about my family].
Q: The other night the prisoners here were very unruly when the other
Marines tried to organize them to get blankets and food. They fought among themselves, surged toward the concertina wire and turned a very simple task into a very difficult one. Why do they act like this?
A: Because the Iraqis are animals with no order of discipline. Saddam Hussein has always said, "I write the laws and I can erase the laws." For this reason every Iraqi is just out for himself. He believes if he does not get something immediately he will not get it at all. This was the case with the food and blankets. The Iraqis believed if they did not get it first, then they would not get it at all.
This piece originally appeared in "Command" magazine, Issue 13/Nov-Dec 1991 on page 33 and was written by Vern Liebland was edited by Ty Bomba.