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Bravery Needs No Translation
Bravery Needs No Translation

December 17, 2003

LTC Sherman R. McGrew
Writing from Iraq

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It was an incredible day, an historic day, a day for freedom. Saddam was captured. The streets were filled with jubilant Iraqis. But this is not a story for me to tell, for I am a guest in this country. Better to have an Iraqi tell it in his own words.

The only way the US army can operate here in Iraq is with the help of our Iraqi interpreters. This is the story of one of them. For security purposes, I cannot tell you even his first name or show you his picture. He is incredibly brave. He literally risks his life every single day that he works for us. I may not agree with everything he says, but this is his story, not mine. These are his own words...

No matter where the U.S. armed forces go, interpreters always play a crucial role.

Under the old regime, I was a teacher of English and English Literature for three to four dollars a month. Now I earn $15.00 a day as an interpreter. I was also a conscription soldier. There was one small loaf of bread for two soldiers for breakfast, if you were lucky. There was no lunch or dinner provided. You had to bring food from home or buy it from shops. It was a miserable life. The army did not take care of its soldiers.

The American army treats its soldiers very well. They give food, equipment, a place to live and medical insurance for their soldiers. I saw that the air conditioners were given to the enlisted soldiers first and then the officers got them. Lt. Col. McGrew asked me if this would have happened in the old Iraqi army. I just laughed.

I have seen recordings of how the Fedayeen were trained. Small children would be executed in front of them to harden their hearts. Dogs would be set on old people and criminals with the same purpose. Saddam paid them good money, which is why they served Saddam.

If they took money from Saddam Hussein, believe me, they are your enemy now. An entire generation has been raised under Saddam. He washed the peoples' minds. Just like Osama Bin Laden, he had his special group. People are still worried about Saddam and that he will come back. He is considered a nightmare. People are afraid that there will be civil war in Iraq if Saddam comes back.

We study history and see what happened to South Vietnam when the USA left. South Vietnam was left alone and North Vietnam came to kill them.

Cuba is so close to you, yet nobody can do anything for Cuba, therefore some Iraqis don't trust the USA. Why the USA not get rid of Castro? Why come over so many oceans to Iraq when Cuba is so close?

Other dictators are worried now because Iraq is free. There is no democracy in the Middle East. Not in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia or Egypt. If America does democracy in Iraq and gives us the freedom and make life better, then the neighboring countries will ask America to come and give democracy to them. That is what the Presidents of Arab countries are afraid of.

If Saddam comes back or USA leaves too soon, I will be killed, without any doubt.

Three interpreters were recently killed. More have been wounded. I cannot walk in the market free. I have to be very careful.

The only people who are against the Americans now are those who were rich before. Now they know that they can't sit at home and get wealthy. They will have to work and they don't like it. They lost the power and authority. It is very dangerous.

How are the Americans doing? Good, but it could be better. In Iraq we say, "One hand cannot clap." You need to work with the Iraqis more.

We are looking for heavy industrial projects, basic projects for us to grow strong. Our country is like a treasure. We have the two rivers, agriculture, gas and oil. We need to be an industrial country. We need to be a good country.

I just learned yesterday that Saddam is captured. Lt. Col. McGrew has asked me what the Iraqis think of this.

I came home to my town yesterday and I knew something had happened. There was so much celebration. When I got to my house, my family said, "You will not believe it! USA soldiers captured Saddam Hussein!" I can't believe it. Mr. Bremer said, "We captured him." I looked on the TV at him getting medical tests. I can't believe it! This is Saddam Hussein!

There was a big celebration because these people suffer so long under him. People were in the streets laughing and celebrating. This was a message for those who follow Saddam Hussein-You will end up like this-that your future is like this son of a b----.

I am sad for us because a coward ruled our country for 35 years. He did not even have enough courage to kill himself. Now he will face the justice he prevented us from getting all these years.

My people want Saddam Hussein to be tried here by our people with an Iraqi judge. All the people want to see his defense and what he will say about all the claims, the crimes against humanity, the use of chemical weapons in the north and the south of Iraq.

He was a war criminal in Iran and Kuwait. He took Kuwaiti hostages and killed them. He imprisoned hundreds from my village and killed some of them. He killed more Iraqis than anyone else.

The future is now in our hands. My people are afraid of civil war. We don't want the USA to leave us alone because another dictator could come. We want, by ourselves, to chose our president by election. I want to feel as if we have rights, and, more importantly, duties of citizens.

What would I say to the families of those US soldiers who have died? I am embarrassed because they are killed by my people. God bless them. My family prays to God to protect USA soldiers.

(He paused then, obviously emotional). We write down on a piece of paper the names of the US soldiers that we want God to protect. We place them in the Koran and ask God to help and protect them.

What would I say to the American people? You have to be proud of your sons. You have to be proud of your army. They are fighters for freedom.

2003, U.S. Army. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.



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