Jewish World Review May 23, 2003 / 21 Iyar, 5763
DISPATCHES FROM THE DESERT: Hard-won capture lost in a mix-up over papers
NEAR THE SYRIAN BORDER, Iraq
Some of the bitterly frustrated soldiers of Apache Troop are referring to it
as the "V Corps 'Catch and Release' policy."Three carefully planned,
meticulously rehearsed, flawlessly executed "snatch and grab" missions have
produced a net result of zero.
Soldiers from Apache troop and the 94th Military Police Company arrested the
police chief of Husabayah, Abdul Karim Manthour, and six of his lieutenants.
Capt. Justin Brown, the Apache troop commander, entered the police station
with the same number of troops who usually accompanied him to meetings with
the police chief. But this time they were the biggest soldiers in Apache
troop. They quietly took up positions along the walls and in front of the
windows, so the Iraqi cops could not see there were many more soldiers than
Then the squadron commander, Lt. Col. Bill Dolan, walked in. "I'm detaining
you and your officers," Dolan told Manthour. The words were barely out of
his mouth before a burly sergeant had pulled Manthour to the floor, and the
other Americans in the room had trained their guns on the Iraqis. They had
three pistols and an AK-47 assault rifle among them, but no Iraqi reached
for his weapon. The Americans had the drop on them.
Each of the officers to be detained had his hands zip-tied behind him, and
was blindfolded. They were led out one by one and put into a truck, which
sped away to Tiger squadron's headquarters at a railroad station about 30
kilometers east of Husabayah.
Dolan has suspected right away that Manthour was an important Baath party
figure, but waited to act until conclusive evidence had been assembled.
Manthour was one of Saddam's executioners. He would hunt down and murder
deserters from the Iraqi armed forces.
A number of Iraqis who had provided information to Tiger Squadron soldiers
had said Manthour was "a bad man." Among them were most of the police
patrolmen, who told interpreters they didn't want to be policemen if
Manthour remained as chief.
But joy in Apache troop was short-lived, thanks to a snafu at what Lt. Col.
Dolan has described as "echelons above reality."
Manthour was put on a helicopter to be flown back to the headquarters of the
3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at the al Asad air base. Maj. Jessica Voss, who
had the file on Manthour, was to fly back with him. Normally the detainee
and his file stay on the same chopper, but this time there wasn't room. Maj.
Voss got on a second helicopter. But when she arrived at al Asad, she
learned that Manthour had been flown on to V Corps headquarters at Baghdad
"But I have his file," she said.
At V Corps headquarters, some officer ordered Manthour released, because he
was "just a police officer," and V Corps had no paperwork on him. The order
to release Manthour was given without checking with Tiger Squadron to see
why he had been arrested in the first place.
An order has been issued to re-arrest Manthour, but he and his crony have
high-tailed it for parts unknown.
"Due to a f*** up beyond our control, the chief of police has been
released," Dolan told his staff and subordinate commanders this morning.
"Tell your contacts we need to know where we can find him so we can
Dolan was unwilling to criticize publicly higher headquarters for the snafu
- and remember the military origins of that word - that resulted in the
release of the police chief. "We haven't got the Paul Harvey version of the
story yet," he said. "There may be more to this than we know."
But off the record, subordinate commanders and staff officers said higher
headquarters needed to interfere less in command decisions and to provide
more material support for peacekeeping operations.
"We need to deliver on promises of aid," said one. "We can't do this until
the REMFS [rear echelon m***** f******] kibbitz less and provide more help."
The nature of the problem facing Tiger Squadron was crystallized by a
conversation Staff Sgt. John Gary Pullen, a linguist with the 66th Military
Intelligence Company, had with an Iraqi at a checkpoint.
After checking first to make certain he wouldn't get arrested for saying so,
the Iraqi told Pullen he preferred it when Saddam Hussein was still in
"When Saddam was in power, we had jobs, we could buy gasoline and propane
[for cooking], and the border was under control," the Iraqi said. "Now the
Americans are here. There are no jobs. There is no gas. There is no propane.
Smuggling is out of control."
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
administration. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2002, Jack Kelly