Peacekeeping: Impressionable Youth


December 10, 2011: About half of Iraqi children have grown up with American troops around, and this has left a lasting impression. Part of it was the way American troops operated, and seemed ever victorious. But then there was the American culture, as transmitted by the American soldiers and marines. That means many cultural surprises for Iraqi parents; like tattoos, rap and heavy metal music and an attitude. Lots of kids picked up enough English to make small talk with the GIs and marines. Those in their late teens in 2003, got a chance to become translators, or informants. Not all the kids worked for the various terrorist groups. Unfortunately for Iraq, many of the kids that were impressed by the American culture now want to get out of Iraq. They have seen an alternative, and want to get out of their corrupt and chaotic homeland.

But the first and most vibrant impression Iraqi kids got were the U.S. troops and how they operated. The Iraqis had never seen anything like this before, except in the movies. Young men who joined the Iraqi security forces took this admiration ever farther. Iraqis often differed on whether U.S. troops should be in the country, but all agreed that the Americans are formidable warriors. The post-2003 Iraqi troops ended up wearing similar combat uniforms and driving hummers. The Iraqi soldiers consciously copied their U.S. counterparts. This included handling their weapons, and moving around, in a similar fashion. But it wasn't all superficial imitation, the Iraqis had learned to stand and fight. U.S. troops, back in Iraq after having been away for a year or so, were pleasantly surprised to find, when called to reinforce an Iraqi unit (like a checkpoint, or a police station) under fire, that the Iraqis were now fighting harder and smarter. In the past, the U.S. troops would often show up to find the Iraqi troops or police had fled.

With so many Iraqi units equipped with M-16s, and wearing similar uniforms, it's often hard to tell Iraqis and Americans apart. This has led to situations where, in the thick of combat, a U.S. NCO goes up to a soldier and yells an order, which results in an Iraqi soldier turning around and giving the U.S. sergeant a puzzled look (and makings of a great anecdote to share with his friends).

Many of these young Iraqis will grow up remembering all this, and it will have an impact down the line, because most of these Iraqis will not leave the country.





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