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March 10, 2003

Fog of war. By now millions of people have heard or read the story about the Iraqi soldiers who supposedly tried to surrender to British troops, only to be sent back.

Eugene Volokh finds the story puzzling. Mark Kleiman thinks it’s bunk:

On its face it makes no sense. Not the part about some Iraqis deserting, which is plausible, or even deserting because they thought the war had started, which is a little harder to believe (What? No radios?) but might still be true. But under what circumstances would those soldiers be sent back to (as Eugene points out) probable death or worse, rather than being interrogated for whatever tactical intelligence they might be able to provide, disarmed, and either interned or offered a chance to join up with one of the Iraqi opposition groups?

Certainly the decision to send them back would have been echelons above the pay grade of the commander on the scene, yet there’s no mention in the story of the question’s being bucked up to headquarters and the dimwitted and cold-hearted decision blamed on the REMFs.

It turns out that the story originated in that reliable journal of public affairs, the Sunday Mirror. We’ll probably see more of this sort of thing over the next several weeks. One hopes that, on balance, the blogosphere will be an antidote rather than a purveyor. [08:28 AM]
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Comments on Fog of war.:

Matthew Sturges ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 02:42 PM:

I think "bunk" may be a bit premature; it's understandable that the Brits didn't take them prisoner and interrogate. They're not at war yet, and would have no justification for doing so. These aren't terrorists, they're the soldiers of a UN member nation. If I could just find my copy of the Geneva Convention . . .

Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 03:48 PM:

If it's in the Sunday Mirror, bunk is almost certainly an understatement.

Mark Pritchard ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 11:16 PM:

I heard another version of the story today. In this version, Kurds were celebrating a wedding by firing their rifles into the air. The Iraqi patrol thought this was the war starting, etc.
In this version, there are no British troops.

John Thullen ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2003, 01:04 AM:

Well, on the other hand, do you remember playing Army as kids and you've designated your two sisters and little brother and maybe the runny-nosed little neighbor kid as enemy combatants, and they wander off into the woods, only to reappear way too early, before you've expended the big firepower, you know, the real fun, and you shoo'em back to their hiding places so you can stalk and kill them, which you do, then you parade them at gunpoint, smeared with a little ketchup, in review before your mother, who humors you and them, and then she fixes a little hot chocolate for the lot, and then you get a little cocky, being a victor and all, and go to bed all warm and safe, and you wake up in the morning and defund Medicare and Medicaid?