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An Iraqi Lieutenant's Diary (English translation]

Montpellier LE MIDI LIBRE in French 23 Mar 91

[Original text may be incomplete]

[Tr. Sheryl Blackstone sblackst@jade.tufts.edu]

The war journal of a young Iraqi lieutenant

When they resumed control of the bases deserted by Saddam Hussein's troops, the Kuwaitis found a whole series of documents abandoned in the debacle. No matter if they were on loose paper, typed or handwritten, or if they bore the Iraqi military seal, all testify to the poor morale of the Baghdad troops. On his return from Kuwait, Jacques Godefrain, deputy of Aveyron, gave us one of these documents, which is the field journal of a young Iraqi lieutenant.

Tuesday 15 January 1991

Leave was suspended today for officers and men because of the end of the period, (granted) [Editor's note: the word had been put in parentheses by the Iraqi officer] by the (international) Security Council for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. We are there and it is a historic right that was stolen from us when we could do nothing. The army is in a state of total alert to prepare itself against allied and American aggression expected against our well-loved territory. I am very worried for my parents because I know what these conditions represent for them. But God is good. We wish the war had not happened, but it has, so combat would be welcome.

[Translation continued by Donald Webb (DonWebb@CSUS.EDU)]

Tuesday 17 January 1991

"Say this: all that happens is what God has decided for us." (A verse from the Qur'an). God has spoken truly. This morning at 2:45 a.m. I heard military aircraft. A few seconds later, the guard came in and told me in a voice tinged with caution, fear and consternation, "Lieutenant, lieutenant, there may be bombing." I dressed quickly and then realized that the American and Atlantic attack against our country was starting and that the war had begun. This is war, with all that the word implies. Afterwards, the enemy planes began their intensive bombing on the airfield that we have been assigned to defend, at As-Salman in Al-Matna province.

I am very worried. Rather I am very worried for my relatives. They are alone out there. And I know how afraid they are. O God! Protect. O God! Patience. O God! Save us all.

Friday 18 January 1991

Heavy enemy bombing continues. The bombing and raids kept up all last night.

Saturday 19 January 1991

Few enemy air raids today because of the bad weather, and our missiles have been fired at Israel for the second time. I am very worried for my relatives.

Sunday 21 January 1991

The bombing and enemy raids began very early today. Air-to-ground missiles began to explode at 3:30 a.m. this morning. I am very worried for my relatives. O God! Protect. O God! Save us all.

Monday 21 January 1991

Few enemy raids today. Our military communiques say that the enemy has bombed most of the regions and provinces of Iraq with planes and missiles. I am constantly gripped by anxiety.

Tuesday 22 January 1991

Thanks be to God. Many thanks be given him. Dawn has come and no raids have taken place, at least not so far... Now heavy raids have begun again. God protect us! I went to the... of the... brigade at the bunker to move them to another place because of the raids and heavy bombing at the emplacement. When I got there, I found four bombs. The situation was very difficult, because we had to pass close by them. But God protects. What an awful sight: one of the soldiers (disturbed) one of the bombs and suddenly it exploded and the soldier disappeared and I saw (two pieces) of his flesh on the second story of the bunker. Allah aqbar. What a horrible thing to see. I went back to the regiment and found the first section at another place. They had moved to safety.

Wednesday 23 January 1991

Threatening weather. Time drags. We wait and watch. I am very afraid for my brothers. ...is in Kuwait. ...is in Fao and the nearby area. I am most afraid for... In the name of God the compassionate and merciful... "We have built bulwarks around and behind them and they see nothing." (Editor's note: a verse from the Qur'an) O God, protect! O God, save us! The planes came back to bomb again. They were close and we could see them. "If only I had wings."

Thursday 24 January 1991

The raids began early. They began at about 2:30 a.m. today and have continued heavily without a let-up. I heard news that Bassorah has been bombed heavily. May God have come to help my relatives; I am very worried about them. How I want to see them and find out how they are! God is beneficent. Where are they now? God only knows. Ahhhhhhhhh!

Friday 25 January 1991

The raids stopped today and then started up again after sunset. Leaves had been suspended but were granted again. But that doesn't help me because only 5 percent are given leave. The important thing is that they've begun again. I sent a letter to my relatives and was so worried I forgot to ask about my children and about... and... and my sister, but I said hello to everybody. I ask God to protect them all.

Saturday 26 January 1991

Enemy air strikes continue, and I'm very worried, depressed and bored. I think about my children.

Sunday 27 January 1991

The air strikes began this morning. I learned before noon today that I have been promoted to the rank of lieutenant and that the decision reached Brigade headquarters after a delay of... weeks. This afternoon I got back the letter I had sent to my relatives. It was returned to me because the soldier who was going to mail it didn't go on leave. I was very upset by this turn of events. My mind and heart are with my relatives, and only my body is with the army. I very much need to see my relatives. I had a dream yesterday and it was not a good omen at all.

Monday 28 January 1991

The enemy air raids continue and I am in a (shelter). The top of it is only tent canvas. God protect us all. After sunset, a flock of sheep came up to us. Apparently the owner of the flock had been killed in the air raids. The enemy with his modern planes has launched air strikes on a shepherd. Maybe the enemy took the sheep for nuclear or chemical or petroleum sheep. For shame.

Tuesday 29 January 1991

This evening, after a series of enemy air strikes and watching their in- flight refueling over our territory, I decided to go to Company... in the tank battalion that belongs to the armored brigade. I went to sleep without eating. All the food I had was a little gruel and tea.

Wednesday 30 January 1991

The air strikes began heavily today and I am still alive. I could be killed at any moment. I am more afraid for my relatives than I am afraid to die. The air raids are nothing new to me, but I am very worried.

Thursday 31 January 1991

The attacks continue. Only one officer went on leave. It was... It was agreed that I would go on leave if war breaks out between Iraq on one side and 29 countries on the other. That is just not fair.

2 February 1991

I was awakened this morning by the noise of an enemy air raid. I ran and hid in the nearby trench. I had breakfast and afterwards something indescribable happened. Two enemy planes came toward us and began firing at us, in turn, with missiles, machine guns and rockets. I was almost killed. Death was a yard away from me. The missiles, machine guns and rockets didn't let up. One of the rockets hit and pierced our shelter, which was penetrated by shrapnel. Over and over we said, "Allah, Allah, Allah." One tank burned and three other tanks belonging to 3rd Company, which we were with, were destroyed. That was a very bad experience. Time passed and we waited to die. The munitions dump of the 68th Tank Battalion exploded. A cannon shell fell on one of the soldiers' positions, but, thank God, no one was there. The soldiers were somewhere else. The attack lasted about 15 minutes, but it seemed like a year to me. I read chapters in the Qur'an. How hard it is to be killed by someone you don't know, you've never seen and can't confront. He is in the sky and you're on the ground. Our ground resistance is magnificent. After the air raid, I gave great thanks to God and joined some soldiers to ask how each of them was. While I was doing that, another air attack began. 2 February at 2000 hours.

3 February 1991

Few air raids today. The pain I've been having all the past 6 months has returned. I am sad. In the last 5 days I've eaten only a few dates and boiled lentils. What have we done to God to endure that? I have no news of my relatives. How can I, since I don't know what is happening to me.

What will become of me? What is happening to them? I don't know. I don't know. God protect them. How I miss my children. I know that (Editor's note: woman's first name) is very, very frightened. What happens to her when she hears the planes and missiles? I don't know.

P.S.: 3 February 1991 at 2100 hours. While I was writing these lines, another air raid occurred.

Monday 4 February 1991

Few air raids today. I stayed alone in the shelter. Worried about the bombing.. worried about hunger.. worried about water...

Tuesday 5 February 1991

I woke up this morning to the sound of enemy air raids. I quickly put on my uniform and ran to the trench. I had my helmet on. Thank God, the raid ended. In the afternoon I went to wash up inside an armored troop carrier. I washed quickly because these vehicles are usually targets for aircraft.

Wednesday 6 February

I awakened to the noise of air raids. I dressed quickly and put on my helmet. Afterwards, I had breakfast. Then there was another air attack. I ran to the trench. It was small, but it held all three of us: myself, the lieutenant in charge of the 2nd Section of the 3rd Company of the Tank Battalion and a communications man. The planes dropped a lot of bombs before returning to Saudi Arabia. We were covered with dirt. We were buried alive. God is good.

Thursday 7 February 1991

Not many air strikes on us. I thought of my relatives. My illness is getting worse and I feel tired. The planes come and go, and the shelter holds many a comrade.

Friday 8 February 1991

Few air raids today. At about 2000 hours, while I was talking with a guard, a plane flew over us, very very low.

Saturday 9 February 1991

I woke up along with Lieutenant..., head of the 1st section of my 3rd Tank Company, who was in the same shelter with me, when planes began to attack. We went to the bay trench. The planes left without firing at us. The air raids began, and with them began my descent into the grave.

Monday 11 February 1991

Enemy planes have come back and bombed heavily. We went to the trenches or, rather, the graves. I was very upset when I heard that people born in 1973 are being drafted. That means that my brother... will have to go into the army. He is naive. He can't (he can't manage by himself). He'll make a fool of himself. He's too picky about his food. Where will he find room for that in the army? And especially this army! How I wish I were with him so I could help him.

Tuesday 12 February 1991

I have been here for more than 35 days because leaves were canceled. I am bored and sad. This morning, I learned that 26 soldiers from our division were condemned to death for deserting the front. They were apprehended near Samawa and executed at 2nd Division headquarters. Two of them were from the 68th Tank Battalion that we were with. They were unlucky. Their shame is very great. God is good. God protects.

Thursday 14 February 1991

I woke up at 8 a.m. this morning and said my prayers. I couldn't make my ablutions with water before praying, so I had to use the sand that had fallen on me and covered me from head to foot in an enemy air raid that had been going on continuously since midnight.

The planes launched missiles at our positions and the tanks that were with us, believing that the tanks were missile-launching sites. Smoke and dust rose into the sky and mingled with the smell of powder. None of us thought we could get out of this bombardment safely. But thanks be to God. I stood because I couldn't get into the trench on account of my illness. But, thank God, I wasn't hit.

Friday 15 February 1991

I went to field hospital number... because I was very ill. I heard that Iraq has decided to withdraw from Kuwait.

Saturday 16 February 1991

I feel so fatigued that I can't breathe, and I think I am going to faint at any moment from my illness. The only thing that you can find everywhere in the world is air, and yet I can't breathe it. I can't breathe, eat, drink or talk. I have been here for 39 days and have not yet gone on leave. The planes came and bombed Battalion headquarters. Most of the positions were destroyed and three soldiers were killed. When the planes came to bomb us, I remained standing because I can't go into the trench.

Sunday 17 February 1991

My illness is getting worse. I am short of breath. I hurt. I have begun taking medicine; I don't know what it is for, but the main thing is to take it because I know the medicine can't cause me any more pain than I'm already enduring. The air raids have started up again.

[End of text received]