The NYT's John Burns spent the day on a joint river patrol with Marines and with what Burns describes as one of the "best Iraqi units." It's a "special Iraqi commando unit assigned to the country's powerful Interior Ministry," with "many drawn from Saddam Hussein's special forces." So how did these A-listers perform? Burns:
"They've just about given up," said Lt. Jerman Duarte, 34, of Houston, his voice edged with exasperation.
As in so much else about the American venture in Iraq, cultural differences played their part. At one point, Lieutenant Duarte bridled when some of the Iraqis resisted his repeated urging that they spread out along the line, preferring to cluster together, ineffectively, at one end. A Marine sergeant told him that the Iraqis were officers and did not feel that they should be asked to work side by side with common soldiers.
One of the Iraqi officers, asked if he spoke English, replied snappily, "English no good. Arabic good. Iraq good." The message seemed clear.
Although recruits in the new Iraqi units undergo strict vetting, American officers say rebel sympathizers have infiltrated some of the new units - some of the soldiers have been caught tipping off rebel groups.