The Dallas Morning News
July 26, 2004, Monday
Riskiest business in Iraq: working for Americans
By Ed Timms
943 wordsBAGHDAD, Iraq _ Even neighbors don't know what Abdul does for a living.He sleeps with a pistol within reach and takes a different route to work every day, always watching to see if he's being followed.He surreptitiously tries to recruit other Iraqis to work for him, knowing that those who decline might expose hisdouble life. And if some people find out what he really does, they'll try to kill him.Despite what his clandestine lifestyle might suggest, "Abdul" (he asked that his real name not be revealed) is not anespionage agent, or an undercover cop. He's a labor contractor and fixer at a U.S. military base in Baghdad.But working for Americans can be a very dangerous job, at least in Iraq.Several assassination attempts against high-ranking officials in the emerging Iraqi government, some successful,have been widely publicized. But insurgents also are waging a campaign of intimidation and assassination againstIraqis who work for the U.S. in relatively low-level jobs.Dozens have been killed: laundry workers, interpreters, construction workers, security guards and general laborers.Low-ranking police officers and soldiers in the Iraqi National also are targets, even when off-duty."The majority of Iraqi people want us to be here," said Capt. Micah Nordquist, 26, of Bismarck, N.D., logisticsofficer for the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment. But a small percentage of hard-core former regime loyalists, he said, are willing to "do anything and everything to prevent us from succeeding."Several Iraqi laundry workers at Camp Steel Dragon, the regiment's base of operations, were shot and killedrecently.The slain workers lived in Baghdad's Al-Dorah neighborhood, an area rife with anti-U.S. sentiment."They threatened them before," Abdul said. "They said, 'You must quit.' They didn't quit so they were killed."Other laundry workers also were threatened with their lives. More than 40 of them decided to quit. Fearing for hisown life, the laundry's manager, Majed Saad, 29, left his home in Baghdad and began sleeping on the couch in hisoffice.Robert Tindall, who serves with the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment in Baghdad, works with a translator whosesister recently was killed. The sister, who also worked as a translator, had been warned to quit working for theAmericans."They broke into her house while she was sleeping and shot her," said 2nd Lt. Tindall, 25, of Columbus, Ga.There was a time when such work wasn't so risky."At first, everyone wanted to jump on the bandwagon," Capt. Nordquist said. "You could work with the Americansand nothing happened. You didn't have to worry because everyone was trying to come together."Some workers said they wanted to help the U.S. effort to transform Iraq into a very different country from what ithad been under Saddam Hussein. Many were attracted by the wages, which, by Iraqi standards, are very generous.Regardless of their motivations, the workers caught the attention of insurgents, who apparently decided that trying torunoff the Americans' labor force was one way to impede progress.