U.S. Rains Invitations to Surrender on Iraqis : Psychological war: 4 million leaflets are dropped on enemy positions in Iraq and occupied Kuwait.
The United States has blanketed troop positions in Iraq and occupied Kuwait with at least 4 million air-dropped leaflets promising safe passage to enemy soldiers who signal their desire to surrender, American soldiers here were told Tuesday.
The one-page flyers, printed in Arabic and containing programmed instructions, are part of a larger U.S. effort to take advantage of what American commanders believe is a significant deterioration of resolve among ordinary Iraqi soldiers, officers involved in the operation said.
In telling U.S. soldiers about the procedures for Iraqi surrender, “we’re trying to . . . prevent soldiers from accidentally destroying our credibility,” said Maj. Leroy Slaughter, a psychological operations specialist now attached to the 1st Armored Division.
“The idea,” another officer said, “is to make sure that someone doesn’t screw the whole thing up by shooting the first two Iraqis who come across.”
Some American commanders here said they understood the leaflet-dropping operation had already gained some success. Several groups of Iraqi soldiers carried the flyers with them and followed instructions precisely as they crossed in recent days into U.S. lines.
But the commanders cautioned that the number of such cases remains limited, and said it is unclear how many of the leaflets are actually reaching Iraqi troops. “It’s just a drop in the bucket,” one officer said.
As outlined in the leaflets, Iraqi soldiers who wish to surrender to American forces are to sling their weapon over their left shoulder, barrel pointed downward, and to wave the flyer or other white object from an upraised right arm.
The American officers involved in the program emphasized in the briefings that these instructions vary in significant ways from the both-hands-high stance that is a universal signal of surrender. They declined for security reasons to explain why new procedures had been adopted for Iraqi troops.
Staff Sgt. James Silkwood, briefing Charlie Company, 4th Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment on Monday, said at least one unit reportedly has shot at surrendering Iraqi soldiers.
The massive leaflet-distribution effort, which officers said was mounted soon after the war began, continues as reports reaching field commanders here suggest that the level of discomfort among Iraqi troops is increasing as the American bombing campaign continues.
The reports suggest that front-line Iraqi troops are receiving no more than one Spartan meal a day. To meet shortages of food, Iraqi supply officers last week resorted to an overland cattle drive to bring 1,000 head of cattle to military encampments near the area where Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia meet, the American officers have been told.
In briefings and in other conversations, U.S. officers said their Iraqi counterparts are reportedly seeking to prevent the leaflets from reaching their soldiers, ordering noncommissioned officers to collect the flyers as soon as they hit the ground.
But with the operation due to drop a total of 5 million leaflets, the officers expressed confidence that Iraqis will become well aware of the safe-surrender procedures.
In addition to distributing the leaflets, Army units here have taken a number of other visible steps to prepare for an expected influx of Iraqi prisoners, including the assignment of Arab-born U.S. soldiers as interpreters in front-line combat units.
Some units Monday were offered rudimentary Arabic-language instruction, with emphasis on phrases like “Put your hands up” and “Throw down your weapon.”
Afterward, however, soldiers in Charlie Company said they had trouble remembering even the most basic phrases. “There’s only one thing I need to say,” said Pfc. Patrick Doyle, 19. “Stop and drop.”