Adnan was a lieutenant at the end of the first Gulf War. After the war the base was summoned to the south of Iraq to help put down the Shiia uprising. Adnan was left in charge of a small contingent of maintainers. Late one afternoon some 100 villagers from a nearby town attacked “Saddam’s forces” (Adnan’s 15 maintainers). Adnan ordered the men to fire their weapons over the villagers heads to push them back. He didn’t want to shoot the villagers at the risk of angering them and starting a full attack. Adnan fired the first round then the rest followed but every villager stopped and fired on Adnan’s position. “Why me?” he thought. He ducked behind a wall and saw a huge mural of Saddam above his head. Seconds later he fell back to another position.
The next day he was ordered to abandon the base by the base general. He got into his civilian clothes and walked home. Several weeks later he was summoned to the base general’s office. There were several other generals in the office and his general demanded to know why he had abandoned the base. Adnan chuckled and said, “because you told me to.” The general disputed the claim and said he had ordered Adnan to attack the forces.
Later the general came back to Adnan and said, “Of course I told you to abandon the base. There was nothing left to defend but if you tell them that, we’ll both go down.” Adnan took the blame for abandoning the base and as punishment was sent to the base in Kirkuk far from his family for several years.
We’ve experienced this same mentality of "blame it on the junior, less experienced guy" quite a bit. At times, the Iraqis even blame a fault or error on us Americans. We don’t speak the language so we can’t contest their stories and their bosses won’t follow up on any stories their told. Losing face is a huge deal for Arabs particularly the higher up they go so no one wants to investigate contentious matters for fear of bringing shame on one another. It’s a widespread Arab phenomenon that it is simply not acceptable to shame one another with the facts. We experience it all the time.
You may remember Major Ghassan who defected to Norway some time ago. I spoke with Adnan about it. Adnan said he called and talked with Ghassan’s wife about Ghassan’s whereabouts after he didn't return to duty. She asked to meet Adnan somewhere but Adnan told her to stay put; he would come to her. She explained to Adnan that Ghassan had fled the country and would not return. He did not take his wife or any of their three children but Adnan thinks he will send for them. Hopefully, he will. There is no penalty for desertion in the Iraqi military. As a matter of fact, service members can quit or be fired at any time though it is rare that one is fired and I can’t imagine how bad one must be to get fired.
Adnan and Ghassan are good friends so I’m surprised that Adnan didn’t know anything about Ghassan leaving beforehand. As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if Adnan knew (if not helped him) and didn’t say anything.