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MARGARET WARNER: I want to ask all of you this. What is your assessment — what is your assessment about the insurgency? How effective was it?
SGT. BENJAMIN FLANDERS, Army National Guard: It was very effective, and the thing they have us beat at is the human intelligence side. Maybe you can speak more to this, but they can use cruel and unusual methods in order to extract information from people that we couldn’t use. There is sort of this, like, torture — that word is getting thrown around — well, the true torture is when you behead innocent civilians and throw them on the side of the road, which we came upon more than once. That’s how they get their message across.
So they were very effective at holding the Iraqi people in oppression, the same as what Saddam did, except now we’ve got a different enemy and different people holding the Iraqi people down.
MARGARET WARNER: And Gregg Bumgardner, you also speak Arabic, so you probably –
FMR. STAFF SGT. GREGG BUMGARDNER, U.S. Army: A little.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, probably more than the rest of us, so it probably gave you particular insight into the insurgency and how it was regarded by the rest of the population and how effective it was and why.
FMR. STAFF SGT. GREGG BUMGARDNER: I think that their insurgency is very effective, and I think especially through their use of intimidation. We would go into a particular area in a convoy or in a patrol or on a raid, and we would see people on the street who we would approach and talk — talk to, but they would shy away. They’d take a step back. They’d begin looking at other people in the crowd, and we knew that there were insurgents in the crowd we were talking to, influencing them right in front of us.
FMR. STAFF SGT. GREGG BUMGARDNER: And they’re not armed. They’re not wearing a uniform that says, “I’m an insurgent,” so it’s very difficult to determine who that person is. And then once you do, can you arrest them? They haven’t done anything.
First off, it’s very frustrating for the common soldier, very, very frustrating for him, because he knows the bad guys are there. He knows that they’re influencing this group of people that they’re trying to do some work with. And there’s nothing you can do about it.
MARGARET WARNER: Sam, I see you nodding as Gregg was talking.
SGT. SAM WHITE, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve: Yeah, I agree with a lot of it. And one of the biggest things is the anonymity. We would have people that…they’d go into a crowd, and they’d come out of a crowd. They’d shoot at us and they go back into the crowd.
And you don’t know who has a gun. You don’t know who had a gun. You don’t know this or that. So that is one of the things that they have going with them.
SGT. SAM WHITE, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve: But what I thought was very frustrating was the fact that, in one instance, one of my Marines…one of the Marines that was in my unit, he was killed by an IED and as his vehicle…the IED exploded on it, the vehicle in the rear saw these two people on the side of the road and then these two people running off. So they automatically reacted and went over there and detained these people.
But the only way that they could really tell that that is the person that did it is they took them back to the site where they actually exploded the IED and they matched his footprints up, they matched his footprints up.
And so it would frustrate us in the fact that if they were…we would think if they were so into their country, if they really wanted us to get out of here, the way they would fight and then run away, fight and run away, you know, it was just very frustrating for us.
MARGARET WARNER: How much interaction did you, Patrick Resta, as a medic have with the insurgency? What was your view of how effective they were?
SPECIALIST PATRICK RESTA, Army National Guard: I went on patrols in the towns surrounding my village pretty regularly. It was clear to me that at least some people had infiltrated Iraqi security forces.
I was teaching a first aid class, and I remember introducing myself, and then I asked, you know, who in the class had had any kind of first aid training before. And it was a class of about 30, and about 20 of them raised their hands. And when I asked where, they said they were in Saddam’s security forces and in his military.
So it was clear to me that no one had done any background checks on any of these individuals. And then to go into the towns and have roadside bombs planted regularly — obviously, people are seeing who’s digging the holes, wiring these things, burying them. And our camp attacked regularly from inside the towns, having mortars fired at us, and, you know, no one would help us out or tell us who was behind the attacks even though it was obvious to all of us that they knew who was doing it.