- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2003

BALAD, Iraq — Photos of British fighter planes still adorn the walls in the home of Amed Hassan Hameed, a British-trained former military officer with a grudge against Saddam Hussein.

But after months of roadblocks, searches, helicopter overflights and, he claims, a petty theft by an American soldier, the retired air force colonel says he is fed up with the foreign military presence in Iraq.

“Living under Saddam was bad, but under the Americans, it’s worse,” Mr. Hameed said at his home in the so-called Sunni Triangle, scene of the most intensive resistance to U.S. forces. “I would not fire rockets or guns at the Americans, but I know some people would — and do.”

Mr. Hameed, 40, is hardly anti-Western.

On his living-room wall he displays his Royal Air Force flying badge, presented in 1983 when he trained with British pilots. Near it are a large framed picture of Britain’s Flying Arrows aerobatics team and another showing six British fighter planes in a cloudy sky.

Mr. Hameed retired from the Iraqi air force in 1995 after coming under suspicion of being a security risk to the Saddam regime.

He had led four French-supplied F-1 Mirage jets on a training mission that happened to pass over Saddam’s hilltop palace at Beiji.

He says the route had been approved the day before, but on his return to base he and his colleagues were bundled off to Baghdad’s security headquarters, briefly imprisoned, quizzed and sent back to base for a two-week spell under security guard.

“Qusai Hussein, the son of Saddam, was in charge of security at all Saddam’s castles. They had no idea about flight plans; they thought we pilots were like taxi drivers, choosing our route as we flew,” Mr. Hameed said.

“But from then on, though I did fly again, my file had been marked.”

Since his early retirement from the air force, he has supplemented his military pension by farming corn and oranges on his small holding some 40 miles north of Baghdad.

But since the arrival of the Americans, he says, he and his fellow farmers cannot water their fields at night for fear of being attacked by U.S. helicopters.

“We heard a few days ago that helicopters shot a farmer dead just because he was out watering,” Mr. Hameed said. “I’m not sure who exactly he was. But I can believe it.”

Each farmer gets to tap into irrigation water from the Tigris or Euphrates rivers only once every 10 to 15 days, and then only for a few hours, he explained.

“If you have a nighttime slot and you cannot make use of it, you lose your turn and your cornfields or your orange trees get damaged or destroyed.”

He says the Americans have reason to be nervous of people out at night along a road where U.S. forces are frequently targeted.

But he says most of the attackers come from other areas, fire their rockets or missiles and slip away again. The roadside farmers then bear the brunt of American search teams.

Exacerbating tensions are the roadside checkpoints. The locals suspect that U.S. military police or soldiers are concerned with profit as well as security.

“They once stopped me at a checkpoint and found I had 13 bundles of Iraqi money. They told me to turn my back on the car. When they’d searched me, I got in again — and one bundle of money was missing.”

He says it was only the equivalent of only $13, but it shattered his belief that American motives were pure.

“Believe me, we never expected this when they first came. We had no intention to harm them, but they’ve not shown respect for us,” he said.

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