Iraqi Special Forces Eating Cats

Cat’s Chance For New Model Army (London Daily Telegraph) $

The warriors of Iraq’s new army excel at wearing balaclavas, eating raw cat and driving into battle at hair-raising speeds. The troops on the front line of the campaign to crush the country’s insurgency roared into action on the fringes of the “Sunni Triangle” recently in a convoy of pick-up trucks. The vehicles’ speedometers rarely dipped below 80mph. “We go fast, they not hit us. No need to be worried. Iraqi soldiers are very brave,” boasted Capt Haidar, although not brave enough himself to give anything other than his first name. “I am special forces,” he said. “To finish training we must catch a wild rabbit or cat with our hands, kill it with our hands and then eat it raw. I have eaten five cats. See how strong is the Iraqi soldier.”

Catching, skinning and eating small mammals are the least of the skills that the captain and the men under his command must master if, as the United States army hopes, they are to assume the main burden of the struggle against the insurgents by the end of this year. The US military plans, slowly but inexorably, to disappear into its fortified bases, emerging only when needed to provide assistance. Landing more and more work on the Iraqis will require intensive training and many more unlikely partnerships such as the one between Capt Haidar and his commander, a veteran of Saddam Hussein’s army.

It also puts Iraq’s 57,000 soldiers even more at risk from revenge attacks by insurgents and their accomplices. With the summer heat reaching more than 100°F many soldiers of the Second Battalion still wear their balaclavas for fear that, if recognised, they or their relatives could be murdered. “I am aware I could be killed but there can be no room for fear in my heart,” Lt Mohammed said. “I must protect my family and country. “When I went on my first raid I let my soldiers enter the house first and I could see they were scared. The second time I led the way and they knew my strength and now they fight like lions.”

Not all his soldiers signed up to the colours of the new army out of patriotism. For many the motivation was more mercenary. “There are no jobs so I become a soldier,” a private on guard duty said. “I dream of owning a little shop but is impossible now.”
“In two or three years, when I have saved money, I will leave,” continued the soldier, too frightened of possible reprisals to give his name. “This job it is very dangerous and my family begs me to finish but now I need to work.”

No doubt. Most likely, the majority sign up for some a mix of patriotism, adventure, and opportunity. Pretty much like soldiers everywhere.

The basic methods of this training sound very familiar, although with local variations. I much prefer my special forces soldiers eating snakes and rats rather than cats and rabbits, but one does what one must to survive in the field. Of course, since the Iraqi forces are going to be fighting solely in Iraq, I’m not sure why they can’t just eat regular chow. A shortage of food is not among the challenges facing the Iraqi military. They have enough other ones without creating articial problems.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jimmy Lohan says:

    Great story, if you see a follow up that explains why cats please post it. Shouldn’t the mainstream media be writing more stories on why soldiers have to hide their identities? Does Al Jazeera support terrorists killing Muslim women in children in their homes because Papa is out on patrol? Doen not sound like a religious motivation to me. I linked to your story from my site.

  2. LJD says:

    Headline should read:
    “Iraqi Special Forces celebrate a free Iraq by eating pussy”

  3. McGehee says:

    Why cats? Because dogs are “unclean.”