Devoted to the viewpoint of Islam of Muhammad SAW and Amir ul-Mumineen, Ali ibn Abi Talib SA, in the Shi'a Fatimi Ismaili Dawoodi Bohra tradition.
The British soldiers suffered defeat on the dusty streets of Umm Khayyal, when they took on the local football team. A thousand spectators came from all ends of the town to watch the match, with the players wearing full strip, boots and squad numbers. The home side was rallied to a 9-3 victory by throngs of screaming men and children, who marked out the boundaries of the pitch.
"We turned up to play and there was no one around, just a few kids messing about," he said. "Then suddenly, out of nowhere, came this kitted-up football team together with a referee and two linesmen. The boys thought they must be the Iraqi international side or something. In truth, they thrashed us."
Amid a dusty old market square, 11 of 42 Commando's K Company's finest struggled to gain supremacy in stiflingly hot conditions. There were no jumpers for goalposts here - even the referee had a whistle and cards in his pocket, two linesmen proudly carried flags. Hundreds of children chanted, some sporting the red shirts of Manchester United or Arsenal, carrying playing card pictures of David Beckham and David Seaman.
"First, we have football matches, then we have tea parties, and then somehow our soldiers go out and meet the local ladies," said Philip Wilkinson, a retired British army colonel who teaches at the Center for Defense Studies at King's College. "It's amazing how quickly they do that. You can't go into a single military base back in Britain and not meet wives who have been brought back from the countries we've served in."
From the beginning of the war, British soldiers in Iraq have appeared more willing to run risks when it comes to civilians. The first British soldier to die from enemy fire, Sgt. Steven Roberts, 33, was shot last week after he stepped down from his armored vehicle in Zubair to tend to an agitated group of civilians.
Still, last Tuesday, Lt. Col. Mike Riddell-Webster of the Black Watch regiment traded his helmet for a tam-o'-shanter, ditched his sunglasses and took his men to patrol the streets of Zubair on foot. It was, reported the Daily Telegraph, "a quintessentially British moment."
"You can't win hearts and minds from the back of an armored vehicle," Goldsworthy said. "You've got to get down, take off your helmet and deal with people on their own level."
British analysts contend U.S. forces have much to learn. Some British officers disparagingly refer to Americans as "Ninja Turtles" because they are covered in body armor, helmets and Ray-Bans. "There's a warrior-wimp syndrome in the U.S. Army," Wilkinson said. "The Americans treat civil affairs [relations with local civilians] as a specialization, and you have specialized civil affairs battalions to do the touchy-feely stuff. Your warriors stay as warriors and perceive themselves as warriors.
"We don't have those kind of resources. Every single soldier has to become an agent of the civil affairs program. . . . We teach our young officers and soldiers all of this touchy-feely stuff right from the beginning."
U.S. officials tend to treat the British viewpoint skeptically. "They like to think of themselves as Athens to our Rome," one official said. "The idea is that they bring quality and character to a rougher-hewn America. It's not quite a myth, more like an ideal."
But some American military leaders have acknowledged that in some areas the British have an edge. Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a BBC program last Sunday that British operations around Basra were "absolutely magnificent."
"I can assure you that U.S. forces have leaned heavily on our British counterparts, who have a lot of experience in this area," he said.
Britons who have served alongside American forces say U.S. troops tend to stay in fortified bases, surrounded by high walls of barbed wire, holding local populations at bay. "With the United States, force protection is all about body armor, helmets and moving at speed in closed armored vehicles," said Garth Whitty, a retired 25-year veteran officer who also works at the services institute. "With us, it's more about engaging with the local population to get them on-side and minimize hostility and casualties."
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Shi'a Pundit was launched in 2002 during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The blog focuses on issues pertaining to Shi'a Islam in the west and in the Islamic world. The author is a member of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community. Bohras adhere to the Shi'a Fatimi tradition of Islam, headed by the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (TUS).