Three concepts relevant to the events which took place in Samarra, Iraq, in January, 2004
are prejudice, conformity, and obedience.
The soldiers of the 1-8 Battalion were thrown into the
violence of the Sunni Triangle, where distinguishing friend from foe proved to be a daunting task
and in which it was easy for leadership to succumb to the negative aspects of prejudice,
conformity, and obedience.
Nate Sassaman, a West Point graduate, was neither a weak leader,
nor an immoral individual.
He and his men were put in a high-pressure, ambiguous situation and
his actions accurately reflect that.
One of the biggest challenges the 1-8 Battalion faced was distinguishing enemy
insurgents from innocent civilians.
The first method they used was implementing a curfew in the
Their policy was “[a]nyone caught on the streets after the appointed hour was assumed to
be a guerrilla. At the very least, any such person would be detained; if he acted aggressively, he
would be killed” (Filkins 2).
This strategy worked for a while.
Soldiers used discretion in
distinguishing friend from foe.
However, during daytime, it proved to be more difficult.
who fell victim to misplaced violence, became less fond of Americans and some even turned on
Lt. Col. Sassaman and his men began to succumb to the effects of discrimination.
Discrimination involves “behaving differently, usually unfairly, toward members of a group”
Because of the difficulty soldiers had distinguishing between insurgents and
civilians, they treated everyone as an enemy in order to protect themselves.
Sgt. Eric Brown was
quoted the morning of a raid involving 15 innocent Iraqis saying, “"I feel bad for these people, I
really do. It's so hard to separate the good from the bad" (Filkins 7).
This type of discrimination
is a product of in-group versus out-group.
“People tend to evaluate outgroup members less
favorably than ingroup member” (Weiten 670).
The soldiers saw locals as all being a member of
a group unlike themselves; they were all the same to the Americans.
“The illusion of