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, at the same time, it would have been easy for leadership to succumb to prejudice,
conformity, and obedience.
Nate Sassaman, a West Point graduate, was neither a weak leader,
nor an immoral individual.
Lt. Col. Sassaman and his men were put in a high-pressure,
ambiguous situation and his actions 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.
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, distinguishing the enemy in the daytime proved to be
Sunnis, who fell victim to misplaced violence, became less fond of Americans
and some even turned on them.
Lt. Col. Sassaman and his men began to suffer the effects of
Discrimination involves “behaving differently, usually unfairly, toward members
of a group” (Weiten 668).
Because of the difficulty soldiers had distinguishing between
insurgents and civilians, they treated everyone as an enemy in order to protect themselves.
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).
of discrimination is a product of ingroup versus outgroup. “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.