In Germany, few want to play an Iraqi
The US Army is seeking 500 Arabs and Kurds for a special mission.
Those who sign up will be shipped off to villages with names like Tikrit and Fallujah, where they'll don dishdashas and head scarves and live in crowded huts surrounded by rumbling tanks and the crackle of machine guns. Their neighbors will be Shiites and Sunnis, soldiers and insurgents.
Iraq? No, it's the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Bavaria.
The Army has built a dozen mock villages complete with shops, gas stations, mosques, and prisons at the installation. The US army says making simulations more realistic saves both American and Iraqi lives.
It's now seeking hundreds of Arabs and Kurds to play Iraqi civilians in an elaborate three-week war game beginning March 20. Some will play imams or shopkeepers, others housewives or politicians. Most will speak only Arabic and pretend not to understand soldiers.
But there's a hitch: Unlike in the US, where hundreds of Iraqi Americans have eagerly taken part in life-like training exercises, many Arabs here are so angry at the US that the contractor charged with recruiting role players has been struggling to fill its quota.
"As soon as they hear it involves working with the US military, many people want nothing to do with it," says one recruiter, who asked that his name be withheld.
Interviews with more than a dozen candidates for the program revealed not only a distaste among Arab Germans about being involved with the US war effort, but a deep mistrust of overall American intentions.
The news magazine Der Spiegel reported that a number of candidates stalked out of the first casting session last month in Berlin when they learned whom they'd be working for. Of about 50 people there, fewer than five signed on.