Commander punished for using ‘Hajji’ in plan to wipe out entire village
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — An Army company commander is in hot water after briefing his superior last week. Capt. James Broadfoot received a formal letter of reprimand yesterday after using the term “hajji” in a briefing to his battalion commander, sources confirm.
“When he said the name ‘Operation Hajji Stomp,’ you could have heard a pin drop in the briefing room,” said one officer present at the meeting. “The BC [battalion commander] lost his fucking mind, screaming about local sensibilities and a complete lack of understanding for basic human decency. It was pretty bad.”
The plan called for a ground assault into the village of Shia Khot, a known Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan. Once close to the target, company machine gunners would initiate the attack using overwhelming firepower to kill any personnel on the roofs of the houses.
Simultaneously the company’s 60mm mortar team would begin firing indiscriminately at all possible exfiltration routes out of the village, cutting down any who chose to flee, said an officer familiar with the operation.
“It was really a great plan,” said Capt. Lance Johnson, another company commander who was present at the briefing. “James [Broadfoot] really covered all the bases. The BC said the idea to blow up the little dam in the canal to flood the east side of the village was brilliant. Everyone knows that Afghans can’t swim!”
Broadfoot was in the middle of describing how AH-64 Apache gunships would use a combination of 30mm cannons and Hellfire missiles to level three structures he believed might be hiding weapon caches, when the battalion commander asked him what the name of the op was.
Hajji is an honorific typically used in the Muslim religion to denote someone who has completed the Hajj, a spiritual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The term became derogatory shortly after the invasion of Iraq, when it was used by American service-members to describe all people and things relating to that country: hajji-soda; hajji-internet; hajji-toilet, etc.
After being publicly berated for almost 30 minutes in front of the entire staff, Broadfoot was relieved of command, and control of his company was given to his executive officer, 1st Lt. Miles Byrd.
The mission, rebranded "Operation Friendship Justice," was conducted as planned the next day, and 94 enemy casualties were reported. Byrd was credited with throwing an incendiary grenade into a small house filled with insurgents, starting a fire that burned 12 of them alive, according to a soldier who participated in the mission. Byrd has since been recommended for the Bronze Star with V-device for his actions during the assault.
A source close to Broadfoot indicates that he has received a General Letter of Reprimand and will leave the Army since he now expects to be denied promotion to Major.