Central Iraq, March 29: It was a scheme worthy of Mata Hari. The day before the US invasion of Iraq, commanders within the US Marines’ Regimental Combat Team 5 issued the following order to their troops: Don’t shave your upper lips.
The plan, as explained by superiors, was for the Marines to grow moustaches by the time they seized the Rumaila oil fields in southern Iraq two days hence.
Iraqi soldiers would see the moustaches and conclude they were mandatory for Marines.
Thus the Iraqis themselves would grow moustaches if, as rumour had it, they were planning on dressing as US troops to commit civilian atrocities that they would then blame on the Americans.
But, unbeknownst to the Iraqis, the Marines would shave their moustaches as soon as they left Rumaila.
That way, if any atrocities were committed by moustached troops in US military uniform, the world would know they were the work of Iraqis.
“That is about the dumbest thing I have heard in my entire life,” groused one lance corporal upon receiving the word. “And how many of us are going to be able to grow mustaches in two days'”
Indeed, most of the young men boasted little more than peach fuzz or a trace of upper-lip stubble as they rolled into Rumaila.
They shaved with relief the following day.