1st Lt. Eric Canady, the American commanding officer on the scene, claimed that "as many as 100 people had been trying to steal the weapons, including Kalashnikov rifles, which [were] being stored to eventually rearm Iraq's security services." (Pak Tribune; photos available)
The story made headlines in Europe but was mostly ignored in the United States.
"We ... saw four naked Iraqi guys with four American soldiers," said Norwegian reporter Line Fransson, who witnessed the incident along with a photographer colleague. "We thought they were going to the bathroom. They went into a building, and a minute later [the soldiers] pushed them out into the main street." The naked men had the Arabic phrase "Ali Baba, Haram" ("Thief, Unclean") written in marker on their chests, an allusion to the old tale "Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves."
Canady was quoted as saying, "I think our job is to keep people out of the park to prevent theft of weapons. We have started doing several things, and I don't think this is too much." Although three of the Iraqis managed to get away, one 20-year-old returned wearing a pair of shorts he found in a looted house. He told Fransson that he and the other three Iraqis had entered the park through an open gate to look for a missing teenager.
Canady "claimed he got the idea to strip [the young men] from people in the neighborhood" (Pak Tribune) and "confirmed [that] their clothes had been set on fire with gasoline." Described as "laughing," the U.S. military officer reportedly said, "It's not as bad as it seems. We only do it to the people who are stealing weapons. A little public shaming; no physical damage and everything will be fine tomorrow."
After seeing the article in Dagbladet, Amnesty International said, "If these pictures are accurate, this is an appalling way to treat prisoners." Such degrading treatment is a clear violation of the responsibilities of the occupying powers."
This is NOT the thing to do if you want to win hearts and minds.