If you can gauge the popularity of an occupying force by tracking the rumors that emerge around it, The Daily Telegraph has some bad news for the British:
British troops have been based in Basra since the 2003 US-led invasion overthrew dictator Saddam Hussein, and the 5500 that remain still face the threat of Shiite militias battling for the region's oil resources.
They also have to battle the Iraqi rumour mill, as locals are quick to blame them for almost any calamity that befalls the area -- including an apparent plague of vicious badgers with long claws and powerful jaws.
Iraqi vets -- as in veterinarians, not veterans -- say the creatures have been in the area for over 20 years, and that they usually are not dangerous. That hasn't stopped the locals from declaring the animals abnormally large and ferocious:
"I was sleeping at night when this strange animal hit me on my head. I have not seen such an animal before. My husband hurried to shoot it but it was as swift as a deer," Suad Hassan, a 30-year-old housewife said.
"It is the size of a dog but his head is like a monkey. It runs so quickly."...
Sattar Jabbar, a 50-year-old local farmer from Abu Sakhar north of Basra, believes the badger can tackle even large prey.
"I saw it three days ago at night attacking animals. It even ate a cow. It tore the cow up piece by piece. I tried to shoot it with my gun but it ran away into the orchards. I missed it," he said.
I have to admit, that's a lot more sensible than some of our stateside stories about cattle mutilations. Next time someone tries to tell you that aliens or Satanists are chopping up our cows, just sneer and say, "Don't be naive. It's the giant British badgers."