Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Trouble Increases with the Locals and Kids Become Less Innocent

0304 1 July 2003

I just got off the phone with you. We talked for a long time, and I feel great now, even though I have to now write down some details of violence here. You graduated today! I’m so proud of you, Nora! Gunshots just went off! Ahhh, that is no big deal anymore. Night before last: “Did you pop one?” asked Pappy.
“No Sergeant Major, we shot him in the fucking ass!” responded a group of soldiers smiling and laughing. I heard this response and looked quickly to look for an expression of grief or remorse on a face, hoping. I hoped to see this type of expression to increase my faith in what we are doing. Well, what I saw was a young group of guys with wide grins and a sense of humor on display. Ahh, America’s young warriors. They looked like a basketball team at a high school that just won a championship – except they were in full body armor and surrounded by bullets and machine guns. They looked very happy, very amused to say the least. There was still a chance to find a sign of remorse or thoughtfulness – YES – look to the machine gunner on top of the truck! He was the one who shot the man in the ass today! So, my eyes drifted to him looking for hope. Well, not much hope here, he seems to think it’s funny as well – yes that is a genuine laugh he has. Hmmmm.
“So you didn’t kill him? You should have killed the son a bitch!” said Pappy, in his outrageous southern accent, squealing out of his small ball of pig-like flesh sitting on his shoulders.
I went into the building. So another guy got shot in the ass. And the company commander of A Co. (the same guy who bragged about scarring the shit out of prisoners) got shot while riding in a Hummer
[1]. The .38 cal bullet was stopped on his right collar by the bullet-proof jacket. So he got shot, but he’s just fine. They got out and shot the man who shot him, and then beat him. SFC Lopez, an old boss of mine, came into the office yesterday and told me, “Yeah, I was sitting right next to the CO when he got shot. We fucked that guy up, I think I broke his ribs!” He seemed proud of himself. It turned out that this guy thought our patrol was a gang of robbers, or “Ali Babba.” So he pointed his pistol over his wall and shot at random. As for the man who got shot in the ass, he had thrown a grenade at them.
Today – well yesterday – I went out to give some toys away to the kids. I have to be careful, because these people are going from begging to demanding. Then came Brown, the guy who likes to talk to little Iraqi girls, with a box of apples. Immediately, a swarm of kids came to the razor wire. Immediately kids stared pushing each other into the wire and getting cut.
I spoke to some boys and gave them bubble gum and crackers. They are getting very rude, demanding more food, even though their pockets are full. They also have learned, “FUCK YOU!” and “GIVE ME SOME HEAD!” from the 3rd I.D. soldiers, I presume. These are the soldiers who fought in the war and have a strange relationship with these people. There are suspicions of prostitution going on with these soldiers and the girls. Also reports of sex acts in exchange for money or bottled water. Our unit has sent out nightly patrols to stop this. I get very bad feelings from some soldiers who come up and call the girls (from 5 – 14 or so) by name and the girls hide or look troubled. There is also alcohol being passed over the wire.
Anyways, to these boys I gave each one a printout, laminated digital photo of their group of friends with a message on it from me. I wanted to do something cool for them, but a few began hoarding the pictures and saying, “Mister! Give me! Make more picture!” I’m learning that unless you have enough for all, nothing should be given out. I tried to give them a football, but they didn’t want it! They were afraid someone would beat them and take it. So you learn when dealing with the kids that you reward them, not just give them things – because now they are getting spoiled.
Then I went to a gathering of villagers who were talking to our S2 (intelligence officer). They are upset that they must move their whole families by Wednesday. Approximately 800 people must move with short notice. He was saying through the interpreter, “I am not at privilege to divulge that information,” when asked why they must leave. Then came other stupid lines such as, “You are better off now than living under a dictator,” “It’s a matter of security,” “We only fight Baath Party.” The people are squatters living in abandoned government buildings. The Army is afraid we are going to get attacked due to the proximity of these people to our buildings.
“You are just like Saddam!” they replied. “I can’t help that we lost our homes! We want to help you, and you kick us out! You are like Israel to the Palestinians! You’ll keep moving us until we are gone! I want to talk to my government! To Iraqi government! You have U.S. Army rules! I am not in the Army, your rules don’t concern me!” The man was saying this while grabbing his wife and daughter. He was visibly shaken, on the verge of losing it.
“We found you a new building. We will help you move,” the officer said.
“OK, but we will be killed! That is someone’s territory! They will shoot us!” he said (the Iraqi).
“No, only Baath party will be killed,” said the officer. You should have seen the look on their faces. They couldn’t believe what he was saying.
“I want to talk to my Iraqi government!” the Iraqi said.
“Paul Bremer and Coalition Forces are going to have a new government in mid-July.”
At this point, I turned and left, I wanted to be there so I could tell the story of it, but I grew ashamed. I could have handled the situation so much better. I know it. I tried to convey some sympathy in my facial expression as I left the men standing there. I tried to shake hands with them through the fence, but only a few did – on throwing the eviction notice he’d received from the Americans at me. As I turned away, a girl said, “Mister! Give me food! I’M HUNGRY!” I took a deep breath, rolled my eyes a bit, and got her some Doritos crackers that my mom sent, and some little candy for the kids so they wouldn’t get jealous. I walked to the girl and gave her the crackers as if she wasn’t there and gave the candy to the kids. “NO! CHOCOLATE!” they demanded.
‘I don’t have chocolate!’ I said sternly. They accepted this and smiled.
Conroy just came in. He got shot at tonight. I’m sitting here listening to AK-47s firing. I miss you Spatzi! I love you. The Nora Shrine will be burning bright tonight! MUAH, I love you!

[1] Some soldiers later said that he was not riding in a Hummer, but rather in an unauthorized civilian car. That created some confusion and resulted in the shooting when the Iraqi gunman thought the creeping car was a group of thieves. There were stories circulating among the Iraqis that bandits were dressing like U.S. soldiers and tricking Iraqis into opening their home doors.


Post a Comment

<< Home