Wednesday, July 30, 2003

An Unfortunate Series of Events and Not Taking Our Malaria Pills

30 July, 2003

Another day in Baghdad, everyday the same – every – single – day. I got to talk to you for a while last night , got through on my second try. Two days ago and yesterday it took 2 – 5 hours. My hand even hurt from redialing! Well, it was good to hear your voice. I love you.
Well, so far today nothing big has happened, except for a carjacking, a house robbery, a stabbing, a shooting, and a USAID visit. I woke this morning to Foley waking me up – he’d been gone for a few days for sickness. He had to share the stories of his hospital stay and the incompetent staff. At least he’s better now. Sergeant Nash the medic immediately proclaimed that he had Malaria, which was highly absurd. Immediately, the question was, “Were you taking your Malaria pills?”
“No,” he answered. So we all had our pills counted. I haven’t been taking any of my pills, so I threw some away and put some away. I came up short by 12 pills, when they counted them. They make me puke, and I don’t trust them. I don’t like taking any medicine, much less pills from the government. So, now, every morning Sergeant Rush comes to all of our rooms and watches us take our pills. So, I put the pill in my mouth, under my tongue, take a swig of water, and he leaves. Then, I spit the pill out into the trash. I feel justified in doing this though, I’m not putting a chemical into my body for the Army. I’m just a piece of meat, an investment, not a human. I’m staying as healthy as possible. This morning, I woke up and Rush made me and Foley take our pills. He did. Then it was my turn. Of course, I kept my pill hidden. Then, I saw Foley spit his out as soon as Rush left. I laughed and spit mine out too. He looked over to me and saw me holding my pill and we both started laughing. I’d almost welcome Malaria.
Yesterday I got a letter from Jimmy. He should get home to Jen in a bit. It really was good to hear from him though. I wrote him back a foul-mouthed letter sharing my complaints about Iraq and the military.
Well, a few days ago, Uday and Kusai were killed near Mosul. I was studying German in my room that night and had no idea what had happened. I heard suddenly, the thud, thud of an anti-aircraft gun, and some other shots. I looked out of my window and saw red dots climbing into the sky over Baghdad. It was sporadic and sparse. I got Villarreal and showed him the sight. I grabbed my video camera and went on the roof with Villarreal. The tracer fire increased over the city, then spread to our area in a heavy volume. Then the AA
[1] gun went off again, and AK-47 fire from behind. I watched the bullets streak into the night sky. Then “POP, POP, POP, POP!” a gun fired close by.
‘Shit! Get down!’ I yelled. Villarreal got down and we kept filming. We decided to run back to the stairs before we got hit my falling bullets. So off we ran, not really scared. You get used to the gunshots. It’s part of life. I went over to our headquarters and on FOX there was a reporter talking about the celebratory fire. He was in a flack-vest and wearing a helmet. It was a sight to see. There was also a lot of lead going up and coming down. The rumor is 50 were killed from falling bullets. I’m not sure about that. They did display the bodies on television. The first pictures showed the two brothers poorly and from a poor angle. The next day, a video was released and the bodies were reconstructed. When I first saw the reconstructed bodies, I was struck by the extreme artificial appearance of the faces, waxy. Almost papier-mâché looking. As I saw the bodies on TV I thought about the five soldiers that died since the brothers were killed. 2 dead brothers, lots more dead soldiers and Iraqis. These two were such evil men. From all the stories told, they sound satanic. Well, they are dead now. I wouldn’t even want to be near those dead bodies, just their presence would drip of sin. It’s a tough situation when dealing with evil people. Well, they’re gone – and few must be sad.
We conducted another raid, “Orangutan Crush” and “Chimpcicle.” Much of the same planning and danger was involved as in Ice Baboon. It was to pull in Fedayeen (one colonel brought a change of clothes and some books for college and turned himself in). This time we got some more officers, one having a picture of Udai pinning a medal on this guy.

Ø Rundown of events of past week: “We’re driving down a narrow part of the road and two boys are on the right side,” Nicols said on one of his visits. “Well, they put their thumbs up to say good job, and my side view mirror hit their hands and bent my mirror all the way back!” It takes a bit of force to do that. “We were doing about 40 MPH! We looked back and saw them holding their hands, in distress. I think their hands are broken!” He said. Well, that was a freak accident, but somewhat ironic.
Ø Laser pointer incident: An IED was thought to be on the side of the road near our camp. A security team was sent – engineers. They arrived on scene to keep it safe for Americans and Iraqis. It was dark at the time. At some point in time, a laser dot appeared on someone from afar. That would be unnerving. After seeing the dot, the security element opened fire with an automatic grenade launcher (very destructive) and some M-16, 9mm pistol fire – but I’m not sure exactly. I know the MK-19 was fired for sure. No target was identified. The platoon leader was questioned.
Ø I went into the prison to talk to Poe, and there I saw a man lying on the floor with a large cast on his leg. He’d been shot with a M240 in the leg for running away from our scouts. They came around a corner and saw a group of men getting drunk outside – past curfew. “We came around the corner and that guy took off running down the road, so they followed him and told him to stop. He didn’t stop, so they lit him up. His leg’s all shattered! The doc at RSS said to just kill the next guy instead of wounding em’ they already had to fix up so many Iraqis!” said one soldier to me. At Iraqi hospitals, if they even have enough beds, the critically wounded or hurt are put in back rooms to die. The hospitals were stripped bare. The hospitals stay busy picking up dead bodies. Many people can’t afford to have bodies picked up, so they bury them in unlikely places. At one checkpoint, one of our companies stopped a car with a wrapped object on top. Turns out it was a dead relative. They had her strapped to the car to take her to the hospital.
Ø “We went to the warehouse and a group of guys were there at the munitions factory. We went up to them and searched their vehicles. Well, it turned out they were looking to fix one of the cars. Gumble ran up, “Get down muthafucker!” and punched one guy square in the face. They had no idea what is going on. They got them on their knees, and one guy moved the barrel of SFC Rocker’s rifle with his hand, so he butt stroked the shit out of him. I think he did it so hard I could swear a round ejected from the chamber of his rifle – it actually recoiled! So these guys are fucked up, and we find out they’re not even thieves. The thieves’ car left long ago. Those guys were messed up! So we called you, tellin’ you we’re coming back, and released the guys,” Poe said. I knew they searched the area following a report a helicopter sent to me, but that car (the one that was stealing arty shells) already left. As far as I knew, the mortar platoon went out there, looked around, and came back. That was all they reported. Strange to hear what really happened. It makes you wonder what all goes on we don’t know about.
Ø “Let your soldiers know not to steal from Iraqis. I don’t think it’s a problem in the Knights. Platoon leaders, make sure before a raid, soldiers go in empty pockets, and leave with empty pockets. There are reports of money being taken from homes and from shops. People are going to start getting angry if we start taking their shit. Make sure you are in control of your men. Keep hotheads back at home on ops.” Apparently soldiers have been taking items from shops and homes.
Ø A soldier on top of his truck accidentally fires a grenade from his grenade launcher within his camp. One person injured. Just shows you how stupid people can get you killed here.
Ø Mass grave site was reported in our sector. It was reported by the Washington Post, so the Army assumed it was true. We still don’t know yet. It appears the site is a bunch of fighting positions, with overhead cover. NO signs of a mass grave. Just another possible exaggeration.
Ø There was an IED attack on some guys leaving our C Co. BDE HQs. One person was killed, two injured. I worked the initial evacuation plan, that was to take the injured to a location 6 kilometers to our camp. Well, we suggested they take them to the big hospital (Army) only less than 1 km away. It was a mess. After we got that arranged, they canceled the request. That night I went to my room and listened to the BBC report on the attack I worked on.
Ø I read an article in Time magazine and saw pictures of Paul Bremer. He was in a typical Capital Hill style suit. Something wasn’t right. He was wearing suede desert combat boots. Combat boots and a suit. I wasn’t impressed with his stunt, this attempt to draw attention to himself. Shallow. One thing I noticed in another picture was the perfect condition of the soles. Never worn. Thanks Paul, but no thanks, let us do the boot wearing – you keep to your loafers. Also in another picture, he’s standing on a bridge in Baghdad surrounded by fat body guards with machine pistols. He said it was to make a point about Baghdad. What’s the point? You need bodyguards? He was standing on the very bridge I was on when we got lost – only a kilometer or less from his palace office. Get real Bremer. People in the States don’t know this. They think he’s in Baghdad! He’s just off the palace grounds. Hardly dangerous. I’d rather they just stay home rather than pull stunts. I would even respect them more.
Ø (31 JULY, 2003) Last night, 1LT Sheppard from A Co., the embodiment of childish pride and machismo was looking intense and confident, heaving with testosterone, a man in charge! He brought in a large cache of pump action air rifles! And two old Turkish shotguns. He claimed a 30 caliber rifle was among the “rifles.” Well, there was no 30 caliber rifle! People began to say, “LT Sheppard, thank God you got those air guns! Baghdad is safer now!” What an idiot, I thought. This is the second time he’s done this, brought in crap and looking for glory. I think he could feel the atmosphere was laughing at him, so he pretended to hold a conversation with another officer when Knight 2 walked in to offer his humorous observations. The rifles were returned to the man this morning.
Ø 2 nights ago I tried calling you for over 4 hours! It was no problem though, I didn’t even mind. I just kept redialing and tried to stay awake. I got through though! So it was worth it. I would do anything to hear your voice, it is the most important part of my day. After we talked, I went out and brushed my teeth. As I was going back to the room, I saw the white dog laying on her side in the grass. I heard some little cries, like chirping. I noticed she just had puppies! I saw she looked exhausted, just laying there and breathing heavy. The little puppies were so tiny, they looked like little hamsters – 6 of them. It was so amazing! They could hardly move their bodies, they’re so small. I sat there and talked to the puppies and the mom. It was so amazing to see. No dad was around, just her. As human beings, we are so lucky to know love and not just survival and mating. We are different from animals in some ways, in ways that make life more peaceful and loving – when we choose to be more than animals.
Ø One lieutenant came in all excited, with his enlisted cronies. This is the same LT from Apache they jumped for joy at having beat a man (written about earlier). His men were in our office tonight, excited about something, but it’s for sure they derive some pleasure from roughing these people up. They don’t even behave civilized. They act like savages. Just the expression on his enlisted man’s face radiated mischief, with an excited, bouncing, demon-like grin. It makes me sick.
Ø I walked over to our internet room, and, it was night, and I noticed an Iraqi man praying on a prayer rug. I passed and tried to stay respectfully quiet. I went into the internet room, and some soldiers were sitting with the Iraqi shop keeper (the internet “café” is in our barracks) at his computer. I sat at a computer and began to hear, “Oh yeah, I’d give it to her in the pooper! Oh yeah!” It was one of the American G.I.s sitting with the Iraqi. Both G.I.s were talking pretty distastefully. Then, the man who was praying came in and sat down. They were watching a belly dancer in some auditorium on DVD, it looked like Star Search or something. I didn’t pay attention to it, I was e-mailing Senator John Warner about revealing some evidence that supported WMD. Anyways, the soldiers continued to say lewd things. I paid attention to the praying man’s face. He didn’t seem amused, he just sat there and offered a bitter, fake smile. I just bit my lip and continued writing. Iraqis aren’t perfect either. A lot of times the kids will teach you words that are actually body parts, not “Hello.” The adults come up and laugh, then correct the kids. Well, some of them are buying porn on video disks from kids too. I told Sweeny and Villarreal if I caught them with it again, I’d destroy it. Conroy lives in their room too, and doesn’t like that stuff. Anyways, it’s illegal.
Ø Knight 3 says snipers need permission to fire on people from a major or above. Reason being that 3-9 Infantry is shooting too many Iraqis. They would see someone putting a box next to a car—then shoot them. See someone with a gun (usually people guarding property) – shoot him. So they have to ask first. Oh well. You know, it’s probably good that no body count is being kept of Iraqis. It would probably spark and outcry.

LT Sheppard of A Company would later be laughed at for bringing
in a disabled Iraqi in a wheelchair. Not only was the Iraqi in a wheelchair, he had a colostomy bag attached to his abdomen. Sheppard explained that this prisoner of war was actually the brother of a suspected terrorist. The wheelchair terrorist was released. Unfortunately, so was Sheppard.

[1] Anti aircraft gun


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