Saturday, November 22, 2003

Donkey Cart Attack on Ministry of Oil, Thanksgiving with Bush

22 November, 2003

“Hey Knight X-Ray,” our scout element called on the radio. “We’re at the Diyallah Bridge and the locals have taken bolts off the temporary bridge.”
“Goddamnit! That’s a Navy bridge! Those Navy parts are hard to get,” CPT Diamond exclaimed after talking to our engineers on the phone. “Freakin’ Hajji!”
A bridge next to our camp has a lot of traffic on it. It was sabotaged by the Saddam Fedayeen during the war. The Seabees came in and placed some metal girders on the pilings of the bridge so that traffic could flow again. The patrol was running a checkpoint near the bridge and noticed bolts ere missing from the trusses. It seems the Iraqis have been stripping bolts off the bridge for scrap metal money. Of course, this also means they can’t use the bridge. Our engineers went out to do another assessment of the bridge. I wonder if they found the “Navy” parts they needed to repair it.
Well, yesterday I woke up to a surprise. The Ministry of Oil had just been attacked. It was a rocket attack – multiple rockets, launched from a donkey cart. I knew right away I should call you and my parents because they were already covering the attack on the news. There were also similar rocket attacks on other buildings (Palestine Hotel). I wasn’t surprised the MOO got hit, no one was. It wasn’t dramatic, and it wasn’t a moment of excitement for us. Very calmly, very coolly, we sent fire trucks and did an investigation afterwards. The fire damaged the 5th floor of the north tower of the MOO pretty badly.
“Who’s got the donkey?” Knight 6 asked.
“3-9 Infantry, Sir,” someone responded.
‘Hmmm,’ I thought in fun, ‘I wonder if they have interrogated him yet!’ Of course, these kind of jokes popped up later.
“They’re having trouble finding a translator,” one of the RTOs said. It was only a matter of time before the news started beaming images of a donkey cart launcher all over the world. Alongside on a cart was a white, burnt, bloody donkey. He was injured as the rockets exploded in the launcher (some didn’t launch). Funny thing though – one Reuters television person was on site just in time to film the attack. In fact – he was there before the attack and ready to film. Is that responsible journalism? People could have been killed, and here’s this cameraman pre-positioned and ready to get the big story. It seems the news is getting more into entertainment than reporting facts. Yes – it is a fact that we were going to be attacked, but this journalist obviously had prior notice of the launch. He was arrested and later released. I guess it’s true that the terrorists want their attacks publicized as much as we publicized our invasion of Iraq. It’s just as fair when you think about it.

Thanksgiving came and went. The night before Thanksgiving, CPT Smalls and I were preparing the meeting room for some visiting generals. I was about to lose my mind, printing out place cards with different organization logos, laminating them to perfection, and seeking approval from Major Ramirez. Each time, he would approve a draft design, and I would produce several final laminated, full-color place cards for the conference table. When I placed them on the table, Ramirez would change his mind, and say, “No, we need the individual’s organization logo and general flag on the place card.” This was after making several finished products. This went on several times before I snapped. Captain Smalls took me outside and calmed me down, letting me know that I was out of line and that it sucked for him too. I was really glad he did that. It let me see that I wasn’t the only one who was stressed.
When the morning came, the generals didn’t show up. We were up until 3 a.m. getting the conference room ready, aligning packets of sugar, decorating doughnuts, folding napkins – and they didn’t come. I was frantically washing my uniform that morning, since I would be in the meeting as well. I draped my wet, washed uniform over my chair in my room and attempted to dry my blouse with an electric heater. Never try that at home. I looked away for three seconds, and looked back to see my black, scorched desert blouse. I didn’t need it anyways. We all had theories as to why the generals did not come. One person joked, “Bush is probably coming for Thanksgiving.” Some others commented that they didn’t believe he would do that, and if he did, they would respect him more for it. Sure enough, Bush was in town. The attitude among many was, “So what, he’s here. We still have to get out of this shit hole.”
Thanksgiving dinner was great. It was inside of a super sized tent. The company running the tent did a really good job making sure we felt at home. I ate fresh turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pecan pie. It was great. Outside it was grey and raining. Inside, we were at home. CNN was there to film the event.
Terrorist attacks had been on an increase since the U.N. bombing. Canal Road was taking a life every other day, and sometimes daily. Since the grenade attack I experienced in October, I was sensitive to loud noises, they made me uneasy. I kept it under control, but when driving, the antenna on the Hummer would crack against the shell of the truck periodically, making me paranoid and sick to my stomach sometimes.


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