Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Owning Baghdad's Streets, High Speed Chase and Tracers in the Night

Buy the unprecedented book or see original video at www.american-interrupted.com .

10 February, 2004 2409 (Actually 11 February now)

I’ll continue with Qatar observations, but first I’ve got to tell today’s (or tonight’s events). I love you! Today I slept for most of the day, and it was great. I do hate being back here though, working with these kinds of people. It’s good to work with professionals, not these children and scatter brains! Oh well, it’s up to me to do better. Today I got my rifle back on the range to shoot 10 rounds. You have to do that just in case you forgot how to shoot when you left. So Nixon and I shot some plastic bottles really quick. My sights are still good. The bottles jumped around in the air. I keep my sights on and my rifle clean – because unfortunately, it could save my life. Tonight I drove for SGM Walker, my normal job now. We went out into town and looked at the tanks that were observing the streets to make sure they were awake and paying attention. Some fireworks were going off too. I guess it’s a Muslim holiday. Lots of banners were up too. During our patrol, the lead scout vehicle crossed the median to turn around on a freeway. He didn’t bother to look first, and ended up pulling right in front of a taxi. I watched the taxi slam on the brakes and run into the side of the Hummer. The front end of the taxi was smashed, but the Hummer was OK. “Keep going,” SGM Walker said, “he should have been paying attention. Unless you want to stop and see if he’s alright.”
“Na, he’s alright, isn’t he?” Cole said.
“Yeah, he’ll be OK.” So we left the taxi behind and kept moving. We stopped a little down the road to push a car out of the road that was in front of the police station. The taxi driver followed us and went up to SGM Walker after we stopped to move the car.
“Mister, my car!” the driver said.
“Yeah, we’ll be there in one minute,” Walker said. We moved the car and got into our truck.
“Go ahead,” Walker said. We drove right past the taxi driver. I just felt ashamed, part of a failing idea or machine, chained to a 500 pound drunk gorilla. It was wrong, what we did, but it happens all the time. We’re not out here keeping the peace, we’re out here exercising our power, satisfying our egos, exerting our authority. Doing all the things that one would never think of doing normally. Every night we go out, it’s just shining lights in people’s faces and going down major roads, but there’s no plan. We drive right by suspicious vehicles, cars going down the wrong way down the road, and we never drive without headlights (bad guys can see you coming from a mile away). BUT – we drive around pointing lights at people (kids, old people) and don’t do anything effective. THEN – when we so see something suspicious, I say something and it feels like they are too scared to check it out. They would rather play policeman than be policeman. So you’re pretty much out there waiting to get shot, and while you’re blinding some carload of women and kids, some busload of terrorists is driving by. We won’t stop a bus though, that would be too complicated. I tell you, this war is bullshit. We like to pretend we’re effective, then act shocked that violence continues. We are fully capable of catching a lot of bad guys here – but we’re too lazy and use wishful thinking all too often. I can’t believe I’ve been here for almost a year, and Baghdad looks the same as it did when we got here – some parts even worse. I can’t believe the lack of mission, other than “free Iraq!” well, no shit, that’s a pretty big mission! Do you mind setting up a step by step process? Maybe our leaders aren’t smart enough to do that. And that wouldn’t surprise me. While soldiers are getting killed on our roads, instead of staying up all night and putting together a plan to stop bomb placement, our leaders play video games. Not until month 8 and over 50 bombs on our assigned roads alone, did we come up with a plan. How many soldiers died on our roads before then? How many Iraqis?
Very few people take this mission seriously; almost no one sees it as a historic moment. Everyone just sees it as an opportunity to make money, to be someone and exercise power (when they’ve never been in a position to do so all their lives). Like a loser pot-head who never got respect in high school is now a soldier in Baghdad pointing his rifle in someone’s face or ransacking someone’s house, or beating someone, or ramming their car – just because they can. Iraqis I know say, “Yes, but you expect this from soldiers, all soldiers are like this, because all soldiers are stupid. It doesn’t matter what country.” I just wonder how much patience they have here. They aren’t stupid. We cannot afford to alienate people here. We suffer most from our own mistakes and lack of insight. All the munitions we failed to secure early on – some were used to blow us up. A lot of effort we put into finding bad guys went into wrongly capturing good people (or killing good people). For so long, we would go out of the gate and just react to fire – not try to prevent it. We worked dumb. Only now things are starting to get a little better with planning. If I were a battalion commander in this historic moment, I would have done a lot more for these people, and for our soldiers. I see so clearly how it can be done too. No one gives a shit about finding solutions though. Well, sometimes, like when a soldier gets killed. Then everyone cares about preventing it from happening again for about 24 hours – maybe 48 if whoever died was important enough.
Tonight I spotted two suspicious cars on a road stopped. It was near a spot where bombs are known to go off, including one that went off early and blew up the bomber.”
‘Got two cars on the left, very suspicious, so you want to get them?’ I asked SGM Walker. He paused and said nothing.
‘Do you want to?’ I said again.
“Um, uh, Sergeant Cole,” he said on the radio, “do you see those two cars?”
“Roger,” Sergeant Cole (who’s already killed one person and likes to kiss Walker’s ass all the time and show off by harassing Iraqis) said.
“Do you want to go after them?”
‘Just freakin’ get em!’ I thought to myself. I’d rather get real bad guys than drive in circles getting shot at and shining flashlights at kids and scared shop owners.
“OK,” Sergeant Cole said, and the two cars spotted us. They quickly pulled away and sped down the road. We chased them, but got a late start trying to decide if we wanted to go after them. They (us) really seemed scared! I would rather catch a damn terrorist and save a life than pretend to provide security.
We started flying down the road after them. We were doing about 65 or 70 mph down the city street. I could see one of the cars flashing his headlights frantically so cars would let him pass. They were definitely trying to get away. Who knows why. Then, they turned a U-turn, and the hummer in front of us turned and dropped an $80 spotlight in the intersection that was promptly run over and destroyed. We all stopped, and the two cars got away. It almost seemed like everyone was glad they got away so we wouldn’t be in danger. All these soldiers like to play the power game – but only when they can see for sure that they’ll win. I think that is bullshit. I was angry about our ineffectiveness. Every failure to intercept the bad guys is a victory for them – and “they” are only going to bring Iraq trouble and instability – for Ali, for Haider, for Tariq and their families. For me, for our kids, for the future. This is serious business. I believe that.
As we headed back to camp. I saw a tracer bullet fly right over our truck, and then another over the lead truck. I wasn’t worried.
‘This city is in turmoil’ I thought. I’m back safe and sound now, I love you, and I can’t wait to get home to you. I need to go up the ladder so I can influence events like what’s going on (or not going on) on Iraq. I realize more and more everyday that all these “great” leaders are just plain men with faults like any other. They’ve just got gold in their pockets, golden tongues, and fancy clothes. That’s enough to help the world we’re in now. We need more. Nora, I love you so dearly. I want a better world for us. I love you.

Sergeant Cole was in Fallujah and told us stories about Fallujah from time to time. It was rumored that he had the first confirmed kill in the battalion. He told about one Iraqi that they had killed. They wrapped the dead body in a military tarp in order to transport it properly. As they rolled the body into the tarp, the corpse made a loud moaning sound – spooking one of the soldiers into shooting another bullet into the bloody burrito. Cole’s platoon, Third Platoon, had a guidon that depicted several frowning stick men with crossed out eyes, indicating that the stick men were dead. This was the platoon’s tally of Iraqis killed. Several stick men had dots for eyes, but frowns nonetheless. That indicated a wounded Iraqi.

Buy the unprecedented book or see original video at www.american-interrupted.com .


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