Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Spotting a Potential IED, Last Minute Bomb Exposal Expert Will and Seagull Shit

See never-before-seen video at www.American-Interrupted.com or find out how to buy the book.

17 February 2004 1605 Martyrs’ Monument

It’s a cool day, and a busy day at that. We were supposed to come here to the monument for a meeting at 1500, but we were delayed. I spotted a cinderblock with wires around it and another block with a wire sticking out of it. We were close to the monument when I spotted it. The enemy is now putting bombs in concrete blocks to hide them, and making them remote controlled detonating. They are pretty common now. I spotted the blocks on my side of the truck in the median of the road. When you drive here, you sit sideways 45º in your seat. You look at the vehicle in front of you, the median, and your side view mirror. I closely scrutinize every bit of debris in the median. When we passed the blocks, I noticed the wires, so I told SGM Walker on our personal intercom radio headset. We turned around and went back to the spot where I found the blocks. We parked about 200 meters away and Sergeant Cole and SGM Walker went near the blocks and confirmed wires were coming from blocks.
We had to block traffic on both sides of the road (a freeway called Palestine Road). We called the bomb disposal team. This was the second time this month SGM Walker called the bomb squad for suspected IED. I’ll get to the other time later. You know you’re better safe than sorry. A lot of traffic had to be cutoff. Carwash boys stood along the side of the road trying to look in my truck. I gave a few some soap. None of the Iraqis in traffic or along the side of the road seemed too angry about the delay. We made hand gestures to them to indicate a bomb ahead.
The bomb guys showed up and got a robot car out and a remote control in a suitcase. They sent the robot down to the cinderblocks and investigated it with the remote camera. They decided it looked like a bomb, so they brought the robot back and hooked an explosive in a water bottle to the robot. The water in the bottle would explode out and break open the concrete block hopefully showing the contents. So the robot went back to the blocks with the waterbomb.
The waterbomb exploded, and the nearby Iraqis cheered. The robot went up to the blocks and investigated again. The block only cracked. So, the bomb team decided to destroy the blocks completely. The team brought the robot back to us and the bomb guys out 2 pounds of C-4 explosive in the robot’s claws (it has an arm with a claw). The robot drove back to the blocks and the team used the camera and remote control to put the explosive on the block. Then the robot backed away and we prepared to blow the blocks.
“FIRE IN THE HOLE!” the Sergeant yelled.
All of us took cover behind our vehicles.
“BOOM!” A huge explosion went off and all the Iraqis fell down or ran away frightened. The explosion was enormous, and you could hear it rumble and echo all through Baghdad. It’s amazing so little C-4 can explode like that. It was the same kind of explosion that went off by my truck back in December in the IED attack. After the smoke cleared, there was nothing left at the spot. It all disintegrated.
Now, one of the team members would have to investigate the remains of the suspected bomb. One sergeant got suited up in a heavy bomb suit. As he got into the suit, it looks like a space suit, he took his watch off.
“Who’s got dibs on my watch?” he asked. “In case I don’t make it, you can have it,” he said, handing it to another soldier.
“Any last words?” an assistant asked. The spaceman murmured something I couldn’t hear.
“If anything happens, you come down to get me,” he said to the assistant sergeant.
I guess in this month alone, bomb squads have lost three men. I was surprised to hear how fatalistic they were. They’ve been destroying roadside bombs for a while now and seen plenty of real ones – even complicated bombs with remote, timed, and secondary bomb capability all in one.
The remains were examined and it turned out it was either a fake bomb put there to agitate us, or concrete blocks with thin wire sticking out, and wires wrapped around them. Better safe than sorry. I love you Nora. No one knows why we are here, why we came, or where we’re going.

During the time we were stopped on Palestine Road, Major Ramirez and his crew were blocking the traffic on the opposite side of the road. This was to keep anyone from getting killed or interfering with the bomb disposal. We could see his vehicle about 200 meters or so away from our position. Oddly enough, when the first attempt to destroy the cinderblock failed, the explosion attracted quite a number of seagulls. I don’t know why. Maybe they know to follow the smoke plumes in Baghdad because they lead to meat in some cases, like a morbid treasure at the end of the rainbow analogy. They were there though, nonetheless. As they circled, you could hear their shit splattering on the hot pavement. One bird scored a direct hit on Siegel’s rifle, and the white crap dripped down his rifle. He didn’t know it until Foley pointed it out to him.
EOD had been losing a lot of people around this time. I would sit down and read the nightly reports from around Iraq almost everyday. One report said that an EOD soldier approached a roadside object in his suit. They had already attempted to destroy the object using explosives, but it remained. While in his suit, he walked up to the object and sensed a ticking sound. Trusting his instincts, he immediately turned around and tried to run (the suit is heavy and cumbersome though). He was able to escape only a few meters when the object exploded and threw him to the ground. He survived. Others didn’t though. Techniques became more complex, and the terrorist would place dummy bombs to lure EOD specialists within range of other bombs placed to harm the soldiers securing the dummy bomb’s perimeter. Another increasing trend was the use of “daisy chain” bombs, that is large artillery shells linked together for simultaneous detonation. Multiple artillery rounds could destroy a heavy tank.
Haider and I would sit at dinner, picking through the dish of chicken and rice that his mother made. He asked me once, “Why Americans always think of sex and money? Why they do this? I don’t like this man.” The only exposure he had to Americans were the soldiers that he saw everyday (many of whom were not model people) and the constant live satellite television feed of music videos from the states. Of course, he began to see the U.S. as a godless, decadent, hedonistic society. He saw the soldiers looking at porn, he saw the hip hop videos with all the half-naked (or naked) women dancing around while some bejeweled thug sipping on gin sings something with “bitch” here and “dick” that. Brittney Spears came out with a new video that revealed most of her body, and Beyonce was in a video walking around on all fours like a dog. This was extreme to most Iraqis. It made them suspicious. I sat up many nights explaining to Haider and others that the entertainment industry does not represent American values or culture. It is simply one part of it. Moreover, it is an industry like any other, and one operated to generate money – and sex sells. Girls walking on all fours generate dollars and beeeeatches dancing naked for some black idiot sipping gin and dancing in rented jewelry and a rented house – it sells. It made me wonder though, how should we market America to the world?
Haider told me one night, “If Iraq and U.S. go to war again, and we are enemy, I would kill American soldiers. But Thompson, if I saw you, I would not kill you, even if I would die.” Abbas once told me,
“When Americans came to Iraq, Iraqi people thought we learn something from them. But, we learned Americans should learn from us!”


See never-before-seen video at www.American-Interrupted.com or find out how to buy the book.

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