Friday, August 04, 2006

A Different Point of View

For those who were wondering if the Army of Dude was dead or dying, fear not! It has only been in hibernation since I've made my way to northern Iraq. I'm up in Mosul, the third largest city where the insurgency is in full swing. A lot of people are coming in from Syria to take us on.

We've been gradually setting in as our replacements leave for Baghdad. They were hours from leaving to go home when suddenly Uncle Sam's caring hand whisked them away to the most volatile city in Iraq at the moment, to quell the rising tide of violence. Ain't that a kick in the head? We've done the standard patrolling and car searching, nothing out of the ordinary. Yesterday was a bit different.

The city of Mosul is a little bit of everything; there are soccer fields, highways, ghettos and ritzy neighborhoods (for a third world country, anyway). The one thing the whole city shares is trash; there is trash everywhere, in every open field and in between every building. Most of us don't mind throwing bottles or cans on the side of the road; it'll happen to fall in another pile. Everywhere kids are yelling 'mister, mister!' as we drive by. Some wave, all stare. When we stop we give them food and water, which unleashes other kids from the dark buildings. In an insurgency, everything is suspect. Little kids playing with bright orange balls, a dude standing by the trunk of his car in the median. All could be signals or warnings. Paranoia becomes second nature.

We were parked yesterday in the middle of the street while squads maneuvered inside the nearby buildings. I was designated air guard, the guy in the back of the vehicle that makes sure no one sneaks up or takes a pot shot at our drivers. After awhile my mind wandered on this and that when a crack rang out, to my rear. I must have jumped ten feet into the air. My first reaction was 'it was just a warning shot' but the hissing noise was distinct. It went right over my head; this sniper was a poor shot. It was fired at the vehicle directly behind us. Several more shots rang out, this time from a cemetery. My squad came out of the building and we loaded up. We drove a few blocks and decided to take a tall building to get on the roof. We opened the door and began going through all the rooms, leapfrogging from one to the other, ushering the small boy, his mother and sister into a room. Everyone was set on the rooftop. Across the alley we yelled at some bricklayers if they knew where the fire was coming from; they shrugged and continued working, oblivious to our dilemma. After a while I'm sent to the bottom floor to watch the family, which is a nice break. I offered a broken hello in Arabic and give the kid my packet of Gatorade, explaining how you just put it in water. He wasn't too afraid of me then. I then hear several shots go off on the roof, this time from us. The family gives me a look but they can't see me through my sunglasses. After it ceased I was called up to the roof to replace a guy who's been up there a while; it's hot and no one had water. I set up, facing the cemetery and am told the guy is still there. After much anticipation we are called down to load up and leave. We sit on a road because more elements show up to help; we all think to ourselves, how many people does it take to eliminate one guy with an AK? We bitch about it taking forever and missing lunch; the guys we relieved said they never missed food for anything. As we're sitting there sweating and cursing, I wonder if the sniper had a video camera with him; I'm curious to know if there are outtakes where they completely miss again and again. All in all, a two hour patrol took five hours to complete and we wonder if dinner is a reality.

I'm not sure how long it'll take until someone gets shot in the face because we sit in the middle of the road in hour intervals. We're supposed to be quick and efficient, not unwieldy and slow. One thought is common; how the hell do we win wars doing this shit?