Friday, December 22, 2006

Mind of Mansel: J.R. and I in Iraq - part 7

(Note: Parts 1-6 below.)

As we approached the scene of the ambush the humvee took fire. Families were gathered over the wreckage of what were once bodies. If you have ever seen footage on television of men and women in some third world backwater holding one another and crying uncontrollably and waving their arms at the cameras and pointing at the bodies then you didn't smell the bodies burning. You didn't see the casual way the network cameraman replaced the film in his camera and began taking photos again like the carnage was just another stop on the way to the Pulitzer. He knows that he will be back in another watering hole soon enough.

In Iraq it's not like in Vietnam. You didn't just hop aboard a C-140 and then grab a Huey out to a shithole to scrap about to the shit. In Iraq the shit was the day of Tet, every single day. Thanks to a foreign policy of "Bring 'em on." One thing Jack and I could never figure out was why they called the area where the american troops where located the Green Zone. The only thing we came up with was when we interviewed the civilians in Iraq and they all responded with the same word, "Halliburton."

Halliburton had funded this attack. Private security forces had opened fire on innocent men, women, and children.

We turned around and around, Jack turning the humvee against the shooting and slammed the front across the curb of the highway. Both sliding out of the driver's side, we were still taking fire.

Jack screamed out, "You see where it's coming from?"

I was caught, frozen in the moment. I was watching a woman as she caressed the head of a boy. As she lifted his head up to her lips I could see that half of his head had been shot away. Blood had caked around his nostrils and from there, there was nothing. Somewhere on the bloody street his bloody mouth had been torn violently from him. As rounds exploded all around her she wept uncontrollably. While others ran for cover and Jack and I tried to save our lives she was shot through the heart while mourning the loss of this child.

Jack gripped my shoulder, "You see where it's coming from?"

I was shocked back into consciousness when a shot knicked my wrist and sent blood shooting across my hand. Before I had a chance to cuss or holler I looked up and noticed an Iraqi man wearing a black handkerchief aiming at my head from across the street. I jumped up instantly and grabbed Jack and jumped into the pool of blood in the grass by the front wheel.

The Iraqi man fired just as I jumped and just missed me. Jack cussed as I crushed all of my body weight on top of him, sending him face first into the bloody grass. We rolled and came up for air just as a car bomb exploded up the street.

The news cameraman crawled over to us, "Either one of you journalists?"

Jack and I looked at each other, I responded, "Now just what in the hell does that matter now?"

The cameraman didn't bat an eye, "I thought you might get my film to the network office, my cell is fubar."

I stared at the cameraman a moment and said, "Oh sure, yeah, we'll get it there, no problem."

He answered, "Great, tell'em about ten or twelve dead maybe more, I'm going after the car bomb."

The cameraman made his way crawling on his belly through the bloody grass in the direction of the explosion.

Jack smiled as he watched me open the film canister and expose the yellow film to the flames not three feet away from us. I handed the film to Jack and he tossed it in. We weren't going after the car bomb, we were going after the truth and fame and glory didn't have any role in this tragedy.

- Chris Mansel

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