Saturday, December 30, 2006

Mind of Mansel: JR & I in Iraq, Part 8

(Parts 1-7 below)

The only human right you have in Iraq these days outside the idling engine of a military transport plane is just that, you are a human at that moment. But step out of the plane into the dusty air and you are the margin for victory, a landslide on the abacus. Translate that into political capitol and you are the means to an end, the straw on the camel's back that like a dowser's wand leads the way to the oil, damn the body count, this is war. Damn men, stiff upper lip and all, this is economics.

It's hard to keep a global ledger in mind when you are bleeding on an Iraqi street. It's even more difficult when you are in the grass which is much cooler but is covered not only in your blood but the blood of children and the twisted metal of automobiles and weapons. Any weapons in a firefight can be a weapon of mass destruction when paint is tearing and flicking away into your eyes, remember that if you ever find yourself hunted by the military of your own country in a foreign land.

The car bomb exploded again as best we could figure as there was another explosion almost right away. One thing you will never understand if you are ever in Iraq is the term, Improvised Explosive Device. That description alone brings to mind Timothy McVeigh going into a Wal-Mart and buying a few items and coming out with two shopping bags and some d cell batteries. There is nothing improvised about any of these devices, nothing thrown together on a whim. It's not like the Vietcong rushed down from the jungles of North Vietnam with just some nails and fertilizer and had to first find a rental truck or take flying lessons. Read back through the reports from Iraq when Saddam was in power and there weren't any I.E.D.'s being exploded. Create the demand and journalists will recoil only slightly before rushing in and that was where we were, rushing in on our bellies.
I looked up and noticed the Iraqi man with the black handkerchief had taken off his disguise and had exposed his american features. I grabbed my camera and shot a few stills of him reloading. Using the second explosion as cover the famalies who had been caught out in the open ran to cover as shots sprayed the streets like vipers snipping at their heels. I grabbed Jack and pulled his face over to mine, his look of confusion moved to anger as he noticed the american.

Jack whispered to me, "Dirty son of a bitch!"

Looking around us we noticed the famalies had made it to cover and one man was waving us over to the door of a storefront.

I grabbed Jack by the shoulder and notioned to him, "We got to make it, the bastard knows we're here."

As soon as I seriously allowed myself to consider running across a street being riddled with gunfire I instantly thought to myself, "You're a journalist and this asshole is trying to make you a soldier!"

I choked back fear and crippling anxiety and slinging blood from my hand onto the street I darted across the street with Jack alongside me. We made it just as the entire front of the building erupted in flames and smoke as a grenade was shot into the street in front of the wall. Once inside the man and his family motioned for us to follow them. As we made our way through the store the man stooped for a moment and stopped to pick up the body of a woman who had been shot. The bullet had gone clear through her skull and glass had sprayed her face, scarring it horribly. Jack and I each grabbed a leg and with the man we made our way to a vehicle outside.

We searched the roofs for private security forces but saw none, evidently they hadn't planned ahead and this gave us pause. We were at least 45 minutes late to the scene and this was as far as they had gotten. What had stopped them? What had we missed? Somehow we had to find out if they had suffered any casualities and we had to ask our saviors here what had happened but first we had to reach a safe distance.

- Chris Mansel

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