So obviously (I hope), this post is not about abusing prisoners in a jail in the titled town. This is more another mission, when Scott Molina and I went with 1st Battalion, 39th Air Defense Artillery Regiment into the now-infamous town for what we were told was a meeting of Iraq’s first democratically elected municipal government. There were a few firsts that day. It was the first time I worked with honest-to-God Special Forces Soldiers, which is why the story only had first names for some of the sources. It was the first time (oddly) that I ran into any combat camera personnel on the battlefield. It was also the first time another man held my hand. to this day I have to assume it was friendly, not “friendly,” but Scott got it on tape and still swears otherwise.
Mostly it was boring. We sat there while a bunch of people talked in Arabic with the occasional English interaction from teh Special Forces team members. Then we walked around in the town’s open-air market, where I realized that flies really do like meat hanging out in the open air.
A side note: This is the last regular entry in the journal. There are a few more I’ll post over the coming weeks in the interest of finishing the project, and I’ll try to fill in some blanks, but it’s obvious that after April, things started getting Groundhog Dayish. Read on …
25 April 03
An incredibly dull week has passed without so much as a peep from me in these pages. There hasn’t been a whole lot to write about. I’m begging for stories to cover just to make the days pass more quickly.
One interesting, if not exciting, story this week. I went to a town called Abu Gharyib [I swear that’s how they spelled it in English on the road signs], just northwest of the airport, and got to be present as Iraq’s first-ever democratically elected city council met with its town’s department heads for the first time ever. There was a sense of history to the whole thing, even though it was at time as dull as Dad’s council meetings [my dad was a city manager before he retired]. The issues, however, were more immediate. Security for one of Baghdad’s only fully-functioning hospitals. Arresting looters. Paying police officers and other civic servants who haven’t see pay in two months. The list went on and on, with LTC Gerrell, the 1-39 ADA commander, promising to support them, but telling them they had to start doing things for themselves.
It seems simple, doesn’t it? But it’s not that easy. These people have no historical precedent for democracy. They’re learning it all for the first time after spending more than 3 decades under the Baath Party’s boot heel. Decisions have not been made by these folks in a long time, and now they’re being told it’s all up to them deciding and acting.
This is all big. I’ll never be part of something like this again, and history is unfolding around me. Imagine this place in 10 years.* 20. 30. It won’t be recognizable, all because of the seeds that are planted daily in this land’s fertile soil and fertile hearts and minds.
To Be Continued …
* Well, it’s been 10 years, how great IS it genius?