Monday, May 21, 2007

Exchange of Fire

Melik Kaylan is with Ahmed Chalabi visiting sheiks in Diyala. Just then al-Qaeda pays a call too and Kaylan watches a pitched battle between Iraqi troops, local villagers and al-Qaeda terrorists.


I lost my head somewhat and ran at the rampart to look over the top but was thankfully tackled and stopped. The visiting sheiks crowded into the community hall. Mr. Chalabi never ceased talking to the TV camera, demanding help for the village. The second shell landed closer and behind us and fine yellow earth-dust floated over us. The sheiks were herded outside as a direct hit would have killed them all. It seemed the enemy had hit the structure before, maybe even had its GPS coordinates. The chaos intensified, the fighters now ducking from incoming fire. It was frustrating not to see the full picture. Two U.S. choppers flew overhead toward the opposition. The third mortar detonated, quite close this time, perhaps some 30 yards to the left, behind shuddering mud-brick structures, making my clothing flicker in the blast and my breath drop out. The tank fired again. The sheiks ran around ascending their SUVs with help from villagers. I counted three shells in all but some say six landed. It was hard to tell in the confusion. Suddenly a shout rose up and the fighters danced up and down below the ridge and came running down to us laughing. They'd destroyed one of the targets, it seemed.

What about the other? "It's OK, it's OK," someone shouted to me, and everyone began firing into the air to the great anger of a visiting army officer. They could scarcely afford the ammunition. We later found out, though, that the combined sound of gunfire, added to by bodyguards, had impressed the attackers--they apparently feared the presence of a much bigger force. They stopped, at least for now, which gave us the chance to leap into our vehicles, with Mr. Chalabi in his blue Parisian suit and poplin shirt pleading to the last in front of the cameras, before being bundled off to safety.

As we drove away from the village along the raised earth road, I looked back to see perhaps a hundred SUVs, a mile long, belting along behind carrying the elders. An Iraqi Army Humvee with mounted machine gun charged past us to the front. They'd been helping to guard the last bridge to Baghdad. But now, one felt, the villagers could guard it handily. They no longer felt isolated and forgotten by the world, as the television sets showed this night all over the Mideast.

The account is interesting as a snapshot of the war on the ground. Al-Qaeda is real. The Iraqi Army is real too. And the reflexive glee that requires shooting scarce ammo into the air when the good guys score is probably real as well.

3 Comments:

Blogger Sparks fly said...

Chalabi comes off looking good.

I feel for both sides. The Sunnis and Shiites have both been discomforted by "modernism" invading their country. Al Queada sensing a vacuum after the bumbling of Saddam has moved to fill it by exploiting the Sunni/Shia differences to unite the country under their "New Caliphate", uber extremist, rule.

It reminds me of that Russian novel War and Peace; all those characters!

This piece makes Al Queada look like history. They have emotion but that usually doesn't do well against the organized machinery of war.

This could change quickly in our favor.

5/21/2007 10:35:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Sooner or later someone is going to exploit that glee.

How many stories from the US Civil war are there of soldiers getting slaughtered by counterattacks because instead of pressing an attack or preparing for the counterattack they were looting the camp? Way too many.

That is what we are trying to change.

5/22/2007 05:26:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

OT WMD For Algore.
Shades of Unstoppable Global Warming!
---
The Faithful Heretic

Bryson mentions the retreat of Alpine glaciers, common grist for current headlines. “What do they find when the ice sheets retreat, in the Alps?”

We recall the two-year-old report saying a mature forest and agricultural water-management structures had been discovered emerging from the ice, seeing sunlight for the first time in thousands of years. Bryson interrupts excitedly.

A silver mine!
The guys had stacked up their tools because they were going to be back the next spring to mine more silver, only the snow never went,” he says.

“There used to be less ice than now.
It’s just getting back to normal
.”

What Leads, What Follows?

---
---
Long ago in the Army Air Corps, Bryson and a colleague prepared the aviation weather forecast that predicted discovery of the jet stream by a group of B-29s flying to and from Tokyo. Their warning to expect westerly winds at 168 knots earned Bryson and his friend a chewing out from a general—and the general’s apology the next day when he learned they were right. Bryson flew into a couple of typhoons in 1944, three years before the Weather Service officially did such things, and he prepared the forecast for the homeward flight of the Enola Gay. Back in Wisconsin, he built a program at the UW that’s trained some of the nation’s leading climatologists.

How Little We Know

Bryson is a believer in climate change, in that he’s as quick as anyone to acknowledge that Earth’s climate has done nothing but change throughout the planet’s existence. In fact, he took that knowledge a big step further, earlier than probably anyone else...
HT - Limbaugh

5/22/2007 12:32:00 PM  

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