Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Garrison

A shot is fired at Marines and Michael Totten goes out with a subsequent patrol and encounters the slums of Fallujah. But the action is now the exception rather than the rule.

"Are we going inside?" I said to Lieutenant Lappe.

"I don't know," he said. "We need to talk to the owner, but he isn't around. The Iraqis are trying to locate him."

The purpose of the mission was to find him and talk to him, and also to show force. The Marines who were shot at had to be extracted, but at the same time they can't be seen steering clear of a place just because somebody fired a round at them.

This is as much action as the Marines see any more in Fallujah, which is why the city and the rest of the province are being handed back to Iraqis.

The police could not locate the owner, so we left.

Yet despite the relative quiet there's a sense that a drama of a different kind is taking place behind the scenes. One of the men with Totten is full of directionless energy. He writes, "Corporal Z bellowed at the privates under his command. He screamed at just about everyone, including me. He's a tyrant to work underneath, and he's a royal pain to work near. His belligerent attitude was unprofessional, and I was surprised his fellow Marines put up with him. I'm referring to him as Corporal Z instead of his full name because my objective here isn't to name and shame him as an act of revenge."

Reading through Michael's account I had the feeling it seemed as if the war were over but the peace hadn't yet begun. The difference is crucial. The state of peace is a little bit more than the absence of combat. Real peace has an excitement all its own; it's a living thing the way that war is. The dusty slums and the hulking flour mill were mute testimony to a kind of emptiness; a signpost to the long road still before the Iraqis.




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3 Comments:

Blogger RWE said...

A friend of mine was assigned to Germany just after the end of WWII, having entered the USAAF a bit too late to see action, courtesy of the atomic bomb. If the invasion of Japan had come off he was going to be a gunner on a 1945 version of an AC-47 Spooky, based on the B-32.

At the base he was staying at in Germany they occasionally had a few rounds fired at them from disgruntled Germans. One day he was out with a carbine, hunting deer with which to supplement their standard rations, when he more or less accidentally got the drop on a German carrying a rifle. Germans were forbidden from being armed at that time.

He was walking the German back to the base at gunpoint when he encountered some US Army troops. They said they would take charge of the prisoner and did so. Those were combat hardened troops who viewed German holdouts with something less than amusement.

My friend said that he wonders if that German he captured ever made it to a penal facility. He really doubts it.

3/04/2008 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Totten's comment that the pickup carrying the Iraqi police to the scene almost running over them makes me wonder about (1) what message the driver was trying to send, or (2) if Iraqi drivers are just as incompetent as Iraqi gunmen (including police and soldiers with guns).

Looking at his pictures, I just can't imagine American Marines seeing those Iraqi police as allies, and doubt that complacency is something they have to worry too much about.

He's also commented previously upon what savages the children are, and wondered what sort of adults they will grow up into. Totten seems to be growing more pessimistic as time goes by about Iraq society as a whole, never mind alQueda and terrorism.

3/04/2008 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger Words Twice said...

NahnCee said...

Totten's comment that the pickup carrying the Iraqi police to the scene almost running over them makes me wonder about (1) what message the driver was trying to send, or (2) if Iraqi drivers are just as incompetent as Iraqi gunmen (including police and soldiers with guns).


Iraqi drivers are buffoons. I would hesitate to guess how many have been shot at for being an idiotic driver (remember those warning signs on the back of US vehicles?) but it has got to be a sizable number.

It’s funny, the anecdote and the photo of the pickup truck full of Iraqi police reminds me of a similar experience I had in Iraq. A few years ago, I was visiting a checkpoint south of Baghdad (in the infamous Triangle of Death) when suddenly, a large truckload of about a dozen or so masked gunmen was waved through and came screaming by. The looked like stereotypical terrorists. My compadre and I exchanged startled looks and nervously gripped our rifles, but the Marines that were running the checkpoint reassured me that the guys with Kalashnikovs and balaclavas were Iraqi police.

Looking at his pictures, I just can't imagine American Marines seeing those Iraqi police as allies, and doubt that complacency is something they have to worry too much about.

I never mistook them for anything other than temporary "allies", or the situation as anything other than a marriage of convenience. I didn’t even like sharing sleeping quarters with Iraqi interpreters, and I slept with a pistol handy.

With regards to firearms proficiency: I had the misfortune of allowing those Iraqi clowns onto a live fire practice range that I was in charge of. In the interest of brevity I will just say that all the worst stereotypes are true.

3/12/2008 12:57:00 PM  

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