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Village Raid

2009/07/23

Late at night, we are summoned to roll with the Iraqi General and his special operations company.  Our convoy, over 30 vehicles strong, rolls out onto the quiet streets of Baghdad, and maneuvers toward a small desert village.

The convoy links up with another of thirty or so vehicles, all loaded with soldiers and their weapons ready to do business.  Several Americans dismount and find the Iraqi General.  In the middle of his personal security detail, he is barking orders and waving his hands.  His orders are to search every house, every closet (even drawers and refrigerators) and announces that we will be here all night and all day, until we find the bad guys.  In minutes, vehicles start maneuvering around the village blocking roads, shining lights on houses and knocking on doors.

Taking an early morning break.

Taking an early morning break.

At 3:00 am, he walks down a small street at the front of the village, as if he is the owner.  We follow behind him and listen to his discussion.  All around us, Iraqi soldiers scurry around shining lights on rooftops and into windows.  They bang on doors and enter homes as cell phones are used as to give orders to platoon leaders around the village.  Overhead, the buzz of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) let us know that we are being watched.

In the background, route clearance teams search for IEDs emplaced along main supply routes.  Large vehicles in the dark, with dozens of high-powered lights mounted on each vehicle, do their best to see in the nooks and crannies of their environment.  It reminds me of a scene out of a sci-fi movie.  In a moment of surrealism, I wait for lasers to start shooting at and exploding targets but it never happens.

We reach the end of the road and inspect a hole.  Sunken pavement, maybe three meters across.  The Iraqi General reaches into the hole and pulls out a piece of plastic, inspects it, and discusses the potential of what it might be, then throws it on the ground.  We turn around and go back toward the beginning of the street.

Half way down the street, the commander stops at the village sheiks house.  Plastic yard chairs are assembled out front and we sit down, almost as if we are stopping by, just to say hello.  After the sheik is awake and dressed the Iraqi General moves inside to discuss business.  As dawn breaks, he emerges from inside the home.

We patrol the streets one more time in our Iron Camels.  It’s 5:30 am and people are beginning their day, heading to jobs, doing chores within the village trying to get ahead of the hot, overbearing sun.General and the Criminal

Before we leave, one man is apprehended.  He is accused of stealing property from an Iraq soldier that lives in this village, who is also part of this mission.  The Iraqi soldier informs the Iraqi General that he has gone to the police, but they refused to listen to his story.  After a brief interrogation, the General orders the Iraqi soldiers to arrest the man.  He tells the man to pay 1.5 million Dinars ($1300) and will be released when the Iraqi soldier receives all his money.  If he doesn’t pay, he will remain in prison on charges of terrorism.  It will be years before a judge can hear his story.

Just as fast as we descended on the village we leave.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Lauren Michaud permalink
    2009/07/28 07:59

    Ok, so I personally agree with my brother, Matthew, for once. If we were to leave Iraq now, life would be back to how it was before we invaded and it would be time wasted. I simply wish that the reconstruction plan for Iraq post-war was stronger than the one the U.S. government put out. It seemed as if we had no control over the chaos afterwards, which is why life there is the way it is now. I’m a person who agrees with why we originally invaded, but not why we stayed. Though I do think that now, it’s been to long and we can’t simply pull out. That’s what happened in Vietnam and looked how that turned out. We need set troops that have been trained to work with the Iraqi police and what not and not have extras trying to keep peace.

    And I agree on the education part. Though I have yet to start reading it, for college I have a summer reading book called “The Children of Jihad”. Personally, I have no interest in reading it. These kids have been raised in a society corrupt by war and unmoral ways of life, according to my standards. However, if these children are able to be educated on democracy, and normalcy to American standards, then Iraq may have a future better than the life they have now. They may be able to see the good that’s freedom. The little things you soldiers do, like bringing them candy and toys, is already showing them we aren’t the enemy, unlike their fathers say. Maybe I should read this book, and then see if my opinion changes. Anyways, that’s what I got to say for now.

  2. FLYBOY STINSON permalink
    2009/07/23 21:51

    THANKS JAMES,
    I APPRECIATE YOUR DOING THIS…….YOU MAKE US PROUD !
    I`M A VIETNAM HELICOPTER PILOT AND STILL FLYING FOR A LIVING…….AT LEAST YOU GUYS IN THE MILITARY NOW, HAVE THE INTERNET TO GET THE WORD OUT…..WE WOULD WRITE OUR GIRLFRIENDS AND FAMILY AND THAT IS ALL WE COULD DO…..NOT EVEN LETTERS TO THE HOME TOWN NEWSPAPER !
    KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK AND KEEP IN TOUCH,
    FLYBOY STINSON

  3. cara permalink
    2009/07/23 16:48

    amazing to read all this stuff Jim. So different from what we see on the news….thanks for all you are doing every day and for writing this blog…

  4. Ellen permalink
    2009/07/23 16:43

    I guess my questions are, is this fair treatment? Is Iraq heading back to its dictatorship ways?” This seems so unfair to people. This treatment. Was this the man they were originally looking for? Did they learn these tactics from the Americans? Just my thoughts.

    • James Gafney permalink*
      2009/07/23 18:52

      They do what they can. There’s a lot of corruption here in the police and the army so there isn’t really a police system like we think of in the States. So they aren’t breaking the laws. We did teach them how to cordon and search.

    • Matthew Michaud permalink
      2009/07/25 07:46

      In response to what my mother here said about our discussion about the war, I said that its a crappy situation. If we pull out then the country is going to fall down like a Jenga tower. When that happens then the world is going to point fingers at us saying “Oh well you should have stayed in longer and supported it more”. But if we stay in then other Americans are going to point fingers and say “Well we’ve been there long enough”. Either way we lose. The problem with the corruption, at least my guess, is due to the lack of education. If a terrorist group went to an American soldier and said “hey plant a bomb under that tuck and ill give you 5,000 dollars” the American would put him in a head lock, or if he was Jack Bauer, rip his fingernails off until he told him the location of the CIP device. An Iraqi soldier would go on, take the money and run. They dont have the my-country-tis-of-the jingoism that we have. They have lived under a dictator for the past… well really forever. We got lucky, we had George Washington as a leader. When we won the American Revolution the people wanted to have him as their king, but he declined. Before 1947 a president could serve an infinite amount of terms, he set the precedent of resigning after 2. Most Iraq leaders succumbed to the power of total control. GW was a good man with a good educational background and a good heart, Saddam, eh not so much.

      Another thing why pulling out would cause chaos on a chaotic scale is because (no offense) the United States Army is doing it wrong. The US Army and USMC are trained to kick down doors and blow a legitimate target to Narnia. There is no legitimate target. There hasn’t been a legitimate target since the Battle of the Bulge in 1945. Now these cold blooded killers are expected to train people to be police officers. Thats like having a plumber go into a crack house and teach the people how to be an electrician. Sure a plumber probably knows some simple electrical stuff (black on red) but he is obviously doing it wrong, and the people in said crack house should get their act together before attempting to screw in a light bulb.

      Ive got an idea that is just crazy enough to work, but may cause the universe to implode. Create the 1st Tree Hugger Battalion. Instead of removing IEDs, they build schools. Instead of carrying guns, they carry flowers. These schools should be extremely well funded and and even better protected. Nothing says “dont go to school” like an RPG-7. These schools should be free of charge. They shouldnt be mandatory (yet) but highly suggested. I understand it would be impossible to do in all of the outer hamlets but in the cities its possible. The kids should be taught good morals. A single JDAM bomb costs roughly $20, 000. With $20,000 you could buy a few books. Another big thing to do that is really over looked is to clean up the trash. When you drive by a chinese food restaurant in America it looks really dirty on the outside, it doesn’t matter if the inside is a replica of the Delhi llama’s summer house in Miami, first impressions are lasting impressions. Lastly, propaganda. Sure its evil (see Nazi Germany for more information) but it can be harnessed for good, like nuclear energy. Start putting up posters that give good moral messages. Happy milk does come from happy cows, its been proven. The important is getting the Iraqi’s to sell sustain themselves. No more MRE’s. Train their police with actual police trainers (again, no offense).

      1. Beat the enemy
      2. Education
      3. Clean up the streets
      4. Instill good morals
      5. ????
      6. Profit

      I have spoken.

      sent from my isuck… i mean iphone

      • James Gafney permalink*
        2009/07/25 21:00

        M, You have some great responses. Iraq is….complicated. That is an understatement. As Americans, we live with the separation of church and state, but in Iraq, although their government is supposed to be similar, the fact is that their are prejudices between Sunni and Shia, Christians and Kurds. Most Iraqis want a peaceful country. You are right about the corruption, it’s everywhere. That is a big problem with the oil companies bidding to work here. As far as our training, as we evolve as an Army, we train to meet the needs of the environment. The key to winning a war is being flexible, understanding your enemy, and adjusting to counter and defeat his actions.

        Great post!

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