Live from Las Vegas, Updates from Iraq

The Tygrrrr Express is in Las Vegas, attending Blogworld Expo.

While I am learning how to be a better blogger, today’s column is not my own.

When people ask me where I get my information, I tell them that I listen to people that know what they are talking about.

One of my readers, Eagle 6, knows what he is talking about.

Below are two stories from Iraq as of a couple days ago.

My team went on a Humanitarian Assistance visit a couple weeks ago. We had
hundreds of pounds of rice we were giving to a community, and we thought it
would be great because the Iraqi Army was in charge of handing it out, and
since the Mayor was also there, it was an opportunity for him to gain status
within the community. Ignorant of our arrogance, we neglected to recognize
that in a democracy, even a fledgling one, everybody has a vote. As we
parked in the open area to make the delivery, two local mullahs came out and
began screaming at the Mayor for being a traitor and friend to the
“occupying infidels”. The Mayor responded with an equally harsh rebuttal.
Soon, there was a large crowd of military-aged males forming groups of
threes and fours, and the Mullahs and Mayor continued yelling, spitting,
shaking their fists, and piercing one another with angry eyes and bulging

Finally, the Mayor called for the arrest of the two Mullahs, but prior to
being led away, the Mullahs ordered their people to not touch the food.
They were taken to jail, yet released later in the day.
Meanwhile, the angry young men formed a semi circle around the Iraqi Army’s
grain-filled vehicle, arms across their chests, daring the locals to take
needed food from the invaders or their traitorous Iraqi Army supporters…
Ah, but for the compromise and love of youth and innocence… a young
black-haired girl, 7 or 8, skipped between two of the hard-hearted Iraqi
young men and placed a tentative hand on a 25 lb bag of rice… knowing she
couldn’t carry it, she looked beyond the band of belligerence and spied what
was likely an older brother… a slim young man of about 12 or 13 also
slipped through and assisted his sister with the bag, and other youths then
made their way to the truck, as Iraqi Soldiers and adolescent young men and
women off-loaded the bags of rice and took them home.

Future operations will include visits to local Mullahs to articulate
Coalition Force involvement in the area. Rather than having Quick Reaction Force,
snatch and grab, and combat-oriented Soldiers in this Area of Operations, we are an
enhanced Military Transition Team supplemented with a team of Civil Affairs,
Human Contact Team, Provisional Reconstrcution Team, and Explosive Ordnance Detail
elements. Our stated role in life is to mentor the Iraqi
Army. Since we have also assumed control of this Forward Operating
Base, some of our implied tasks are also to manage Sons of Iraq contracts, maintain
the Reconciliation Program (a program designed to allow former informants and others
“on the edge” to work for the police, Army, of Sons of Iraq) , assist with the “hold/build”
phases of the strategy via CA and PRT, and serve as a referee in City Council and Joint
Security Meetings.

What really makes this story and our interaction with the locals a hoot and
a challenge is this: part of the Mayor’s neck is missing from surviving an
IED blast outside his home last year. Two of his brothers were killed by Al
Qaida. Conversely, his first cousin is the head AQI leader in his town, and
this Al Qaida Iraq (AQI)’s brother is the principal contractor for all major construction in
the same town (hired by the Mayor), and the other brother is a teacher and
lead recruiter for local AQI… So the Mayor is not just playing both ends
against the middle – he’s doing a three or four dimensional dummy dip
dance… But if there’s a positive side, he was able to maintain order by
arresting the local Mullahs in public.

We went to a Memorial Service for an Iraqi Captain who was killed along with his driver via an IED about a month ago. We had been conducting a recon of our Traffic Control Points, Observation Posts, and command posts in support of an operation we supported, and the enemy waited for our heavy vehicles to pass prior to detonating against his light-skinned vehicle.

I had intended to attend the funeral, but fortunately, something else came up. I understand the family ripped into the battalion commander pretty hard, so our presence would have exacerbated an already explosive environment. The family since apologized to the Bn Cdr, and we were welcomed to the Memorial Service.

It was gut-wrenching. There was a podium on the carpeted stage and round glasses containing unlit, multicolored candles lined the front of the stage. Separate packets of wooden matches were placed alongside each glass-encased candle. I had the misfortune of choosing a candle with a short wick, so under the watch of hundreds of eyes boring into my back, I couldn’t light it…and just as my fingers’ flesh began burning, it lit…so I impulsively blew the match out and put it on the carpet in front of me…at which time the match stick glowed and began smoldering the carpet…and I had blown the candle out with the match…so while I struck another match, the glowing stick of the other match kept smoldering, so while I was lighting the candle, I simultaneously pushed my thumb down on the embers, trying to put it out…both my thumbs are blistered now, but the candle was lit, and the building survived.

The ceremony began with a gentleman singing “dirges in the dark” but without the upbeat background of American Pie… haunting melodies with women weeping loudly in the background. Then a gentleman recited a poem describing the life of Sayed Mahmoud, and I didn’t need to know the language to understand the heartfelt tribute to a true hero. They played videos and snapshots in time of this young Captain, with music playing…and women wailing, and men standing at attention, somber at the loss of a brother. Although many of the Iraqi Soldiers were on leave in various parts of the country, they gave up their leave to crowd the place with brothers-in-arms paying their respects to a fallen Soldier. The Mayor invited us to supper afterwards… the Ministry Of Interior rep asked us to meet… and people lined up to shake our hands and give us their blessings. It sounds flippant to say that this death of a Soldier, this sad occasion is a sign of success in Iraq, but when we can celebrate with former enemies, we are one step closer to unity.


2 Responses to “Live from Las Vegas, Updates from Iraq”

  1. I really think it’s time we end this thing and bring the troops back home.


  2. parrothead says:

    Wow Eagle what a couple of moving stories. Thanks and keep up the good work.

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