I have to apologize to all of you for my lapse in posts. It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks. Last Saturday I was sitting with soldiers in a powerless abandoned home in Sadr City also now known by U.S. soldiers as "Sniper City" and by Monday I was in a hotel in New York City. It was quite a surreal experience. I should be back in Baghdad next week.
I spend most of my time unembedded in Iraq, so spending time with young guys from Tennessee, Illinois, Michigan and Texas was eye opening. They came under fire, slept with rats and no power. But when things quieted for a time they became men of their age. They sifted through clothes in the closet searching for something to entertain themselves, went through photo albums and took toy guns from the little store attached to the house.
Without power and little running water life was hard for the men, as hard as it is for Iraqis every day who deal with shooting in their neighborhoods, no running water and no electricity. People didn't want them there and shots were fired out against them. On the loudspeaker, speeches from the Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr said those who died at the hands of the occupation forces would go to paradise. He has long touted what he calls legitimate resistance against a foreign occupation.
One soldier found a copy of Grand Theft Auto, the video game where bandits hijack cars and do drug deals. "This place is like Grand Theft Auto for the terrorists, they do whatever they want."
A mother sent me a note that brought home why I write these stories. Her words are below and the story is here.
"Lt Adam Bowen is my son. You were with him and his platoon a few days ago in Sadr City. When I read your article, which so accurately depicted him, I could hear him talking and hear his tone of voice in each quote. But then I saw the video. I watched it, with lots of trepidation, hoping for a just quick glimpse of him. When the camera panned around the room, and I found myself face to face with him, it was such an incredible moment. I’ve watched it over and over and have paused it repeatedly just to be able to look at him, to see if he’s okay. (He looks well—I hope you found him so.) I play it again and again, hearing him in the background on the radio. "
Something Lt. Bowen said to me has stuck with me. "Nobody cares about what we're doing here, nobody but our families." I hope that's not true.