From guest blogger Matthew Schofield, Kansas City Star:
BAGHDAD - It began as a quiet night here.
Not quiet in the sense that the constant thumping of the mini-van sized generators outside my window had ceased. They hadn't. And not quiet in the sense that we weren't surrounded by gunfire. We were, but, to be fair, it was celebratory - a nearby wedding.
Just quiet in the sense that this is Baghdad, and we weren't overwhelmed when Sahar, one of our local reporters, had a question. She'd gotten a report from Iraqi police in Dhuluiyah, about 50 miles north of Baghdad. The report was fairly action packed, and she was wondering if it was true, or, at the very least, if the U.S. military had any comment on it.
She handed it over to me, and I sent it on to the U.S., or, more accurately, Multi-National Force - Iraq (MNF-I, in military alphabet lingo). This is a slightly edited version of what I sent:
We have the following report from Iraqi police, is it accurate?
Gunmen attacked a U.S. military convoy with thermal charges ... at 10.30 p.m. Tuesday hitting one U.S. military vehicle squarely, said Iraqi Police. Police said the U.S. military returned fire, randomly, hitting two Iraqi Police cars that were escorting the convoy and a civilian car. They then raided nearby houses, detained three suspects, and imposed a curfew for several hours.”
I also, thinking of myself as a bit of a smart-aleck, asked: “On the idea of thermal charges, I thought those were things used in "Star Wars" movies. What the heck are they here?”
See what I did there, I had a vague "Star Wars" memory of one of the robots saying: "Because he's holding a thermal detonator!" I was being cute.
A couple minutes later, I got a note back.
The folks at MNF-I said they were pretty sure no curfew was issued, but that they were looking at the matter and would let me know anything, as soon as they did.
This is standard operating procedure here. We hear a lot of things, some of them are true and can be confirmed, some are probably false but there's no way to tell. Probably, some are false and can be confirmed as true, though we don't like to think about those.
In any case, on this night, it might have been another hour before Maj. Derrick Cheng got back to me. He'd combed through U.S. reports and found that, aside from the facts, the report we'd had was almost accurate:
“According to our reports, at approx. 2130 Tuesday night, a joint U.S. and Iraqi Police patrol came under grenade attack and small arms fire that caused minor damage to an MRAP and no injuries to any Soldiers or IP. The Soldiers returned approximately 20 rounds of small arms fire at the location of the muzzle flash from the enemy.
Local Duluyiah IP responded to the scene and questioned two individuals and determined they had nothing to do with the attack. There is no indication that any IP vehicles were hit by US small arms fire, nor was a separate curfew established in the area in response to the attack.”
And then, not to be outdone by a journalist smart-aleck, Cheng added: “I believe you're correct; "thermite" grenades were used in "Star Wars," which I've heard are somewhat effective as a bargaining tool for bounty hunters.”
See what he did there. He one upped me, actually remembering the context.
So I responded, rather wittily, I thought: “Maj. Cheng: Just to be clear, does this mean insurgents in
Iraq are now being armed by The Empire?”
The Empire, as every Star Wars geek knows, are the bad guys - Darth Vadar and company fighting the good guys - Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance.
And, while it might have made him chuckle, I have to admit he was too good for me on this night. His response, dutifully under an UNCLASSIFIED notation: “In "Star Wars," the 'Rebel Alliance' was the insurgency.”
Touche, Maj. Cheng. But it makes you think, doesn't it?