If you have just arrived at The Library in Purgatory, the first chapter is here.


"I never found the girl, I never got rich. Follow me."

~Leonard Cohen

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Chapter V.2




Herding Cats


09OCT03 (Journal)
2340C
Four or five days ago I finished up a strategic threat assessment based upon the assessed strategic goals of the Iraqi insurgency and the current political situation at the UN; namely the upcoming donors conference to be held in Spain. The #1 assessed target was the German Embassy and the second was the Spanish Embassy; both in Baghdad. A member of the Spanish embassy called me yesterday (08OCT03) after a conversation with the US Consul. I explained the situation and forwarded him a copy of the assessment, stating that he could call me with any questions.

A member of the German Embassy also called me in response to the threat assessment. He asked why I believed the German Embassy was a bigger target than L.P. Bremer. Bremer’s are a dime a dozen I explained, if the insurgents killed him, there were twenty more lined up in DC ready to take his place. If however, the German Embassy was bombed and subsequently pulled out, it was unlikely they’d be coming back any time soon. The guy laughed. He got it.

About 1830 local a Lt. Col. Gardner with Civil Affairs walks into our office looking for info on the threat v. the Spanish embassy. It seems that she is the liaison with the other embassies/countries on security issues.

So in she walks and her first question is, do you have any specific targeting info on the Spanish embassy? Seems that the Spanish Ambassador, having read the assessment with an understandable amount of consternation, had come to the CPA and hence the Lt Col., for answers.

I said no, there was no specific targeting info, but endeavored to explain the current situation; that given the insurgent’s attempts to isolate the US in Iraq internationally as evidenced in the VBIED attack v. the UN, Spain was at a heightened risk due to the donor conference as was Germany, the current rotating chair of the UN Security Council. The Lt Col. informed me, demonstrating her complete fucking ignorance of the facts, that Germany wasn’t even on the UN Security Council, much less its chair. I corrected her and printed off a copy of the assessment. She glanced over it, skimming, and then left, stating,

“Well, your assessment is wrong, but you must be here for some reason ‘cause they pay you a lot. There is no threat.” And with that, she walked out the door without so much as looking back, smugly secure in her opinion.

This morning a Spanish Embassy security/intelligence officer was murdered in front of his wife and daughter outside their residence. Does his murder have anything to do with what I assessed? Probably not. But if that fucking idiot Lt. Col. Gardner had had half a fucking brain to understand what was going on and had gone back to the Spanish Ambassador and said that there was indeed a heightened threat for the next week or so, Jose Antonio Bernal would probably still be alive. Her arrogance and fucking stupidity make her an accessory to murder but she will go home with a chest full of ribbons. It galls me to no end. Welcome to the CPA, there is no crying in baseball.

*****

I saw the dumb bitch later, standing in line for chow in the palace and it is all I can do not to come unglued and grab her by the fucking throat and choke the sad, pathetic life out of her. “My assessment was wrong,” I say, “there is no threat huh? That man’s blood is on your hands. I hope you’re fucking happy with yourself!”

She looks pathetic, sad, making me want to hit her all the more. “I didn’t know,” is all she manages to stammer before hurrying away, head low.

And the sad thing is it’s really not her fault. What the hell did she know about security, about war zones, international diplomacy, counterinsurgencies? Civil Affairs? Not a damned thing, that’s what. But someone threw her in the deep end, told her it was an easy assignment— likely to get her out of their outfit because she was a liability to them— and that’s how the system kills people. Some people should be remembered for what they did here; Lt. Col. Gardner is one of them.

*****
Email to an intel friend:
The OCT Strategic Outlook was sent to the Spanish Embassy at the request of their consul the day before (08OCT03) one of their intelligence attaché’s was assassinated. The Spanish Ambassador, apparently in a flap over being the #2 target on my list, and rightly so, sent a rep over to the CPA to find out what was going on, as this was the first they’d heard of it. That evening, a Lt. Col. from Civil Affairs came up to our office wanting to know what the hell was up with the Spanish Embassy. The Lt. Col., who has no background in security, intelligence, force or close protection, asked me what exact, specific threat my assessment is based on. I told her that I have not received any specific threats but endeavored to explain the situation based on FRL strategic goals translated to the tactical level based on the current political situation; printed her out a copy of the same report, which she had not seen, for good measure. The Lt. Col. didn’t even know that Germany was on the UN Security Council at the time and told me that they weren’t. She then told me that my assessment was wrong and that there was no threat. She walked out of my office and told the Spanish Embassy that there was no threat and no reason to be worried.

Jose Antonio Bernal’s death lies directly upon her shoulders. Would he have been killed is she had gone back and told the Spanish that there was sufficient reason to heighten security measures? Possibly, but at least they would have been informed.

But what is really on my mind tonight is something else. We are running a few agents here, as is just about everybody. The bottom line is that there are people here— for whatever reason, some probably justified— that are hell bent on killing Americans. My first responsibility is the guys in our company who are on the wire; beyond that I have great latitude in pursing things that will assist the company and CPA in accomplishing their goals and anything else that may help one more kid go home instead of getting killed in this place. I feel very strongly about this and take it seriously.

However, the CPA and other agencies do not take it seriously. We brought in four expats not long after I got here— two patsies and the other two, a Belgian and an American, were bad dudes. The American looked like John Walker Lynd’s brother and had two passports (one forged with stamps from Sudan, Beirut, Lebanon, Israel, Somalia, Syria, Jordan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, etc.). In his journal were notes from surveillance against a hotel in Baghdad housing a number of Ministry of Justice personnel, cash exchanges at a mosque for $165,000 USD and $45,000 Belgian francs, as well as other items. After the fact, there would be video footage of him at the Mazar-i-Sharif uprising in Afghanistan and the fucking FBI kicked him loose. The US consul here begged and pleaded that he be arrested on the fake passport charges, a federal offense, but they wouldn’t do it. And we then wonder why we can’t seem to get the upper hand.

In any case, there are people here whose sole motivation is killing Americans. I have lost faith in the system to deal appropriately with them, the above two being only the biggest, not the only examples. And largely, the only way to stop these people is to kill them. I have no problem with killing someone who is trying to kill me, it’s called self-preservation. However, I do not know how I feel about killing people, directly or indirectly, who would kill more Americans if set free in a setting that is essentially an execution. I know what I am willing to die for, and to defend that, but what do you do when you know that if you kill a man in cold-blood you will save the lives of others?

Some people should/must die— I know this— however, I come from a Navy background and pressing a button and launching RSM-88’s is a far cry from shooting a man in the head. The Navy, school, nothing has prepared me to answer this dilemma.

The academic answer I know is that some people are beyond reach and must die. However, I sense that I will lose a little of my soul each time. Kurtz was in some ways right in Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now, you must embrace the horror to defeat certain enemies; however, he gave up all his humanity to do so and in the end, I don’t know that it’s the right answer. On the other hand, Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan said that if he could get by without killing another man, it brought him a step closer to home; and I understand that as well. Of course the man he saved killed him. And I guess, in the end, I am less afraid of dying than of losing my humanity. I do not entirely trust myself, at least in this situation, to be both judge, jury and executioner.

Amid my frenetic reporting for the New Yorker on Abu Ghraib, I was telephoned by a middle-aged woman. She told me that a family member, a young woman, was among those members of the 320th Military Police Battalion, to which the 372nd was attached, who had returned to the US in March. She came back a different person - distraught, angry and wanting nothing to do with her immediate family. At some point afterward, the older woman remembered that she had lent the reservist a portable computer with a DVD player to take to Iraq; on it she discovered an extensive series of images of a naked Iraqi prisoner flinching in fear before two snarling dogs. One of the images was published in the New Yorker and then all over the world.


The war, the older woman told me, was not the war for democracy and freedom that she thought her young family member had been sent to fight. Others must know, she said. There was one other thing she wanted to share with me. Since returning from Iraq, the young woman had been getting large black tattoos all over her body. She seemed intent on changing her skin.”

From Intel Log:
0838 Chuzu reports Big Explosion at approx 0836- sounded like it came from the North across the river.
0930 FP meeting
1100 Spanish Diplomat Shot Dead in Baghdad (Reuters) - A Spanish diplomat in Iraq was shot dead upon leaving his home in Baghdad Thursday, a Spanish foreign ministry spokesman said. The victim, Jose Antonio Bernal, was described as an information attaché in the Iraqi capital.
1115 Chuzu reports that a member of the Min of Education (higher education) was shot today but is not dead yet.
1235 XXXX reports that the Min of Ed was a Director General in the Ministry of Higher Education and that the Spanish embassy member was an intel officer. A brown car was used in the assass of the Spanish intel officer.
1426 Spot Report: VBIED attack. Activity: There was a VBIED attack at a police station in Sadr City. A blue colored car was speeding towards the Iraqi police station, Iraqi police fired on the vehicle, the vehicle crashed and exploded. Initial reports described 32 people injured; 12 injured are Iraqi police and 20 of the injured are Iraqi civilians. There are eight reported deaths.

12OCT03— The Baghdad Hotel
At approximately 1249C a car bomb (poss a Toyota Corolla- open source reporting) attempted to drive through the security measures which had been raised/lowered to allow an Iraqi PSD team to exit the premises. The car bomb sped towards the checkpoint in an effort to enter the area and was immediately engaged with small arms by local security. However, he was able to detonate the bomb before he was killed.

The bomb is assessed to have been in the 2-300 lb range and comprised of improved munitions. It was a low order detonation that pushed over several sections of T-wall rather than shattering them. The car with the bomb was blown 40-50 feet forward and to the right of the detonation point. The two exiting vehicles, which were caught in the blast, were located about fifteen feet from the point of detonation and appeared to have not been moved at all by the blast.

There only damage to the hotel itself was shattered window- the Mylar had just finished being applied the day before and mitigated flying glass hazards as billed.

The key here was stand-off distance, coupled with an alert security force. However, if a bomb search pit had been available (due to the location, this was not feasible); it is likely that the damage and casualties could have been significantly reduced.

Of note, the Baghdad Hotel was attacked by coordinated elements a month ago on 12SEP. Also of note, on approx 28AUG- four expats were picked up conducting surveillance of the Baghdad Hotel. One of the individuals had a forged US passport with travel to Lebanon, Turkey, Sudan, Yemen, Israel, Egypt, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, among others. The same individual had numerous entries in a journal detailing how to locate the Baghdad Hotel, meetings at mosques for money transfers in the $200,000 range, etc. Above individuals were handed over to the FBI who kicked them loose without pressing any charges. .

*****

I was standing in line for chow when I heard the explosion and felt it, like someone had shoved me. I immediately ran up to the office. I could see smoke rising up from across the river but couldn’t tell exactly from where. Jack answered his phone and said a car bomb had gone off in front of their hotel. I called CIK and Mike, who picked me up in five minutes and we raced over to render what assistance we could.

A month prior they had been attacked by a group of gunmen who engaged the hotel guard force. We had showed up for that as well, catching the tail end of it; chasing one unfortunate individual through the streets of Baghdad with a mixed group of the hotel’s Iraqi guard force, IPs and US contractors. We were all finished and one of the local guards, or his friend, or someone ND’s their pistol about eight feet away from CIK and I. That kind of stuff just sucks. CIK and I dropped to a knee, not initially sure where the shot had come from and scanned outside in, meeting in the middle, we shook our heads in grim disbelief. Definitely one of those surreal moments. MOUT sucks, I’ll tell you that.

The place was a mess. There’s no way to describe the carnage at the scene of a bombing unless you have seen one. You see enough of them, it gets old— big hole, mass destruction, parts, people’s lives strewn about and trampled under feet. You actually start to notice the weird or little things, the incongruities; how did that get there? Who would have though that so much of him would have survived? The shoes, weird shit, as if you were walking through some random deconstructionist art exhibit; always looking out in the back of your mind for a follow on attack.

We got there about twenty minutes or so after the bomb went off. There wasn’t much we could do; the military had a good cordon/perimeter up and those in critical condition had already been evac’d. Later, Jack would find parts of the car bomb and the driver on the roof of a seven-story building next-door. I’d been to the UN HQ about a week after it was hit but it is a very different thing to be there and still smell the smoke in the air.

Pete was supposed to have been leading (right-seating in the lead vehicle) the PSD team that was in the process of leaving and got caught in the blast. At the last minute something had come up and he’d had to stay behind. Another guy took his place. That guy was now dead. Things just happen like that. You can’t see them coming and there’s nothing you can do but keep your affairs in order.

Once again, someone ND’d. I took a knee and watched all the others scurry about like rats looking for some kind of cover. It was rather comical. I later told Jack that I was going to quit coming down to see him seeing as someone always ND’d and I hated the sound of guns going off unexpectedly near me. We laughed. I was serious. We laughed harder.

21OCT03
From Intel Log:
1830 Heightened Alert Status:
The donors' conference is being held in Madrid, Spain 23-24OCT03. A number of IGC members and ministers will be departing shortly to attend. It is assessed as highly likely that there will be another large car-bomb attack in Baghdad between now and 24OCT03 as the insurgents continue to pursue strategic goals of keeping the international community out and isolating the US in Iraq. Likely targets will include embassies, the CPA, MMI, major hotels within Baghdad, ministries, and large demonstrations in which max casualties can be inflicted. It is also likely that the next major bombing will include secondary devices meant to attack responders/QRFs.

—The Ministry of Oil was mortared last night at approx 2245. 7 rnds were fired with 5 detonating. No BDA reports.
—Islamic extremists are planning attacks v Mosul, Baghdad, and Erbil airports using rockets and mortars between 19-24 OCT03. NFI.
—Islamic extremists are planning to attack the Mosul airport and jail with 10 x VBIEDs. NFI.
—There may be pro-Muqtada Sadr demonstrations in Baghdad 24OCT03.
—IRT Ramadan:
-There will likely be a decrease in IZ on IZ activity.
-There will likely be a decrease in activity conducted by small, unprofessional groups.
-Activity conducted by hard-core groups will likely remain steady or increase.
-One belief among Iraqis is that suicide attacks will increase because if you die during Ramadan during a suicide attack, you will be even more holy.
2000 Coalition forces tell 60 Minutes II that Sadr's followers may have been responsible for the hotel bombing in Baghdad last week in which six Iraqis were killed and 36 injured. Sadr himself is still a suspect in the murder of a pro-American cleric last April and says, “I do admit I may have acted in a way that led to this incident, unfortunately.”

Fish Out of Water
Army CID had been running the protective detail on LP Bremer and he alleged that he was terrified with them. In my opinion CID wasn’t that tight but they weren’t bad enough to warrant being “terrified” unless you were generally terrified by nature. The Secret Service came in to do an assessment for Bremer, which I tagged along on as the company I worked for was responsible for security at the Palace, the Al Rasheed Hotel as well as the entire Iraqi Governing Council Complex. I have never seen such incompetence. I’m sure that they are great in the states where they can descend onto a city and completely control it but they were WAY out of their league in Baghdad.

“Paul Bremer told Time magazine that he is afraid of entering the bathroom without his bodyguards.”

There was a crawl space under Bremer’s office and they wanted it blocked off because they said that you would be able to launch an RPG through the floor into the office. First off, you couldn’t stand an RPG-7 with rocket loaded on end, not enough room; second, the place was built with like 18-24” concrete/sandstone blocks which the RPG just wasn’t going to go through right out of the tube; which brings up the third point, the warhead doesn’t arm until it has traveled 90’ from the launcher. Further, I’d hate to be the guy having to pull the trigger on an RPG with the exhaust end of the launcher set on the floor and with no room above. The guy would kill himself and that’s about it. The SS guys said that the overpressure in Bremer’s office would crush his vital organs. I told them I’d be happy to sit at his desk with some earplugs if any of them wanted to go down and fire off a round or two. There were no takers. And to boot, it isn’t exactly easy to smuggle in an RPG and rounds, particularly when you could just use bulk HE explosives, of which there is plenty of in the country.

There was a courtyard that opened up in the middle of the palace behind Bremer’s office. It was suggested to the SS that they place a wire mesh over the opening at the top. The response was, “Why, if a bomber can get on the roof he’ll just lift it up and toss the satchel charge down?” Apparently they’d never heard of rockets or mortars, which were known to hit the palace from time to time, with interesting results.

Bremer had been living in the palace but they moved him to a separate residence which had to have an additional guard force and forced him to travel in the open at least twice a day, at least if he wanted to go to the office. What a joke.

I have nothing but respect for the SS from former agents that I have worked with but it was just obvious that they had no clue about operating in what was essentially a war zone and it never occurred to them that maybe someone knew something more about it than them. The FBI over there, in my experience, were even worse and I have nothing good to say about their contribution at all.

A month or so later there would be threat warnings of an attack utilizing the tunnels and sewers under the palace. I guess somebody thought it’d be a good idea to actually find out if there were tunnels under the palace and where exactly they went. I and several others ended up spending the better part of a day tracking them all down and where they could be accessed. One went under the road directly the west of the palace and popped up in a KBR camp where there LN/TCN truck drivers parked, right next to an little flop house for the guys. It was completely unsecured and no one had any way of knowing who the truck drivers were or where or how they had been vetted. Unbelievable, or so I thought at the time. The SS missed that one in their survey. Ah well, you can’t catch ‘em all right?
Some Very Busy Days
26OCT03— The Al Rasheed is Rocketed
0615 Chuzu reports 4-7 likely rocket fire impacting the Al Rasheed.
0655 Dep palace for Al Rasheed with Tim and Deo to assess damage to the Hotel (bad but could be worse).
1055 Daryl passes along that the military is reporting 40 rockets, 11 launches with 8 hits and 29 blinds
1340 Chuzu reports Amanant Baghdad truck at CP2- turned away.
1344 Daryl reports white Chevy attempted to run CP12, 3 shots fired- vehicle got away.
1720 Daryl reports that there during conversation with another chap it was stated that FP was sitting on info of an impending attack against the palace tonight with 20 RPGs. Asked C2 if they had any info or warnings of this and they stated that they did, though they did not see any mention of 20 RPGs and that it hadn’t been passed out because it was VERY sensitive.
2102 four explosions 2 and 2- S of here. Beth reports they sounded ivo al Hamara. CIK reports power out- we see power out S of here across river. Assess hit al Doura power station.
Reporting after this is spotty for times because reports were coming in from multiple sources, often at the same time and people were running around like mad to figure out what the hell was going on- typed up 2350C 26SEP03 from memory
???? Went down to FP to straighten them out and gave impromptu briefing to Capt Briske, the dude taking over for Amb S., an Aussie (?) CJTF-7 liaison S2, and representative of something (congress??), some other guy (low-level officer), and Dean. Seems that Amb S.’s replacement had seen his PSD guys moving into the palace and wanted to know what they knew. Dean was put in a spot. I’m not sure what he told them but I ended up telling these guys what I knew (see 1720 entry). They were concerned, especially since I had given the warning to the PSD team and rounds were impacting less than five minutes before I briefed them- we looked good.
2130 Mike reports/confirms one impact in/ivo the pool at Al Rasheed as well as one overflight- states mortars but likely rockets.
???? Checked Gurkha posts- guys in bullet bouncers and brain buckets- seemed in good spirits. Not letting people out of palace.
???? Outgoing .50 cal S of office
???? Sometime around 2200 or a little later, the all clear was given in the palace. Prior to that, Maj Beckett, through Capt Briske passed the order to lock down the palace- people could enter but not leave.
2250 Chuzu reports that the military told him the Al Mansour was hit- NFI. At the get go of this, XXX was reporting an explosion N of CP 1, this was likely the same. Military patrol was fired on ivo Mansour Hotel

27OCT03— Baghdad is Burning
(Ramadan Begins)
0840 approx- CIK reports VBIED attack v. Red Cross HQ.
0845 Spot Report: Situation: Car Bomb Explosion. Activity: There was a car bomb explosion vicinity Ministry of Oil/Industry Building at approximately 0848. This is an initial report.
1000 Subject: Spot Report: Situation: Attacks on Iraqi Police Stations. Activity: There were three attacks targeting Iraqi Police Stations. The first attack was a VBIED against the Al Bay’aa Police Station at approximately 0830 hrs. The second attack was an RPG attack against the Al Shaab Police Station at approximately 0855 hrs. And the third attack was a VBIED against the Al Khadra Police Station at approximately 0915 hrs.
1315 Reporting indicates the following
0830 VBIED at Al Baya’a IPS (MB XXXXX) VBIED poss driven by IP/vehicle had IPF markings- originally reported as a white Nissan truck.
0835 VBIED Red Cross HQ (MB XXXXX) 1215- 3BCT reports that FPS have detained 1 pax poss irt the bombing also that FPS have poss secured a second VBIED in front of RC hospital
0855 Al Shaab IPS- poss IED (MB XXXXX)
0915 VBIED at Al Khadra IPS (MB XXXXX)
1015 Attempted VBIED New Baghdad IPS (MB XXXXX) driver, taken into custody. Reportedly 2 tons of TNT in vehicle.
What follows is the most improbable chain of events
1730 explosion heard NFI
1730.5 another explosion heard
1732 loud boom heard in palace toward KBR offices
1732.5 Air horns are heard and people are seen running in street behind palace.
1732.55 Assessed that rounds are incoming.
1737 All clear.
2015 Daryl reports that a group of armed men escorted by IPs are/will attempt to enter the green zone. Amplifying info from FP- a report warned of 7 vehicles of men armed with SA and RPGs enroute from BIAP to FOB escorted by IPs in cars and motorcycles.
2200 US was aware of Baghdad Hotel Risk An American colonel was killed and at least 16 people were wounded early Sunday when a barrage of missiles from a homemade launchpad slammed into a highly protected hotel where Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was staying, in what American military officials called a carefully planned attack. One official said the military has specific intelligence that an attack was imminent on the hotel, the Rashid, where senior personnel of the American occupation live and eat, but that no special precautions had been taken. Nonetheless, a senior military official said, “We knew this was coming.” The official declined to give details, but said several precautionary security measures could have been taken, including moving Wolfowitz and his delegation out of the hotel, increasing the security alert and increasing patrols around the hotel. None of this happened, he said.

Reverie
It has been interesting going through this and seeing how time tends to change how you remember things. There is no way for me to convey the total shock and paralysis that CJTF-7 and the CPA were in. The green zone was suddenly being regularly shelled for the first time and Baghdad was rapidly spinning out of control and no one had any ideas of how to regain it and put a stop to the chaos. Baghdad was on fire and it seemed like it would burn forever. There was true panic and disbelief as the reports of attack after attack, assassination after assassination, and VBIED after VBIED rolled in, one after the other with no end. At one point, I found myself essentially running the Force Protection office as the Force Protection Officer had run off to one of the bomb sites to see what was going on. I had gone down to get some info and ended up staying down there and making sure that info was getting passed to the various parties, agencies and commands that needed to know what was going on. People in the CPA felt like they were just barely hanging on and they weren’t sure how much longer they would be able to. Paul Bremer fled the country and thoughts of Saigon ’75 were in the back of more than one person’s mind.

And while I had expected guerrilla activity of this sort, or something similar, I was still shocked at the size and coordination of it; and I at least was expecting it; those who had not were completely stricken by what seemed to be the complete implosion of Baghdad. People were truly terrified in the green zone and it was palpable and I have to believe that it was comparable, if only remotely, to what the opening days of Tet felt like. Going through these old logs has brought back, with an immediacy I had forgotten, just how crazy and chaotic those days were. As time passed and those levels of violence became the norm, we would grow accustomed to it, immune to it and it would seem like things had always been that way. Every once in a while someone would joke about the days when you could eat at restaurants out in town and Tikrit and Mosul had been the worst places in Iraq. Those early halcyon days were gone and they would not return while I was there.

Fucking Harriers
What follows is a chain of events so improbable as to boggle the mind

We were sitting in our office, which overlooked the Palace pool, one evening. The nightly Ops brief had either ended or was almost over. Very faintly I hear what sounded like a mortar launch or two. It’s one of those things that you aren’t even sure if you heard what you think you heard and you look up to see if anyone else heard it. Both Rob and Tim are looking up also and we all silently look at each other. We’ve all heard it and it is about the time of day when the mortars and rockets seem to enjoy heading our way best.

We sit there for an imperceptible second, looking back and forth at each other, waiting. And then we hear the sound of an air horn and voices yelling. I jump up and look out the window and see a bunch of people on the road outside go running by in a mob. That seals it, no more sitting around and waiting/wondering; we’re getting mortared. I jump on the phone and start making phone calls, checking down my mental list of those to notify.

Only, the impacts never come, not that I’m complaining mind you. It comes to light, and I don’t remember how we found this out exactly, that the horn and the running mob of people were actually the Green Zone Hash Harriers out for one of their hash runs and it just happened that they had happened to run by at the exact minute that we three had all heard something that sounded like mortar launches. Had any of these things happened only seconds later or earlier than they had of it would not have created the seeming casual chain of events that led us to surmise that incoming were on the way. There’s an OODA lesson here for ya. To this day I fucking loathe hash harriers.

28OCT03— Baghdad Still Burning
1211 Daryl reports a white taxi w/2 pax taking pot shots ivo CP 1.
1230 Death toll of Baghdad bombings stands at 42, Pentagon fears of further resistance attacks— The deliberations are taking on increased urgency because American intelligence and military officials are saying U.S. forces in Iraq have a limited time to break the resistance before the general population joins it. A senior intelligence official told The Washington Post that the United States has a three-to-six-month window to put down the Iraqi resistance. According to the official, the anti-U.S. groups are trying to form a coordinated campaign across Iraq. If successful, "they would be more effective and harder to prevent," the official told the US daily. Another senior intelligence official said the United States has not devoted enough attention to understanding the anti-US groups in Iraq because intelligence resources have been devoted to locating weapons of mass destruction. As a result, the intelligence community and the military have little precise information about the resistance.
1231 Schools Closed Following the Monday attacks, the Iraqi Education Ministry ordered all schools indefinitely closed to keep safe all students in these turbulent times.
1445 APPROX- Suicide bomber kills four in Iraq town - A suicide bomber blew up a car near a police station in the flashpoint Iraqi town of Falluja on Tuesday killing himself and four civilians, police said. The blast occurred when a pick up truck, belonging to the Fao construction company, exploded at 1:15pm local time, about 150 metres from the police station in Fallujah
1715 Jack reports that word on the street is that this coming SAT has been christened as “Resistance Day”. This is not good.
1815 Mike reports that the military attached to the Al Rasheed has put out a TW that the Rasheed is going to get hit tonight.
1902 Arabs Blame United States for Baghdad Bloodbath- Most Arab media on Tuesday blamed the U.S. failure to provide security in Baghdad for the latest suicide bombings in the Iraqi capital. They agreed that Washington had only itself to blame for the chaos and said the United States had failed Iraqis by not providing enough security to prevent the devastating attacks that killed 35 people on Monday, the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
2113 LARGE explosion S of office reports indicated a POO MB XXXX and poss POI’s of ivo Baghdad university. The Aussie OGA reported 4 rocket launches SW of his pos. Beth reported an explosion in Mansour district and “Hey, the Aussies are reporting 4 mortars fired at the American camp off Qadisiyah expressway -- isn't that your Gurkha camp? Everything ok? Also, the guys here were talking about a possible VBIED in an Iraqi police vehicle -- the guys on the roof here called in an IP vehicle that stopped at the wall, shined a light on the wall and then drove north earlier today.”

"We've got hundreds of sites to exploit, looking for the chemical and biological weapons that we know Saddam Hussein had prior to our entrance into Iraq.” —George W. Bush, Santa Clara, Calif., May 2, 2003

29OCT03— The Alamo
Threat reports were a daily constant till the days that stood out were the ones where you didn’t receive any; which didn’t mean that there weren’t any threats, only that for some reason they didn’t make it to you that day. Being flooded with that much info, much of it suspect, spurious, or flat out wrong, easily leads to a sense of complacency which was largely the CPA’s posture within the dream zone, until the morning of 26OCT03 when they began to believe that maybe there was some truth to some of these. The threat reporting leading up to that looked much like some of the following:

A truck has been painted (unknown make or model) to look like an ambulance. Target unknown.

Reporting indicates that an unspecified group is targeting the Al Rasheed Hotel, will be attacked with VBIEDs in police or police looking cars. The drivers will also be in police uniforms and will leave the cars next to the hotels where they will be remotely detonated. NFI.

Source stated that 3-4 ambulances had been stolen 3-4 days ago. Source was concerned that an ambulance would be used by FRLs to sneak a VBIED inside the green zone. (An ambulance would be used in the VBIED attack against the Red Cross HQ)

Over 300 terrorists have entered Iraq over the last month. The targets for attacks include: Republican Palace, Assassin’s Gate and others

Proposed attack on the Republican Palace. Will take place within the next week, conducted by FRLs. Suicide bomber will enter the area using a long vehicle carrying construction materials concealing a large quantity of TNT.

Reporting indicates that two VBIEDs may be targeting the Al Rasheed Hotel.

Insurgents planning attack against the green zone along Yafa Street. Planning on using mortars, RPG’s grenades, and small arms.

The Palace was generally pretty packed during the day and it wasn’t uncommon for the line for chow to take forty-five minutes. This evening in particular the line was almost nonexistent, which struck me as odd (that’s one of dem dere indicators). I got a call from a friend out in town with a threat warning for a major attack in several days against the green zone. I walked down to the Force Protection office to pass the news and see what they had when I ran into one of the SSgt’s in the p-way who told me that the attack was actually expected tonight and that they were actually taking pretty much every available military person and putting them on the wire as they were expecting a major frontal assault. The military was actually worried about the place being overrun. The palace had pretty much completely emptied out.

I went back to our office and began passing the news. Our other sites in the green zone increased their manning and the HQ staff in the palace decided to spend the night in the office and began laying out kit and loading every extra available magazine.

This was an eye-opener. I came to Iraq as a member of a PSD team and wasn’t averse to risk, but the idea of being overrun like some firebase in Vietnam was not what I had signed on for. In fact, the idea had never even occurred to me, at least not as an actuality, and I can’t say that I was too happy about it at the time. It’s amazing though how quickly you can adapt to certain things when you really don’t have a choice.

The HQ team did a quick survey and planned out where we would fight from and where our Alamo would be, the place that would be our last fallback position and from which we would hold out or die fighting. We sat in the office and worked quietly on various projects. I shuttled back and forth between our office and Force Protection’s. Late, Chuzu called me to report that a heavy fog was drifting in and visibility was down to about forty feet at all CPs and OPs. We could see it from our office and the pool behind the palace was practically hidden from view. It was too perfect. You couldn’t have asked for better cover if you were an insurgent if you had planned it. Someone quipped that they must be praying harder than our guys and we all laughed.

We passed the night sleeping in our chairs or taking turns on the one cot in the office. Dawn came and there had been no attack. There was a collective sigh of relief. The Army was on edge another couple of days but it took about three weeks for the masses to return to the palace from whatever rock they’d scurried off to hide under. It was nice though, not having to wait in line for chow.

From Intel Log:
1921 Jack reports Threat Warning of attacks FRI 31OCT03.
1935 Approx, SSgt S. passed threat warning of imminent attack tonight.
2320 Chuzu reports heavy fog drifting in from west. Vis down to about 40 feet at all CPs and posts.

03NOV03 The Greatest Fucking SITREP, EVER

Supply is a thankless job if ever there was one. Our QM, and his staff, were a good group but one night he’d had enough of wenging Gurkhas and typed up the following SITREP.

RATIONS/ACCOMMODATION

The men moved in on Wednesday 28th Oct, now 03rd Nov Project manager and his staff run ragged trying to link in everything for the camp to be up and running.

WATER FOR SHOWERS The camel train carrying the water arrived, 15 camels, 4 goats and a man with one eye and a limp. On asking him why he was late he replied that he received the call for water on Thursday a.m. and would have been here Sunday a.m. but for a traffic jam 10kms N of Basra and then when he arrived at CP 14 the soldier turned him back because his camels shit all over his CP. The man with the limp assured me that this will not happen again as he will ensure the camels are pumped out by the shit lorries and he’ll be here daily. Talking about shit… two shithouse rats who had just swam up the Tigris asked if they could suck up the shit from the overfilled portaloos. I spoke to them after they had sucked the portaloo dry, they said it was the best tasting crap since they where young rats on holiday around the time of the black plague in England. They added that they would be back each morning and that if we gave the troops more roughage they would nip back on their way home each evening because it could well be worth the trip. However they said they would not drink the septic tank as it tasted like shit so they wouldn’t touch it with a barrage pole, however they knew of an old water vole who lived up in Saddam city who had fallen on hard times since the US had bombed the shit out of all the septic tanks, he loved a drink in a good new septic and they were certain he would be here tomorrow. So we have shower water delivered daily, portaloos emptied twice daily and the septic tank emptied daily.

DRINKING WATER The reason we have had no water since we moved in is that David Copperfield the great magician was asked by KBR to deliver the water, I saw him this morning and he assured me he had delivered 20 pallets of water, and that if I looked hard I would see them but I couldn’t find them! Spoke to KBR and they sacked him because he has already lost them 4 x 50 seater buses and 8 low loaders on the road somewhere between CP13 & CP14, the water will now be delivered tonight or first thing tomorrow by 3 clowns in a rusty old motor and a horse with a woman stood on its back.

CLEANING OF ABLUTIONS Since moving in when all the camp is asleep I have int that says 47 vagrants crept pass the guard and threw mud, empty bottles, wet cardboard, wood and toilet rolls into all the ablutions, KBR refuse to clean up this mess until they recruit 25 women in short black skirts, black stockings, black tops with white frills and white hats carrying a feather duster on a long pole. So we have to clean them. Now I hear you say we have no cleaning kit, well just before Dave(only his mates let him call him Dave)Copperfield left he threw a big blanket over the accommodation and when he pulled the blanket away there was B Coy cleaning their rooms with mops and brushes. Honest guv with my own eyes I see’s it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

From Intel Log:
0835 Ben reports that the Kirkuk airfield was probed/direct assaulted last night.
1036 George reports that KBR has stopped all convoys headed west, due to activity in Fallujah.
1127 Mike reports a light blue garbage truck stopping along Miller’s Wall ivo Al Rasheed. Headed S down 14Jul road.
2106 mortar priming followed by detonation to the west of office- 2 more rounds fired.
2111 Jack reports multiple rockets fired E to W at the Baghdad Hotel- all rounds carried long: 1 poss landing E side of river w/o detonating another poss detonating ivo Wolf Pack area.
2315 Jack calls and reports that he has about a 2’ section of one of the rockets- likely 107mm.

05NOV03 (Journal)
2340C
28OCT— Sitting outside the office telling Dean just how bad it could get. I feel the fear start to grow in the pit of my stomach as I really hear my oft-repeated words for the first time. It is not speculation anymore but a possibility.

Just how vulnerable we are is aptly demonstrated while I’m talking to Dean. A threat warning for the very thing I have been warning has been received and taken as credible. I have never seen people so frightened in my life— ever. The intangible and unreal safety provided by the ‘dream zone’ melted away in a heartbeat and people were facing the very real prospect of being overrun, which wasn’t mentioned in the travel brochure.

Bremer flees the country, suddenly “recalled” to DC.

The fear goes away quickly and you find yourself anticipating the onslaught, for why else are we here? We picked our “Alamo” that night— where we would make our final stand, take as many of them with as we could and die like men. The fear of death fades into the fear of dishonor, of letting down your mates.

When Bremer eventually returned he held a town meeting in the ‘chapel’ in which the only comfort he could give to the people in the palace was that in case of an attack they should hide under their desks and shoot anyone that came through the door— a small consolation and glaring indicator of what was to come.

Several of the guys on Ambassador S.’s CP team attended the above meeting and promptly sat down and typed up the following, trying to capture the flavor of Bremer, the moment, and leadership at its finest:

CPA FORCE PROTECTION
ACTIONS ON CPA ATTACK

Bremer: Right. In the event of an attack on the CPA, you are to stay in your office, preferably under your desk and shoot anyone that comes into your office.

Force Commander: Anyone?

Bremer: Yes, anyone you identify.

Force Commander: So we are to shoot anyone that hides under the desk?

Bremer: No, you hide under the desk and shoot anyone who comes in.

Force Commander: So I hide under the desk and shoot people.

Bremer: Yes, anyone that you identify and then someone will come and get you. Do not leave until they come and get you.

Force Commander: Then we shoot them and leave?

Bremer: No, stay in the office and don’t shoot the ones who come to get you, they will identify themselves.

Force Commander: So I identify them then shoot them?

Bremer: No, no. Only shoot the ones you don’t identify.

Force Commander: So only shoot the ones I don’t identify, not the ones who have identified themselves.

Bremer: Yes, and then you can leave the office but not before.

Force Commander: So, do not leave the office even if YOU come and get me.

Bremer: No, no. Until I send someone to come and get you.

Force Commander: Until you send someone to come and get me, I am not to enter the office.

Bremer: No, no. No. You stay in the office and don’t leave.

Force Commander: And you’ll send someone to come and get me.

Bremer: Right.

Force Commander: I don’t need to do anything, apart from just stopping them from entering the office.

Bremer: Yes, the ones that don’t identify themselves.

Force Commander: And the ones that do?

Bremer: No, no. They can enter the room and then you leave.

Force Commander: They stay, I leave. Yes?

Bremer: No, they will come and get you then you leave, with them. All right?

Force Commander: Right.

Bremer: Right.

Force Commander: Just one question, where do I take the desk?

Bremer: You don’t take the desk anywhere, you leave it.

Force Commander: With them?

Bremer: No, not with them, YOU will go with them.

Force Commander: And the desk goes where?

Bremer: Look, it is quite simple; you hide under the desk if there’s an attack. You shoot anyone that comes in the room that you don’t identify. The ones that I will send to get you will identify themselves and then you will leave with them, without the desk. OK?

Force Commander: OK.

Bremer: Right. I am off for a meeting now. (Force Commander follows)

Bremer: Where are you going?

Force Commander: With you.

Bremer: No, you stay here.

Force Commander: What here, in this office?

Bremer: Yes, like I have just been telling you.

Force Commander: About what?

Bremer: About an attack, while you’re in this office.

Force Commander: Me, this office?

Bremer: Yes, if there is an attack while you’re in this office.

Force Commander: Oh, I get you now. So there is going to be an attack?

Bremer: Yes, but don’t tell anyone.

*****

In an effort to do something, questionable use of the word, the CPA had a bunch of cards printed up in English and Arabic to hand out to the civilians within the Palace. The cards were meant to reassure them that if captured their heads wouldn’t be lopped off. Their only real value was comedic and the running joke was that the Arabic side was for the insurgents and the English side was for the Marines. The card read:

“I am a non-combatant working to assist in the development and stability of Iraq for the benefit of all Iraqis. Please ensure my safe passage to the nearest Coalition Base or Iraqi Police Station and you may qualify to receive a reward.”

This of course, was before Abu Ghurayb.

video


The Siege of Baghdad
(or why Bremer is a cunt…)

I dreamt your dream
basking in the warm long hues
of a thousand muddy Tigris sunsets,
cloaked in the evening haze of the
Al-Doura Refinery.
And how we laughed,
those still, not too hot evenings
over Dead Can Dance
and cans of really bad
tequila
There was still hope then
it was still salvageable
against all odds—
“the great American dream”.
But now I see
the heat, the sand, the fear
the foreignness of it all
had driven you crazy
and you believed your own proclamations
like a man adrift
believes his own piss
will quench his thirst.
And now I sit hunkered down
in the burnt and blasted remains
of two madmen’s dreams.
We listen to martial music (mostly)
and dream of home
killing all who would dare challenge
our right to the ground we hold,
dearly,
simply,
because there is nowhere
else to go
and no one coming for us—
Legionnaires.
The sun sets sullenly,
bloody in the west
long shadows in the palm groves
clouded by the haze
of car bombs, mortars, and rocket exhaust.
I told you back then—
The ‘dream’ zone I had called it—
before the mangled and burnt KBR bodies,
before the rain of rockets
and waves of suicide bombers
but you,
you had your Dream
which somehow did not foresee
this Siege of Baghdad.

P³ and ROE (Journal)
An Iraqi— a father, or husband, or brother, or son was murdered last night because some asshole, namely the CO or S3 of 2BCT approved a traffic plan inherently flawed in design and rather than fix it went ahead and implemented it. They split the 14 July traffic circle in half, effectively cutting the dream zone in half, so Bremer could open the bridge as a “gift” to the Iraqis. Instead of a single US military unit controlling the traffic circle two different units split it in half. They did not share the same Op Plan and they didn’t even have radio or visual comms with each other. You never split a road when designating unit boundaries but the Army here seems to do a lot of things that it was trained not to do.

So, two Iraqis, unfamiliar with the dream zone drove the wrong way down a one-way road. They were actually allowed to be within the dream zone but took a wrong turn. Actually, the day prior, you HAD been able to drive both ways down that road.

There was one sign in ENGLISH warning of lethal force…AT THE POINT OF ENGAGEMENT. Reportedly, verbal warnings were issued (to a man driving in a car at least 100 feet away) and when the vehicle did not comply, it was brassed up with an M-60, killing the passenger.

Several days later, at the same checkpoint, the Army came within two inches of killing the Iraqi Governing Council Oil Minister, shooting his driver in the back after his vehicle had been cleared through the checkpoint.

And the ultimate irony was, that in response to L.P. Bremer’s gift, the Iraqis rocketed the living shit out of the Al Rasheed only a day or two after the bridge was opened. I believe there were two US KIA and a whole bunch of wounded. That was the last time P. Wolfowitz stayed there.

A single axle generator was used that had been hollowed out and fitted with rocket tubes. The elevation was preset for the range, indicating that prior surveillance had taken place and the design improved on several flaws that came to light in an earlier, less sophisticated attack in late SEP. The launcher was approximately 4-500 feet from the hotel, well within rifle distance of the two guardsman on duty on the roof…if they had been awake to see the insurgents tow the launcher to the site, set it up and then leave.

It is a telling fact on the conditions our troops have been put under, when less than thirty minutes after the hotel was rocketed the guys on the roof were asleep again with their weapons outside or arms reach. That’s how tired they were. Men like that are no good to nobody.


Analogy of the Day:  Why Did the Chicken cross the Road?

Coalition Provisional Authority:
The fact that the Iraqi chicken crossed the road affirmatively demonstrates that decision-making authority has been transferred to the chicken well in advance of the scheduled June 30th transition of power. From now on the chicken is responsible for its own decisions.

Halliburton:
We were asked to help the chicken cross the road. Given the inherent risk of road crossing and the rarity of chickens, this operation will only cost the US government $326,004.

Muqtada al-Sadr:
The chicken was a tool of the evil Coalition and will be killed.

US Army Military Police:
We were directed to prepare the chicken to cross the road. As part of these preparations, individual soldiers ran over the chicken repeatedly and then plucked the chicken. We deeply regret the occurrence of any chicken rights violations.

Peshmerga:
The chicken crossed the road, and will continue to cross the road, to show its independence and to transport the weapons it needs to defend itself. However, in future, to avoid problems, the chicken will be called a duck, and will wear a plastic bill.

1st Cav:
The chicken was not authorized to cross the road without displaying two forms of picture identification. Thus, the chicken was appropriately detained and searched in accordance with current SOP's. We apologize for any embarrassment to the chicken. As a result of this unfortunate incident, the command has instituted a gender sensitivity training program and all future chicken searches will be conducted by female soldiers.

Al Jazeera:
The chicken was forced to cross the road multiple times at gunpoint by a large group of occupation soldiers, according to eye-witnesses. The chicken was then fired upon intentionally, in yet another example of the abuse of innocent Iraqi chickens.

Blackwater:
We cannot confirm any involvement in the chicken-road-crossing incident.

Translators:
Chicken he cross street because bad she tangle regulation. Future chicken table against my request.

U.S. Marine Corps:
The chicken is dead





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