Letter from Iraq

David Newland
A few days ago someone drove a dump truck loaded with a bomb into Habbinniyah and exploded it near the town's police station, killing thirty-four people and injuring about sixty, most of them women and children.  Initial news reports said that the bomb was detonated near the town's mosque.  But I talked to a Marine sergeant who saw the immediate aftermath and he was surprised that the first news of it off the wires could be so inaccurate in terms of where the bomb exploded and how many were killed. 

The bigger point is that the terrorists out here are beginning to wake up after a cold winter.  Of course they want to concentrate a lot of attention on the country's main city.  And Baghdad is a big draw.  But shooting mortars and rockets at Americans is still a big part of the game, and I hear it pays well, too.  Several days ago the camp near us was mortared at night and then again during the day.  The howitzers here and at the other camp responded and the shooting stopped--who knows, maybe the bad guys were already long gone. 

Professional killers from Europe have also gotten into the act.  It has been hard to track down the origins of one particularly interesting story, but some people here swear that two German brothers, both snipers, have operated in Al Anbar and operate here still.  They are pretty inactive at the moment; perhaps their luck ran out, too.  But as long as there is money to be made there will be shooters and suicide bombers.  Suicide bombers are just a different version of the same species.  Wave several thousand dollars US at an Iraqi man with a family in dire straits and you might get an eager suicide bomber, but sometimes they are coerced for the price of their family's lives.  That's Iraq for you--it's the reality of the place.    

But what is Iraq really about for us?  It's got to be about something besides Iraqi Freedom.  It's a noble undertaking, but it does not pass the reality test of this place.  Being here in country is everything because you can not imagine what this place is really like until you are here and move around in it some--but always from one protected camp to another.  We stay inside the wire because that's were the soldiers are. 

At some point--I do not know when--this whole enterprise became something other than Iraqi Freedom.  The people supplying the mortars and rockets to the killers are not in country.  From their point of view they have all kinds of reasons to see the US fail in Iraq.  The soldiers here and those coming here as part of the build-up can not stop suicide bombers.  Everyone knows that.  The game will be over when many of the soldiers we have here go to where the suicide bombers get their money and their bombs.  At some point that day will have to come.  It is the reality of this place.

David Newland works for a civilian contractor to the United States military in Iraq.
A few days ago someone drove a dump truck loaded with a bomb into Habbinniyah and exploded it near the town's police station, killing thirty-four people and injuring about sixty, most of them women and children.  Initial news reports said that the bomb was detonated near the town's mosque.  But I talked to a Marine sergeant who saw the immediate aftermath and he was surprised that the first news of it off the wires could be so inaccurate in terms of where the bomb exploded and how many were killed. 

The bigger point is that the terrorists out here are beginning to wake up after a cold winter.  Of course they want to concentrate a lot of attention on the country's main city.  And Baghdad is a big draw.  But shooting mortars and rockets at Americans is still a big part of the game, and I hear it pays well, too.  Several days ago the camp near us was mortared at night and then again during the day.  The howitzers here and at the other camp responded and the shooting stopped--who knows, maybe the bad guys were already long gone. 

Professional killers from Europe have also gotten into the act.  It has been hard to track down the origins of one particularly interesting story, but some people here swear that two German brothers, both snipers, have operated in Al Anbar and operate here still.  They are pretty inactive at the moment; perhaps their luck ran out, too.  But as long as there is money to be made there will be shooters and suicide bombers.  Suicide bombers are just a different version of the same species.  Wave several thousand dollars US at an Iraqi man with a family in dire straits and you might get an eager suicide bomber, but sometimes they are coerced for the price of their family's lives.  That's Iraq for you--it's the reality of the place.    

But what is Iraq really about for us?  It's got to be about something besides Iraqi Freedom.  It's a noble undertaking, but it does not pass the reality test of this place.  Being here in country is everything because you can not imagine what this place is really like until you are here and move around in it some--but always from one protected camp to another.  We stay inside the wire because that's were the soldiers are. 

At some point--I do not know when--this whole enterprise became something other than Iraqi Freedom.  The people supplying the mortars and rockets to the killers are not in country.  From their point of view they have all kinds of reasons to see the US fail in Iraq.  The soldiers here and those coming here as part of the build-up can not stop suicide bombers.  Everyone knows that.  The game will be over when many of the soldiers we have here go to where the suicide bombers get their money and their bombs.  At some point that day will have to come.  It is the reality of this place.

David Newland works for a civilian contractor to the United States military in Iraq.