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A cool dawn in Baghdad this morning as the temperature fell below 60. Since that's 50 degrees lower than our highs a couple weeks ago it feels cold. Caught a bit of the news on Armed Forces Network TV, delivering via satellite a national news show from CNN. The weather is on, and there's a Doppler radar map of the US, the whole country's weather on display in real time. We're years away from that in Iraq, of course (they're years away from that in Europe for that matter) so for now all we have is it feels cold (rare) or it feels hot (usually) or sometimes I can't see my hand for all this blowing sand... or I sure hope that 'boom' was thunder... (It usually isn't.)
That's our Doppler weather radar.
Speaking of chill, an IED (Improvised Explosive Device, for the slow kids) was found on the road between here and there the other day. I know this because an announcement came over the public address system: "Attention in the camp, until further notice travel to there is not allowed." No further explanation was offered, but we're in the loop in my little corner of here, so we knew why.
Earlier we'd sent some troops to there - before the boom boom was discovered. We'd later learned they were caught in the traffic jam on the return trip. During the wait they familiarized themselves with Iraqi radio ("Their beats are as up-to-date as ours", I'm informed by way of de-brief). They had plenty of time to make an informed decision as the device was safely removed and taken elsewhere for analysis and eventually a controlled detonation. That's the fate of the majority of IEDs - discovered, de-fused, destroyed.
A fact I'm sure all Americans are as familiar with as they are the state of Baghdad's hip-hop scene. "Another IED Fails to Kill Anyone" being such a common headline above pictures of smiling Iraqi school kids these days. I'll link an example when I find one.
All day every day we hear distant booms. Nine times out of ten (make that 99 times out of 100) it's a controlled detonation of captured or surrendered ammunition. In Sadr city the truce and arms turn in has been (from first indications) a massive success. Ordnance is being removed by the truckload, and it's the real deal, not junk. All this means that either Sadr is serious about "going straight" and pursuing a political route to power or that he has so much stuff laying around that he can afford to hand in a couple tons.
But even collecting the stuff has it's dangers. Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's recent visit to Sadr City was preceded by a mortar attack - and the round actually landed in the football stadium where the collected ammo was stored.
Lt Dave Swanson of the US Army's 1st Cavalry Division, surveying the items that had been given back in return for cash, said: "These are RPG rounds. These are 60, 82 and 120mm mortars.
"Looking at it I would give an estimation there are about 300 anti-tank mines here. I wouldn't play with those."
He added: "Just one of these mines can blow up a tank so you can imagine what would have happened if a mortar had hit a pile of them. That's why the prime minister is not coming to look at them himself."
Is it safe? Good question. No is the only answer. Mortar rounds fired at piles of surrendered mortar rounds pretty much captures the madness of the situation. This might be good advice: If an 'insurgent' surrenders his grenade make sure the pin is in before you accept it."
Meanwhile, probes and jabs continue in Falujah:
The U.S. military has arrested a "senior leader" in the network run by Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, along with five others during overnight raids in the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, officials said Saturday.
So Ramadan has thus far been relatively quiet. Attacks on ING forces, Iraqi Christian churches, and a couple of explosions in the International Zone being notable exceptions. And of course, one event is sufficient escalation if it involves you - ask Questing Cat about Ramadan and you'll get the answer from his perspective,
You want to know the most terrible moment of a disaster? It is that split second when it begins. When all of a sudden there is a bright flash, that is nothing special except that it is the big break with reality to the f----d up world you are about to begin. A split second of bright light, and for the briefest second, there is no thought in your head, everything in you braces for....for what?
Which is exactly what everyone's trying to be ready for here - for what. But the truth is the month has not lived up to expectations - yet. Is this just the calm before the storm? Who knows. But there's an eye on the calendar and tension in the air, an alert readiness that leads to discovery of IEDs and survival of wounded troops and captures of insurgents and peace treaties with would-be messiahs negotiated at the point of a gun.
The bad guys could be saving their best shots for those final few days before the elections in the States. I've seen more than a few stateside pundits tired of the political campaigns counting the days 'til November 3rd, but I think no one would like to see the occasion pass more than the Iraqi citizens and American GI's waiting for that one brief flash...
"Intensities in Tent City" is a well-written piece of work. Moving even. Thanks for all your and yours do.Posted by Greg at October 23, 2004 05:57 PM
I saw two ammo dump accidental explosions and the City of Wonju being blown up with 10 carloads of ammo as we retreated.
Spectacular - unless you are close.
Sadr has been "fired" by his Ayatollah sponsor in Iran, what I've read. I suspect that has more to do with his change of heart tham anything else. I only wish I were half as brave as these guys. God bless them all.Posted by Ron at October 23, 2004 09:17 PM
Thanks for what you're doing. Stay safe and God Bless!Posted by Phil Heke at October 24, 2004 04:06 AM
We back what you're doing one hundred percent. God bless you and all your buddies! We're proud of you all.Posted by Robert at October 24, 2004 04:14 AM
Thanks,man....Posted by Mick at October 24, 2004 05:26 AM
Excellent post, Grey. Please stay safe and remember that so many of us here are more grateful for what you guys do then we could properly express.Posted by patrickafir at October 24, 2004 08:20 AM
God Bless you all! We are praying for you. Thank you for your sacrifice. Peace and calm be with you......Posted by Mother Mary at October 24, 2004 02:33 PM
I LOVE YOU GUYS!!!You are well loved here in the Southeast corner of the US.
Tell me what you need, and we will try to get it to you.Posted by Pat Adkins at November 3, 2004 02:11 AM
Just a thanks, I wish I young enough to be with youPosted by Carl at February 19, 2005 11:31 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(10) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)