Prev | List | Random | Next
In our last episode...
It IS VERY FREAKING NOISY IN A HELICOPTER AND I HAVE EAR PLUGS STUCK IN ALMOST TO MY TONSILS, but I figure if he wants to chat I can pop one out. I do. He's been in radio contact with the pilots, of course, and they are prepared to make me an offer.Welcome to part 3.
"If you can spare 30 minutes, we can show you some of Baghdad."
Knowing me, you predict I would reply...
a. "Oh no. I promised my wife and mom and kids I would never take any unnecessary risks. Take me somewhere safe and drop me off henceforth, and waste not one more moment of my time!"
b. "Let's do it." with a freaking ear to ear grin as minor back pain suddenly disappears in an obvious message from God.
Answer in part three.
Hah - it was a trick question. Actually I didn't say anything. It was too loud, as I said above. I just gave a thumbs up, the bird launched, and within seconds we were over the wire and 100 feet above the rooftops of Baghdad.
Katie Couric recently flew over town, too:
We arrived at the airport this morning on a private plane. I was surprised to hear that there are now three Royal Jordanian flights into Baghdad every day. It was difficult to see much from the air ... though I did see the Tigris River. The scope of the destruction can better be taken in at ground level. I had heard a great deal about the corkscrew landing into Baghdad airport, ostensibly to avoid being a clear target for SAMs, or surface-to-air missiles.... But the airport has gotten much more secure; we banked slightly, but it wasn't nearly as jarring as I had anticipated.Three flights a day, a lack of destruction - obviously the smooth landing wasn't the only surprise.
Before actually seeing Baghdad she may have had images like these in mind
If so, fair enough. That's what war looks like. And recovery can take years...
War is hell.
Nothing can compare to a helo ride over a major city in a war zone. It's a roller coaster off the rails, with an added element of people below who probably would enjoy killing you. If you can get over that, the view is amazing. The bird tilts to turn, and the windows are huge, and when you're barely a hundred feet up it's spectacular.
From higher up the haze and smog blur and obscure...
But drop in low, below the smog layer, and the picture clears...
And what causes that smog?
Partly the wind-blown dust, partly the exhaust of vehicles in a city of millions, and less and less often the fires of war...
But primarily the industry of Iraq...
Just loverly, isn't it?
There's little large-scale destruction visible in Baghdad. Like Katie Couric, I saw none. There is damage, to claim otherwise would be ignorant and arrogant. And here and there empty space where buildings may once have stood. But the real infrastructure problems with Baghdad - and they are significant - are a lack of continuously flowing electricity and water. Much of that is due to Saddam's years of neglect, some to decades of war, and more to a few years of terrorist attacks - all of which is made worse by people simply stealing bits and pieces for their own use, profit, or survival. None of this is seen at 200 feet, what you do see is a city of people going about their business, driving and walking through the streets, probably hoping they won't be blown up by a suicidal maniac before sundown, but otherwise just going about their lives.
There are many damaged people, too - and likewise that damage isn't visible from above. Much of it is internal; and only time and God can repair a damaged spirit or fix a shattered soul.
Though perhaps some hurts will never heal.
Something else you don't see in this ancient city: anything ancient.
But you will see the modern. In the distance, the Mother of all Mosques, rising still unfinished far above it's surroundings....
That Mother of all Mosques moniker is bogus of course. Prior to 2003 it was known as the Grand Saddam Mosque - where Saddam spent billions as his people starved. It's since been renamed the al Rahman Mosque.
That edifice should not be confused with the Mother of all Battles Mosque (and that's it's actual name!)...
Four of its minarets resemble the barrels of Kalashnikov rifles. Another four look like Scud missiles, and the similarities are not a mistake.Indeed...
It's called the mosque of the "Mother of all Battles." Saddam Hussein watched it rise from the day the ground was broken on his birthday.
He spared no expense. The reflecting pool rings the dome in the shape of the Arab world. In the middle there is a monument of Saddam's thumbprint with his initials set in gold.
But it is what is beneath one towering minaret that speaks the most of Saddam's passion for immortalizing himself.
Behind an ornate door in an inner sanctum are 650 pages of the Holy Koran, said to be penned in Saddam's own blood.
The Iraqi leader commissioned the work three years ago on his 60th birthday.And even farther off - too far for a photo - the skeletal frame of what would have been the worlds largest mosque towers above its surroundings.
Press and TV reports gave no indication of how much blood he had provided for the team of calligraphers who produced the work.
But a senior Iraqi official suggested the amount was considerable, given that the Muslim holy book comprises over 6,000 verses and some 336,000 words.
A few days ago I posted this entry at MilBlogs:
We've won the war.I wanted to say that with a very short and to the point post, with none of the ifs, ors or buts that a more reticent observer may have tossed in. I recognize now I should have extended my entry to six words: "We've won the war in Iraq".
I expect that the statement will unnerve the war's supporters who fear that the next act of violence in Iraq will offer the war's opponents yet another opportunity to insist we're defeated - or at least in a "quagmire" - but it's still a fact (as is that next act of violence). And I realize the degree of rage this will invoke in those opposed to our efforts - at least those who are politically opposed - but given the magnitude of their investment in defeat it should surprise no one if twenty years from now they're still insisting we lost. As for those engaged in actual armed combat against us, I addressed them in my first followup to that original post:
Lt. Gen. Odierno is absolutely right to note: "it only takes three people" to construct and detonate a suicide car bomb that can "kill thousands". And John Kerry was wrong when claiming (in an effort to undermine homefront morale in another war) that no one wants to be the last man to die for a mistake. In fact, al Qaeda will always have someone eager to prove him wrong.Being in Iraq I can assure you that along with the al Qaeda exclusion there's a corollary to that Kerry quote that must also be acknowledged: No one wants to be the last man to die for a victory, either. But either way, someone will be "that guy".
Yes, they could pull off a "Tet". Hell, they could manage something like their own version of the battle of the bulge, but the reality is they're whipped.
And I write this in full recognition that I could be that guy. I've been writing about Iraq here for four years now - in and out of country. I've been here during many of the most violent months of the war; from the second battle for Fallujah through the January, 2005 elections, and from the launch of the surge to the present - and I'm not homebound yet. In all that time progress has been achingly slow, and back steps have been mixed with forward - but never the majority. Throughout it all - until now - I've never declared victory, seen "light at the end of the tunnel", or even claimed to have "turned a corner" - you can take your bumper sticker slogans and shove 'em. Over here a tenacious and bloodthirsty enemy has fought a well-designed and multi-faceted campaign against us, perhaps secure in the knowledge that blame for every child they killed or each holy place they defiled would be shifted to us even as they washed the blood from their hands. Their efforts gained support from many quarters (not all of which were anticipated in preparation for or included in response to their actions) and condemnation from few. But the ranks of their opponents - at least here in Iraq - are large and still growing, and theirs are neither. The battles are diminishing but ongoing, losses will be suffered, and blood will still be shed. Still more of their supporters may redouble their efforts. But in short, while I recognize this will provoke immeasurable rage from those who feel we've lost, and consternation among those who know we've won but lack the fortitude to make the declaration at this point in time, I'll say it again: we've won the war in Iraq.
We overflew the Monument to the Unknown Soldier, built during Saddam's eight year war with Iran.
Reliable casualty figures for the war do not exist.
The people of Iraq have known nothing but war for almost 30 years. Soon they may know peace.
Saddam's victory declarations - in the forms of new Mosques, monuments, and palaces, were invariably premature. On the ironically American-named Victory Base Complex one can see the still incomplete Victory Palace, built to commemorate Saddam's victory over the coalition in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Among all the monuments and above the clamor of victory parades one should always hear the words of Robert E. Lee: "It is well that war is so terrible — otherwise we should grow too fond of it."
There is work to be done.
At one point in our flight over Baghdad I glanced down to see we were flying directly over Saddam's crossed swords, seen here from the opposite perspective.
These modern victory arches may be the most recognizable features of one of the world's most ancient cities.
We should have demolished them in 2003.
If American troops come home in Victory from Iraq it will be only the second time we've ever returned victorious from a war on foreign soil. The first was World War One.
We left Baghdad, returned "home". The pilot flew in hot then quickly tilted the bird up to use the rotors to slow the ship before leveling out and hitting the ground. We'd picked up a few more passengers along our way, and delivered them to places they needed to be. Now the mission was over. The sun was dropping low in the sky. I grabbed my gear and hit the ground, having been delivered damn near to my front door.
After a few steps one of the gunners caught up with me.
"What did you think?" He asked.
"That was awesome. I would have paid you for that."
"Baghdad always surprises me," he said. "We fly over real nice houses, with swimming pools and nice lawns, and then we also fly over shacks made out of sticks. It's like... like..."
"It's like Los Angeles." I concluded for him.
Next: Fox on the Airfield
God bless you Mr.(& Mrs.) G.Posted by Thomas H. Agee at October 19, 2007 11:50 PM
Thank you, that was excellent. I always thought Baghdad was just a block big, with barbwire, U.S. Soldiers, kids wanting their picture taken, and craters in the streets (let us not forget some burning car). It's amazing it's an actual city...Posted by Irish Gal at October 20, 2007 12:18 AM
"If American troops come home in Victory from Iraq it will be only the second time we've ever returned victorious from a war on foreign soil. The first was World War One."
No, the first was the Mexican-American War.Posted by Jim Thomason at October 20, 2007 12:25 AM
Heh - we're still in Texas. ;)Posted by Greyhawk at October 20, 2007 12:51 AM
New Mexico, Arizona, California...Posted by Greyhawk at October 20, 2007 12:51 AM
That was a fantastic piece! Blogger reporting at its very finest! Thanks!Posted by Davos at October 20, 2007 12:54 AM
I think that America, as an eventual Ally, could claim WWII as well.
Great reporting and tremendously encouraging.
Thank you.Posted by Jay Currie at October 20, 2007 01:12 AM
Another one of your many "best". Wish this would be picked up by important newspapers, and printed word for word. Stay Safe.Posted by Lucille at October 20, 2007 01:31 AM
I will quibble. It doesn't look like Los Angeles. It looks like Guadalajara, except a little nicer.
We're still in Europe. Japan too.
We don't come home from wars we win (add Korea and you can say "we don't come home from the wars we don't lose".) That's generally been more to other's benefit than ours.Posted by Greyhawk at October 20, 2007 02:08 AM
>No, the first was the Mexican-American War.
The Barbary Wars.Posted by Korla Pundit at October 20, 2007 02:12 AM
You are so freakin awesome Greyhawk.
I just can't imagine getting through this war without the milblogs.Posted by Rightwingsparkle at October 20, 2007 02:24 AM
Funny that you mentioned Los Angeles. My wife and I spent my post-deployment leave in L.A. and I couldn't get over how much it reminded me of a slightly cleaner Baghdad, though with a tad more gunfire. I even flinched underneath overpasses.Posted by Buck Sargent at October 20, 2007 03:28 AM
We should have demolished them in 2003.
I whole heartedly agree. Not only are they an ugly reminder of an ugly regime, they are just plain ugly.
I am constantly amazed at how hard you and your wife work to bring us the news-and for so long now. Thankyou for your incredible blog-we share it with anyone who will listen!Posted by dianainsa at October 20, 2007 07:46 AM
Good job, GreyOne. Your writing gets better and better. And my admiration for the job you and your Missus are doing grows with it. (It's about Greenland sized right now).
While I won't quibble with you about about when Victory should be declared, I will point out one thing. Victory in America's wars will never be in doubt as long as there is someone in charge who will never give up on this country, or on the desire for people everywhere to live in Freedom and in Peace. The American people have never been defeated and will never be defeated.....unless they choose to be defeated. The loss of faith in our military's abilities is the only thing which caused loss of any previous wars. And that was because our leadership gave up when they saw the press or the people turn against the war.
Amazing what one person with grit, determination, and the vast resources and supporting will of the American People can do for this world, ain't it?
"Never Give In. Never, never, never, never. In anything, great or small." - Sir Winston Churchill
Press on, GreyHawk. To Victory.
SubsunkPosted by Subsunk at October 20, 2007 10:14 AM
Fantastic post. I'm always grateful for your views. Thank you for everything.Posted by Toby Petzold at October 21, 2007 12:21 AM
After a day reading some lefty blogs half in disgust and half in realization that I should be reading righty blogs with disgust too (like with the whole SCHIP-Frost-Wilkerson-Stark debacle), this piece singlehandedly rejuvenated me. Thank you.Posted by Math_Mage at October 22, 2007 03:55 AM
I get to Baghdag almost every night, either to or through Camp Victory. The place remindes me of Mexico. The stench is apalling, trash, heaped about, burning in some places. Overall, not as bad as the rest of the Country.Posted by unkawill at October 22, 2007 05:12 AM
Great piece & great news. Thank you.Posted by Tim at November 10, 2007 01:56 PM
AWESOME! Thanks for sharing that with us. My sister and her husband spent a year in Iraq (Semper Fi!) and we spent most of the year in prayer for their safety. We haven't stop praying for all you boys and girls out there. Its sad that the Liberal illuminati media will never give a report a tenth as good as your blog. Keep up the good work and look forward to reading your future postings! God Bless!Posted by Mike Drew at October 22, 2008 04:48 AM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(21) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)