Monday, December 12, 2005


There is just so much I want to comment on and can not due to the security rules about commenting on Operations, Events, Places, Names…so I’ll tell you about my trip to Baghdad and my experience with the Iraqi Court System.

I got up early in the morning for my ride down to the IZ via Blackhawk. Dawn had just crested the horizon when we boarded and our flight was smooth. Looking down as we flew I was once again surprised by the greenness of this part of Iraq. The Land Between the Rivers is rich with farmland and feeds the entire country.

Below me were fields upon fields dotted here and there with flat roofed houses. Canals cut across the landscape feeding the crops with water from the Tigris. Modernisms blurred the ancient images I could see stretching westward into the desert.

Flying over Baghdad we could see the traffic in the streets and the people on their way to work. Children walked to school dressed in their uniforms of dark trousers and white shirts and dresses. Women gathered at the corner market to buy food for the day. Everywhere were satellite dishes for the TVs.

We landed inside the International Zone and were met by SPC Skippy, our legal …er… handler. He walked us over to the parking lot and told us that we’d have a convoy brief in about 45 minute. I walked over to the coffee house and had a cappuccino.

45 minutes later Navy Chief McScruff (JAG...oh, brother I am laughing so hard...) gave us our safety briefing. He went into a lot of detail about what to do if this, what to do if that. It was more detailed than the briefings I give for a 200 km route security convoy…When it was over I had to ask him,

“How far are we going?”

“About a mile and a half.”

“…and we are not leaving the IZ?” said I, confused as to the details.


I blinked my eyes several times in confusion. “So…how many times have you been attacked inside the IZ?”

He looked at me sheepishly, “um….none.”

Hey, look…I’m not putting the guy down because he was being safe. All the more power to him. It’s just that while I was inside the ‘secure zone’ in Baghdad everybody acted like the Chinese were about to attack south over the border.

One more ‘IZ Warrior’ quote and I’ll let it rest.

“We got mortared again last night.” Spoke PVT Schmedlap in a halting voice.

“Oh, yeah? Where did it hit?” I asked.

“uh…I’m not sure. I didn’t really hear it.”

OK. Maybe he was sleeping so soundly that he didn’t hear it, but if you don’t see it land or hear it explode then you don’t get to say “We got mortared…”

But hey…they’re fighting the war.

ANYWAY…what were we talking about…

Ah, yes..

So we drive the mile and a half and the security detachment springs out to provide 360 security. I am giggling like a little school girl, but trying to hide it because these kids are trying to do the right thing. We walk the 300 meters or so to the courthouse surrounded by heavily armed MPs. Once there we go into the room set aside of US witnesses and ‘down’ our body armor, helmets, and rifles.

And we wait…

…seems the bus carrying the prisoners broke down.

At 11.30 they arrive and my case is up first. I admit I am nervous about the whole thing because I don’t want to screw it up. I am taken up to the courtroom and met the judge.

I am not sure what I expected the court to be like, but I am sure it isn’t this. We are in a 30 ft by 30 ft room that looks like a law office. The judge is there, a scribe, the US lawyer, a translator, and the Iraqi lawyer.

The prisoners are escorted in by six guards. They wear the typical Orange jumpsuits seen in all the newsreels.

The judge asks me to tell him what happened. I do. He asks a few questions. I answer. He asks the US Lawyer if she has anything to say. She doesn’t. I leave.

40 minutes tops.

No cross-exam, no defendee comments, no piece of candy and a balloon when I leave.

Whoa…what the hell just happened?

I catch a ride back to the flight line and jump on a bird heading back to our base. I get to see the same surreal sites (you can’t explain this place…I’ll try sometime but it just…defies…attempts….to understand…)

And I am home.
Long day. Two prisoners found guilty. I get a pretty tour of Baghdad via Blackhawk.

Another typical day as an Advisor to the Iraqi Army came to a close leaving me wondering, “What the hell was that all about?”

Dutch- out


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