3/26/2003

this is posted by yusuf ,the friend of john .john sends this by email .

An American for the day

As daylight dripped through the dusty air, I watched the other men stir, and open their eyes. I was dressing up in my American uniform, gathering the neccesary papers, and changing them to reflect the name tag on my captured uniform. Here in the desert, we had planted a small signal amplifier, and my mission was to infiltrate the British ranks, and with my computer, a radio link and the amplifier, keep the Iraqi troops informed about what was about to happen. The troops in Basrah were getting badly hit, and they needed more information about the positions of the British troops on the outside.

My infiltration computer is my watch. It has got a small device you can attach to the top of it, and this device shines a light to the table, and the light is shaped like a keyboard. You can type on this keyboard, and it is saved in the memory of the watch. Every now and then, it transmits the signals. The range is good for a number of kilometers in flat ground.

Apart from this watch, I was standard American. I don’t usually use an American accent, but I can adopt a bronx accent when I want. My face, my name and my voice had become American. In my Humvee, I would not have any trouble infiltrating the troops on the other side of the river. Or so I thought.

15 minutes after dawn break, I started off, and the other members of the team also prepared to leave, but in the opposite direction. I drove slowly, heading down south, so it would appear as if I was coming from the convoy, and had somehow managed to get across the river. The guns were silent behind me, and I felt the peace of the desert. It was quiet, and so devoid of life. I wondered why people lived here. I’m a city boy, and the rural life seems to me to be the most boring life possible.

A bullet hit my tire.

The humvee sagged and swerved, and I panicked, and wrenched at the steering, grabbing for my small M16 at the same time. The car was hit again, and firing started in earnest. I cowered down in the car, and saw the metal plate in front of my face dent with a loud crack as a bullet hit it. After a while, the shooting stopped, and I saw shadows appear in the dust through the door crack, gradually taking form as they slowly moved towards the car. I stayed crouched, even when I felt the cold muzzle of the gun press against my neck.

I looked up, and Iraqi militia men were in a group around the car, their faces grim, and their gun barrels aimed at my heart. One grabbed at my gun, and disarmed me. They dragged me out, stripped me of my knife, my pistol and the keys of the car. They tied my hands, threw me in the back of the humvee, and we started driving back north, between a small convoy of two other jeeps. I had been ambushed, and very cleverly. I should not have been daydreaming.

I saw the futility of trying to say that I was fighting on their side. I had nothing to prove that, apart from my halting arabic. So I went along with them, hoping that I would come across someone who had heard of my group, and could confirm my story.

30 minutes later, we entered Al Basrah, and after a few meters, a number of local people gathered around the car, waving Kalashnikows in the air, and yelling. I was propped up so I could be seen by everyone, and I started getting afraid. The people had hate in their eyes, and the teenagers were trying to hit at me. Someone threw a stone, and it hit my helmet with a painful thunk. The guns started off by being waved in the air, then they started shooting in the air. I started getting afraid they would aim at me, and shoot me.

So I decided to speak in arabic to my capturers, and explain to them who I was, and that I was fighting on their side. But immediately I spoke in arabic, the men in the jeep, started screaming insults and curses into my ear. They screamed that I had come to kill them, and that they would kill me first. A man started screaming that I had killed his mother, and that he would tear off my balls for what I had done to him. I gave up talking after a while, because nobody listened. I sunk my head, and ignored them.

Then a house two blocks away blew up. The crowd screamed and ran, tripping over stones and themselves, and everybody jumped out of the vehicle. I was dragged out, and pulled into the next house, together with about 15 other people. We were all crowded into this small front lobby. I noticed that there was blood on the floor. Much blood.

A young boy was peeking out the window, and would yell shortly before we heard a bomb land. The room was quiet, almost as if they hoped that by staying silent, the bombs would not hit them. The a bomb hit something very near, and the wind was sucked out of the room, and we swayed, and some people stumbled. I heard beams creak, and concrete crack. There was a lull in the bombing, and people started dashing out of the house, down the street and away. After a short while, when the bombing restarted, but in another part of the town, I was dragged and hurried out, down the street to some kind of official building. Someone said that the Americans would bomb that building, and that they would kill me, in a hopeful voice.

But in the building, there was a bunker, and I was led inside, my hands were untied, and I met with some local leader. He seemed to be some political leader, probably Baath, and not a military commander. I started to explain to him what my situation was. In the middle of my sentence, the building was bombed.

We were flung like ragdolls against the walls, and I quickly collected myself, and threw myself towards the stairs. It seemed like I flew up the stairs, so fast did I run, and dashed into the street. I started running up the street, and seconds later, the heavy clacking sound of a kalaschnikow started behind me. I felt the air trail of the bullet pass by my face, and quickly veered off into a compound, jumped over the fence, and ran round to the back, planning to escape into the next compound.

The gunfire from the front was getting intense. I saw bullets hitting the top of the fence, but still grabbed it, and threw myself over. There was glass stuck on the top, probably to prevent burglers, and I cut my finger badly as I performed the stunt. People had already gathered on this side of the fence, however, and as I landed the bullets where already hitting. I veered off to the right, and burst into the house. There was a scared looking boy holding a gun inside, and probably wondering why his people were trying to kill him. I grabbed the gun from him, broke open a window, and started shooting outwards. There was a yell, and someone fell.

We started a gunfire exchange, and after a while, their gunning reduced in intensity. Then there was a roar of mortar, and the building shook in its foundations. A few seconds, and another one, this time a hit. A wall broke at the top, and concrete flew in the room. I ran to a back room, and the next few mortar rounds did not do much damage. Then they got a direct hit, demolishing the front part of the house.

I was about to run out, shooting for my death, when an RPG hit the position of the person firing mortar, and blowing the device and man apart. Further large caliber bullets hit their positions, apparently coming from the british troops a distance away.

I didn’t need to be begged. I ran towards the back, jumped over the fence again, ran up the street, switched on the Humvee with the emergency lever, and hit the accelerator . I squeelled around a corner, took a detour away from the fire, and roared towards the british positions. They took a few pot shots as they saw me approach, but someone must have pointed out the make of the vehicle, because that soon stopped. They watched me approach, and I stopped, and collapsed out of the vehicle.

They approached me, and lifted me up, and took me into their camp. I couldn’t speak, and they didn’t ask me any questions. But I saw the admiration in their eyes. They had rescued a Real American Hero.

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