4/23/2003

The retaking of the bridge

I stood with the 3 young men, and we looked at the tank sitting on the Saddam bridge in Baghdad, and pointing its snout towards us contemptuosly. It sat like a big ugly fly, flicking its head to the left or the right every now and then, and spitting fire.

On the wall across the street from us, there was a large uneven splash of red brown blood, and a crumpled shirt below the wall. A man had been running away from the fire, but had not been able to run faster than the beast could shoot. As we had watched him run along the wall, the bullet holes had marked the walls behind him, following him, and racing faster than he could run. In the last moment, when the bullets were a meter behind him, he had jumped into the air, almost as if he wished he would be taken by God into safety. Born by the wings of angels away from the desperate panic. But that didn’t happen. The large caliber tank bullets hit him, and flung him against the wall, splashing blood all over the wall. He jerked as he fell, and twiched for several minutes.

That was 30 minutes ago, and at the moment, the 3 men beside me all had rocket propelled grenade launchers in their hands, and were about to go swat the large and ugly fly off the bridge. They wanted to attack that huge piece of death metal with its massive gun with their little weapons.

The young man beside me was called Sam. An all american name, but it was the short form of some arabic name. I had stayed with him the night before, and we had talked deep into the night. He was gripped by the rage of the 22 year old against the injustices of the world, and he believed that he would save the Baghdad, Iraq and the World in the morning. We will fight, and will die in Baghdad, he proclaimed loudly every now and then. Nobody will ever capture Baghdad without killing the 5 million residents.

His non-violent ambitions were modest – he was working at the zoo, and hoped to become the animal keeper when the old man retired. He spoke with tenderness and humour of the funny camels, the loud lions, the donkeys, the monkeys. He was a story teller, and that night, when we were not talking of the battle outside, and when the bombs did not drown out our voices, it was like one night of the thousand and one Arabian nights.

But today, the time had come for him to fight the fight, and to save the world. I did not bother telling him that I had once wanted to save the world, but I had now decided it was more practical to simply save myself. He was young, and he would find out soon enough that the fight was not a glorious task.

“God will lead us to victory,” the men yelled as they burst out and ran in the direction of the tanks. A camera man ran with them. They ran under the bridge, and shortly afterwards, after heavy fire from the tank, I saw them run out. The first man to come out was limping, and collapsed soon. Blood spread from him into the floor. 3 other men came out from under the bridge. They were running, and a hail of bullets was hitting around them. Their weapons were gone.

They reached us. “Where is Sam!” I asked, because he had not come back out. Wounded, and lying under the bridge, they indicated. “Go get him!” I exclaimed. The men turned away, and they glanced at the walls cracked by the hail of bullets. I saw they wouldn’t go, and my lip curled in contempt of these freedom fighters.

I ran across to the police car we had used to reach the area and drove up under the bridge. Immediately I entered their view, the tanks started firing heavy caliber bullets at my car. I felt the heavy thuds in the body of the car, and panic gripped me, flooding my mind with senseless fear.

I reached the body, grabbed Sam, pulled him into the car, and reversed out of the area under the bridge. The car was peppered with bullet holes, and it was a miracle that I hadn’t been hit.

Sam lay in the passenger seat, and he was crying. It was not because of his wounds that he cried, he cried because the bullets that had shattered his leg has also shattered his belief and faith in God. He cried because he had fought a battle, a David against Goliath battle, a fight for freedom against an invading enemy, and Goliath had won. Sam had not even been able to shoot the single grenade from his gun before he was shot.

The hospitals were full, so Sam was taken care of at his home by his sisters. They were 10 and 13 years old, and they cried as the bathed the open wounds of their brother.

But a lot more was wounded that day. And some of those wounds may never heal.

4/02/2003

My blogging almost gets me captured

Like I mentioned previously, I am now in the syrian desert. I’ve got my laptop and some lesser equipment with me (which were in the humvee I drove to the british camp), and I’m living off some ready made meals, and hope to get to some life sometime soon. But how did I get here, and why am I not in Iraq? Well, it is this damned blogging that I do.

Everybody wants to leave their mark on the world. I go off to fight in places that I probably will never come back from, and I want my story to be written down somewhere. It is more than a journal, my very thoughts are represented by each one of my comments, and were I to get eaten by a bunch of vultures tommorow, my words will stay forever on this ol web. Well, at least till the blogspot server crashes.

And that is why I try to post my stories daily. If I do not have internet access, I send emails to my bodyguards in france, Yusuf, Jose or Jamal. Those are all pseudonyms.

I blog of things that are past, and only when I am out of danger. But Yusuf made a mistake in posting an article while I was still with the British, and some reader of the blog decided to contact the authorities, and they ran a routine test and discovered that I indeed existed. But let me start from the beginning.

The day after I arrived, I stood up, and went out looking for nurse Jasmine. I am a charming sort of chap, and it had been a while since I had female company, so it was only natural. I detected her shortly, sitting in a trench and drinking tea. I joined her, and we spoke a bit. She was from Kuwait, and had volunteered to join the British squad as a nurse because they were short of medical personel. It soon turned out that she had been to Tunisia, and even visited the area where I spent my childhood days several times. It was an nice distracting conversation in arabic.

I soon turned on the charm, and got a promise for a date later that night, supposing nothing came up like a bunch of dead and dying soldiers, or a rain of falling bombs. I wondered where I would take her off to, but there is always the date at a ridge where one can see the stars. And we would see a lot of shooting stars that night, yes, shot from Iraqi guns.

But alas, missfortune struck me a heavy blow. As I walked back to the camp, a commanding officer summoned me and demanded to see my papers, having apparently been contacted by some people from london. I told him they were missing. He immediately ordered my arrest. I was grapled, and didn’t resist, and my hands were tied. All my gear was stuffed into a rucksack, and I was thrown into the back of a van, and the van started driving off towards the south.

My guard was Private Tom from london city, with whom I had just the night before had the long entertaining conversation. We continued the conversation, and while just as entertaining, it was about other things, like me being a traitor, and him wanting to shoot me like the dog he claimed I was.

I waited till we were at a location roughly halfway between Basrah and Um Qasr, then I displayed what several years of fighting with South Africans teaches you. I hopped to my feet, implanted my boot between his teeth (afterwards, I had to remove a tooth from the sole), and then knocked him out with a head butt. The driver did not notice, because the window between the back and front of the truck was small, dirty, and grilled.

I then looked for a sufficiently sharp corner in the truck, which wasn’t all too hard, and 5 minutes of friction caused the rubber holding my hands to snap. I slung on my rucksack, took Toms' gun, gathered up Toms’ teeth and placed them in a strategic location where he could locate them easily, and dropped off the back of the truck.

I lay still for a while, till the truck disappeared over the next dune. Then I started trecking towards the Syrian desert. I purchased a camel at the next village, and 2 days later I arrived at the edge of the desert.

4/01/2003

Syrian desert is blazing hot

My equipment

My team is being paid close to $4 million for the mission we are to perform. I have been careful not to be specific of the mission, and I will only talk about those aspects of the mission when I am out of the region, and all my men are out of danger.

With that budget, we were able to stock ourselves up with the latest high tech equipment. Here is a description of some of them.

1. A laptop. This is a small laptop with a foldback satellite dish for internet access on the back. It is preconfigured to use up to 3 different satellites, and we have got access to russian military channels. The laptop is so sturdy that it can set on fire and come out unscratched. The keyboard is foldeable and made of cloth. It has got a tiny printer inside, but no internal drives. Cost: $11 000

2. A watch computer: This is a largish watch with a big LCD screen, somewhat like that of a mobile phone. It uses an operating system based on symbian OS, and apart from the normal calender and time functionality, it also sports a plug on the top where you can attach a small light that creates a virtual keyboard on any surface. It pulses to measure where your fingers strike. Without this attachment, it is merely a watch. Once the pulse keyboard is attached, the screen changes to a one line word processor. It has got 128 MB of memory. The most valuable feature however is the signal capability. It pulses signals across many frequencies at high speed, so even if there were a radio detector nearby, it could not detect that the watch was sending a signal. The downside is that there has to be a retransmitter within 5 kilometers of the watch. I usually have mine in my backpack, but it can easily be detected because of the signal strength it gives of, and because it does not go across multiple frequencies, so I cannot infiltrate with the booster. The watch can passively receive radio signals, and indicates to me that it has received a signal by vibrating a small panel at the bottom. When I receive a critical signal (which I have not, up to now), and I do not touch the watch within 30 seconds, it sends a small electric shock. If I still do not respond to it, it switches itself off within 15 minutes, and cannot be reactivated again without a dongle. Cost: $37 000.

3. A heat masking trenchcoat: This was designed by an Israeli firm for the Israeli paramilitary, and was copied in China. The coat masks body heat by measuring ground temperature, and regulating temperature of the coat to the ground temparature. It is powered by battery strips, and needs to be recharged ever now and then. When the ground is very cold, there is an additional trenchcoat you wear before the heat masking to keep yourself from freezing. Cost: $250.

4. Night vision goggles.

5. Terrain exploring software: We run this on our laptops, and it uses satellite signals to tell us exactly how the terrain in front of us looks like. We can cut through mountains and ridges. When access is not blocked, it can use current satellite pictures to actually show us 3 dimensional pictures of enemies hiding behind obstructions. Cost: $90 000

6. RPGs: These are specially constructed rocket propelled grenades that are only slighly large than bullets. They are placed in special guns, and demolish anything they hit. Very useful indeed.

7. Radar detectors and radar devices

8. Personel detection flares: These are small rockets that scan the enviroment for movement using cameras, and send back information to the software on the laptops using frequency hoping radio signals. They work up to 5 kilometers

9. Terrain mapping flares: These are like the personal detection flares, but they use radio echo as well as light to map the terrain up to 5 kilometers ahead. However, one has to shoot multiple to properly scan the enviroment.

10. Shut down 'grenades': When we are compromised these shut down grenades are activated, and all our equipment immediately stops functioning till they are reactivated with dongles.

11. Light ray guns: These shine a bright light ray into the eyes of enemies, blinding them for a while

There are others, but those are the major stuff we have.