|Page 2 of 5 < >|
U.S. gunfire kills two Reuters employees in Baghdad
Another boom, also over there.
And nothing here, not even close, no swish this time, so the gunners stood back up, the soldiers in the dirt dusted themselves off, and the massive convoy headed toward Al-Amin to begin a day that would turn out to feature four distinct versions of war.
Arriving just after sunrise, Charlie Company broke off from the convoy and headed to the west side of Al-Amin. It was a saffya daffya day, and the soldiers found no resistance as they began clearing streets and houses. Birds chirped. A few people smiled. One family was so welcoming that Tyler Andersen, the commander of Charlie Company, ended up standing under a shade tree with a man and his elderly father having a leisurely discussion about the war. The Iraqis asked why the Americans' original invasion force had been only one hundred thousand soldiers. They talked about the difficulties of life with only a few hours of electricity a day, and how much they mistrusted the Iraqi government because of the rampant corruption. The conversation, which lasted half an hour and ended in handshakes, was the longest, most civil one Andersen would have with an Iraqi in the entire war, and it filled him with an unexpected sense of optimism about what he and his company of soldiers were doing. That was the first version of war.
The second occurred in the center of Al-Amin, where Kauzlarich went with Alpha Company.
Here, sporadic gunfire could be heard, and the soldiers clung to walls as they moved toward a small neighborhood mosque. They had been tipped that it might be a hideout for weapons, and they wanted to get inside. The doors were chained shut, however, and even if they hadn't been, American soldiers weren't allowed in mosques without special permission. National Police could go in, but the three dozen NPs who were supposed to be part of this operation had yet to show up. Kauzlarich radioed Qasim. Qasim said they were coming. Nothing to do but wait and wonder about snipers. Some soldiers took refuge in a courtyard where a family's wash was hanging out to dry. Others stayed bobbing and weaving on the street, which was eerily empty except for a woman in black pulling along a small girl, who saw the soldiers and their weapons and burst into tears as she passed by.
Here, finally, came the NPs.
"There are weapons inside," Kauzlarich told the officer in charge, a brigadier general.
"No!" the general exclaimed in shock, and then laughed and led his men toward a house next door to the mosque. Without knocking, they pushed through the front door, went past a wide-eyed man holding a baby sucking his thumb, climbed the steps to the roof, took cover for a few minutes when they heard gunfire, jumped from that roof down onto the slightly lower roof of the mosque, went inside, and emerged a few minutes later with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, an AK-47, ammunition, and, placed carefully into a bag, a partially assembled IED.
"Wow," Kauzlarich said after all this had been brought down to the street, and for a few moments, defying his own order to always keep moving, he stared at the haul, disgusted.
Weapons in a mosque. As a commander, he needed to understand why an imam might allow this, or even sanction it, because as it said in the field manual on Cummings's desk, which was getting dustier by the day, "Counterinsurgents must understand the environment." Good soldiers understood things. So did good Chris tians, and Kauzlarich desired to be one of those, too. "For he who avenges murder cares for the helpless," he had read the night before in the One Year Bible. "He does not ignore the cries of those who suffer."