Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Embedded With the 101st Airborne

'WEDNESDAY, Dec. 14, 8:10 p.m. local.

BEIJI, Iraq.

The radio had crackled just minutes before with a soldier screaming that his Humvee had hit an IED planted on the side of the road near Sharqa.

No one was injured, a tire was destroyed, and soldiers from the 33rd Cavalry Regiment's Bravo Troop had begun searching nearby homes for someone, something, anything that might have been used as a detonator.

They found a young boy in a room that had walls covered in pictures of Hollywood models. A pornographic American film played on the television. The boy smiled sheepishly as soldiers led him into the courtyard where a group of women had gathered, laughing.

That's when they found the old man, chained to the wall and pawing at a bowl of rice covered with flies in an alley filled with rotting food and feces. His beard was matted with grime, and he mumbled through chewed food that spilled from his mouth.

The man reached out as soldiers passed him. Maybe he was asking for help. Maybe he didn't know what he was doing. I couldn't look and began to gag.

The soldiers I'm with say they've seen this before in Iraq's tribal villages: families that have chained relatives to the walls because of age, senility, disability or disfigurement. Apparently they are seen as an embarrassment to the family.

I had seen it once before. At another home just a block away, soldiers found a disfigured boy chained to the wall. They were talking excitedly about it when he somehow worked himself free from his shackles and wandered closer.

The soldiers spun around, offered him candy and shooed him away with yells.

Finally one soldier led him by the shoulder toward a group of women that were peering around a stone wall who seemed to know who he was.

The soldiers had just been attacked, and the boy was becoming a distraction.

The unit detained six men today from another house they searched after the explosion. They found automatic rifles, $900 in U.S. bills, license plates from Dubai and a picture of the homeowner standing next to Saddam Hussein's brother.

But tonight, it's the man in the alley and the boy on the street who have kept everyone talking."
I guess this is the guy writing those news stories that read like a blog post, I recognize on of the entries on this page as the story I posted the other day. I like it but lets just say that he's no Kevin Sites, but what the hell. At least we are getting something other than the dry cookiecutter drool that usually rolls off the press.


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