Sitting on the top of the HumVee with wind (and the occasional sand) blowing past my face and hair, under the hot December sun of Iraq, I very easily forgot about everything outside of iraq.
The past week has been quite hectic, with the crashcourse in emergency and war procedures, and the travelling half way around the world. It now feels like i'm in a different world, one filled with mystery and culture, and death, and danger.
The American Marines I'm riding with seem friendly enough, I don't know if I can get over the heavy texan accents, or the seemingly hateful tone they have when speaking of AYEraqees- any iraqis. It makes me worry about what would happen if we did see any "f$#@ng sand niggers"
Next to me is the scout, Captain Connor, (pronouced CAANIRR appearantly), they
let me ride on top because this area is usualy quiet, "HollIRR if you see anyTHAING" Connor yells over the wind and the car.
But for now, I'm just enjoying this beautifull desolate iraqi desert, nothing but sand and hills around us, and the road, stretching for ever it seems.
I take out my camera and start taking pictures of the horrizon we're leaving behind as I look to the back of the vehicle, looking through the camera I can capture beautiful scenes, only it was too empty, no cars, no people, not even horses. Wait ! a horse comes running out of one of the hills about a mile away, I can't see anyone riding it, so I start taking pictures of it.
I finish my roll of film on this gorgeous creature running our track, I hurriedly grab for my bag to get another roll while keeping my eye on the horse, which is getting closer and close. Where is that film roll? that horse sure is fast, what's that on it's back ? a saddle ? did it run away from someone ?
As I turn to tell Connor about it, I catch from the corner of my eye the horse changing shape.
"oh shit" A dark figure rising out of the back of the horse, I half turn and call our "CONNOR !" I can still see the figure, now pointing at us, not with a finger but with a gun !
Connor pulls me down hard to see and starts to yell "CODE RED IT'S A HORSM@#
in the next few seconds all I remember are many jumbled pictures coming fast at me; Connor's throat is all red and half gone, he's down and not moving. I look to him and refuse to belive he was sniped from that distance from a running horse.
The second in command jumps up, I dont' remember his name, takes out his sniper while yelling YOU KILLED CONNOR YOU MOTHEF$@# I'LL F$# YOU UP YOU SANd@#$#@ AAARGH ! !
His shoulder is gone, he's yelling again, all this time I'm staring at the horseman, how can he snipe on horse back ?
Then it all gets too fast to understand, feelings more than memories, bombs, explosion, people thrown, I'm thrown with them, sand all around, loud dinn in my ears, look around there many horses approaching, they're all dead only one marine shooting aimlessly and crying yelling I don't know falls blood squirts falls down more shooting running horses loud NOISEGUNSHOURSESHOOVESGUNINMYFACE !!!
suddenly it's all quiet, there are 10 horses I can see not 5 meters away, the leader-whose gun is aimed at me (like I'd try to do something) descends from his horse and walks towards me, it could be my panic stricken brain, but his bedwin clothing is very intimidating.
Standing over me, he yells at me "MINO INTA ?" I just look at him, my face a canvas of fear, my eyes open wide waiting for the bullet.
after yelling into me a few times, he turns around "MITLIG !"
another horseman descends and approaches, a younger arab, 18. he comes to me, "HEY, WHO YOU ARE ? YOU AMRICAAN ? "
I'm still looking, I feel I wanna talk but panic has totaly taken me, inside I'm imagining a sign (our of order, rebooting).
the man takes out a gun from his garb, that's it, my last few seconds on earth, he cocks his gun, points it at me, my wide eyes watching the infinite darkness of the barrel, 3. 2. 1...
The young one calls out. for a second I think I'm dead, but wait, he didn't shoot !
He makes as if to grab me by the collar, but instead pulls something from my neck and looks at it.
Oh my God ! Nadia !
her name works like a charm on me, just like her charm works on the boy, who looks at me with confusion, he turns to the elder "Hai Elmuqadimma"
"mal Ibn Khaldoon ?shjaabha wiaa? "
they talk that gibberish for a while, watching them I'm starting to get my brains back, what are you talking about ? I don't want to move and remind them of my existence, even if it's 1 minute more to live, I still want it.
The boy looks at me again, and this it's him who puts his hand in his garb, that's it all he wanted was the charm. He pulls out his gun which glints in my eyes from the sun and the mettalic shape of ... not a gun... what ? could it be ?
a PDA ? in in this corner of the iraqi desert ? I start to think I'm hallucinating. He takes my charm, and breaks it in two, but ho doesn't break it. IT"S A USB KEY !
I'm not in more confusion than panick, my eyes are wider now, not with fear but with questions, the boy looks at me and laughs "you think we are dumb ?"
he sticks the charm/usb into the pda, checks it, finds something of interest to him- and me-, talks to the elder again. gives him the pda to see or read something.
the elder reads it. he's got an amused smile on his face
"Wa alaikum alsalam"
The elder looks at it for about a minute, the smile growin on his face, he gives it to the boy. and starts giving orders to the others.
Confident my won't fall out when I talk, I asked softly to 'mutlig', "what's happening" he looks at me "she says you are good man" I'm so confused and scared now i dont' ask or argue.
another horseman comes and hands something to the elder, who gives me things that are not mine; food, a gun, and his horse ! pulling me up he tries his english and his voice on me.
pointing up the road "GO BAGHDAD ! BAGHDAD THERE ! YOU GO!" he turns and gets my charm/usb and hands it to me, shaking me hand he yells again "YOU ARE GOOD MAN! YOU GO SAY GOOD THINGS ABOUT US"
They then salut me in a funny hand gesture, and exactly like the story goes, ride off into the sunset, leaving me alone.
that was my last trip to iraq, now my name is now Mohammad Mitlig Gabriel, I still work for The Current under that name, only I work in Australia mainly because I don't like to write negative propaganda.
Iam learning to read arabic now, a bit from university and bit from my wife, you'd like her, her name is Nadia.