9 April 2003 (Finally In Baghdad)

1226, 9 April 2003, Wednesday

I haven’t written in a couple of days because nothing has really happened. For the last two days our mission has pretty much been to liaison with the locals. The same guy, Majid, has been bringing us cigarettes and selling them to the task force. He’s been charging a dollar per pack or ten dollars per carton. Yesterday, he gave us 43 cartons of cigarettes to sell for him. We drove all over the area selling them to other soldiers for $2 per pack or $20 per carton. In all, we made about $120 for each of us: Vince, Nate, and me. We gave Majid his $430 and we kept and split the rest (which we ended up using for missions). We’re sitting pretty good now. I guess $20 per carton is still a pretty good deal because most cartons of cigarettes cost about $35 each.

Today, one of Majid’s family members took us to an Iraqi training camp. It was a huge compound comprised of about 8-10 buildings. We went in and checked each one, but didn’t find anything but a bunch of empty classrooms. In one of the buildings, each room was filled with new boots, uniforms, and TA-50 literally from floor to ceiling. I took a pair of boots that were my size. There was a head bust of Saddam Hussein. I shot it with my 9mm in the head. We also took two Iraqi flags and a Palestinian flag from the compound. I also took a bag of 12 pairs of socks. That’s 12 more weeks of socks right there. I’ve been throwing out my socks because I don’t have any means to wash them, yet I can’t change them every other day. My feet are in dire need of care. Extreme care.

Anyway, there were civilians at this compound just taking whatever they could fit into their cars and trucks. There was also a huge 5000-gallon tanker full of fuel. We told the civilians to take whatever they needed. People were bringing their bottles, cans, and whatever else they could use to put fuel in. The compound looked like it might have been a reception and integration-type place, judging from all the uniforms and the classrooms. It reminded me of when I went through reception back at Fort Leonard Wood, MO.

In the courtyard of this compound was a huge antiaircraft gun. It was still functional and loaded. We unloaded all the ammo from it and put the ammo in a huge hole. Vince set an incendiary grenade on the gun, but it didn’t do any good. So, we took a whole bunch of wood and soaked it in the fuel from the tanker. Then, we soaked the gun in fuel as well and lit the whole thing on fire. Before lighting the fire, though, we stuck some rounds from the gun in the tube backwards so that when they got hot enough they would shoot through the tube and destroy them. That plan seemed to work pretty well.

After going through the building we went back to our position and stopped at Majid’s house. We talked for about an hour and told him that we were leaving soon. Baghad has been liberated. BBC News reports that Iraqis are in the streets chanting anti-Saddam messages and throwing flowers at US forces there. They are looting and pillaging old Ba’ath Party and government buildings. The city has erupted in a huge wave of pro-US and anti-Saddam rhetoric. This means that the war is pretty much over. There are still pockets of resistance as there will be for quite some time. Right now, literally this second, we are on our way into Baghdad. We are about 10 kilometers from the city. I’ll write again when we get there.

1459, 9 April 2003, Wednesday

The statue of Saddam Hussein that used to adorn the center of Baghdad is now down completely. Our forces pulled it down and it shattered into pieces, from what I hear on the radio. All the Iraqis and US guys began destroying what was left of the pieces.

We are now in Baghdad, at an amusement park in the center of the city. No problems getting here either. Coming through the city and upon our approach to the city were thousands of Iraqis waving flags and giving the thumbs up sign to us. They were extremely happy to see us coming in. More later.

1639Z, 9 April 2003, Wednesday

We’re in Baghdad and we’ve set up camp. I’m sure that we’ll end up moving rooms eventually, but for now we’re set up in what used to be a cafe or something. We are staying at an Iraqi monument, more specifically what I would call the museum or cultural hall buildings. It’s a series of about four or five buildings that are two stories high each. We are in the center of Baghdad and every now and then you can hear gunshots in the distance. A couple of times I’ve seen explosions.

We have this entire place to ourselves. There is access to the roof in here as well. Most of the windows have been blown out, as well as the glass on the door, but it’s a roof over my head for the first time since we left Camp New York. There is a little bar that separates the main dining room from the kitchen area. We’ve already scoured the entire place and tried to find anything that we could use. We only found some bags of chips. They didn’t last long. It’s gonna be nice to be out of the elements for a while. We’re supposed to be staying here for a few days, if not a week. Things are unfolding quickly, so I’m sure things will change with time. As the other task forces get closer to Baghdad, our battle space may change and we’ll have to pack up and defeat some other part of this city.

There is a lake about one hundred meters from here that seems to have fairly clean water in it. I’m thinking about going for a swim tomorrow. I’d like to take a shower, but there is no running water or electricity in our buildings right now. Once I turn off the computer, it will be pitch black.

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