Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Firing Line Part 1

The dust rose up from the sun-beaten streets of Mosul. The ground was vibrating. From the roof, one could see for miles around. One could see the Humvee speeding across town. Up here, you could see without being seen. It was the insurgent's dream, a way to get back at the pig-headed Americans. A place where one could, you might say, express oneself. And that is exactly what someone did. The Humvee appeared to leap up into the air, split into halves and come crashing back down again. Such was the force of the impact that pavements all around buckled. The killer fled, leaving the bastards screaming in agony in their burnt-out car. Good riddance he thought.

John Reilly was nearing the end of 2nd stint in Iraq, assigned this time to the city of Mosul. The going had been tough, and he was looking forward to going home. He had seen more than one might wish for. He had stood by and watched as Iraqis were slowly killed in their own homes by blood-thirsty soldiers. Recently things had gone really bad. Just hours previously, Reilly had been interviewing the local Minister of Agriculture when a Humvee laden with troops was decimated in yet another insurgent attack. Reilly knew who did it, but didn't dare tell anyone.

Khalid stood on the roof of the El Arab Hotel in central Mosul. Up here, he felt light-headed, looking down on the sadly mundane carnage below. He wondered whether Reilly would even bother coming down and picking apart what happened. Out of the side of eye, Khalid glimpsed a plume of smoke. Turning around, the source was found. A rocket launcher lay beside the wall. No-one was supposed to be up here, and the reason why lay below. He had been seen, and bullets from the angry Americans down below whizzed past. Ducking past the hail of metal, Khalid darted back home. There, his wife and son sat eating the ever- present stale bread. In the corner lurked a guilty soul.

Infuriated, Khalid set upon the man. “Why? Now you are better than them. You have sunk to American levels. Ever since you started going to that fool, Abu Mahmoud's mosque, you lurched precariously on the line! Now I see you are but a petty killer!” Khalid berated his brother, Ahmed for the attack on the Americans. “If I was our father, you would be banished to the countryside.” “Be that as it may,” countered Ahmed, “you can't say that the Americans have improved life here. If anything, the streets have become more dangerous. How can you stand for that, how can you live with the fact that your wife, your son, might not come home one day?” A silence followed. Sullenly, Khalid ushered his brother out the door. “That bastard Abu Mahmoud really got to you, I guess. Whatever it is, go away and sort out your head. Come back when you do, my dear brother. Inshallah.” Ahmed moped away, across the Tigris, heading for his master.

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