British Channel Four's foreign affairs correspondent Jonathan Miller has an exclusive report on the U.S. 82nd Airborne in Baghdad as part of the surge. It describes an Orwellian nightmare, where old scores get settled as neighbours inform on each other while others carry out militia and insurgent activities in full view.
It's worth reading the whole thing, but here's the bit that captured my attention. A scene setter is needed - a Sunni man comes to the US troops to inform on his neighbour but doesn't want people to know he's an informer so the soldiers pretend to arrest him. Later:
It's gone 2am. Tonight's mission: raiding the home of the alleged insurgent, grassed on by his neighbour - the man they'd made a show of arresting. The Americans claim never to act on a single source of intelligence; they say the man provided the missing piece in a jigsaw.The platoon leader tells Miller that the paratroopers of the 82nd Airbourne, spearheading the American surge, think they're winning; that George Bush's plan's working - that Iraq, too, will indeed one day be a land of the free.
Accompanying them on the night raid, a 22-year-old female military intelligence officer, on her first tour in Iraq. She doesn't speak Arabic. Their target, Mohammed, is not at home; just women and children. The interrogator gets to work on Mohammed's sister.
Military intelligence officer: "Where's the man of the house?"
He's gone to the Gulf, she says. Two months ago. Their father? Dead, she says. Killed by a Shia deathsquad. Lieutenant Larry chips in; we don't believe he's left Iraq, he says.
Lt Larry Pitts: "Tell her we've seen him today, yesterday, and the day before that."
"He's not here," she repeats.
Military intelligence officer: "Look at me; let me tell you something. It's between me and you. What would you do if I took you from the family? What would you do if you had to choose between your brother or your family? What would you do? Think about this."
The spotlight now shifts to Mohammed's mother. "Please, she says, don't take my son. I've already lost my husband."
Military intelligence officer: "I'm sorry to hear that. Where is your son Mohammed, were did he go?"
"I'll tell you the truth," she says, "Mohammed actually left the house two hours ago. He's a truck driver," she says, "our family's main breadwinner."
Military intelligence officer: "I want you to know that I'm sorry we frightened your family. We're sorry. But I'm worried about your son. We heard something bad about your son. We're just worried about him."
The intelligence officer flicks through the family album. Her first glimpse of Mohammed.
So why did his sister lie? Was the informant right? Who knows? The Americans don't.