The truck exploded only a couple of hours ago. But, already, the wreckage looks ancient, like a ship dredged to the surface after a century on the ocean floor. Everything inside the cab is shredded. The dashboard has been thrown loose, and singed black. The seats are atomized. The odometer sits on the ground, not far from where the drivers door used to be.
The orange Mercedes was part of a long line of cement trucks, waiting to deliver their goods to Camp Victory when the base opened for commercial traffic at eight. Then, a pair of the trucks exploded — a botched attempt, apparently, to detonate suicide bombs inside of the base. Two men are dead. One of the attackers has been captured.
Military investigators are still trying to piece together exactly what happened. The bombs might have been thrown into the trucks by a car passing by; the jury-rigged weapons might have already been in hand.
I try to pay attention to the conflicting theories, to the line of men waiting to be questioned. But I keep staring at the scraps of freshly-ended lives that are quickly turning into artifacts under the blazing Mesopotamian sun. The driver must have been wearing the black sandals which now lie in front of the truck. Maybe he had some pita with his breakfast; a crust now sits near the shoes. Before he died, he might have read from the crinkled, torn Koran resting a few feet away. Or he could have listened to a cassette; strands of audio tape are strewn all over the wreckage.
truck_blast3.jpgBack on the base, I wonder how much of this to put in public, to share with my family and my fiance. I want to record what I see; I dont want to worry the people I love.
It?s a dilemma soldiers here cope with every day. They crave their families support; theyre crippled by their concern. Most of the troops Ive spoken to choose the keep their loved ones in the dark. I tell em all that CNN is full of shit and that nothings going on here, one national guardsman says. We dont get shot at. We havent seen anyone whos unfriendly. They think that I have a desk job, that I never go outside the wire Camp Victorys concrete walls.
But letting CNN write your letters home can only fuel the worry. Every time a bomb goes off in Baghdad, I get e-mails asking, Are you alright? Are you alright? an officer here sighs.
Because the networks arent very good at conveying the subtle shades of danger in a place like this. Either they lead, big, with a new act of carnage or they bury the news from here at the end of the broadcast. That leaves the impression that all of Iraq is in flames, all of the time. Which is just plain wrong.
truck_blast5.jpgHere around Camp Victory, for example, the last week has been a relatively quiet one. Iraqi army and police patrols have grown noticeably since Ive been here. Smiles outnumber hard stares 100 to 1. And when there has been violence, it has been relatively small-scale like the single RPG shot fired in my general direction the other night.
So Im going to keep writing what I see, for the few days I have left here. Painting events in muted colors, instead of TVs garish brights. And capturing my experience in Iraq, before it becomes twisted fragments on historys road.

  • Natalie

    Of all the reported stories out of Iraq, this sums up the surreal and the sadness better than any of the other ones I have seen.I wonder if the bombers knew the driver of the truck read the Koran. I wonder if the bombers read the Koran.
    Good job writing with words and pictures with eloquence and poetry in the middle of a war zone. That can’t be easy.
    PS Please tell all the military personal that they are cool, thank you and God bless them.

  • Aurvangur

    Has the US put up any billboards? Maybe a 30′ picture of a Koran in tatters with the caption “The terrorists did this.” might have an effect on the populace.
    Keep up the good work.

  • Jeri

    There won’t be peace in the Middle East until the terrorists love their children more than they hate the U.S. (or anyone else)
    Keep up the good work. You’re making a difference.

  • Doug

    Just read this and brought back a wave of memories. How many days I spent at that very location were the blast went off. I was there when we built that gate. We originally were on the other side of Victory by BIAP. I was the guy in charge of the military escorts for the iraqi workers on Victory. I can see those Orange trucks lined up now. Great story. Man, things don’t change much.

  • Joe

    Thank you for sharing the truth of what’s really going of over there. As you pointed out, the major “news” networks are too busy painting thier biased, agenda filled stories to tell us anything real or of value that goes on over there.
    Thank you all for your service. The people of this country support you (the vast majority of us not suffering from the poisoning of liberalism). Do not listen to what you hear from the networks about public support. You all have it…we are with you and we hold you all up high in our prayers. Again, thank you and keep up the good work!

  • Jason

    I just wanted to say it was a pleasure having you with us for awhile. Your not bad as far as reporters go. lol Take care, you will be missed. Keep in touch and we’ll try to look you up in the city.

  • Julie

    I totally agree about posting a billboard. It’s time they see what cowards these insurgents really are. They don’t stand for anything but terrorizing inocent people. No better then Hussain!

  • Bill

    Thank you for everything; for your service to this country, to your Army and to your family. We love you all.

  • Noah Shachtman

    Jason: Thanks, man. I had a blast with you guys. You stay safe out there.
    Joe: Sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t think the networks are biased at all — at least, not politically. They are just looking for maximum drama. And that means sticking to the maxim, “if it bleeds, it leads.”

  • Frank

    I’m a Vietnam grunt who learned then that the national news folks don’t tell the folks at home about the “real news”. That left me and my brothers scarred forever. Only you can keep that from happening to your brothers-by telling the folks the way it really is. We had “Hanoi Jane” who is now trying to become “Bagdad Jane”-95% of the folks at home care about what you are doing-and know you are doing the right thing. It’s the other 5% that the news folks target. You make a difference to me. Thank you,brother.

  • canine

    Very eloquent in the plain way to describe detail without flare of passion while subtly prodding compassion forth from the reader. Been there, done that,DAV that used scout dogs to find them first to save a lot of lives,wish they’d use dogs more over there to save lives and Git It Done!

  • Kurt

    You always hear about all the bad things that they say we are doing to the people of Iraq, but they (the media) never really portray the evil that insurgents are inflicting on our people. Thank you for keeping it real and telling it straight. And thanks to all my fellow soldiers for all their doing.

  • Major D

    Keep up the good work. You guys have all our support. Dont listen to the CNN and liberal bull-crap. The American Patriots..the REAL Americans…know the REAL story. Head down…keep that powder dry. Stay safe and come home to us. God Bless you all!

  • Melinda

    All of you are in my prayers. I am grateful for the efforts you have made to keep the rest of us safe. God bless all of you and may he bring you home safely soon.

  • Michael Mureithi Nguyo

    The war will be won we can see that n believe that i sometimes get so encouraged by those heros in Irag while watching them on cnn here in Kenya those guys need our prayers always i even at one point tried joining the British Army due to their good work too though was’nt successful nway we can clearly see a good job being done keep it up!! Guys!

  • Roger

    Good article I like the part about we’re all good here nothing going on. it brings back thoughts of when the mortars were falling around 1am and the zappers were scurrying around the flight line trying to plant satchel charges in our choppers. we were writing to our loved ones saying the same thing. or when the news reported on afrts that we were going to go into cambodia and we had already been there for a week. news from the front is best sent a week late and berift of the excitement ment to titalate the ones not there doing the job. good luck brother keep it safe.