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April 20, 2004

A report from a "Mercenary".

This is an email I received. I've snipped the photos because the author asked recipients to do so - not from copyright perspectives, so much as from family security perspectives.

I'll let the rest of it speak for itself.

03APR04

Thank you all for your continued support of me (even though I don't usually write back) and my patriotic family at home. I am healthy and looking forward to a couple weeks with XXXXXX and the boys in a safe foreign country sometime next month.

In the wake of the tragic death and disgusting desecration of the remains of our comrades from Blackwater, I will spend my half day off today answering some of your questions and present a few things to you visually.

The pictures you will see are of course unclassified. The people in them know I am sending them to friends and associates for personal viewing. They cannot be printed without their express consent. I will warn you before you get to the ones not fit for children to see.

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As you may or may not know I am not on active duty as a Navy SEAL this year. For the last 6 months, I have been one of the government contractors you may have heard about in the news operating in Iraq. I work with many other contractors who, like me, are on Authorized Absence (or discharged) from either Special Forces, Marine Recon, SEAL Teams, etc.

There's a lot more in the extended post.

Old ways die hard among thugs. And pure thuggery is what has ruled Iraq for more than 10 years before Saddam Hussain under Al-Bakir. There are a few thugs standing in the wings around here trying to vie for power because that's all they know. It doesn't matter what variation on Islam they are spouting...they are nothing more than mob bosses and the Iraqi people, in general are tired of it. Add some out-of-country terrorists to the mix and an American liberal media in an election year and these thugs think they are going to win. I pray American voters see that we must finish this one the right way. If we walk away now, we will be responsible for a lot more than the 2 million Cambodians and every last Montainyard that was murdered the year after we abandoned Indochina. Here is the reality I see everyday.

The Iraqi people as a whole...love us. You read it right...love us. Terrorists may hate us and radicals in different ethnic groups within Iraq may hate each other...but in general, the common Iraqi people, Shias, Sunis, Kurds, Chaldeans, Turkomen, all have one thing in common...For one instant in time, they have hope for their future and the future of their children...and that hope is centered around one group of foreigners...you guessed it...Americans...the good old USA.

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And there are dozens of coalition forces who help us...young military people from most of the free countries in the world are here...and willing to lay down their lives because America has led the way in spreading the good news of freedom and democracy to the oldest land on Earth.

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And we are all helping to train Iraqis to protect themselves with sound moral and ethical procedures...

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And we know that teaching adults is important...

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But educating children is the key...So there is a lot of money going to rebuilding schools in Iraq and getting rural children to attend for the first time in history.

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Many of you have asked about what our response to the recent atrocity should or will be. Here is my take on it...

Of all the areas to commit random acts of violence and inhumanity to Americans in, Fallujah was the wrong place for one simple reason. It is now controlled by the United States Marine Corps which is just large enough and just nimble enough and certainly motivated enough to slog it out door to door until every last criminal (caught on tape last week) is apprehended along with his "Imam" mob boss. As for the rest of us...

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We will continue to apply "violence of action" when our lives are threatened or to save the life of another or when impeded in carrying out a critical mission. And our ROEs (Rules Of Engagement) may change depending on the threat level we face. However we are moral and civilized and will never degenerate to the kind of barbarism that was seen in Fallujah.

Here are 3 recent examples of how we Americans deal with indigenous people and their dead and prisoners we take. All of these missions took place in the last 2 weeks, just outside the gates of my current FOB (Forward Operating Base).

Mission #1 "Force Protection/Medevac"

A Taxi from Baghdad approached our front gate. Unknown to the gate guards, he was carrying one of our translators. He was ordered to slow down. When he didn't comply he was forcefully ordered to stop and get out of his vehicle. In panic he floored his accelerator pedal thinking it was the brake causing his vehicle to lurch forward toward the gate. Appropriately, the gate guards fired eight 5.56 caliber rounds into the taxi.

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The vehicle veered off into a field and came to a stop. Miraculously, no one inside was seriously injured by the gunfire. After the vehicle and both Iraqis were searched it was determined that the driver made a near fatal mistake but it was not deliberate.

If the guards were blood thirsty, they could have continued to fire their weapons until they were sure that both Iraqis were dead. But they are professionals and they followed their current ROEs until the car was not a threat and then safely reassessed the situation.

But that's not the end of the story. After tending to some minor wounds of our translator, I noticed the elderly Taxi cab driver was holding his chest with a clenched fist. I gave our translator a series of questions to ask and found the man was experiencing severe pressure on the left side of his chest radiating to his left shoulder and arm. He had an irregular pulse. After putting him on our EKG monitor I found him in a potentially life-threatening heart rhythm and determined he was in the beginning stages of a heart attack. Because he was outside our gates there was no legal reason to treat him. If we had hatred in our hearts, we could have let him suffer for his mistake and die. But we were not on a dangerous convoy and there were no hostiles approaching and we do not have hatred in our hearts.

So we brought him into our compound and put him on oxygen and I administered several doses of nitroglycerin and started an IV and gave him morphine and other appropriate drugs based on his changing condition. And we packaged him for flight...

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....and called in an American Dust-off Medevac Crew.

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And I flew with him to the closest Combat Surgical Hospital.

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And for 24 hours he received the same high level of medical care that any American soldier would have received. And he was given American medications to take home and turned over to an Iraqi ambulance when he was stable. And although it was completely his fault and our guards did exactly the right thing, an American Civil Affairs officer is tracking the cab driver to help him process his claim to get his taxi cab repaired or replaced.

And one week later he returned for his cab and he made it very clear that he doesn't hate us either.

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Mission #2 "Civil Affairs"

Iraq is a very agrarian country where you find many farmers and shepherds.

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Most shepherds are nomads and live like the Bedouins who still roam between all Arab countries. Some own land and stay in one place. It is important for our own safety and theirs that we get to know all of our neighbors.

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A few days ago the son of a local Shepard came to our front gate and reported that the dogs had returned home but not the father and subsequently they found some of the sheep outside a nearby abandoned Ammunition Supply Point (ASP). The ASP was not secure and is full of live unexploded ordinance (UXO).

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Fearing the worst, the son asked us to help find his father.

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Our Officer in Charge of Security carefully considered the risk and asked our input and we decided to form a search party to find him in the ASP.

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RESTRICTED VIEWING: Next 6 pictures are very graphic. {all snipped}

We found the body of the shepherd directly adjacent to a small crater which was obviously caused by the detonation of a relatively small UXO.

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We used a technique to roll him onto his back from a remote location in case the body was booby-trapped with an IED (improvised explosive device).

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On close examination we determined that in addition to entering a dangerous restricted area, the shepherd had obviously been tampering with the UXO which led to his own demise.

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There were no morbid jokes (that day). If we were callous and uncivilized, we could have left the body for the dogs and wolves. No one would know. If we were barbarians with hatred in our hearts we could have done things barbarians do to bodies which perpetuates more hatred.

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Because we are professionals, we carefully documented and retained his personal possessions for his family...

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...and we contained his remains in a coroners pouch...

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...And we placed that in an American body bag...

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And because we don't have hatred in our hearts, we took our translator out to the family to notify them of the death and to provide grief support. They specifically requested to see the remains of their loved one. So we prepared them for what they would see and then we brought them in and respectfully showed them. And then we presented the intact right hand of the shepherd for them to touch and caress. And we waited with them while they prayed Muslim prayers (even as some of us were praying silent Christian ones). And then the US Army expedited the arrival of the local Iraqi Police authorities so that they could bury the remains before sunset which is their tribal custom.

Mission #3 "Interdiction Operation"

On 31March04, the same day that the 4 Blackwater operators were murdered in Fallujah and their bodies were desecrated, I was activated to patrol with a Quick Response Force (QRF). We were summoned to the same ASP where we found the body of the shepherd except this time we had to go much farther in where the UXO was so thick it was like a carpet.

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In past weeks in the same area we encountered handfuls of looters who either scrap for metal or ordinance which they sell. When they sell intact ordinance it is used for only one purpose - the base charge for the IEDs which blow someone up everyday from here to Israel. In each of the previous instances we searched and detained the individuals and turned them over to the US Army.

On this day there were 15 looters found and then there were 20 and then 20 more and soon there were more than a hundred. We started with only 8 of us "contractor" operators and 3 regular Army Infantry soldiers. 2 of the Army soldiers found themselves isolated with over 50 looters. They asked for our immediate assistance, so we split off two 3 man teams and patrolled in on foot.

From a distance across all the UXO at least 2 of the looters shot at us with AK47s which were extinguished by immediate suppressive fire.

Eventually, my team converged on the 2 soldiers in the middle of the ASP along with various other looters we apprehended on the way in.

After adding our looters to the mix, we were then managing 148 looters.

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If any of them were still holding weapons when we found them we would have shot them. None of them were carrying weapons when we contacted them and almost all of them had discarded the ordinance they were stealing. However they were in a dangerous restricted area and the only reason they were there was to steal and later sell weapons that could be used against us.

Because we each were carrying more than 250 rounds of ammunition a piece, we could have lined them up and shot every one of them. Or we could have forced them to walk back through a mine field or any number of unspeakably worse things that have been done in this country by their previous government. But that is not the American way and that is not the model of behavior we wish to perpetuate here or take back home with us.

So we kept firm order and discipline and carefully searched each of them.

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And then we place them along a safe road out of the UXO.

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And when we were sure that everyone was safe and we knew exactly where the arriving U.S. Army would meet us, we formed them in disciplined columns and carefully marched them out of the ASP.

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And when we reached the outer perimeter of the ASP we had almost 200 looters and the U.S Army realized there were too many for them to incarcerate that day.

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So we methodically took digital pictures of each one of them including any identifying marks, scars or tattoos.

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And we recorded their first name and father's name and tribal name and the place they were born and linked them to the pictures. (And we later turned them over to Military Intelligence officers.)

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And a few of them were incarcerated that day.

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And by the end of the afternoon we were tired and frustrated that we could not have been more effective but we knew we did as we were trained to do and followed our current ROEs.

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And then we returned that night to our FOB and we heard the news of the fate of our brothers in Fallujah and saw films of their charred remains hanging on a public bridge and people screaming with jubilation.

I don't know the future of the nation of Iraq. I do know there are some very practical missions that need to be completed before we leave this place.

God Bless America.

GS12 Michael M xxxx

John | Permalink | Comments (5) | Global War on Terror (GWOT)
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