I strongly encourage you to listen to Tom Bowman's story on a U.S. Army Stryker combat team patrolling a particularly violent neighborhood of Baghdad, aptly named "Jihad." It's on All Things Considered today. Tom does a great job putting you right in the middle of this very dangerous area where Shiite death squads are forcibly removing Sunnis. Dead bodies are dumped in vacant lots. The locals are wary of the Americans who are under the command of Lt. Col. John Norris. Here's an excerpt from Tom's piece:
Jihad is a vast urban plain that extends into the hazy distance. Wide avenues are bordered by trash-strewn lots and low brick houses. Men stand in clusters near faded storefronts, a few fingering prayer beads. There are many hard stares. Only the children smile and wave.
The convoy stops. Norris approaches a man and asks about some bodies found at the end of the street. Does he know anything?
Iraqi Man (through interpreter): "He said I don't know details. Now I'm standing with you, I'm really terrified."
Lt. Col. Norris: "I did not mean to put you in danger. I will leave."
Tom accompanies the Stryker force for a couple of days. We listen in as Norris talks with an Iraqi police commander who a U.S. trainer confides is probably corrupt. We hear that this Stryker unit was scheduled to go home in August and then got extended for 4 months with some soldiers being recalled from Alaska. At one point, the soldiers break in a house, busting up the front door, searching for bad guys. They find nothing. But before they leave, the innocent homeowner returns and complains it's the second time U.S. soldiers have broken down his door.
This is a gritty piece that, like the best of NPR stories, transports you to a place. Through sound, good writing and the voices of real people, you see, taste and feel what it's really like.
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