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COPs and Criminals

By Michael Fumento

Combat Operation Post (COP) Anvil

Last night we went on a terrorist-grabbing raid. Terror suspects fall into two categories, single source and double source. That means: Did one person rat on them or two? The idea behind the distinction is that any vindictive neighbor can accuse somebody of something he didn't do. But with two sources of information, especially if both give specifics rather than just saying the suspect is an insurgent or terrorist, then there's a much higher probability he really is "dirty."

Photo by Michael Fumento
A .50 caliber sniper rifle on the roof of COP Anvil
Mind you, COP Anvil Capt. Sapp told me, "Ninety percent of the time a single source suspect is also a bad guy." But those are the rules. A double source suspect goes straight to military intelligence. A single source one must be released with 72 hours unless he confesses, but he's interrogated and put into the system in case they are identified in the future as dirty.

Originally, such raids were directed solely against the house where the suspect normally presided. But Iraqis, unlike Americans today, are generally quite chummy with their neighbors. It's something of a "Mi casa es su casa" arrangement. They always keep vast numbers of cushioned rugs piled up which they use as beds when friends or relatives come calling.

Suddenly a house with five people can have 25. What this means regarding nabbing bad guys is that you don't want to just hit the house that's his main domicile but those next to it that may be his secondary domiciles.

Photo by Michael Fumento
These are NOT pleasant to fall into ...
In this case, the houses were about 400 meters away from the COP and the best avenue of approach would be through a series of irrigation canals and the offshoot ditches that carry water directly to crops. Not that there are many crops there now, but they're planting them. This canal system would prove my undoing. Jumping from little strips of land to other little strips is an art form and something they don't exactly teach in classrooms. You learn the hard way.

It was quite dark and I fell twice, negotiated a number of obstacles, and then came to what was either something of a trench or a canal. The soldier in front of me tossed his pack across and leaped, with his basketball-length legs.

Well, I have short baseball-length legs. As hard as I tried, I couldn't make it. I fell into what proved to be a canal and got soaked up to my chest. I wasn't a happy camper even then but my chief worry was my cameras and my voice recorder, all inside a dustproof but not waterproof bag. Sure enough, the water knocked them all out. Which proved a real shame since this was the best raid I'd been on in my three trips to Anbar. The still camera is back in operation but will require a good cleaning when I get home. The camcorder appears to have been destroyed. I don't know about the voice recorder.

I did feel a bit better when I discovered the next day that three of the soldiers had also fallen in. It was interesting going out the next day and seeing how truly treacherous the terrain was. "I hate that night shit," a soldier told me.

Photo by Michael Fumento
Internment Area where suspects are kept
The raid couldn't have gone better. We hit one house and before anybody in the second house knew about it we hit that, too. We struck the jackpot in the form of an intelligence officer for the JTJ (Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad) terrorist group, which is either a sub-section of Al Qaeda in Iraq or a sister organization. I'm having trouble figuring it out, but both were started by the late Al Zarqawi. The first terrorist was perhaps 22 years old. As soon as the plastic cuffs were on him he first faked heart problems and then breathing problems. I guess he thought we'd just let him go. Tough luck, bad boy. I wish I could have said how sorry I felt for his poor health relative to the health of the three Delta Company soldiers hit by the grenade dropped down their Humvee turret or the lack of life of the three dead Marines.

We also grabbed an additional double source suspect and a single source suspect, but hit pay dirt with them as well. One kept insisting he was an Iraqi police officer but it proved his job was to actually assassinate Iraqi police. Slight difference there. The third suspect turned out to be the cousin of the intelligence officer and also a JTJ member. Three terrorists in one night is quite a haul.

We also heard one IED go off, which thankfully was a controlled destination. After I went to bed four more were exploded -- all controlled.

Photo by Michael Fumento
A couple of these are probably triggermen.
Today we went out on what's called a "meet and greet" patrol, partly just to show our presence and partly to try to collect information from willing locals about IEDs. Unfortunately, they're rarely willing. They'll even deny IED explosions that occurred the night before right practically in their front yards. Some are afraid of being seen as suspects; others may be taking money from the bad guys. I took some pictures of a large family we interrogated on the road.

Our translator said I was probably looking at some trigger men. "They are poor," he said. "And they are offered money just to push a trigger." But actually by area standards they aren't that poor. I saw cows, goats, and sheep everywhere. Corn is already growing (though not quite as high as an elephant's eye) and the other crops will start springing up when the rainy season begins shortly.

I don't know if they really consider the ramifications of pushing those triggers, that they could be killing or maiming other human beings. Maybe they know that the average IED explosion doesn't cause any human damage. Just remember: Don't judge other people's cultures. Yeah, right.

People always ask me when I get back how the Iraqis feel and I always give the same answer: They just tell you what they think you want to hear. Sure enough, I asked one through the translator if he thinks Ramadi is getting safer. He starts out with a few complaints, such as lack of water rationed from the Tigris to the fields, then tells me: "But safety is 100% safer now that the Americans have come along." BS. Things got a lot more dangerous when we first came along. They may or may not be safer now than a year ago, but this guy isn't going to tell me. None of them will tell me. So that was my last effort at playing the Vox Populi game.

Michael Fumento has paid for this trip entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, hotels in Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.

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October 12, 2006 10:54 AM  ·  Military