Catalogue


Waging peace : a special operations team's battle to rebuild Iraq /
Rob Schultheis.
imprint
New York : Gotham Books, 2005.
description
xxxv, 188 p. : ill. ; 22 cm.
ISBN
1592401279
format(s)
Book
Holdings
Subjects
geographic term
More Details
imprint
New York : Gotham Books, 2005.
isbn
1592401279
catalogue key
5896771
A Look Inside
About the Author
BIH Author Biography
Rob Schultheis is the author of four previous books, including the acclaimed Night Letters: Inside Wartime Afghanistan. His screenplay credits include Seven Years in Tibet, and his articles have appeared in Time, The New York Times Magazine, Smithsonian, and The Washington Post. Also a dedicated aid worker and human-rights investigator, he lives in Telluride, Colorado.
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
Prologue Baghdad today, April 3, 2004, is the most wretched city on earth: dystopia with palm trees, a slice of hell beneath black smoke skies. The air is full of anxiety, malice and despair, spiking without warning into homicidal rage. The British writer Robert Byron visited here in 1933, and in his classic book Road to Oxianahe described the country in a classic passage: ?a mud plain, so flat that a single heron, reposing on one leg beside some rare trickle of water in a ditch, looks as tall as a wireless aerial. From this plain rise villages of mud and cities of mud. The rivers flow with liquid mud. The air is composed of mud refined into a gas. Baghdad is the capital one would expect of this divinely favored land. It lurks in a mud fog; when the temperature drops below 110, the residents complain of the chill and get out their furs. For only one thing it is now justly famous: a kind of boil which takes nine months to heal, and leaves a scar.' You could quarrel with the particulars of Byron's description'dust instead of mud, a smoky, hazy, parboiled sky instead of a mud fog, and shabby, drab concrete and cinder- block buildings in place of mud hooches'but he definitely caught the grim essence of the place. Even his description of the fearsome boils: it may sound like something out of a medieval horror story, but it is all too true. The Department of Defense has warned all Iraq-bound personnel of the danger of sand-flea bites infected with something called leishamaniasis. The resultant lesions can produce leprosy-like tissue damage, eating away entire noses and ears. Many of us here are suffering from low-grade versions of the infection: bites that refuse to heal, that months later still keep you awake with itching and bleed without warning. Today, in the aftermath of war, looting and economic collapse, the scene is particularly depressing. Baghdad's factories and public buildings are bombed-out hills of rubble or gutted, charred shells. Take a close look at that garbage dump: refugees have built shantytowns out of the toxic garbage, on the shores of poison-water lagoons. IEDs are everywhere, constructed from 155-millimeter rockets, RPG rounds and mortar shells; they are concealed inside concrete blocks, refuse heaps, black plastic bags and even dead road-killed animals, and placed along busy roads under cover of night. When the right target comes along, they are detonated by remote control, either cell phones or garage door openers. A few days ago suicide bombers attacked Shi'a pilgrims at the al-Khadimiyah Shrine down the road, killing and maiming hundreds. Across the river, U.S. soldiers are locked in an endless war in the wretched slums of Sadr City; at night, fixed-wing gunships armed with Gatling guns and howitzers blast recalcitrant neighborhoods, but the violence inevitably flares up again. Haifa Street, the main thoroughfare through northwest Baghdad, has been off-limits to Coalition forces for months, Condition Red: it is hard- core bandit country, and if you go there, be ready to fight. (Imagine the Viet Cong camped out along K Street in Washington, D.C.: you get the idea.) Even the big U.S. bases like Baghdad International Airport, Camp Victory and the Green Zone are not safe. They get hit by rockets and mortar fire on a regular basis. Planes taking off and landing at BIAP perform wild evasive maneuvers, corkscrewing and juking to avoid gunfire and surface-to-air missiles. Every week U.S. soldiers and civilians are killed in ambushes and by IEDs and suicide car bombers on Route Irish, the main highway from the airport to the Green Zone downtown. In the midst of all this, at seven-thirty in the morning, CAT-A 13 of the 425th Civil Affairs Battalion is preparing to go out and do good deeds. Seven soldiers, Army reservists, in two unarmored open-backed Humvees, off to win hearts and minds. Officially, the team's AO is the al-Khadimiyah neighbo
Excerpt from Book
PrologueBaghdad today, April 3, 2004, is the most wretched city on earth: dystopia with palm trees, a slice of hell beneath black smoke skies. The air is full of anxiety, malice and despair, spiking without warning into homicidal rage. The British writer Robert Byron visited here in 1933, and in his classic book Road to Oxianahe described the country in a classic passage: a mud plain, so flat that a single heron, reposing on one leg beside some rare trickle of water in a ditch, looks as tall as a wireless aerial. From this plain rise villages of mud and cities of mud. The rivers flow with liquid mud. The air is composed of mud refined into a gas. Baghdad is the capital one would expect of this divinely favored land. It lurks in a mud fog; when the temperature drops below 110, the residents complain of the chill and get out their furs. For only one thing it is now justly famous: a kind of boil which takes nine months to heal, and leaves a scar.”You could quarrel with the particulars of Byron’s description—dust instead of mud, a smoky, hazy, parboiled sky instead of a mud fog, and shabby, drab concrete and cinder- block buildings in place of mud hooches—but he definitely caught the grim essence of the place. Even his description of the fearsome boils: it may sound like something out of a medieval horror story, but it is all too true. The Department of Defense has warned all Iraq-bound personnel of the danger of sand-flea bites infected with something called leishamaniasis. The resultant lesions can produce leprosy-like tissue damage, eating away entire noses and ears. Many of us here are suffering from low-grade versions of the infection: bites that refuse to heal, that months later still keep you awake with itching and bleed without warning.Today, in the aftermath of war, looting and economic collapse, the scene is particularly depressing. Baghdad’s factories and public buildings are bombed-out hills of rubble or gutted, charred shells. Take a close look at that garbage dump: refugees have built shantytowns out of the toxic garbage, on the shores of poison-water lagoons. IEDs are everywhere, constructed from 155-millimeter rockets, RPG rounds and mortar shells; they are concealed inside concrete blocks, refuse heaps, black plastic bags and even dead road-killed animals, and placed along busy roads under cover of night. When the right target comes along, they are detonated by remote control, either cell phones or garage door openers.A few days ago suicide bombers attacked Shi’a pilgrims at the al-Khadimiyah Shrine down the road, killing and maiming hundreds. Across the river, U.S. soldiers are locked in an endless war in the wretched slums of Sadr City; at night, fixed-wing gunships armed with Gatling guns and howitzers blast recalcitrant neighborhoods, but the violence inevitably flares up again. Haifa Street, the main thoroughfare through northwest Baghdad, has been off-limits to Coalition forces for months, Condition Red: it is hard- core bandit country, and if you go there, be ready to fight. (Imagine the Viet Cong camped out along K Street in Washington, D.C.: you get the idea.)Even the big U.S. bases like Baghdad International Airport, Camp Victory and the Green Zone are not safe. They get hit by rockets and mortar fire on a regular basis. Planes taking off and landing at BIAP perform wild evasive maneuvers, corkscrewing and juking to avoid gunfire and surface-to-air missiles. Every week U.S. soldiers and civilians are killed in ambushes and by IEDs and suicide car bombers on Route Irish, the main highway from the airport to the Green Zone downtown.In the midst of all this, at seven-thirty in the morning, CAT-A 13 of the 425th Civil Affairs Battalion is preparing to go out and do good deeds. Seven soldiers, Army reservists, in two unarmored open-backed Humvees, off to win hearts and minds.Officially, the team’s AO is the al-Khadimiyah neighbo
First Chapter
Prologue

Baghdad today, April 3, 2004, is the most wretched city on earth: dystopia with palm trees, a slice of hell beneath black smoke skies. The air is full of anxiety, malice and despair, spiking without warning into homicidal rage. The British writer Robert Byron visited here in 1933, and in his classic book Road to Oxianahe described the country in a classic passage: “a mud plain, so flat that a single heron, reposing on one leg beside some rare trickle of water in a ditch, looks as tall as a wireless aerial. From this plain rise villages of mud and cities of mud. The rivers flow with liquid mud. The air is composed of mud refined into a gas. Baghdad is the capital one would expect of this divinely favored land. It lurks in a mud fog; when the temperature drops below 110, the residents complain of the chill and get out their furs. For only one thing it is now justly famous: a kind of boil which takes nine months to heal, and leaves a scar.”

You could quarrel with the particulars of Byron’s description—dust instead of mud, a smoky, hazy, parboiled sky instead of a mud fog, and shabby, drab concrete and cinder- block buildings in place of mud hooches—but he definitely caught the grim essence of the place. Even his description of the fearsome boils: it may sound like something out of a medieval horror story, but it is all too true. The Department of Defense has warned all Iraq-bound personnel of the danger of sand-flea bites infected with something called leishamaniasis. The resultant lesions can produce leprosy-like tissue damage, eating away entire noses and ears. Many of us here are suffering from low-grade versions of the infection: bites that refuse to heal, that months later still keep you awake with itching and bleed without warning.

Today, in the aftermath of war, looting and economic collapse, the scene is particularly depressing. Baghdad’s factories and public buildings are bombed-out hills of rubble or gutted, charred shells. Take a close look at that garbage dump: refugees have built shantytowns out of the toxic garbage, on the shores of poison-water lagoons. IEDs are everywhere, constructed from 155-millimeter rockets, RPG rounds and mortar shells; they are concealed inside concrete blocks, refuse heaps, black plastic bags and even dead road-killed animals, and placed along busy roads under cover of night. When the right target comes along, they are detonated by remote control, either cell phones or garage door openers.

A few days ago suicide bombers attacked Shi’a pilgrims at the al-Khadimiyah Shrine down the road, killing and maiming hundreds. Across the river, U.S. soldiers are locked in an endless war in the wretched slums of Sadr City; at night, fixed-wing gunships armed with Gatling guns and howitzers blast recalcitrant neighborhoods, but the violence inevitably flares up again. Haifa Street, the main thoroughfare through northwest Baghdad, has been off-limits to Coalition forces for months, Condition Red: it is hard- core bandit country, and if you go there, be ready to fight. (Imagine the Viet Cong camped out along K Street in Washington, D.C.: you get the idea.)

Even the big U.S. bases like Baghdad International Airport, Camp Victory and the Green Zone are not safe. They get hit by rockets and mortar fire on a regular basis. Planes taking off and landing at BIAP perform wild evasive maneuvers, corkscrewing and juking to avoid gunfire and surface-to-air missiles. Every week U.S. soldiers and civilians are killed in ambushes and by IEDs and suicide car bombers on Route Irish, the main highway from the airport to the Green Zone downtown.

In the midst of all this, at seven-thirty in the morning, CAT-A 13 of the 425th Civil Affairs Battalion is preparing to go out and do good deeds. Seven soldiers, Army reservists, in two unarmored open-backed Humvees, off to win hearts and minds.

Officially, the team’s AO is the al-Khadimiyah neighborhood in northwestern Baghdad, but CAT-A 13’s CO Maj. Mark Clark believes in thinking and acting in ways his superiors characterize as “outside the box,” helping Iraqis no matter where they are, even if their problems aren’t covered in the battalion’s official orders. Today’s missions are way across the Tigris, in the heart of eastern Baghdad, and they are not really part of CAT-A 13’s official responsibilities.

First of all, the Major has a legal document he needs to deliver. Several months ago, before the Major and the rest of his battalion arrived in-country, an Iraqi soldier got caught in a long gasoline queue at a service station in al-Khadimiyah. He attempted to jump the line, and when a couple of local security guards tried to stop him he began waving his AK-47 around, threatening to fire up the crowd of waiting motorists. An American patrol arrived on the scene, and in the ensuing scuffle one of the GIs shot and wounded the crazed Iraqi soldier. The GI signed an affidavit taking responsibility for the shooting, and all the Iraqi witnesses agreed that it was completely justified, but somehow the security guards ended up being arrested and jailed for the incident. They are currently out on bail, but as things stand now they may well end up back behind bars; the Iraqi justice system is notoriously corrupt and unjust. Major Clark has taken it upon himself to try and exonerate the two men; he has a copy of the affidavit, which he hopes will persuade an east Baghdad appeals judge to drop the charges.

The second mission is to give toys to orphans. One of Major Clark’s many Iraqi contacts has told him about a new orphanage that is opening up today in east Baghdad, near the courthouse. Friends of the team members back in the States have sent over several cartons of brand-new toys, and the team is going to the opening ceremony to hand them out.

The members of CAT-A 13 gather in the driveway of the team house compound, and Sgt. Bob Paul, a sharp-tongued former Peace Corps volunteer, runs through the convoy briefing. “Everyone got a full combat load of ammo? Radios working? Water and MREs? Snivel gear?” This last refers to toilet paper, sunscreen and any other comfort items a soldier might want to bring along. I pat my pants pocket, making sure I have my daily can of chewing tobacco, and I notice Sergeant Grundman doing the same as he climbs up into the back of the lead Humvee. Snuff is the perfect drug for war zones: it kills the time between crises, and delivers a subtle combination of anesthesia and sensory kick. Brigade quartermaster, the giant mail order military gear supplier, has begun marketing a holsterlike watertight and airtight snuff holder that fits on a military web belt, for field- expedient dipping.

“Remember, if we’re threatened, always use the graduated response—shout, shove, show and shoot,” Sergeant Paul continues. “If someone makes a threatening move, first shout at him. If that doesn’t work, shove him. If he keeps on coming, show your weapon, and point it at him. If he doesn’t stop then, go ahead and shoot him, and aim to kill—aim for the main body mass.”

“And don’t shoot all over the place and hit a bunch of innocent bystanders,” Major Clark interjects. “We didn’t come here to get ourselves killed, but one dead kid or little old lady and we’ve undone everything good we’re trying to do.”

“Aw, I want to shoot a little old lady,” Spec. Shane Cruddas mock-complains; he is a hulking young Hispanic kid from the wrong side of the tracks in L.A., who just turned twenty-one yesterday.

“If a bunch of ragheads come after us, I’m shooting every motherfucking one of them,” the team’s official redneck and gnarly ex-Marine sniper, Sergeant Kramer, says, with a carnivorous crocodile grin.

“No, you’re not,” Major Clark says to both of them, smiling. I’ve only been with CAT-A 13 two or three days, but I’ve already learned that this kind of joking around is typical. When they are out in the field, the team is all business, as serious as a heart attack, but between missions they are loose and informal. It’s their style.

“Be on the lookout for Iraqis and foreigners in civilian clothing,” Sergeant Paul continues. “They may be in small groups, armed with automatic weapons and RPGs. Watch for people with video cameras—we’ve got reports the Bad Guys are videotaping our convoys, to learn how we operate, so they can attack us more easily. Also watch for Bad Guys in Iraqi police uniforms. Intel says they may be setting up fake checkpoints, to try and stop Coalition convoys and shoot them up. If you see a checkpoint and it doesn’t look right, speed up and drive through it. If they shoot at us, shoot back. We can always apologize later, but not if we’re dead. That’s it.”

He turns to Major Clark. “Anything to add, sir?”

“Nope. Let’s go.”

Cruddas takes the wheel of the lead Humvee: a perfect choice for driver, as his favorite leisure activity back home is customizing and street-racing hot rods. Major Clark sits next to him, and Grundman is in the rear, alongside Kramer, who is manning the SAW-gun. Sgt. Lynn Goff, a short, wide Sacramento farm girl, is driving the number two Hummer, with Sergeant Paul next to her. Sergeant Lawrence, inexplicably known as “Fat Larry” (if anything, he is underweight), is in the backseat, while surfer girl Jen Espinoza, aka Espi, is in the rear, on the tail SAW. I am back there with her.

All the team members are wearing Kevlar helmets, and body armor with front and rear trauma plates designed to stop an AK-47 round: bulky stuff, that weighs a good twenty-five pounds. Over the back of the armored vest is a camelback hydration system, a rubber bladder containing at least half a gallon of water: you can drink from its flexible plastic tube whenever you are thirsty, no matter what you are doing. Army regulations also mandate ballistic goggles, to protect against shrapnel, debris and dust. I am decked out in the same gear as the soldiers. We look like semihuman, sumoesque characters from a hybrid sci-fi film, Star Wars Meets Dune.

We leave the team compound and head out through Banzai FOB, the fortified post that is home to the 1/5 Cav Battalion and CAT-A 13. Just before the main gate we stop one last time for the team members to load their M-16s, handguns and SAWs. I shove a clip into the Beretta and make sure the safety is on. The guards open the gate, and we pull out into the lethal reality of Baghdad.

We drive south along the Tigris, and then pull up onto the bridge to east Baghdad. Across the river a pair of attack choppers cruises, keeping a wary eye on Sadr City; the other night an RPG nearly took out a low-flying U.S. gunship. A couple of flat-bottomed native boats drift downriver, fishing for carp or smuggling weapons, who knows? The insurgents have been using boats to ferry guns and explosives from east Baghdad to al- Khadimiyah, avoiding potential checkpoints on the bridges; the arms are stashed somewhere in the neighborhood, ready for some future Tet Offensive, Night of the Long Knives. Far to the southwest a column of black oily smoke unravels skyward, the aftermath of an IED or a car bomb explosion, probably on Route Irish or near the Green Zone. A gust from the hot north wind carries the sound of a heavy machine gun, a burst of harsh bangs like someone beating on an empty oil drum with a crowbar. “Just another day in Paradise,” as the soldiers like to say.

As we enter east Baghdad, everyone goes on hyper-alert. No one on CAT-A 13 has been here before, and new places are always dangerous in a war zone. Eyes peer down side streets, into the dark cavernous interiors of bombed-out buildings, scan rooftops, watching for the flicker of a machine-gun muzzle flash, the puff of dust of an RPG being fired, a furtive pedestrian or someone who doesn’t look right, ducking or moving too fast. Survival in Iraq is literally a matter of split seconds. A moment’s carelessness can mean a lifetime of pain and regret, dead friends, lost limbs or simply life cut short, finis, nada.

We weave our way through the heavy traffic, cars, vans, minibuses, buses, trucks, an occasional horse cart or an old man or a boy riding a donkey. There are surprising numbers of expensive cars, models none of the CAT-A 13 soldiers could ever afford back home: Opel town cars, Mercedes-Benzes, high-end Japanese sedans. Many of the Bad Guys who attack U.S. convoys seem to drive luxury rides. When we pass a big black Benz with smoked windows and four scowling youths inside, Major Clark radios from the lead Humvee: “Keep an eye on that Mercedes.”

Espi does more than that: she swings the SAW-gun over and points it right at the driver, who brakes hard and swerves off onto a side street. I don’t blame her. Almost every day you convoy through Baghdad, somebody tries something, pulls a feint or sees what they can get away with. Better safe than sorry.

After about half an hour it becomes obvious we are lost. We don’t have GPS cooordinates for either the courthouse or the orphanage, just written directions, and these, it turns out, are murky at best. Every few minutes we stop and the Major and Espi dismount and ask directions in their halting Arabic. Major Clark is studying Conversational Iraqi Arabic from a bunch of books he has brought with him, and Espi is a natural at languages: she was near the top of her class in Mandarin Chinese at the Army Language School in Monterey when the Army ganked her for duty in Iraq. So far the locals seem friendly; one little boy even insists on running along next to our two vehicles till he is sure we have found the right intersection. At last we find the courthouse. Major Clark grabs the legal papers and goes inside, only to exit two minutes later. This is the wrong courthouse: you have to go to a different one for felony appeals, though nobody inside is sure which. “Well, we’ll just have to try again another day,” the Major says.

We continue on, looking for the orphanage, but that doesn’t pan out either. Iraqis on the street say, “Yes, there is an orphanage over here somewhere, it actually opened a few days ago,” but they don’t know where it is. The Major and Sergeant Paul confer, and decide to return to al-Khadimiyah and resume the team’s missions there.

We are heading back toward the Tigris when the day begins to go south in spades. We keep losing our way in the unfamiliar mazeways of west Baghdad. Finally we find a major thoroughfare, a wide four-lane avenue that seems to lead in the right direction, and we turn onto it. We have gone a half-dozen blocks when we notice something about the people on the sidewalk: there seem to be more and more of them, and they look like they have a common purpose. The traffic begins to slow down ahead, and then back up. About the same time we grind to a halt, the pedestrian masses coalesce into a crowd, a mob. There are big black and green banners here and there. Someone is yelling into a bullhorn, and people are shouting and chanting. Individuals in the crowd point at us and give us angry looks. The traffic is gridlocked in front, behind and on all sides. We have inadvertently driven into a huge anti-American demonstration, and we can’t get out of it.

I suddenly realize that we haven’t seen any other American troops, not a single vehicle or check post, since we crossed the river. We are alone and completely on our own; from overlords to underdogs in a few wrong turns. This is the archetypal nightmare of the East, to be caught in a sea, a whirlpool of hostile natives, that could swallow you up in an instant and not leave a trace: shades of Zulu, Custer’s Last Stand, Gordon at Khartoum.

Just ahead the street splits, the right lane spooling off around the traffic circle, the left lane descending into a tunnel that comes out on the far side of the roundabout. The right lane isn’t really an option: it leads right into the roiling center mass of the crowd.

After a brief consultation over the radio, Major Clark and Sergeant Paul concur, and when the traffic moves forward again we head down into the underpass. A few car lengths short of the mouth of the tunnel we find ourselves stalled again, as the traffic comes to a complete halt. We are eye to eye with the scores of demonstrators who are perched along the top of the underpass. Now we are trapped underground, and more and more of the Iraqis are gathering to watch us.

Espi turns to me: “Hey, Rob, if someone throws a grenade in here, kick it out, okay?” Her tone is casual, like she is asking me to hand her a can of soda. I tell her no worries, I’ve got her back. I have my handgun out, holding it out of sight of the demonstrators, below the side of the Humvee. Everyone on the team is watching a different part of the crowd and the surrounding cars, 360-degree awareness; at the same time, they all manage to look totally relaxed, like this is exactly where they are supposed to be, everything is AOK, no problem. No weapons are raised, no one is shouting, no one is yelling on the radio or pointing frantically here and there; CAT-A 13 is an eye of calm in the maelstrom.

This is unmistakably Major Clark’s team, and it has drawn its character from him. Clark is ex–Special Forces; like the Navy SEALs and Delta Force operators, Special Forces soldiers are hardcore gunslingers, expert combat troops, but they differ from the other elite U.S. units in one very important respect: they are trained to work with indigenous peoples, to win them over, train them and lead them against a common enemy. You are not a good SF soldier unless you can fit in anywhere you are sent. In places like occupied Iraq it is a soldierly skill at least as valuable as map-reading or marksmanship, and it shows through now.

Sergeant Paul gets out to check out the traffic up ahead, and he immediately draws the attention of a group of street kids leaning on the railing above. They start yelling at him, and instead of pretending not to hear them or raising his gun and the stakes, he yells back: not angrily, it is more like he and the kids are trading wisecracks. One of the kids comes back at Sarge with something that makes him bust out laughing despite himself. The sight of a gun-toting American soldier laughing at himself provokes the little hoodlums into ecstasy: they are high-fiving and cheering each other.

Meanwhile Kramer gets on the radio to our Humvee and says, “Hey, tell Espi and Writer Rob if the motherfuckers start closing in they can always throw the goddamn toys at them.” That gets every team member within earshot laughing as well. There are puzzled, quizzical looks on the faces of many of the Iraqis watching; they must be wondering why these soldiers seem so calm and relaxed, unthreatened and unthreatening.

Major Clark gets out of the front Humvee, and he saunters in his great cowpoke stride up to the front of the vehicle and surveys the scene, his M-16 dangling carelessly from one hand. The Major is a fanatical John Wayne fan; he even lookslike a cross between an old-fashioned silver-screen sheriff and a Great Plains Indian chief, with his lanky frame and hawk-eyed hatchet face. When he catches a couple of motorists staring at him, he grins disarmingly back at them and waves. The Iraqis hesitate, then wave back.

Sergeant Paul intercepts him, and I hear him asking if we shouldn’t just smash through the fence into the other lane and weave our way out through the opposing traffic beneath the tunnel. The Rules of Engagement allow us to drive on the sidewalks, jump medians and crash through people’s yards to get out of trouble. Major Clark shakes his head: “I’d rather not do that. It sets a bad example for the Iraqis.” Sergeant Paul nods, shrugs, smiles.

Walking up a couple of car lengths, Major Clark sees there are gaps in the stalled traffic; also, the fence between the two lanes ends after about fifty feet. He starts going from car to car, talking to the drivers, smiling, gesturing. As the vehicles begin to move up at his direction, he calls to Cruddas to get ready to move.

Space opens up in front of us. As both Humvees start to roll, the Major and Sergeant Paul jump aboard. We accelerate past the fence, bounce up over the low concrete median and head the wrong way through the tunnel; there is just enough room for us to squeeze through the oncoming traffic with inches to spare. Always the Hearts and Minds Brigade, the soldiers smile and make apologetic gestures at the Iraqi drivers, who look more bemused and amused than outraged at the crazy infidels driving on the wrong side of the road. As we emerge on the far side of the circle, we jump back over the median and take the first street in the direction of the Tigris. Looking back, I can see more trucks of black- uniformed youths with green armbands arriving, and more people on foot streaming into the plaza. The scene is rapidly approaching critical mass, like a gigantic red-hot frying pan full of corn beginning to pop.

The street is almost empty for the next couple of blocks, and then we come to another crowd, gathered in front of a big mosque. Loudspeakers are thundering the mullah’s sermon from inside. The mood here seems different: there are no banners or uniforms, and people are so intent on the mullah’s words they barely notice us.

As we pass by, an ancient woman swaddled in black emerges from the mosque, sees us and starts running toward us across the sidewalk, beating her breast with her fists. Tears are streaming down her face, which is so deeply wrinkled and furrowed it looks like a geological specimen. When she reaches the edge of the sidewalk, she falls to her knees and cries out to us: “Thank you! Thank you, Ameriki!” Nobody knows what to think, or what to do. As we drive past her, we wave and smile, even hard-hearted kill-’em-all Kramer: I see his mouth form the word “Thanks.” And then there is the bridge across the Tigris we have been looking for. We accelerate, and Irene it across to the friendlier shores of west Baghdad, and home.

Afterward, I ask Sergeant Paul about his dialogue with the street kid, the one that left the urchins laughing and helped defuse the situation. He immediately laughs: “I thought I’d be funny, so I yelled to him in English, ‘Why don’t you kiss my balls?’ He was really pissing me off, and it was a way of letting off steam. And then the kid yelled back to me in perfect English, ‘Only if you show them to me first.’ Smart little bastard—all I could do was laugh. He really nuked me.”

The orphanage we were seeking remains a mystery. According to Iraqis we ask, it’s on the west side of the Tigris instead of the east, or it hasn’t opened yet, or maybe it doesn’t exist at all. The boxes of toys go back into the team house storage room. They end up being distributed to various schools and orphanages, and at the daylong walk-in medical clinics the team later runs with doctors from the 1/5 Cav.

The mosque we drove by, with the old weeping woman, was one loyal to Imam Ali al-Sistani, the traditional leader of Iraqi’s Shi’as who lives in the holy city of Najaf; he has been counseling his followers to be patient and cooperate with the Americans, as long as we deliver on our promises to rebuild the country and then leave. During the Saddam era he survived three or four assassination attempts by the Baghdad regime, and saw hundreds of thousands of his fellow Shi’as massacred in the aftermath of the Gulf War, when the first President Bush called on the Shi’as of Iraq to rise up against Saddam’s government and then stood by and watched them die. He is a man of almost supernatural patience, and political savvy: he knows when all is said and done his people will inherit the country in which their religion was born and where they now compose two-thirds of the population. It’s only a matter of time, and al-Sistani lives in a totally different time zone than we Americans do.

That mob we blundered into at the traffic circle, they’re a totally different story. Although we didn’t know it at the time, those black-uniformed thugs in the trucks were the Mehdi Army, or the Sadr Brigades, the soon-to-be-infamous guerrilla force organized by the militant young mullah Moktadar al-Sadr. We were the first U.S. troops to run into them. This same afternoon, after we have made it back to al-Khadimiyah, these same fighters and thousands more like them begin attacking U.S. convoys and posts throughout the Shi’a portion of Iraq. Over the next few weeks and months, Coalition troops and the Iraqi National Guard and police will fight a series of small wars with the Mehdi Army, from Baghdad to Najaf and Karbala to Basra in the far south.

Al-Sadr doesn’t believe in waiting; he wants it all right now, America out and Iraq for the Iraqis, specifically him and his Iraqis: why should the people suffer under foreign invaders when they can suffer under their own homegrown religious dictatorship? Of course, the Mehdi Army isn’t exactly homegrown: we would find out later it has been funded by the Iranians to the tune of several tens of millions of dollars. Over time his Iranian connection would prove to be a real problem for al-Sadr: most Iraqi Shi’as dislike Iran far more than they like their Iranian coreligionists, with ethnicity trumping faith, and al-Sadr never does attract a mass following. Most Iraqi Shi’as, especially in traditional neighborhoods like al-Khadimiyah, prefer the leadership of cagy old al-Sistani.

1

I FIRST BECAME fascinated with the U.S. Army’s Civil Affairs program during a trip to Afghanistan, back in the autumn of 2002.

I had first visited the country in 1984, more or less by accident; I was on my way from Europe to India, overland, to research my Ph.D. thesis in anthropology, and Afghanistan happened to be in the way. That first visit had led to others, more than twenty in all by now; most of them were during the Soviet invasion, when I worked as a correspondent, aid worker and war crimes investigator.

The trip before that, shortly after 9/11, I had watched B-52s bomb Taliban and al- Qaeda troops off a ridgeline above the resistance-held town of Khojabauhuddin. Children clutching school bags made from yellow plastic U.S.-aid food parcels cheered and hugged my knees. When I traveled east to the city of Faizabad, the locals were celebrating the Taliban defeat in classic Afghan fashion, filling the night with torrents of machine-gun tracer fire, rockets and artillery rounds. After years of seeing the country suffer under the Soviets and the homegrown and foreign fanatics who followed, it was pure joy.

After that trip, I had begun hearing about the U.S. Army’s Civil Affairs program that was starting up in Afghanistan. There were thirteen small CA teams, called “Chiclets” (Coalition Humanitarian Liaison Cells), scattered across the country, working to help the Afghans rebuild. I decided I had to go back and see what kind of job they were doing. Over time I had learned to be cynical about America’s role in Afghanistan. After the Soviet defeat, the U.S. government had repaid the Afghans’ trust by turning the country over to the Pakistanis, their Taliban surrogates and the Taliban’s Arab fundamentalist bankers: cheap oil from Saudi Arabia, and a potentially lucrative pipeline route across Afghanistan, outweighed honor. It was only when terrorists based in Afghanistan attacked the United States that we intervened and, almost as an afterthought, liberated the long-suffering Afghan people. I wanted to see just how genuine the U.S. Army’s aid efforts were, so I decided to go back and see, and write an article about what I found for Timemagazine.

The team I chose to visit in 2002 was stationed in the Bamiyan Valley, in the mountains of central Afghanistan. I had done aid work in Bamiyan three or four years before, helping the local Hazara tribespeople as they fought against the forces of the Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies. The valley was conquered by the Taliban after I left; they proceeded to virtually destroy everything there, and only stopped when the U.S. and its Afghan allies drove them out after 9/11. I figured that since I knew the area well, and since it was such a total disaster area, it would be a perfect place for me to take the measure of Civil Affairs.

I arrived in what was left of Bamiyan after a daylong drive from Kabul, north cross the Shomali Plains and then west, over high mountains and through narrow, crooked gorges. The last leg of the journey was through Hazara territory, and I began to see the destruction the Taliban had wrought there. Villages were burned out, abandoned, fields fallow; even the fruit trees and willow windbreaks had been chopped down. In one or two places, surviving families had returned home: men and women were threshing grain, and children were driving livestock in from the fields. These isolated islands of light and life in the cold autumn dusk made the overall desolation seem only more forlorn and heartbreaking. When I reached the town itself, the destruction was even worse, more dramatic. Bamiyan was the capital of the two million-odd members of the Hazara tribe, and before it fell to the Taliban it had been a thriving center of trade and government: Hizb-i-Wahdat, the Hazara tribal political party, published newspapers and literary and women’s magazines; there were girls’ schools in the local mosques and in caves and a multiethnic coeducational university in a compound near the eastern edge of town. The two biggest Buddha images in the world, carved out of the sandstone cliffs fifteen hundred years ago, watched over the valley like guardians.

Now all this was gone. Ninety percent of the buildings in town were demolished, blown up or burned. The once-thriving main bazaar was mostly rubble. The university compound lay in ruins; reportedly the Taliban had murdered hundreds of the students and stuffed their bodies down the well in the corner of the compound, and then turned the place into their headquarters.

As American and Afghan resistance forces approached the valley, the local Taliban troops rallied there and prepared to fight. Unknown to them, a spy satellite was watching. Less than an hour later, one of our planes dropped a thousand-pound smart bomb smack on the center of the building, interring the entire Taliban garrison beneath the rubble: murderers buried on top of their innocent victims. Even the valley’s great Buddhas were gone, dynamited into dust by the fanatical Taliban, leaving eerie vacant niches in the cliffs.

In all of this desolation Chiclet-5, the U.S. Army Civil Affairs team in Bamiyan, was a revelation. It had just six members, five of them reservists from the Knoxville-based 489th CA Battalion: Lt. Col. Roger Walker and four young sergeants. The sixth man was a regular Army communications specialist from the Pacific Northwest, who had volunteered for the mission. Like most CA teams they were basically on their own, with only a couple of other small Army units close enough to call on for help, and the nearest big U.S. base, at Bagram, several hours away across the mountains.

During the winter Shebar Pass, the sole way in and out of the eastern end of the valley, was blocked by snow for weeks at a time; supplies, when they came at all, were airdropped in. In today’s world of high-tech weaponry and computer-generated battlefield scenarios, it was like stepping back in time to the era of Lawrence of Arabiaor The Man Who Would Be King.

They were underfunded, overworked, and they had to keep a constant eye out for snipers, mines and ambushes: the Taliban had put a $5,000 bounty per man on their heads. But they were still outperforming all of the U.N. agencies, NGOs, and aid programs in the valley put together. All you had to do was ask the locals; almost everyone I talked to expressed scorn for the overpaid, overbureaucratic civilian aid workers and praised the job the Chiclets were doing.

The Chiclet team’s post was a scorpion-infested abandoned stone hotel on a cliff overlooking the town. It was an austere place, with bare concrete floors and venomous camel spiders the size of saucers lurking in the walls. There was a communal outhouse down the hill; barnlike outbuildings housed vehicles, workshops and the guard room for the Hazara militia troops who helped with security. The whole thing was surrounded by barbed wire seeded with antipersonnel mines and trip flares.

The place had a jerry-rigged, improvised air, kind of like Chiclet-5 itself. None of the six team members, Lt. Col. Roger Walker and his four sergeants or the regular Army soldier, Spec. Germaine Watson, had ever met before the mission. When 9/11 came down, they had immediately been called up and thrown into the breach. The team’s first meeting was on the plane flying over from Germany into Kabul.

They had a funny style, these six soldiers: they behaved more like a family of rowdy brothers, or best friends, than an elite military unit. When I asked Sergeant Groce what he thought of Colonel Walker, he made sure his CO was within earshot, and then said loudly, “He throws things at us, and beats us with broomsticks. But I still love him, and I’m not ashamed to say it!” Groce pretended to weep with emotion, and turned to Walker. “You love me, too, don’t you, sir?” he implored.

“Oh, yeah,” Colonel Walker said sarcastically, with a wide grin. “I don’t even want to go home anymore, I just want to stay here with you.”

The team members had given each other comical, highly abusive and inevitably obscene radio call signs: Colonel Walker was “Snatch,” McElhay was “Manwhore,” and other noms de guerre included “Mangina” and the comparatively benign “Sonic Hedgehog.” A neat computer-printed sign someone planted on McElhay’s door read, MANWHORE LOVES IT.

And what kind of job was this seemingly motley crew doing? If I hadn’t seen it for myself, I never would have believed it. In just one of their two dozen or so ongoing aid projects, the Chiclets had rebuilt a village school destroyed by the Taliban, only to find that the impoverished villagers had no school supplies, not even a single pencil, and there was no money for educational materials in the Army’s budget for the project. Colonel Walker e-mailed his relatives back home, explaining the problem and asking for help. An elderly aunt in Texas organized a bake sale at her church, raised more than a thousand dollars, bought three hundred pounds of everything from teachers’ kits to notebooks, pens and art supplies, and mailed them via the APO to Bamiyan! One glorious night a C-130 made its supply drop, and among the boxes that fell from the sky were the precious tools for learning.

Aided by a few Special Forces troops temporarily stationed in the area along with local militia members, the CA team trucked the cargo up to the new schoolhouse. One of the regular Army soldiers helping out was a young woman from upstate New York, Spec. Alison Kastner. Her eyes teared as a horde of raggedy children with hopeful, expectant faces poured from the school.

“I’d just like to hold every single one of them,” she said.

“So would I,” Colonel Walker replied in a gruff, husky voice.

It was like a scene from an old-fashioned corny movie, only better: it was real.

Then there was the tent encampment of landless refugee families stranded on a barren mesa north of town. They had been living in the old Buddhist monks’ caves below the site of the big Buddhas, but the local Afghans didn’t want them around: Bamiyan had enough troubles of its own without taking on those of outsiders. A certain French NGO bowed to political pressure and trucked the two hundred or so men, women and children to the mesa, put them in worn-out canvas tents and left them there with no food, water, medical care, anything: basically left them to die. Colonel Walker had a succinct comment about the guilty aid workers: “They really shit in their own hats.”

The colonel, with a rural American’s root instinct for fair play, had virtually adopted the refugees. The team brought them food and water, hired as many of the men as possible as laborers on their school and bridge-building projects and lobbied the Bamiyan officials to either let the refugees move back into the caves or allow them to move into some of the town’s many abandoned dwellings for the winter. By December, blizzards would be dumping waist-deep snow and sending temperatures to minus-thirty: there was no way the refugees would survive till spring in those flimsy tents.

When the local powers-that-be still refused to help the refugees, the indefatigable Colonel Walker set up a new aid project, hiring blacksmiths to make stoves out of the abundant military scrap metal, selling half the stoves to pay the smiths and giving the rest to the refugees to heat their tents. Meanwhile he wrote to the Hazara tribe’s chief, Qadir Khalili, in Kabul, asking him to intervene and order his people in Bamiyan to let the refugees move back into the caves. Khalili and the colonel were great friends, and Colonel Walker was confident the chief would come to the refugees’ rescue before the first snows fell.

When we visited the refugees’ camp, Colonel Walker and his Chiclets were greeted with something close to adulation. Women held up their newborn babies for the colonel to admire, children gazed at him with awestruck eyes, and the men addressed him as “Colonel-jan”—“Dear Colonel.”

* * *

Two days before I arrived in Bamiyan, the team had gotten orders to start wearing regulation Army uniforms in the field. Previously the CA troops in Afghanistan had worn the same loose pajama-like pants and shirts as the local Afghans. It was a matter of security, as Colonel Walker explained: “Some Bad Guy sees us driving by, and it takes him an extra few seconds to ID us as Americans, and by then we’re gone. Now it’s, ‘Hey, look!’ Bang, bang, bang, you’re dead.”

Rumors are as numerous as beans and bullets in the Army, and the unpopular and inexplicable uniform change gives birth to at least two. Interestingly they both cast blame outside the Special Forces/Special Operations community, on either a non-SF/SO Pentagon desk jockey or, worse, a civilian meddler. According to one story, some big- bottomed golf-playing general back in the States had seen a magazine photo of Special Forces troops in beards and tribal clothes patrolling the Khyber Pass with their Afghan auxiliaries, blew his stack and ordered all the SF and CA troops in Afghanistan to shave and don “proper” uniforms.

Another story I heard from some Special Forces troops blamed the order on a bigwig from a private aid group who dropped in on an SF team up on the Khyber Pass; when he wasn’t treated with sufficient “respect” by the SFers, he swore he was going to go back to Washington and use his “important friends” there to put an end to what he called the “undisciplined lifestyle” of the Special Forces soldiers. The fact that this order might eventually kill American soldiers evidently never occurred to the gold-stars-and-braid brigade back home on the Potomac.

Of course, Special Forces has its own friendly powers in the nation’s capital; a few phone calls, and they were back in their shalwar kameezesagain and sporting beards, just like the Hindu Kush hillbillies they worked among. Civil Affairs troops, lacking the SFers’ clout, were stuck with the b.s. order. The Bamiyan Chiclets had obeyed the command, but they didn’t like it. To Colonel Walker, it was eerily reminiscent of the British redcoats in the American Revolution, marching to battle in starched uniforms that were like giant “Shoot Me” signs. “At least I’ll look Strac* when they body-bag me,” one of the sergeants said with a grim smile.

At the same time, the Chiclets were dead serious about their role as combat soldiers. They observed strict security on the road, with two Americans and at least two Afghans holding weapons at the ready at all times. Before they left the post, Colonel Walker always ran through the drill for land mines: “If your vehicle hits a mine, everyone who’s alive and conscious give a thumbs-up so the rest can see who’s down and who’s okay. If you take fire, un-ass the vehicle on the opposite side and roll to the nearest ditch. If you’ve got a weapon, lay down suppressive fire. Someone will be on the radio calling in backup—we can have Blackhawks and A-10s here in twenty minutes from Bagram.”

When the colonel visited the bazaar to meet with his subcontractors, Sergeants Groce and McElhay sprinted to opposite ends of the street, McElhay with his M-16, Groce humping the big M-60, while Spec. Germaine Watson monitored the radio. At night, team members pulled guard duty from sunset to sunup in four shifts, scanning the perimeter of the post through a third-generation Starlite scope from the hotel’s sandbagged roof. A couple of times each week the team members honed their shooting skills in a ravine above the airstrip, firing M-16s, M-60s and 9mm pistols. Their favorite targets were the big cans of shaving cream the Army inexplicably included in every sundry kit the men received—“Enough shaving cream every month to float an aircraft carrier,” someone commented. When you hit them square, they exploded in a spectacular geyser of foam. “I hope Taliban and al-Qaeda come after us,” Colonel Walker said matter-of-factly, not boasting, just quietly telling it like it is. If it’s true it ain’t bragging, as they say in the South. “And if they do they’d better come loaded for bear, because we’re good, real good.”

Like all too many Americans, I had thought heroes were a thing of the past; or, if they existed, the realities of the modern world rendered their deeds meaningless. After all, what could one man or woman, or even a handful, do that would make a positive impact, when matched up against the problems of billions of people, weapons of mass destruction, mega-famines and plagues, and wars that never seemed to end? The age of courage and right action seemed to be gone, if it had ever existed at all.

Meeting Colonel Walker and his men, seeing what they accomplished, was a true revelation, like a lightning flash out of nowhere in the darkness. They were risking their lives every day in order to build a future for a forgotten people betrayed by the rest of the world. They were everyday Americans, regular Joes, your next-door neighbors and mine, but through true grit and sheer nerve they had become heroes, the stuff of myths and legends.

Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2005-05-09:
Veteran war correspondent Schultheis (Night Letters: Inside Wartime Afghanistan) spent six months in Iraq with an Army Civil Affairs Team, a highly trained, elite unit whose primary objective is rebuilding war-torn regions. Despite the overwhelming need for such soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, the army has only a single active-duty Civil Affairs Battalion, and the overwhelming majority of the 5,000 Civil Affairs soldiers are in the army reserves. The dedicated professionals of Civil Affairs Team A-13 featured here are a disparate group of civilian soldiers. Led by a former Special Forces major, the team includes an ex-Peace Corps volunteer, a California surfer girl, a former Marine sniper with a heart of gold and "Fat Larry," an accountant from middle America. Civil Affairs soldiers never initiate combat, but it finds them often enough. As they go about rebuilding schools, repairing sewers and setting up mobile walk-in medical clinics, they also must dodge roadside bombs, snipers and mortars. Schultheis quickly bonds with Team A-13 and celebrates their small victories against difficult odds in a surreal environment, delivering warm character studies and tense highway encounters. And he ends up making a terrific case for a full update of the Marshall Plan. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 2005-02-01:
The last embedded journalist allowed in Iraq, Schultheis traveled with a Civil Affairs team charged with repairing waterways, hospitals, and American-Iraqi relationships. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Summaries
Long Description
Gripping, on-the-ground reportage of Special Operations soldiers struggling to rebuild a shattered neighborhood in Baghdad The U.S. Army Civil Affairs Corps has a unique role within the modern military: these elite, highly trained soldiers are sent to combat zones after the primary fighting has ended to help rebuild war-ravaged regions. Working among the local population in seven- member teams, unprotected by other US forces, they work to restore power grids and sewer lines, get hospitals and schools up and running, and bring order to devastated lands while winning the hearts and minds of a conquered people. Today, these unheralded Civil Affairs soldiers are being tested as never before in the streets and villages of Iraqwhere the future of the nation could be decided by whether or not they succeed. In "Waging Peace," veteran war correspondent Rob Schultheis takes you into West Baghdad with Civil Affairs Team A-13 as they face death threats, ambushes, and roadside bombs while struggling to revitalize a neighborhood scarred by battle and three decades of corruption and neglect under Saddam Husseins tyrannical rule. Along the way he brings to life the unforgettable men and women of CAT-A13: a former Peace Corps volunteer whose taste for the exotic local cuisine leads to surprising alliances with the local shopkeepers; a southern California surfer girl turned language specialist who helps launch an Islamic womens center; and a crusty ex-Marine Corps sniper whose irascible exterior masks a devotion to the suffering children of Baghdad. And leading the team is ex-Green Beret Major Mark Clark, who is equally deft at outwitting insurgents and battling bureaucrats to help the localIraqis rebuild their lives and ensure his soldiers made it home safely when the mission is complete. A rare and poignant portrait of what is really happening in Iraq based on an unprecedented six months of intense reporting, "Waging Peace" finds the street- level reality of todays Baghdad that is too often hidden beneath the headlines and sound bites.
Long Description
The story that the media is not telling: America's foremost veteran war correspondent and author of the cult classic "Night Letters provides gripping on-the-ground reportage in postwar Iraq with the Army's Civil Affairs soldiers, the men charged with rebuilding the shattered country's infrastructure, often under hostile fire.
Main Description
Gripping, on-the-ground reportage of Special Operations soldiers struggling to rebuild a shattered neighborhood in Baghdad The U.S. Army Civil Affairs Corps has a unique role within the modern military: these elite, highly trained soldiers are sent to combat zones after the primary fighting has ended to help rebuild war-ravaged regions. Working among the local population in seven- member teams, unprotected by other US forces, they work to restore power grids and sewer lines, get hospitals and schools up and running, and bring order to devastated lands while winning the hearts and minds of a conquered people. Today, these unheralded Civil Affairs soldiers are being tested as never before in the streets and villages of Iraq—where the future of the nation could be decided by whether or not they succeed.In Waging Peace, veteran war correspondent Rob Schultheis takes you into West Baghdad with Civil Affairs Team A-13 as they face death threats, ambushes, and roadside bombs while struggling to revitalize a neighborhood scarred by battle and three decades of corruption and neglect under Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical rule. Along the way he brings to life the unforgettable men and women of CAT-A13: a former Peace Corps volunteer whose taste for the exotic local cuisine leads to surprising alliances with the local shopkeepers; a southern California surfer girl turned language specialist who helps launch an Islamic women’s center; and a crusty ex-Marine Corps sniper whose irascible exterior masks a devotion to the suffering children of Baghdad. And leading the team is ex-Green Beret Major Mark Clark, who is equally deft at outwitting insurgents and battling bureaucrats to help the local Iraqis rebuild their lives and ensure his soldiers made it home safely when the mission is complete.A rare and poignant portrait of what is really happening in Iraq based on an unprecedented six months of intense reporting, Waging Peacefinds the street- level reality of today’s Baghdad that is too often hidden beneath the headlines and sound bites.
Main Description
Gripping, on-the-ground reportage of Special Operations soldiers struggling to rebuild a shattered neighborhood in Baghdad The U.S. Army Civil Affairs Corps has a unique role within the modern military: these elite, highly trained soldiers are sent to combat zones after the primary fighting has ended to help rebuild war-ravaged regions. Working among the local population in seven- member teams, unprotected by other US forces, they work to restore power grids and sewer lines, get hospitals and schools up and running, and bring order to devastated lands while winning the hearts and minds of a conquered people. Today, these unheralded Civil Affairs soldiers are being tested as never before in the streets and villages of Iraq—where the future of the nation could be decided by whether or not they succeed. In Waging Peace , veteran war correspondent Rob Schultheis takes you into West Baghdad with Civil Affairs Team A-13 as they face death threats, ambushes, and roadside bombs while struggling to revitalize a neighborhood scarred by battle and three decades of corruption and neglect under Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical rule. Along the way he brings to life the unforgettable men and women of CAT-A13: a former Peace Corps volunteer whose taste for the exotic local cuisine leads to surprising alliances with the local shopkeepers; a southern California surfer girl turned language specialist who helps launch an Islamic women’s center; and a crusty ex-Marine Corps sniper whose irascible exterior masks a devotion to the suffering children of Baghdad. And leading the team is ex-Green Beret Major Mark Clark, who is equally deft at outwitting insurgents and battling bureaucrats to help the local Iraqis rebuild their lives and ensure his soldiers made it home safely when the mission is complete. A rare and poignant portrait of what is really happening in Iraq based on an unprecedented six months of intense reporting, Waging Peace finds the street- level reality of today’s Baghdad that is too often hidden beneath the headlines and sound bites.

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