Monday, October 27, 2008

Slipping Away...

This might be my last posting for a while. You see, the way it works in Iraq is this: the big military bases have everything: great food, big gyms, fast internet, comfortable beds, etc. They also have the most soldiers who never go outside the wire. Camp Liberty, COB Speicher, The Green Zone, these are examples (you can look them up on Wikipedia) of huge, sprawling military installations, literally the size of small cities.

The farther you get from the big bases, the fewer services are available. I am writing this at a small FOB (Forward Operating Base) called FOB War Eagle, in eastern Baghdad. FOB War Eagle houses a Battalion-level command, a company of Iraqi Army soldiers, a private security organization, and is about the size of a small city block. They have a computer lab with internet access, some indoor plumbing, and a decent dining hall with 3 hot meals a day. I arrived here yesterday via Blackhawk helicopter. I have some cool pictures but no way to get them onto the blog right now.

I am here only temporarily, though. My final destination is...ahem. How to put this delicately.

Imagine the worst ghetto, the poorest slum, in one of the most repressed, angry, and backwards cities in the world. Christened "Al Thawra" when built in 1959, then later "Saddam City" and finally "Sadr City", this region of Baghdad consists of 20 square kilometers of sprawling, high-density urban-poor housing. The largest piece of it is controlled not by the US military, not by the Iraqi Government, but by a sort-of Iranian death-mafia known as Jeish al-Mahdi, or the "Mahdi Army".

The Mahdi Army started out as Moqtada Al Sadr's personal militia, but it slowly morphed out of control into a large gangster organization for kidnappings, protection rackets, and political subversion in and around Baghdad and Basra. Funded largely by Iran, the Mahdi Army now has all sorts of divisions and splinter-groups within. These are the guys planting all the EFP's I talked about in earlier postings (those high-power, armor piercing roadbombs).

Long story short, Iran seems to be using their Mahdi Army people to try and create another Hezbollah-style state-within-a-state in Iraq, in order to put pressure on politicians here, pull off assassinations and kidnappings at whim, that sort of thing. All very typical as far as Middle Eastern politics go, but the kinds of things that give nightmares to normal Americans.

So anyway. Where was I headed with all this?

Oh yeah! Crappy internet in Sadr City. Don't expect frequent, photo-festooned blog entries from the Kentster any more. (sad face) This may change, and I will keep you posted.

1 comment:

Daphne said...

Hey Kent, keep writing, lots of us are reading. Sorry you're going to such a crappy place. Let us know when we can start sending you stuff. Love you and miss you.