DRIVING TO ABU GHARIB From the Green Zone
On Sept 4th 2005 two of my coworkers, close friends were KIA on there way back from visiting me in Tikrit. The next day I returned to Baghdad on the very road they had lost their lives. I took over as Director of Iraqi Program in term.
As part of my job had to visit the Abu Gharib warehouse site which meant traveling over the most dangerous roads in Baghdad. Usually I drove a nondescript Nissan pick up with Iraqi plates. Unfortunately I had to leave this vehicle in Tikrit, and travel as inconspicuously as possible to Baghdad, my life depended on it.
One week after I arrived back in Baghdad I had met “Dina.” She was an interpreter for Ministry of Interior and did some sort of intel work. Dina was cute slim build and about 5’ 8” tall. She had also been shot 4 times and had lost many members of her family during Sadam’s rule. She had no qualms about using a weapon.
After my 4th week back the office in Kuwait insisted I visit the Abu Gharib site to check construction for the new warehouse. For the week prior the roads were black, which meant NO travel expect for military vehicles which I did not have access to. The US Army would not provide us protection unless we asked for it 2 weeks in advance and were not bumped by a State Department or Tactical priority.
It was Tuesday I needed to check the progress and according to the Army the road was open but “Red.” I asked Dina in she would like to ride shotgun, I had meant that in a literal way as it is very hard to shoot and drive at the same time, despite what you see in movies.
We departed just before the car bomb gate hour which was usually between 8:00 am and 10:00. I had a small AK47 locally called an Osama plus my 9 mm Glock. I gave Dina the larger stock folded AK47.
We head out the gate in 4 wheel drive 1999 Hyundai which had no plates was an uncommon car. Unfortunately for me there was no choice it was the only vehicles the company had for me to use.
The road out of the Green Zone had little traffic. The Hyundai had a good radio so we set it to the Armed Forces Radio to listen to rock and roll. As we got closer to western Baghdad we watched closely other vehicles we came up on or those trying to pass us. We were still about 3 km from an Iraqi police check point.
About the time MAGIC CARPET RIDE – Jimmy Hendricks came on the radio Dina said; “We have 2 cars coming up on us about 100 meters back.” The tempo picked up and I started to increase speed. At 120 km (The Hyundai is not a fast car). Dina’s says “They are gaining!” I said: “Get ready keep the weapon out of site don’t shoot until they get with in 20 meters.” I started to weave in between traffic as Jimmy Hendricks was saying:
to dream yes, yes, right between my sound machine
Iraqi police check point was 500 meters away. I took my AK47 and laid it in my lap my 9 mm was on the dash board in easy reach. I put my foot to the floor dodging between cars and trucks, and started to drive like I was in a video game. Moving quickly and efficiently was the only thing on my mind. At this point I wanted to get through the check point first. There were 2 cars and 6 armed insurgents, I did not if they only had AK’s or and RPG either way the odds were bad not in my favor. I did not like the odds. So the goal was getting to the check point first. “On a magic carpet ride!”
Dina was angry and had rolled down the ready to pull the trigger. We hope that we we would not be blocked by any vehicles so we could clear the check point. Dina brought her weapon up and had her finger on the trigger. Just at that moment I said "Hold it don't shoot!, we are at the bearer." and she pulled back. She said, "That's too bad it would have been a head shot." I just smiled glad she was along today as my shooting buddy.
We got to the check point first. As we arrived the insurgents slammed on there breaks and did a quick U turn. The Iraqi police only wanted to report the incident, and not interested in casing armed insurgents. I guess cannot blame them.
We returned to the Green Zone without incident. My next trip to Abu Gharib Dina and I were nearly killed by an RPG hit. But that is another story.