Today, we walked outside of one of our gates. The Iraqi Army unit that guards this post told us they found something that might be an explosive. They lead us to a building that had been imploded by Coalition Forces back in 2005. I had my camera with a long zoom lens. We wanted to get a look at this device from a good distance. As we got closer, I felt all my senses heighten. If felt we were pushing our luck a little. I figured I would have a long-lens look, snap a shot and get back to the gate. They walked us up to the building. I thought they were going to point down a hall at something. Instead, the guy all of a sudden leans down and shows me a wire! It was right at the corner of the building where we were standing. Under some rubble was a black device and the wire was running into it. It’s possible that this was a piece of explosive that didn’t go off when they imploded the building. I had no idea. All I knew was that we were too close. Needless to say, we got the hell out of there and reported it.
Walking back, we asked how they found it. “One of the children told us about it.”
Across the street from the building is what looks like an apartment complex. There are plenty of children. We told the IA guys that they needed to secure that building better. We noticed where razor wire was flattened and anyone could walk in. Apparently, that’s what some kid did.
Fortunately, I had my camera. The thing you notice is that these are good looking kids. There was one young lady that looked no older than 11 or 12. All the younger kids paid attention to her. I had some of my mother-in-law’s homemade cookies on me. I gave a bag of them to the girl and she handed the cookies out. Little hands took cookies one by one until they were gone. I’m not sure if she even saved one for herself.
I can’t imagine growing up the way they do. The place is a dump. What you could call a back yard is filled with trash, razor wire and an old car. Dogs forage there looking for food. Who knows what these kids eat on a regular basis. It truly bothers the interpreter I worked with today. I’ve seen him put Dinar into tiny fists before. He told a little boy once to go home and give it to his mother. The boy, who could have been no older than 4, obediently ran home.
They all smile. They have to be aware of the ugliness around them, but their brown eyes are wide and even the ones missing teeth have a nice smile and are friendly. We told them all to stay away from the building.
I was nervous. We’d come too close to a possible explosive. We were outside our gate on the town side. I was scanning every window I could see. We headed back in. I walked away and amid the trash, the razor wire, the filth and the poverty, their little smiles stood out like a stood out like jewelry.