Kidnapped in Falluja
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As I sat stiffly on the edge of a cot, hands on my knees, my mind raced through an replica handbags china inventory of what I had brought with me into Falluja: Replica Handbags business cards that purse replica handbags identified me as the Middle East bureau chief based in Amman, a prop I used in Arab countries to disguise the fact that I actually lived in Jerusalem; a Jordanian residency card; my American passport, filled with Arab stamps and Replica Designer Handbags visas (the dirty one, with my State of Israel work permit, I had left behind in Baghdad). But what about the receipt I had gotten at the Allenby Bridge, proof that I come to Iraq from Israel? Had I remembered to toss it out?
replica Purse Another fighter, this one carrying a Kalashnikov, came in and started rummaging around a pile of cardboard boxes in the corner. military to cover the faces of Iraqi prisoners. Oh my God, I thought. Please don put it on my head. a journalist, I pleaded in Arabic. a journalist. My young guard shook his head. he told me. Spy. Then he drew his finger across his throat and pointed at me. he said, nine o that morning photographer Robert King and I had set out from Baghdad in a two car convoy bound for Falluja, a 45 minute drive across Iraq main east west highway. The blackened carcass of a military fuel truck, struck by rocket propelled grenades the week before, was still smoldering beneath an overpass as we reached the Baghdad city limits. King and I rode in a red armor plated BMW with our interpreter and a driver. The lead car, Handbags Replica an orange taxi, carried another driver and a security guard armed with a.45 pistol. replica Purse
Replica Handbags It was six weeks after four aaa replica designer handbags American civilians from Blackwater Security Consulting had been ambushed and murdered in Falluja, their bodies burned, dismembered, and hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River. Two battalions of US Marines had invaded Falluja days later, bombarding the city and inflicting hundreds of casualties. Now a 1,500 man Iraqi force known as the Falluja Brigade had reportedly taken control of the streets offering, we thought, a chance to enter the city and make contact with the Iraqi resistance. Replica Handbags
Replica Bags Wholesale We knew the trip was risky: The handful of journalists who had been inside in recent days had warned us that the fighters there were jittery, paranoid, and hostile toward foreigners especially Americans. There were rumors that foreign jihadis led by the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al Zarqawi were using KnockOff Handbags Falluja as a base to seize Western hostages and prepare car bombs. And I didn know it at the time, but Nicholas Berg, a 26 year old purse replica handbags freelance contractor from Pennsylvania whom King vaguely knew, had been held captive for more than a month by Zarqawi men and, just the day before, had been beheaded with a long knife. But our security guard had contacted a cousin who Replica Designer Handbags lived in Falluja and recruited him for the day to guide us through the city; the guard had assured us that his cousin would know in which areas we be safe to travel. If I had really stopped to consider the situation, I would probably have asked more questions. But I was under deadline pressure, and I wasn prepared to let any niggling doubts stop me. If everything went well, I figured, we be back in Baghdad replica handbags china by four o replica Purse early enough for our afternoon 30 laps at the al Hamra Hotel swimming pool. Replica Bags Wholesale
We stopped aaa replica designer handbags first at Camp Falluja, the main marine base in the Sunni Triangle, located in an Replica Bags Wholesale old Iraqi army compound about two miles replica Purse from the Fake Designer Bags city. While the Iraqi staff waited in the dusty parking lot I interviewed General James T. Conway, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. A crisp, charismatic figure in desert fatigues, Conway was angry about being forced to invade Falluja on Washington terms, then having to withdraw before wiping out the insurgents. Now, he said, like wounded animals, the Fallujans were bent on revenge. job isn finished, he warned.
Leaving the replica Purse base at 11:30 am, we passed through the last marine checkpoint and picked up our guide, a broad faced man named Hassan (some names have been changed to protect identities), at high quality replica handbags a tea shop just inside town. Then we drove toward the Jolan neighborhood, an insurgent stronghold where the most intense fighting had taken place. We skirted the northern edge of Jolan. On one side of us were railroad tracks and an open area where the marines had encamped before invading. On the other side a long row of two and three story white stucco houses stood half hidden behind low cement walls. Most of these structures were bullet pocked, a few reduced to heaps of rubble. There was no movement on the street. are the fighters? I asked Hassan. sleeping, he said, and laughed.
Replica Designer Handbags The guide nonchalance was all the reassurance I needed. I told our driver, Suleiman, a quiet 30 year old father of an infant son with whom I worked many times over the past year, to wholesale replica designer handbags turn down one of the dirt roads that led deeper into the warren of Jolan. He seemed reluctant, but Hassan told him, problem, and he complied. missile. With three cameras dangling from his neck, King walked around to the side of the house. I stood in front of the half destroyed structure with Samir, a skinny, mild mannered Iraqi journalist we had hired to be our interpreter a few days earlier. We gaped at the pancaked roof and stopped to talk to an elderly man, who told us that several members of a single family were buried in the rubble here. Then we walked back to the cars. Replica Designer Handbags
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Stubble Face steered the BMW through Falluja midday traffic, passing walled compounds, vacant lots, and soaring minarets. Almost all the shops were closed, but the city seemed to be inching back to normality after weeks of violence and death. I looked back and forth between the driver and the gunman. Are these foreign fighters or local Iraqis? Did my lie hurt our chances for survival? I begged in broken Arabic: are journalists. We are here to tell the story of the invasion. We know that terrible things happened here. We want to show the world the truth. car turned down a rubble strewn alley and continued past an ugly row of cinder Replica Designer Handbags block houses, clumps of cactus, scraggly palm trees. We stopped before a concrete hovel, got out, passed through a small courtyard, and entered an airless living room filled with young mujahideen an inner sanctum of the Iraqi resistance. An army of journalists was on its way to Afghanistan aaa replica designer handbags in preparation for the war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The chief of correspondents at had called me earlier that evening, asking if I wanted to join the Northern Alliance in the Panjshir Valley for their assault on Kabul. Fake Handbags It was one of those opportunities that few war correspondents would turn down, yet there was a catch: The high mountain passes surrounding the valley were freezing over, and journalists who made it in ran the risk of being trapped there for months.
Fake Handbags not going to Afghanistan, Nadja said definitively. In the next room, our three month old son Max stirred in his sleep. got a child now. You got responsibilities. do you mean? Of course I going. way, she said, her voice rising. think you can just walk out of here Replica Handbags and leave me alone with Max for two or three months? Are you crazy? Replica Designer Handbags explained the deal when we started this relationship. This is what I do. This is my work. slammed a book down on our dining room table. A violinist from the former East Germany whom I had met at a Angeles Times party in Berlin in July 2000, Nadja has an assertive personality and a sometimes fearsome temper. bullshit! she shouted at me. told me you were going to give up high quality replica handbags this life, remember? You said you wanted to settle down, write books, have three children. Was that all a lie? wasn a lie, but… what? I I didn mean I was going to give it up immediately. I got this stuff in my blood, and I can just stop overnight. kvatch, she replied, using German slang for bullshit. She was in my face now. you lured me out to this shithole with the understanding that you weren going to run off every two months to cover wars. That one of the reasons I gave up my life in Berlin for you. this is an extraordinary situation. Al Qaeda just destroyed the fucking World Trade Center! You want me to sit on my ass and watch this from here? There going to be a major war. want war? she said, crossing the room and flinging open the front door. She stood on the landing above our garden, a fecund explosion of grapevines and citrus trees. out there. You got a war going on right outside your house. Often we could hear the roar of F 16s over our house as they headed off to bomb police stations in the West Bank and Gaza. to the territories. Go downtown to the Sbarro pizzeria. Get all the blood you want. But you are not abandoning me here with Max. If you do, I will walk out on you. I promise. who knows how long it going to be? It could just be a few weeks bullshit, she said. and I Replica Bags both know that if you leave now, you not coming back until after Christmas. Who knows if you come back at all? You better make your choice: a family, or Bush war. the end, Nadja won a partial victory: I turned down the offer to join the Northern Alliance, settling instead for shorter trips to Pakistan, Indian Kashmir, and Saddam Iraq. But each trip reconfirmed what I already knew: The rush that came from parachuting into Third World conflict zones, from observing and writing about violent human dramas, was as strong for me as the pleasures of domestic life. Nadja and I fought about it constantly. She accused me of misleading her, called me an overage adolescent who was playing with his life. you want Max to grow up without a father? she asked me on more than one occasion. Fake Handbags
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Each narrow escape had bolstered my confidence, led me to believe that I could venture farther and farther out on the edge and come back safely with Replica Designer Handbags an amazing story to tell. Each narrow escape had convinced me that I had a special talent for this kind of work and thus a responsibility to remind comfortable Americans what it like there. It was my duty to be here just Designer Fake Bags as it had been my father duty when he worked as a roving newspaper reporter, investigating the murder of civil rights workers in Mississippi, choppering into the jungle to observe the Vietcong.
Designer Replica Bags King, with our Iraqi staff, came in as I sat there thinking Replica Bags about my father and my son. He sat down and looked at me tight lipped, forlorn. I thought I could sense resentment in his expression, the unspoken message: Hey, this was all your idea. Designer Replica Bags
is your country? the young mujahid who had ridden beside me in the BMW asked King. The fighter name was Mohammed. He appeared to be in his early 20s, with intelligent eyes, an athletic build, and a self confident, polite manner. King hesitated, and I knew he was wondering whether he should lie.
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King sighed. from Memphis, Tennessee, he replica handbags china drawled, and sank deeper into his chair.
The insurgents separated King and me from our Iraqi drivers and guards, leaving us with only our interpreter, Samir. One fighter confiscated King cameras and began flipping through the digital images, studying them. We were given bottled water and asked some routine questions about our work in Iraq. After about an hour, Stubble Face and Mohammed ordered King, Samir, and me back into the BMW. We turned down a deserted street and seemed to be heading toward a vacant, rubble strewn lot. King and I exchanged terrified glances.
I pictured a lonely walk through the lot at gunpoint, the cocking of the gun, the shots in the back of the skull. Will I feel the bullets? Will pain come before the blackness? I thought about other journalists I had known who died on the job: Danny Pearl, whom I had met at a rooftop party in Paris with his wife to be, Marianne, just before they left for Pearl ill fated Street Journal assignment in Bombay; Dan Eldon, a 22 year old Reuters photographer who was beaten and stoned to death on assignment in Mogadishu in July 1993.
KnockOff Handbags We parked in front of another house. The gunmen led us inside, and I looked around in surprise. Our luxurious new detention facility had high ceilings decorated with plaster moldings of ferns and daisies, layers of russet and blue Persian carpets, a stereo and television, a cupboard display of porcelain tea sets. It was a comfortable, tasteful place that bespoke it owner affluence a Middle Eastern version of a suburban home in Santa Monica or Larchmont. Whoever owned this house was clearly a member of Falluja upper middle class: a businessman, maybe a former military officer. KnockOff Handbags
Designer Fake Bags We were invited to sit on the carpet, and Mohammed sat down across from us. Stubble Face, who now introduced himself as Mohammed brother, lifted up his Handbags Replica shirt to reveal a thick white belt packed, he said, with explosives. He pulled playfully at two triggers dangling from the belt. he said. Terrorist. Then he disappeared into a backroom, leaving us with his brother. What now? Designer Fake Bags
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Slowly, tentatively, he began to talk about his life. invaded Iraq in March 2003. (By coincidence, Samir had also studied French in Baghdad, and the two of them launched into a brief, surreal conversation about Victor Hugo, Honor de Balzac, and French instructors they had shared.) Mohammed told us that he had supported Saddam overthrow but that Americans should have left immediately afterward. Getting by on and Pepsi for days on end, he had fought the marines from rooftops and alleys. would you feel if French, Germans, Arabs invaded New York? he asked me. you sit there and do nothing? Mohammed opened up, I switched fully back into journalist mode. I probed him high quality replica handbags for more details about his weeks fighting the marines. Would he mind, I asked, if we took a few pictures of him and his brother they could wear masks to disguise their appearance for the article we were working on? King looked at me in disbelief; he hadn yet managed the transition back to work mode. Mohammed politely said no.
aaa replica designer handbags Then, after a meal of hummus, kebab, pita bread, yogurt, and sweetened tea, the illusion of normality faded. The young guerrilla grew somber. He reached behind his back and pulled a semiautomatic pistol from his belt. He stared at cheap replica handbags the floor. am filled with grief, he muttered. He began to fidget with the gun, sliding it across the carpet, barrel pointing at King. Releasing the magazine, he slapped it back into the gun with a menacing click. King and I looked at each other. mother was killed by an American sniper, Mohammed said, his eyes unfocused. brother was shot by an American sniper. I swallowed hard. Click, click. Put away the gun. Please, just put away the gun. Americans are beasts, Mohammed said. Fifteen minutes passed. Abruptly, Mohammed placed the gun back in his belt and stood up. we will visit the sheikh, he said aaa replica designer handbags.