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Observing Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 26, 2005 – Editor's Note: AFPS reporter Jim Garamone has traveled in Iraq since early January, covering the many news aspects about multinational and Iraqi security forces' efforts in preparation for upcoming Jan. 30 elections. During his travels, he's come upon interesting aspects of life in Iraq.

Insurgents? No, Murderers

Servicemembers based here object to people using the term "insurgents" to describe the enemy. "Call them what they really are: murderers and scum," said one Air Force technical sergeant based in the International Zone.

She said the murderers are so afraid of the Iraqi people getting a chance to live as they want to, that they resort to killing men, women and children to intimidate the people. "Calling them insurgents sounds like they are fighting for the people," she said.

She had another term for the enemy, but no newspaper is likely to print it.

Mad Max Arrives

All the furor over the armoring issue overlooks some creative ways servicemembers have customized their vehicles.

Some Humvees look like they came out of the Mel Gibson movie "Mad Max."

In addition to armor kits added to the vehicles, some soldiers have welded on huge steel bumpers to the front and back of Humvees. "It looks scary, doesn't it?" asked one driver.

The threat from vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices is on every servicemembers' mind. The soldiers feel the big bumpers stop innocent Iraqi drivers from cutting into the middle of convoys -- a tactic of suicide bombers. "It's kind of tough to overlook a vehicle that looks like that," said the driver.

The brass isn't wild about the Mad Max vehicles, said the soldier, but they are still on the road.

Breeding Success

For every time success, such as capturing terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi's bomb maker, Abu Omar al-Kurdi, regular people come forward with tips on other dangers.

"They see the coalition is making progress," said a coalition intelligence official. "They want their neighborhoods to be safe, but are scared of retribution. When we capture someone big, we get a flood of intelligence from the people."

Officials said Iraqis tipped coalition forces to many dangers following the capture of Saddam Hussein and the killing of his sons. At the local level, capturing a Baath Party murderer can give people the confidence to turn in other enemies.

Iraqi security forces -- the police and army mostly -- are playing a greater role as the organization grows and becomes more capable. "The Iraqis do feel more comfortable dealing with their countrymen," said the official.

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