Iraq Journal: Raid Night

Michael J. Totten is an independent journalist reporting on the war in Iraq. Here is a portion of his latest journal entry provided exclusively for

Everywhere in Baghdad is dangerous — even the Green Zone — but danger is relative. Not every place in the Red Zone is the same shade of crimson.

The 82nd Airborne company I embedded with hasn’t suffered a single casualty since they arrived in Iraq in January even though they patrol their part of the city — the neighborhood of Graya’at, just north of the Adhamiyah wall — 24 hours a day. I comfort myself with the idea that if I’m the first to be shot here, God apparently hates me.

“Stay close to me,” said Sgt. Ojeda as he plugged his mouth with tobacco. “In the dark just look for the short guy. And call me Eddie.”

The military intelligence officers at Coalition Outpost War Eagle knew the target was somewhere in their area, but they didn’t know precisely where or for how long. My unit’s job was to go out and patrol the neighborhood known as Tunis until they could pinpoint his exact location.

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We drove in the dark. The soldiers used night vision goggles. I had to rely on my eyes.

“How long are you in Iraq, sir?” Sgt. Fisher asked me.

“As long as I feel like it,” I said. “A month and a half maybe.”

“You’re lucky, sir” he said. “We’re here for 18. I just got back from leave and missed the birth of my baby boy by two days. At least I got to see him.”

“You don’t have to call me sir,” I said.

“Ok, sir,” he said and laughed.

“What’s the situation in Tunis?” I said.

“It’s not too bad anymore,” said Lt. Evan Wolf from Omaha, Neb. “It’s a rich neighborhood. Lots of educated and cultured people live there, doctors and lawyers, people like that.

"It was infested with Al Qaeda a while ago, so the neighborhood formed a protectionist militia. They set up road blocks, gates around the mosque, and they drove Al Qaeda out," he continued. "But now the militia harasses and extorts the residents. They follow us from house to house and intimidate whoever we talk to.”

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