BAYJI, Iraq — Bayji, a Sunni town 40 miles north of Tikrit, is one of the places where the Bush Administration’s new “clear, hold and build” policy should be fairly easy to implement.
With a uniform population, there is little of the Sunni- Shi’ite violence that is scarring other portions of Iraq. Here the only conflict is between the old and the new — the deposed Baathist order, thrown out of work and its positions of power by de-Baathification, versus the people who are being groomed to take its place.
With a population of 120,000, Bayji is still small enough so that issues tend to be personal. A few months ago, insurgents surprised the chief of police at a dinner party and executed him along with several other people. Some people say he was beheaded, although others say that isn’t true.
As a result, members of the 82nd Airborne have established a “JSS” — Joint Security Station — the latest strategy to shore up the immature authority of the new government. Rotating platoons of about 25 GI’s share the downtown police station with the handful of Iraqi Police willing to remain. Conditions are not uncomfortable. There are rooms full of cots, running water, and hot meals trucked in from the base. On the second floor roof, carpenters hammer into the night, enclosing a new annex.
At midnight a convoy of six humvees plus an armored truck goes out to patrol the streets. Someone says we will do a “dismount” and walk the beat on foot. We did the same thing this afternoon in the smaller village of Al-Syria. The Iraqi Police were young and amateurish, some of them wrapped in headscarves to hide their faces, but there was little incidence besides children waving as we marched by.
As we prepare to leave, however, word comes down that informers have provided some new information. There are going to be several raids on the houses of terror suspects.
AS WE RIDE THROUGH the narrow streets, we are ever wary of IEDs and — worse — land mines, which are easy to bury in the unpaved roads. Sergeant Major Donovan Watts was killed last November just outside the base when his humvee hit a land mine on an unpaved access road. As we reach the end of a narrow side street the convoy suddenly stops. Everyone dismounts and and runs forward.
I am in the last vehicle and by the time I reach the target house soldiers have propped small ladders against the walls and entered the compound. “Stay outside until we secure the area,” my escort tells me. There is the sound of breaking glass and banging doors and soon soldiers’ heads appear on the rooftops.
As I enter the courtyard, one private is going through a large bin of what seems to be garden fertilizer. He pulls something out and carefully places it on the paving stone. “Pineapple grenade,” he says and continues rummaging but finds nothing else. Another soldier pulls out a digital camera and takes a few pictures.
“No one home,” a soldier announces. “Someone must have tipped them off.”
Almost immediately, everyone runs across the street and sets up ladders against the wall of the opposite villa. This time people are home — two young women and two young boys. Bizarrely, they are watching “Tigerland,” a movie about American GI’s, on the living room TV. Green fatigued soldiers scurry across their screen even as real soldiers are streaming through their house.
The women are brought outside for questioning. They are sisters — both strikingly beautiful with white headscarves framing their finely chiseled features. Sergeant Peter Green, a husky African-American with his head shaved clean, quizzes them through an interpreter. The night air is cold. While they are standing outside another soldier brings them a blanket.
The older sister says the people across the street have gone away for several days. Then she changes her story — they are only out for the evening. Her husband has also gone out, she doesn’t know where. One of the interpreters whispers that her husband owns the local cell-phone store and is a member of al Qaeda in Iraq.
Her answers do not make Sergeant Green happy. He mulls the matter for a moment, then announces, “Alright, let’s tear the place apart.”
The living room looks like any middle-class American home except the furniture is a little sparse. The soldiers tip over the couch. Sure enough, there is a rifle underneath. It is an old model, almost an antique, covered with some original wrapping. It looks like it has never been fired. A search of the bedrooms turns up two more pistol, one a nasty looking semi-automatic. There is also some material for making IEDs roadside bombs.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?