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Embedded in Iraq: 20 Years Later

subj: kharma

Posted by jim on May 16, 2004 at 14:05:54:

i’m at a police staion in kharma, iraq w/icdc and marines for 48 hrs. ciao, jim

Posted by jim on May 17, 2004 at 11:29:49:

toilets make that one in trainspotting look like the ritz. plenty of MREs and bottled water. and plenty of marines keeping me safe. running water to wash. sporadic electricity. incredible experience. ciao, jim

Posted by jim on May 18, 2004 at 11:13:32:

an insurgent blew himself to smithereens planting an ied about 100m away today. i’m definitely working on the safer side of this conflict. ciao,jim

Posted by jim on May 19, 2004 at 09:44:30:

i’m spending tonight at an icdc training complex where us marines are training the new iraqi army, the iraqi civil defense corps.

Posted by jim on May 19, 2004 at 10:08:09:

i left for a 48hr trip sunday morning, but still won’t get back ’til tomorrow at best. never went so long without a shower and a change of clothes. and you sweat until your clothes are soaked every day. i’ve heard about some folks going weeks, even months. things are different here.

Posted by jim on May 19, 2004 at 12:41:50:

i burned my ass literally today, sitting on a PADDED seat in the back of a humvee that had been out in the noon-day sun. can’t wait to see what happens when it hits 140!
ciao, jim

Posted by jim on May 19, 2004 at 23:35:02:

when i left philly, i had reduced everything i thought i would need for one year to a backpack, a suitcase, and a duffel. when i got to Virginia, i learned that i would be picking up my body armor in london, so i jettisoned the suitcase. i just shipped it back to philly. don’t even remember what was in it now.

when i got into my room in baghdad, everything looked good. then i went to embed at the prison, so it took maybe 10% of my stuff from the hotel. from the prison, i shipped out to gharma, and took maybe half of my stuff from the prison.

you can get really spread out if you’re not careful, but the big lesson so far is that you never really need very much. i have shelter, water, food, and even electricity and a/c here, which is still much more than many embeds get.

also, every time you move out deeper, it looks like hell, and the last place you were begins to look like the ritz. perspective is everything, jim

Notes: ICDC was this sort of mercenary militia set up by the Americans to create the impression of having Iraqi allies. Virginia refers to my recent hostile environment training. I fixed a few minor typos in this post. I just found this Wikipedia entry re Kharma, or rather: Al-Karmah. And this CIA assessment in an entry on the ICDC: Iraqi Civil Defense Corps:

“The ICDC turned out to be a total debacle: It had virtually no combat capability, was thoroughly penetrated by the insurgents, militias, and organized crime, and collapsed whenever it was committed to battle.”

About these posts: In 2004, I took a leave from my job at the old Philadelphia Daily News and spent next 12 months photographing the war in Iraq for the Associated Press. I shared my experiences with friends and family on a private mailing list and now I am posting my entries on the same dates 20 years later.

By Jim MacMillan

Jim MacMillan is the founder and director of the Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting and the assistant director of the Logan Center for Urban Investigative Reporting at Temple University. He has been a fellow at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma and the Knight-Wallace Fellows, as well as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism and Swarthmore College. Previously, MacMillan spent 17 years at the Philadelphia Daily News and photographed the war in Iraq for The Associated Press, after which he and his team were awarded The Pulitzer Prize.