restricted access December 2003
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December 2003 Diwaniya 12.4.03 Today is Jesus Suarez’s son Eric’s second birthday. Eric’s grandfather Fernando Suarez del Solar will mark the day by visiting the place where Jesus, a U.S. marine, was killed on March 27 after stepping on a modi‹ed bomb, an American DPICM (Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munition), the kind that break into eighty-eight smaller fragments on impact. He was guarding the perimeter of his platoon’s encampment. The place where Jesus was killed is in view of Highway 1, which connects Baghdad to the southern city of Basra: a desolate , muddy stretch of land. The earth is still churned from the heavy military machinery that passed through months ago on the way to Baghdad. The only landmarks are a cement factory and a destroyed Republican Guard camp. Camels pass by as Fernando makes his way out to the site. The international press slogs along behind him. Everyone is looking out for unexploded bombs. Fernando plants a cruci‹x and collects some earth from the spot before he collapses. Bob Woodruff, a correspondent for ABC News, was embed90 ded with Jesus’s regiment for a month. He has brought Fernando to this place, and sits next to him atop a small mound of earth while he reads his notes from the night when Jesus was killed. Woodruff stops for the passing U.S. convoys, waiting until he can be heard again. A pile of mortar casings, detritus from Jesus’s platoon, lies nearby. “‘Suarez, keep your eyes open,’ the medics tell him,” Woodruff reads. “They are asking him about his wife, where he is from. . . . The chopper that is supposed to take him to the ‹eld hospital never comes—it has broken down, but they do not tell us this.” Woodruff moves a few days ahead in his notes, to Jesus’s funeral. “The innocence and bravado of his platoon is gone. One after another, Suarez’s friends kneel before his helmet, his gun, and his boots.” Fernando has come from Escondido to lead a delegation of American veterans and military families who want to see the realities of occupied Iraq for themselves. Their message is clear—bring the troops home. The group spends the week meeting with various Coalition of‹cials, Iraqi dignitaries, and ordinary citizens, and, in the case of those who still have family members serving here, attempting to visit them. They’re shocked by the kilometerlong petrol queues that form every night in anticipation of the stations’ opening the following morning and heartened to experience the increasing vibrancy of Baghdad’s streets, which American news channels do not convey particularly effectively. The delegation is scheduled to meet with Iraqis who lost relatives during or after the invasion, including the family of Mohaned Al-Kabi, the Coalition-appointed head of the Sadr City municipal council, who was shot in the back by a U.S. soldier last month. “The American soldiers don’t value the lives of the Iraqi people,” says Hani Al-Kabi, Mohaned’s brother. “My brother DECEMBER 2003 91 quit his job abroad as an engineer to help the people here, and they killed him.” The delegates walk a ‹ne line between supporting the troops and standing in some sort of solidarity with bereaved Iraqis. “It’s too much—I see today ‹ve, six, seven different stories, and I know there are thousands,” Fernando says, after spending a morning meeting with cluster-bomb victims. “The boy yesterday who lost his hand. If my son had survived, he could be like that—without a hand, without his sight. “They are boys, they are victims,” Fernando says of the marines. “They enter the marines for the opportunity to go to school, not for war. They want to ‹nish their contract and get out. “I was a social activist in Tijuana, and he saw the problems with children on drugs in Mexico,” Fernando says. In 1997, when Jesus was ‹fteen, Fernando moved his family to the United States because Jesus wanted to join one of the army’s antidrug units. He decided to start out in the marines. Sitting in the Al-Kabi family’s living room, Fernando describes his son as a warrior for good to Mohaned’s family. “He just wanted to help children here,” he tells them. Mohaned’s father explains the history of resistance in his tribe and in Sadr City. “In 1920 my grandfather kicked the British out,” the old man says...


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