Bones of Baghdad Part One (Revised in Place)

“The fact of the matter on the ground was that American Soldiers were taking up arms with the Insurgents”

In an after-action report; a buck sergeant broke from reading the report to a gaggle of second and third stringers.  Some of them woke from their stupor when his candor changed.  A DoD official ran from the other side of the conference room and flicked off his mike and hissed, “shut the fuck up, asshole”

Sgt. Morris was used to the interference from the suits at DoD; especially when someone said something that made any battle seem like there was less than total victory on the part of the US forces, but he had never heard one of the flacks curse before, especially in the presence of a room full of reporters.  He pushed back from the table, stood up and began to walk from the room, ignoring the questions from the reporters, who awoke far too late.

The Flack, Marist Johnson (Masters in Business Administration) followed, “Private More-Ris,” he drawled. “Priv-eht More-rr-iss” he drew it out.  This was how they threatened you in the DoD. “You will stop and listen to me when ah address yew.”

Sgt. Morris turned and faced the shorter, flustered man and stared deeply into his eyes. “Yes?”

Marist stopped and smoothed his suit, “as I uh, was saying.  You can’t tell the press that American boys and girls are fighting other Americans.  How would that look on the news?”

“Frankly, sir, I don’t care how it looks, not after today.  This is just the latest fuck-fest in a long line of them in haji-land”  Sgt. Morris wanted very much for the Dod flack to simply burst into flames and leave him to return to his duty, but Marist pressed the issue.

“Look Priv-eht More-iss, I know you don’t like lah-ing to the press, but we have to maintain the appearance that we are winning this wo-ah” 

Marist sniffed and turned back towards the conference room, Morris stalked into the HQ ready room and sat at his Desk, waiting for the next round of reports to come in from the walls of the Emerald City.

The room was protected by a coterie of young solders with bright new XM8 carbides, all looking hot and bored.  These new recruits were the highest scoring marksmen in their given class, which wasn’t saying much as standards always seemed to find a new low in Sgt. Morris’s eyes.   He looked over the computer screen on his Public network terminal, watching for his words to show up in the news wires.  They didn’t; the DoD had already smoothed them out of the actual record.    Instead the after-action report contained no information about the actual fight that had happened that morning, and instead spoke about how reliable the power was in American Controlled Baghdad.

That control extended to the borders of the Green Zone and no further.  Outside the concrete walls of the Green Zone, Baghdad was in chaos and no one new about it save the people in the Green Zone itself.

A major contributor to that Chaos was the fact that not a single American Soldier had left the confines of the Green Zone or the Baghdad Militarized AirZone in a month.  After US civilian and military casualties had hit the 4 digits in two days, the Brass decided to consolidate their forces in the only fully protected zones of Iraq and simply wait out the ensuing carnage.  All the while; the DoD would put out stories of reduced troop deployments as a sign of Americas impending victory in the desert.

Sgt. Morris called over a one of the numerous DoD functionaries that inhabited the offices and handed her a card with a stern request that she hand-deliver it to the CiC liaisons at the top floor of the central HQ, with an even sterner warning that the contents were eyes-only for the CiC liaison’s office.

She nodded curtly and hurried off to the elevator stack.

Morris sighed and resumed reading the wires, hoping that some detail about what was really going on in Iraq was going to show up.  Nothing.  He compiled another report on his findings and passed it along in the closed network to his CO and retired to the barracks.

Despite the ongoing carnage outside the walls of the Emerald City, the streets within were full of unconcerned shoppers, diplomats and Iraqi wealthy.  While the fighting was pitched and frantic outside, it had been weeks since a rocket or mortar had been seen in the Green Zone.  The Insurgents were more focused on hand-to-hand battles in the streets than they were about getting at the Americans.  Some American soldiers and contractors had even given up and simply joined the battle, if the after-action reports were to be believed.

Even now, in the waning evening, the sounds of conflict and wailing of the dying could be heard.  Most of the people in the Green Zone slept with ear plugs just to block them out.

Sgt. Morris found he could only sleep when he was listening to old podcasts from the middle of the War, when they were still wrong about Iraq and the Army was actually getting somewhere.

As he drifted off, he thought he could hear the guns outside drift off, in the Doppler of drowsiness they just faded into nothing and he was gone.