Tuesday, March 25, 2003

"We just work here"
Sandro Contenta reports for the Toronto Star on Special forces in Iraq's north:
When a U.S. Army special forces commando in full battle gear stands next to a skinny Kurdish militia fighter in a military uniform from a local market, there's no mistaking one for the other.

It's that stark contrast between an elite soldier and a substitute for real employment that led to one of the first independent sightings and contact with a U.S. special forces team in northern Iraq yesterday.
The steps of the single-storey building were crowded with the usual ragtag band of Kurdish militia. But two soldiers ? one on the roof, the other next to the militiamen ? had Uncle Sam written all over them.

They stood guard with R-14 compact assault rifles, flak jackets, hip pistols, camouflage uniforms and sunglasses. As two reporters approached, another commando in the team looked out from behind the back of the building, not too pleased at being discovered.

But the guard at the front was the picture of cool. Asked if he could be interviewed, he apologized, said his security duty made it impossible for him to talk, but offered to go find someone who might.

One of the building's front windows was opened, and inside were two U.S. commandos sifting through gear scattered on the floor, including an M-60 machinegun. One had U.S. ARMY stitched over the breast pocket of his uniform. They too refused to talk: "We just work here," said one.

Then, an agitated lieutenant from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) militia, which controls the eastern part of the Kurdish autonomous zone, arrived and asked the Star to leave.

"There are no Americans here," he insisted.