Friday, December 07, 2007

The School Safety Belt

Lucky for a Pillow

When we checked into housing tonight at the Army Base South of Baghdad, two things struck me. One was that instead of on the back the room door a fire escape map, there was at reception a “Warning Sirens explanation Chart” so that you could tell the differnce between “Incoming, all clear and this siren is ok because it us firing out”. The other was that somehow when Producer Andy Stenner and Chuck Holton, a fellow cameraman/correspondent traveling with us, rushed into our room I somehow managed to pick the only bunk bed that did not have a pillow.

The pillow issue being resolved I find myself at 11:30pm writing this entry lying in bed in my sleeping bag with a headlamp on trying to figure out where the last 48 hours have gone.

The best part of the trip so far has been flying around Baghdad in the Army Blackhawks below 1000ft over the roofs hoping that the movie Blackhawk Down had been a box office failure in Iraq. These machines are like being buckled into a muscle car and bullying your way thru the skies. With the cold winter air rushing past the machine guns and buffeting me as I tried to film the classic gun turrets over rooftops. The adrenalin rush is always tempered by the thoughts of how many times I heard of helicopters beng shot down over the course of this war, whilst at the same time the incredible sense of awe and excitement is a complete rush. For those used to hearing radio reports of traffic on the I 95 I can tell you that traffic was moving well on Route Irish today but expect delays at checkpoints near the bridges.

The question is of course is the war being won, if so how is victory assessed. From what I have seen so far “ The Surge “ has been effective for it has provided Iraqis to have what is being called “ The Awakening”. Local’s have started to organize themselves into teams of Concerned Local Citizens or CLC’S and armed with nothing more than a yellow safety reflective belt, they are cooperating and assisting the local police and the US forces to give them intelligence and help with patrols.

What can a man do with a yellow plastic safety reflective belt, by himself not much but when groups of locals all start wearing the belt, it becomes a symbol of hope and provides the people of the villages and towns a new beginning of hope and of a future for their children. No mother ever wants their child to grow up in an environment where hatreds and frustrations lead her son or daughter to become a suicide bomber for the cause of desperation.

What is evident is that US troop morale is very high, for the first time in a couple of years they sense that there is an end to this war. It will not be tomorrow or in the next couple of months, but the pride of the people we met yesterday armed with a plastic safety belt, has become their new symbol of pride and hope. Small steps and snapshots of life here, now if they could only use this power of for once in long time, the “Yellow Revolution” may be the start of the winter of hope.


Anonymous said...

Better news report than we have gotten from anyone lately.....1000 times better than Geraldo could ever be. We are indebted to you Mr. James and the other real war correspondents at Fox. And all we can repay you with is our thoughts and prayers and our sincere thank yous. Your description of the ride in the blackhawk was exceptional...Come back safe Mr. and the rest. Thank goodness some of the Iraqis are pulling together now....You said it all, Mal.

21stCenturyMom said...

That is the most encouraging thing I have read in months. I hope you are right and that our government is finally doing something real to help Iraq help itself.

Stay safe!