Tuesday, 11 November 2008
No close photos I'm afraid. Part of the disguise. The black Mercedes is full of flamboyant French photographers who got no further than this Russian checkpoint. TT sailed through. To my regret though I never photographed my priest. Picture a young man with wiry black hair and beard, in flowing black robes, and slightly smelly.
Friday, 19 September 2008
They weren't happy. These soldiers had orders today to collect terror suspects from Camp Cropper, America's highest-security jail in Iraq, and release them.
The 14 detainees had been arrested red-handed and may even have killed U.S. soldiers. They were being released in the name of reconciliation. Commanders say prisoner release is one of the most frequent demands made by tribal leaders.
TT is sitting in a Humvee inside Camp Cropper. There's enough barbed wire here to fence a country. A notice reads:
Theatre Internment Facility
No MP3 players
No computer drives
No physical training uniforms
No reading material not related to duty
No obscene material
Another says no photographs, so you'll have to take my word that TT was there.
The Iraqis are blindfolded. They're led onto a bus. For some reason it is a beautiful old chrome-plated touring bus with Dutch licence plates. As though Camp Cropper might be a slightly faded European spa resort.
We drive some way to the release point. The bad guys are led off their bus.
Now, it's all very well releasing terrorists. But won't they go back to their old tricks?
Commanders had thought of that. The detainees were to be released into the hands of local tribal chiefs, who would swear to keep these young men on the straight and narrow.
Except that the officer in charge here today was a lieutenant of 25 years of age.
He somehow forgot that there was meant to be some kind of solemn ceremony. And he took just a few seconds to cut the zip ties on the detainees' wrists before jumping back in his Humvee.
The prisoners wandered off into the desolation of an Iraqi suburb, perhaps dazed at the speed of their release.
Within a few minutes the radio burst into life with colourful Airborne Assault-style language. The lieutenant was going to get the kicking of his life upon return to HQ. Partly because the ceremony hadn't happened; but mostly because his team had messed up in front of a journalist.
TT didn't care. TT at age 25 wasn't on top of the game either. But one thing did seem worrisome, and this was not what the soldiers cared about: did the prisoners make it safely home? Without the planned tribal-elder escort, anything might have befallen them on the way.
Tuesday, 1 July 2008
Sunday, 29 June 2008
TT is no great fan of wasting time on the internet. So come with me to a small nugget of joy.
The charmingly named Mahler Owes Me Ten Bucks shows how a double bass can be lots of fun.
That first video had me shaking with laughter. And the essays will inspire you, perhaps to listen and try to understand that passion. It's a rare one.
Friday, 13 June 2008
Thursday, 8 May 2008
Western nations should explore the art of the customs form. A fellow journalist treasures one he got entering North Korea. It asks: are you carrying any means of death? A customs service with whom it would probably be unwise to joke.
But my Iranians had a finer sensitivity altogether. As Travelling Type sat in the confiscation room at Tehran airport (full of goodies, chock full), another passenger entered and paid off the staff with Siamese fighting fish in little sealed plastic bags. One each. A nicely civilised way of smoothing over a diffculty I mused, but not having arrived from Thailand I lacked any similarly discreet way of solving my own problem.