Quantcast IMOW - Twelve months in Iraq
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Returnee monitoring data obtained by the UN refugee Agency during 2004 and 2005 showed that about 80% of the returnees in Northern Iraq and more than 35% in the lower south of Iraq ended up internally displaced upon return mainly due to the lack of housing, employment and social services.
Criminals are defined as a threat by 40% of Iraqi women, while 12% think the coalition forces represent the main threat.
Twelve months in Iraq
Tara Schendel
My brother has spent the last twelve months in Iraq.

Today, the Renegades are on their Mosul route. Mosul is the second largest city in Iraq. They normally take this route at night to avoid the long line of cars that are present during the day. Today they are making an exception. "We have to watch these cars in this area. If the cars start moving around and pulling onto the road, the gun trucks will wipe them out."

They station gun trucks on overpasses so that insurgents can't get up there and drop explosives down on the passing vehicles.

Here, the Renegades are passing through a place they like to call "Little Beirut". They don't explain why. They have air cover and several gun trucks block off intersections as they pass through. It is pretty populated.

They have to drive a little slower and in a tighter formation through here today because there are many children out and they tend to run across the road. Also they want to make sure that the convoy stays intact as they pass through.

They are happy to see the children. As I said before, when there are no kids, it gets eerie because you have to wonder what is going on.

As they pass through the town, people on both sides stop to watch. The trucks stay close together on the road hoping to discourage people from running in front of them. They can't stop easily. So if someone runs out, they will get hit.

On their way out of town, they encounter another convoy going in the opposite direction. Headed at them is Viper II, the Marine gun truck protecting the oncoming convoy that has stopped while my brother's passes by. This explains the heavy Marine coverage in the town this day.

It appears to my brother that they even cleared out the town's gas station that is usually loaded with cars. On this day, there is no one there.

As they pass the convoy, my brother rattles off the names of Marines and the truckers that he knows. On one pass, he notices one of his men wearing headphones, probably blaring music. That, I take it, is a no no, as it should be. My brother says, "Ah ha! I got him! I got him!" My guess is that someone is getting a counseling when he gets home!

It seems part of the convoy are KBR guys- contractors. The bumper numbers aren't military even though the trucks appear to be. As my brother's term in Iraq lengthened, more and more contractors took over his routes. Toward the end, he had nothing much to do but wait out his time. That was fine with me. He, however, might have a different take on it.

Their destination on this trip is a post about 20 miles from the Syrian border. They have taken over a train station or depot as their post. By tomorrow, they will be thirteen miles from the border. He is shooting video and driving on very bad roads at the same time. "And my wife says I can't multi-task!" I hate to tell my brother, but there is smart multi-tasking and not so smart multi-tasking. I'd say that driving and shooting video is not smart multi-tasking. And you can't get a soldier for headphones if you are video taping! Just wait until he gets back to the states and gets ticketed for driving and talking on a cell phone!

They arrive at their base on the Syrian border. Standing on his truck, he shoots video around the small base- a small base that is growing.

Signing out, he says, "Well, this is what I do. It's not fun. I miss my family. But other than that, it's not bad. I don't have to live out here. I just have to come out here, do it and go back. It is better than staying on base.”

As war wages across the Middle East, I worry. I worry how many other conflicts my brother and people like him will be sent to in far flung parts of the world and what the unintended consequences will be for us and for them. I wonder if my brother will be sent back to Iraq before his discharge date in 2008. I will disclose a secret. I am nowhere near as stoic about these types of things as I seem. I compartmentalize, and try to remain numb. I succeed most of the time. But I have been turning NPR off in the morning because it hurts to much to hear about Lebanese being killed again in Beirut, Palestinians starving in Gaza, Israelis afraid to go to work, Iraqis being kidnapped and killed by their fellow countrymen, US soldiers being killed. Someone gave me card last week with a picture of a newscaster on it. The caption read, "Our top story tonight, everything everywhere sucks." I am sure all of you have avoided certain newspaper articles and turned off CNN as well. It is too much to be fed everyday. We are lucky to be able to just turn it off. The Iraqis, Lebanese, Afghans, Israelis, Palestinians can't Just turn it off. Even if they live here, they can't turn it off. Torn between two geographical realities, they can't turn it off.

When home on leave, my brother told me that for the most part, the Iraq he saw from the road was one with very poor people who just want to live quietly. They live far from Baghdad and in his view, they care very little about who controls what. They herd sheep and try to survive because nothing ever really gets better for them, regardless of who's in charge. "Then we come along with our big trucks and tear everything up- what little they do have. If I were them, I'd be mad, too. I'd want us gone, too." It is reminiscent of what my dad said in his letters home from WWII. "There is hardly a building left standing," he wrote home from Germany, "and these poor people have suffered so much."

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