Skip to comments.Who the **** are you, asked the man from special forces
Posted on 04/05/2003 3:47:36 PM PST by MadIvan
On a bridge into Basra, Olga Craig bumped into the SAS as it was gathering intelligence from Iraqis fleeing the mortar shells of Saddam's militia
As a greeting, it was neither conventional nor civilised - but then neither were the circumstances. I was in retreat, he was advancing.
It was 4pm one afternoon last week on the bridge into Basra, and Saddam Hussein's elite militia were sending a rain of mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades from the city.
In the smoke and the confusion and the deafening noise, I ran straight into him, my left arm colliding with his assault rifle. "Who the f*** are you?" he asked incredulously, surprised to see a British woman. "Who are you?" was my instinctive response.
Dressed in civvies - cargo trousers and a T-shirt - he didn't look like a soldier. On the other hand, he was obviously British, and he did have an impressive telescopic sight atop his rifle. "You don't need to know," he said ominously. Realisation dawned: he was a member of the special forces.
I showed my press ID and, for the first time, he seemed to relax. "Do you understand what is happening here?" he barked. "It is important people at home understand what is going on."
Mortars fired by the Iraqis, who didn't care that they were wounding scores of civilians attempting to cross the bridge, were landing on either side of the canal bank. He didn't flinch. He didn't seem to notice. "Tell me," I said.
His colleague intervened. "This isn't safe," he said. "We need to go back." Reluctantly, it seemed, the man retreated. I trotted along behind. At the entrance to the 7th Armoured Brigade's camp, soldiers stood back in deference to him, but blocked my path. "They're with me, let them in," he said over his shoulder. The soldiers obeyed, no questions asked. Inside, we sat down on a canvas portrait of Saddam that had been torn down and tossed on top of a pile of rubble.
As he spoke, a stream of colleagues passed coded messages. "You could say we are special forces in support of 1 UK Armoured Division," he said, when I asked how I should describe him.
The popular image of special forces is of secretive men wearing black balaclavas, sent on undercover missions in the dead of night. You do not expect to encounter them operating in broad daylight alongside civilians. But his job, he said, was to gather intelligence from a network of Iraqis inside Basra.
"In there," he said, pointing towards Basra, "the Ba'ath Party has a grip of the city. The people are scared of us but they are more scared of them. The Ba'athists are trying to stop them from leaving. They have mortars mounted on civilian vehicles. They drive out, fire on the crowds trying to get across the bridge out of Basra, then drive back in again."
Special forces were also trying to pinpoint the whereabouts of Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali", a cousin of Saddam who organised the gassing of the Kurds in 1986 and who had been in command of the Iraqi army in the south. He is believed to have taken refuge in civilian houses and yesterday, tipped off by "a reliable source on the ground", the British attacked a building that Chemical Ali had been seen entering.
"There are some very brave people in there," said the soldier. "People who are getting information to us about what is happening. They are taking an enormous risk. The militia are holding meetings in civilian homes, holding families at gunpoint and moving all the time. We realise that at home, people cannot understand why we are not being greeted as liberators, but the situation is much more complicated than that."
His message communicated, he stopped talking. His departure was as unconventional as his greeting. He simply stalked off.
A few days later, back temporarily in Kuwait City, I watched the bombing of the bridge continue on a television in the lobby of the hotel where I was staying.
Suddenly, without my being aware of his approach, a man appeared at my shoulder. "The last time we met was on that bridge," he said, pointing up at the TV screen. I took my eyes off him for a moment and he did it again. He just disappeared.
Whoa, that kicks ass!
By the way Ivan, if I may ask, and if you can somehow find a way to subtley convey the word, what did the guy say when he said "Who the **** are you?". If the guy were American, I would assume it was the "F" word. What word do the Brits generally use?
This seems unreal. Hope it's a direct hit.
Garde la Foi, mes amis! Nous nous sommes les sauveurs de la République! Maintenant et Toujours!
(Keep the Faith, my friends! We are the saviors of the Republic! Now and Forever!)
LonePalm, le Républicain du verre cassé (The Broken Glass Republican)
Yep. If they come around to my neigborhood, drinks are on me.
More to come.
This journalist was being reminded there was a story to be told and this brave SAS was reminding her that he expected it to be done.
My Mother-in-Law is British. Great girl, she has a standing invite to visit us any time. I love to hear the stories about WWII.
Her Brother and his wife live here in town, we visit often. He was on a "motor torpedo patrol" boat in WWII. He loves it when I call him and say, "Did you see what your mates were up to today?" He will get a real kick from this story.
I tell them all, loud and often, "God Bless the UK!"
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