Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Michael Totten is in Fallujah

Photo credit: Michael J. Totten

Embedded reporter Michael J. Totten's post today, called, "A Plan To Kill Everyone," (HT: Hugh Hewitt) describes his time on patrol with the Marine Corps' India Company in Fallujah. Here's an excerpt:

“Are you a strict non-combatant?” Second Lieutenant Mike Barefoot said to me as we stepped out of the joint security station in Jolan, Northern Fallujah, and began a patrol.

“What do you mean?” I said. Of course I am a non-combatant. Was he asking if I’m a pacifist?

“Do you fight?” he said.

I narrowed my eyes at him slightly, still not quite sure what he was getting at.

“If we get in a fire fight,” he said, “and I give you my pistol, will you take it?”

He put his hand on his sidearm and fingered the thumb break. He wasn't kidding. All I had to do was say so and he would hand me that pistol.

“I'm not allowed to carry a weapon,” I said.

He rolled his eyes, not at me but at the policy.

“No embedded journalists are allowed to pick up a weapon,” I continued. “They’ll throw me out of Iraq if I do. It’s a good policy. Most of us aren’t trained to fight in a war. If reporters were armed, eventually one of us would shoot a kid or an old woman.”

It is a sound policy. He nodded and seemed to understand that. Still, he repeated the question. “If I give you my pistol, will you take it?”

“If it gets bad enough out here that either I shoot it or die, then yes,” I said. “I’d rather be thrown of Iraq then be killed. But that is not going to happen, so I can't take your pistol.”

We walked a few steps.

“Thanks, though,” I said, and I meant it.

Several Marines were shocked that I was willing to walk around the streets of Fallujah without a gun, but I didn’t feel the slightest bit nervous. Complacency kills, and I get that. But I had Marines as bodyguards and I wasn’t allowed to defend myself anyway. So I figured I might as well relax.

“Anyway,” I always said to Marines who thought I should carry a weapon, “if it gets bad enough out here that you’re relying on me in a fight, you’re really screwed.” (emphasis in the original)

It's a long post, but good reading. And it gives us a snapshot of a quiet city that just a year ago was still a hotbed for the insurgency.

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