Correspondence

Five Days in Hell, Part Two

Letter From Iraq

As dusk approached, we were offered a final meal of flat bread, roast chicken, and tomatoes.  The maniacal little leader came to watch us eat, all the while aiming his gun at us.  “Eat, eat.  Why do you have no appetite?  Are you afraid, American pig?” he said and then laughed at his own joke.  Although I was certainly not hungry, I did my best to choke down a few difficult mouthfuls.  Inside, I had to stifle a trembling fear from overcoming my composure.  My fellow prisoner began to sob, and I reached over to take his hand.

“How long do you think the pain will last?” he asked.  It was something I had been giving careful consideration.  “About three seconds.”  As the sun started to set on the horizon, Mubashir drove up and entered into a heated argument with the newcomer.  Reassured at the sound of his voice, I had risked a glance out of the window—just in time to see the ceremonial dagger being returned to the trunk of the car.  We had been spared once again.

During some candid conversations, I finally learned the identity of my captors.  As we talked about the various ethnic factions and politics at play in northern Iraq, I had mentioned the group Ansar al-Islam.  Mubashir had looked surprised at my comment and said, “Don’t you know?  We are Ansar al-Islam.”  My heart sank when I...

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