Politics of Dora’s New Ruling Class

State Department
Dora and surrounding areas to the south
2009 – 2010

[Shi’a leaders] were beginning to carve up their territory –

It was like gangs. Or mafia Dons.

They were all starting to carve up their territory in anticipation of the Americans leaving.

The military guy, I think his name was Qassan. I think that was his real name, I can’t really remember. But, basically, they were dividing up the spoils. They were looking to see, after the Americans left, who was gonna control what. And the military wanted to have their guys in the political positions for their own, obvious, purposes.

Lots of money and favors were being traded back and forth.

It revealed the failure of the United States to ever achieve anything other than this, sort of, blind-eye to the tribal systems.


Dora Today

Iraqi University Student
Dora, Baghdad

[Dora’s] pretty changed right now. Talking about culture and stuff. A lot of bars, a lot of clubs, a lot of drugs. So this is a new scene to the streets. A lot of drugs from Iran. This is a new scene, drugs and stuff. Tattoos.

Do you feel it’s safe now in Dora?

Like, how? If you stay in Dora and live a normal life? Yeah, definitely. If you go there and breathe and eat, normal, basic life, definitely, safe. Safe.

Not as safe as here [Amman, Jordan], obviously. Or a normal country. I would say, 20%, there is a chance that you go out and there is an explosion. There are still explosions.

But we don’t go out as much, we don’t talk to people as much. People are crazy. We don’t talk to anybody. It’s not real life, you understand, it’s survival. Just breathing and eating. Just do your thing and go back home. That’s it. People do not go out.

Not all people, my family. Some people do go out. Some people go out and they are crazy, there are gangs. So, it is safe. But you don’t have friends, or a normal life. You don’t go out and talk to someone on the corner of the street, you could get stabbed pretty easily. Because maybe the guy’s on drugs. You know, it’s a country that doesn’t have much laws. So you could imagine, the same thing that would happen in many other countries if you take the law. No laws and stupid, uneducated people, it’s a dangerous mix.

People weren’t educated before. There was poor people barely going to schools. And now people have guns and drugs and everything.

So, yeah, it’s safe. But not for living. Obviously you can forget about future, forget about getting girlfriends, these things that you look forward to, they don’t exist. People are in a bad shape, mentally. It’s really different. Even me, I go there, and I’m like, what’s going on with you people. Open your eyes. Their highest thinking is, “what am I going to eat tomorrow?” They don’t think about future. They don’t have any plans. Just surviving.

So that’s safety.

[Yas returned to Dora one week after this interview. He was abducted while walking down the street. He returned to Amman after his release.]


Sons of Iraq

State Department
Dora and surrounding areas to the south
2009 – 2010

[Editor’s Note – The United States made huge strides in calming the violence in Iraq by paying insurgents to work with the coalition. Known as the Sons of Iraq, they set up checkpoints and security procedures of their own, independent of the Iraqi Army and police forces.]

The embassy was desperate about the Sons of Iraq, because that was gonna be the proof that things had worked.

In 2008 and 2009 there was the so-called transition program to move from the United States paying the Sons of Iraq to the United States paying the Shi’a government to pay the Sons of Iraq. The Shi’a government, as you know, wanted no part of this.

They didn’t want the Sunnis to be armed and organized.

And so they stopped paying them.

And they also reneged on the second part of the deal which was to find them jobs and integrate them into the military.

One of my jobs was to try and keep a lid on this as much as possible, basically by going around to the various Sunni sheikhs and saying, “any day now, any day now. The embassy’s working on it. The check is in the mail.” I mean that’s essentially what my job was. To shuffle around and try to beg them to hang on just a little bit longer.

And we kept hoping that a little bit would be a little bit and sooner or later we’d be out the door and then it’s not our problem.

It was kinda pathetic, really.



Dora, Baghdad, Iraq
2004 – 2005

In our neighborhood there were five streets in particular that were really bad with sewage.

The sewage was to the point where you could not step out of the humvee without getting, it didn’t matter, you’d get wet from the sewage water.

And there were kids playing in this.

I don’t mean playing while in it, I mean playing in it, splashing each other.

It smelled horrible. If there’s anything that instantly puts me back there, it’s the smell of sewage.

By, about, our fourth month we had worked to clean up most of the streets. We didn’t do the work ourselves, but there were some military contractors, some Iraqi civilian contractors. I think there were some from Morocco.

Especially in our first couple months that was something we prioritized, since we hadn’t had anything combat-related happen.

Basically our platoon leader didn’t want to be on our neighborhood’s bad side.

To be honest I’m still not entirely sure what we were doing there since we weren’t doing anything in general that was helping anybody else except, you know, repairing the damage that we did.


My Kill

Dora, Baghdad, Iraq
2004 – 2005

You know how I said the first two months went on without incident?

The third month we get intel, it was bad intel, that an angry mob is trying to take over one of the IP stations. So for three friggin’ days, eating MRE’s and field chow, we posted outside that IP station. Nothing’s going on, we just get to the point where we are so tired from this, we’re only pulling three-hour shifts.

At one point, it was during one of the shift changes, so everyone’s awake. It’s night time. Say about sixty, seventy yards out there was a van with its hazards on.

We should have figured, because it had its hazards on, it wasn’t trying to sneak or anything, but both the Iraqi Police and we were told, “no warning shots.” Because of the language barrier, there would be a huge lack of communication if someone started shooting.

Well, one of the Iraqi police officers was not very disciplined. He saw somebody stop their van, get out, and he told him to get back in the van and leave.

This is what we found out after the fact.

The guy, uh –

The guy, uhhhh, said he couldn’t, his van broke down. Uh, Iraqi police officer took a warning shot. We all get on our weapons. Then we hear another warning shot. The guy next to me yells, “it’s coming from the van.”

Uh, there were, in that sector of fire there were two M-240s mounted on the humvees and there was one M-4 carbine, which was me.

We found one 5.56 round in the body. [The M-4 shoots 5.56 caliber bullets, the M-240 does not.]

The van looked like swiss cheese.

In the stomach.

His intestines were coming out.

Pretty shitty.


My first thought was, “I can’t believe a motherfucker is shooting at me.”

I was pissed. I was angry. I was – you’d think the response would be fear, not anger.

I fired seven rounds and my weapon jammed. They really tore the van up.

When I went down to finally do SPORTS [a method of clearing a jammed rifle] on my weapon the gunner said that he needed more ammo because his chain was running out. So I got a chain, and as soon as I did that we had a cease fire.

Platoon sergeant goes out and finds out what happened.

We all had to come back [to base] and sign some paperwork saying that we thought we were under attack. We had a de-briefing.

And that was that.

We offered the family some condolence money, which they turned down.

[NOTE – The Army’s official incident report is not available here. In many other events involving soldiers shooting civilians the Army incident reports are similarly unavailable.]


The Power Plant

Dora, Baghdad, Iraq
2004 – 2005

When we got there, since we didn’t get into any firefights for the first two months, a lot of our stuff involved hooking up with local community leaders  and getting damages from the initial airstrikes repaired. I guess I got used to that. I got used to actually helping fix some shit.

Then when it got down to being a little more ruthless at times –

Like, when it got down to a firefight, sure, that’s one person shooting at me, that’s my life versus theirs.

But when it came down to, uh –

Basically there were times where we did impromptu interrogations on people that we knew had anti-American sentiments. We didn’t suspect them of being involved in any terrorist cells, they just didn’t like us. And I had a problem with that. You can’t really blame the guys for not liking us, we’re in their country, we’re getting in the way of their daily lives.

I probably should have-

It wasn’t the combat that bugged me it was the, honestly the personality of some of the people that the combat MOS’s attracted.

A lot of guys, uh –

One of them literally killed puppies. Literally killed puppies. There were stray puppies near the power plant, near the four towers. We constantly had a platoon living in the power plant. And there was never anybody higher ranking, no one above company-level really ever checking up on them.

So when second platoon was rotated out there, no, wait, sorry, first platoon, had a Mexican guy who grew up on a ranch, and he decided he wanted animals. He had a goat, he had two turkeys, I don’t know where, I guess he would go out on the market and buy these animals. He had a few puppies too.

When third platoon went in apparently a few of the guys didn’t like animals, so they took care of the animals that the last platoon had left behind there.

So, yeah, I think there are heroes in the military, but I think there are also some pretty damn shitty people. Everyone seems so polarized, either they hate the military or you’re a hero just for signing up. But it really brought out the best and the worst in people.


Finding Our Interpreter

Dora, Baghdad, Iraq
2004 – 2005

Fortunately I wasn’t there for the worst thing that we came across though.

We had a female interpreter because it was improper to use a male interpreter for female interrogation. At some point someone who shouldn’t have figured out she was working for us, figured out she was working for us.

One of the patrols found her in the middle of the street, naked. Her face cut off and her breasts cut off.

That was around the time things had actually started getting worse. Like, around eight months in, that’s when things started picking up more.

I was in the TOC [Tactical Operations Center, or headquarters] for that. And I felt kinda useless, honestly. Pretty much my job was to go get someone higher ranking if shit happened.

[That was] November.

Official Army Report:


2004-11-02 16:30:00