It must have seemed to the Iraqis that they were being hauled before a nightmare judge. They were accustomed to this, to violent noises, interrogations, searches. But still they were cowed by Hagner, by all of it. And even though he was careful to say Thank you and even sometimes Things are gonna get better to those frightened people, the words seemed empty after what had just been done, and Hagner seemed remote and alien. Inhuman. A few hours later, Hagner would emerge from his armor cocoon, pale and sweat-soaked, a wiry, almost skinny guy from Essex, Maryland, eating candy and falling exhausted onto his bunk. Happily alive, dreaming of boats.
Hagner and his men were doing what other people would later call winning the war. They didn’t know they were winning it. I, embedded with them, didn’t know it. US politicians now describe Ramadi as a model of success. The president points there and grins. Look, it’s working. There’s the proof. If this is true, Ramadi must have changed a great deal since I visited.
more from VQR here.