As indicated previously by Lilly Rivlin: My anonymous friend in Baghdad seems to become more and more ironic and cynical with each letter. It is getting hot there.
According to most private security contractors, the AK-47 is the best weapon in the world. It may not be accurate, but it never jams. Submerge it in water or sand, shake it out, and it will fire every time — the Zippo of weapons. Modifying an AK takes tape and swapping the wooden stock for a folding metal frame that make it nearly a machine handgun – a mere 50 bucks. Iraqi private security guards, insurgents, terrorists, revolutionaries, and religious thugs prefer them.
Americans like modified M-16s, called M-4s after they are fitted with shortened barrels, converted to a variety of fire sequence options, and improved with night vision scopes and electronic sighting displays. M-4s cost three-four times as much as AK-47s but are ten times as accurate. They still jam from time to time, which can be a disappointment at an awkward moment. Modifying one typically costs $1,100. An experienced listener, I now can tell the two guns apart by their sound and firing pattern. Any ideas about how I can use this info back home?
… Lingering over coffee, Ammar tells me that he cannot trust anybody who works for him, though many have been with him for years. After the first attempt on his life, he took to confiscating all employee cell phones at the end of each day—that way they could not make a call to sell him. After the second, staying home was better. Nor do his kids go out—unless they are with him.
Ammar is a sophisticated man who used to have an IT company and peanut roasting factory. Though he is angry, Ammar accepts a world totally lacking in reliability. He accepts the bribery, lack of security, sectarian conflict, insufficient resources, absent medical care and impossible living conditions—none of which existed under Saddam. Mostly, what pains him are the assassinations that have happened when he has been in the car with his kids. The swerve of the car in front to block the way, the popping open of a door, the flash of the machine burst, and it is over in 30 seconds. By the time he shields his kids’ eyes it is too late. Welcome to the next two generations of fear, hatred, insecurity and mistrust. What these folks need is democracy….
There is a difference between a fully protected machine gun nest and an outpost with a sniper or two. Along the Tigris where I sometimes walk alone in the very early morning, I pass two of each. Before the guards recognize you as okay, they let you pass, slap the side of their shack or hit the bottom of their chai kettle to make a sharp report. If you jump like a gun has gone off behind you, you are new in-country. I’m way too smart for that. I know that unless there is a whistle, the bullet isn’t passing close..