The recent ambush and lynching of four American civiians in Fallujah keeps bothering me, not so much because of what happened (that appalls me, it doesn't 'bother' me) but because of what I don't know. This is purely a personal musing, and answers wouldn't have any impact on the horror and gruesome nature of the Fallujah killings. However, I find myself wanting to know what else was going on in Fallujah while the ambush was occurring.

I ask because the situation is (to me) a bit strange. The 'civilian contractors' who were the victims were, it was quickly acknowledged, employees of the Blackwater Security corporation, which is composed mostly of former U.S. Military Special Forces personnel, consulting in their newly civilian life. Three of them were ex-Navy SEALs, and one was an ex-Army Ranger. These are highly trained men experienced at dealing with dangerous surroundings.

However, when they were attacked, there were four of them in two Mitsubishi SUVs, travelling in a known hot zone. I don't have any information on whether or how they were armed, but I would be shocked if they were not at least carrying submachine guns such as the ubiquitous Heckler & Koch MP5 or MP6 and pistols. Yet, there is no information that they returned fire. This is plausible if one considers the situation - multiple assailants, in a planned maneuver, approached their vehicles and sprayed them with AK-47s simultaneously. In each car, one man would be driving, leaving only one other to provide security; and in an urban environment, one person 'riding shotgun' is not enough to secure a large vehicle when there are so many avenues of approach. Even if these men were armed and tried to return fire, machine pistol rounds would likely not go through the bodywork of the car with enough energy to cause harm, whereas the heavier rounds of the AK-47 would pass through with ease. Even if both sides opened fire simultaneously, the men in the cars would be at a dreadful disadvantage.

The configuration, two to a car, would indicate to me that they were expecting to utilize their mobility as their defense, rather than planning on shooting it out should they be attacked. It appears that their vehicles were boxed or lured into an area with unexpectedly limited escape options, and then ambushed.

This leads to the next question. What were they doing there? As I've stated, the configuration of men and vehicles might make sense for a highway convoy escort, but not for inner-city work. Why were they travelling in such small numbers in such large cars, presenting such an obvious target (foreign SUVs in Fallujah at present are almost guaranteed to be occupied by foreigners)? The answer I keep coming up with is that they were doing something which required the SUVs size that couldn't be done with military forces - such as those which, in the hours after the incident, made it quite clear that they were attempting to avoid entering Fallujah in bulk and inciting incidents, even in the aftermath of such an attack.

Next question - what was it that was either in the SUVs before they were attacked, or what would have been in them had they completed their task? Here, I have no real evidence, just a gut feeling, but my feeling is that they needed the empty seats. I strongly suspect that these vehicles were either on the way to pick up additional personnel who were on foot, or had just come from dropping them off. This would be one strong argument as to why the 'two-man-per-car' problem might not have been as bad as it sounds.

So, finally - what else was going on in Fallujah that day?

I don't expect to get answers, but it's something I'm going to keep in the back of my head when reading any more information about the incident.

I don't know if I should laugh or cry. A couple weeks ago I was listening to NPR (hold your tongue!), All Things Considered was the program airing at the time, and this Romanian poet with a thick accent was sharing his views on the unexpected advent of SPAM-inspired poetry. He had noted that SPAMmers were using randomly disassociated words in their subject headings and even in the bodies of their messages in order to circumvent SPAM blocking software. While deleting such messages from his Inbox he'd noticed that the subject titles, while completely unrelated to one another, had somehow managed to create a sort of poetic montage the likes of which would make any DaDa Movement advocate weep and pull his/her hair out with passion and envy.

So I got this today, in my Hotmail Inbox, and sat stunned, staring at the screen, feeling creepy and cynical at the same time:

From : Eli Moody {}
Reply-To : "Eli Moody" {}
Sent : Saturday, April 3, 2004 11:49 PM
To :
Subject : Re: Due Balance, account ####### - mortician necromancers defined by 84

Unlike so many haunches who have made their polka-dotted ball bearing to us. Any blithe spirit can play pinochle with toothpick near, but it takes a real cyprus mulch to scooby snack behind scythe. Cigar play pinochle with tape recorder off. Now and then, from support group bestow great honor upon buzzard beyond pit viper. Marguerite and I took for corporation (with mating ritual around about) avocado pit.

Clothe contravention cuddly dusky drab.

When anomaly beyond buzzard gets stinking drunk, mortician related to microscope meditates.

Depression daffy coruscate biconcave edgewise hoc.

There is an intelligence among us: SPAM circumvention software which generates messages typical of the one above. Sadly, it makes as much contextual sense as Robin Williams on a crack/LSD cocktail.

Recollections of Pine Banks Park:

This park on the border of Malden and Melrose in Massachussetts is located in a very hilly area. It has a beautiful path that ascends up onto the rocks from whose ledges you can look down not only at the lake below it ut also at the playground behind the lake.

Near the lake, there are tree groves with wooden tables and grills. People reserve them in the summertime when they want to have either a picnic or a barbecue in the park.

The park definitely has a feel of being a nature reserve; you can hardly hear the hum of traffic and the slight buzz noise of whirring by on Main Street is obscured by the chirping of summer time crickets and the rustling of the leaves. Not to mention the ever-cheerful summersaults of squirrels springing from one tree to another. Incidentally, the park has lots of fir trees and a wonderful musty smell emanates from them.

But the best thing about the park is what it no longer has. The park used to have a zoo; I personally remember feeding those goats that smelled like socks that were worn for three days. Feisty creatures they were too. They reached right through the cage bars and licked the leaves right off your hands so that you could feel their moist tongue right on your fingers. That personally scared me; I used to think they would bite me.

But I guess due to budget problems the pets have gone and that's a genuine shame. The thing about feeding animals is that kids can do it for hours without getting bored.

Adults probably won't get excited about having their hands licked by smelly creatures who always show up for bits of food brought to their cage. Now that I think about it, I wonder why those goats were so hungry that they had to eat whatever grass and leaves I brought them, time after time, without ever thinking to themselves "Hey maybe I had my fill." But on the other hand, maybe they weren't showing up for the food after all (is grass even mildly nutritional?) Maybe they were curious about those strange creatures on the other side of the cage who kept bringing them things; maybe they even liked those creatures enough to respond to them time after time.
Today I had some real awesome ambulance work. The difference between today and yesterday was that today I rode with paramedics. They can do much more than EMTs, they go for at least an extra year of school, and thus can do a heck of a lot of advanced life support (start IVs, administer drugs, etc.).

I woke up at noon, dressed myself and got down to the ambulance building again. Almost the same people, all the employees lounging around waiting on call for their turn to get the next dispatch. I settled in for a few minutes, and got partnered with two paramedics and ambulance #23.

About a half hour into it, the lead paramedic tells me we have to go. I hop in the back, and I ask her what the dispatch information is. Something about a pregnant 18-year old female with abdominal pain, possible diabetic or something. Dispatcher information is never clear, and she was telling me even less. We show up, the girl is 3 months pregnant, and feeling abdominal pain. We took her down the stairs on a stair-chair, and then onto a stretcher and to the hospital. I didn't do much this time, I just helped the paramedic going down the stairs backwards, and I got to take a look at the pre-hospital care forms the paramedics filled out.

Back to the ambulance bay, where nothing happened for 2 hours. I spent nearly the whole time watching tv, then on the phone, then having a snack from the vending machine. Then we got a real call, one where they dispatched the Paramedics on priority. They rushed out, not even closing the garage door like they usually do. The lead explained to me that a woman at the local ER was having a genuine heart attack, but the cardiac catheterization lab which could handle it was at the other hospital, 7 miles away. Sirens on, we blew through a few lights and wound up at the hospital. Inside the ER, the paramedics got out the portable EKG heart monitor and the portable IV pump, and moved the patient onto the ambulance. A doctor came along, so I got to sit in the front this time. She wasn't looking so healthy, 60 year old smoker I think. The paramedic warned me that this was a serious case, she could "crash" en route, so they had her on 2 IVs and they were watching her heart on the monitors. You know, that squiggle. Even I could tell it looked abnormal. We brought her to the ER, I got to carry the heart monitor and oxygen tank, then the IV pole, then her belongings, then her chart. From there, we brought her up to the cath lab, where they were readying their X-Ray fluoroscopy equipment. Cool stuff, it's like a live X-Ray on a tv screen, where they inject dye into a vein and find where the clot is, then wipe it out with drugs and tubes.

Once she's in the lab, we all relax and then start packing everything back up. The driver is showing me the heart monitor, when the dispatcher calls him on his cell phone, not even waiting for us to get back on the ambulance and using the radio. Another call! But we're not even back in service yet, still cleaning up. It doesn't matter, we nab the other paramedic who is speaking to the doctor, and head downstairs.

Now, here's where it gets interesting. The radio comes to life, and tells us that we have a "Priority One" dispatch, a cardiac arrest in progress. That's where the Paramedics, who are trained in Advanced Cardiac Life Support, come in. We run onto the ambulance, and once a short distance from the hospital, put our lights and sirens on, and floor it.

I thought I was getting used to the ambulance rides with the lights and sirens. They go through red lights, but not before slowing to a crawl first and creeping past any traffic waiting at the light (getting broadsided is a real danger, that's why). But this time was totally different. First, this was siren plus horn. The driver kept twisting the siren dial, going from a wail to a yelp to a honk. If the cars wouldn't get out of his way at the light, he drove on the opposite side of the street. We blew through intersections way over the speed limit. Brandywine Avenue, a straight road, has a speed limit of 30mph. We flew through it at over 70. Woo-hoo! And just as I'm enjoying this, as well as getting keyed up, the driver says "how about some music" and turns the radio on! So now we're making sharp turns, weaving through traffic, while listening to Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. My God how surreal it all was. At least the paramedics were grinning. I just sat back as we got onto the highway, with the diesel ambulance truck pushing over 90mph, to the tune of "Bismillah- No! We will not let you go..." while on the way to some life or death situation.

We get to a nursing home, but they made us park in back ("You might scare visitors") I get to throw the heart monitor and Oxygen cylinder onto the stretcher, while the lead takes the medications out of the padlocked cabinet. We hurry inside, where we find another crew made it there before us, they're surrounding an old woman, trying to give her CPR and in the midst of inserting an airway tube down her throat.

I stood in the back of the room while I watched four medics working on the woman. I'd never seen real CPR done on a real person before. It somehow looked a little easier than on a dummy, she looked softer, as if they didn't have to press as hard. But then again, she was a really old woman, from the looks of it; emaciated, just skin and bones. She flatlined, so they tried injecting her with heart medication into her lungs to see if it helps. It didn't, so they continue CPR. The airway tube went in too deep, so only one lung was getting air. The lead readjusts it, while another tries to suction the airway. One that happens, her breathing sounds clearer, no more gurgling when they manually ventilate her with a bag mask. Then, they opened the medication box and squirted epinephrine and atropine (both heart medications) down her airway and into her lungs. It's not working, and by this point 20 minutes have passed. They check her heart rhythm, but there is still nothing, so they go back to CPR. Interestingly enough, I never knew that doing CPR makes the hear monitor squiggle. Instead of a nice rhythm, it looks like some squiggly uneven sine wave.

Well, after 30 minutes, they called the doctor, who ordered them to stop. The lead asked what time it was, and I told her. 6:15. She noted it, and everyone stopped working, and started cleaning up. They put the woman's wig on the table, and pulled out the tube. The other guy pulled off the heart monitor and another cleaned up the empty medication bottles.

They all seemed nonplussed. I mean, she was an old woman, and her odds were poor anyway. Her heart just stopped, it went flat. You can't shock a heart that's gone completely flat. For some reason, I don't feel anything. Sad, maybe, but not creeped out or anything. If I had to touch her, it would be a different story. Ah well, Inna lillahi wa inna ilahi raji'oon. I guess we all have an apointment with death.

It's snowing here, in April. Whooah, it's a crazy world we're living in....

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