Diyaa jumped off the front of the Pander, and let’s just say he began briskly walking away, the fear showing on his face. He was scared shitless for some reason. If this was indeed an IIS safehouse, or a former secret residence of Saddam, it might still have some folks inside it if Saddam was there or was planning to stay there. Hell, Diyaa may have been working for the regime and was leading us into an ambush. I prayed the one-story, walled residence wasn’t booby-trapped to keep curious US military folks out.

I jumped off after Diyaa and told him to get his ass back here. He brought us here, and we were going in together like one big happy fucking family. His face contorted into an array of expressions that I had never seen before. I grabbed him as we lined up against the wall of the compound waiting for the fellas to open the gate. All the while he kept saying in English, “No Mister, please, no Mister, please.” “Shut the fuck up you stupid bitch! You’re going in,” I yelled in Arabic, as the first Ranger was blowing the gate open to gain access to the inner courtyard of the residence.

As the stack of Rangers, Diyaa and I all ran into the compound, I noticed that this house was a bit different than the 30+ houses we had raided in Baghdad, Habbaniyah, and Fallujah thus far. It was well-kept, the grass inside the walls was green, and the windows all had curtains in them. That’s a bad sign…

After seeing the Rangers blow the gate off its hinges, my little Iraqi friend thought he was going to be a cool guy and became a bit emboldened. His initial fear seemed to melt away after he saw that we had actually penetrated the “inner sanctum” of the “Saddam House” and he seemed to take a sort of strange leadership role, telling people to be careful and pointing out items of interest.

We cleared the house and found lots of strange things, like folders full of personal information on Kuwaitis and Iraqis, thousands of black and white mug shot photos, and photo albums of men in plain clothes, all with moustaches, beating, murdering and raping men and women. The folders were all neatly stacked into bookshelves in the rooms, which were complete with furniture and sundry things.

The mission commander called out to me from another room in the house and took us into the backyard, and then into what looked like some sort of white-washed garage structure. As we were walking, he told me to prepare myself as he thought they had found a torture chamber, and there was still blood and human remains in it. At this point, our new Iraqi friend, whose house we had raided just two hours earlier, was starting to piss me off because he was grabbing everything he thought was of value and trying to stuff the shit in his shirt and pants. I told the Ranger private to search him and then to take him outside and put him in the back of one of the gun trucks.

I entered the building that was located behind the main residence; a strange smell of chemicals and rotting flesh permeated the air inside. I thought I was going to throw up when I first walked in, but luckily I plugged my nose and became a professional mouth-breather. As I surveyed the scene before me, I began to think about what had probably taken place in this edifice of evil.

The small cells that looked like the inside of medieval torture chambers one might see in Europe were on both sides of the narrow hallway down which I walked. The floor appeared to be damp in some areas, as if someone had recently washed it down with a hose and, with no windows or sun exposure, it remained wet. Baghdad wasn’t super hot at this time of the year, but hot enough for water to evaporate. For some reason that hadn’t happened yet. Granted, these floors were inside of a cement building, and the doors had remained closed, but I’m sure that we had just missed whoever normally called this place home.

I began to look into each cell for clues as to what this place was used for. It didn’t take long for me to realize that it was used as a prison and torture chamber for both Kuwaitis and other Iraqis of the Shi’ite and Kurdish minorities. I gathered this based on the files I had read in the offices in the main residence and from the graffiti I translated from inside the prison cells. They were so small I could barely get in them with all my gear on, probably no more than 3×4 feet with a small hole in the middle. In case you were wondering, no TV, sink, bed or shitter. It must have been hell trying to sleep in those things, being that the hole was right in the middle of the rectangular-shaped cell. I daresay that sleep probably wasn’t on the minds of most who had come here, though.

I took pictures of some of the graffiti, names and other messages scratched on the interior of the cells for the record. In one particularly gruesome twist of events, one of the Rangers had called me over to a cell on the end that looked like it was reserved for only the most favorite regime detainees. He pointed to what looked like fresh blood splatter on the walls in areas above shoulder level. If that wasn’t bad enough, he then said, “Look at this shit…” as he pointed to what appeared to be the remains of someone’s hand stuck in the small drain in the middle of the cell. I turned and walked away.

We gathered up all the files and folders from the safehouse and brought them back to BIAP for the media exploitation teams to review. Most of what I had seen in my cursory look at the documents and other files told me that this place was an Iraqi Intelligence safehouse used to interrogate, hold and torture perceived political opponents of the regime. I’m sure if we had stayed a while longer and dug up the back yard we would’ve found some bodies.

We spent about two hours on site and ended up leaving because a huge crowd had gathered outside the residence. Everyone was curious as to what was in the house, as they all knew it was a bad place. I bet they looted the hell out of that mofo as soon as we pulled the last vehicle out of the area.

We headed back to the airport to report our findings and get ready for the next mission. We drove back to Diyaa’s house and dropped him off about seven hours after we had mistakenly raided his place at three this morning. This time, we were invited in for tea and cookies, but we respectfully declined and thanked him for his assistance. I gave him a ten-dollar bill and apologized for blowing his door off its hinges and scaring his women-folk. Dirty bitch tried to kiss me. And so it goes….

(Featured Image Courtesy: BLACKFIVE)