The future of postwar Iraq remains a pivotal issue not only for the United States but for the world. Few people outside of the Middle East understand the alarming scale and severity of the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. The photographs that will someday define the conflict from the perspective of the Iraqi people remain unseen.
In February of 2008 I landed an embed assignment as a freelance photographer with the Fires Squadron, 2nd Stryker Calvary Regiment of the U.S. Army in Agur Kuf Nahia, Iraq. This area is part of the Northern Security Belt of Baghdad. Baghdad is the center of gravity for the country. The level of sustainable security in Baghdad indicates our ability to partner with the people of Iraq.
“Su’ad was just murdered,” said Lieutenant Bilderback. “If you can be ready in ten minutes we will save you a seat.” Su’ad Mehdi Shamal was the Headmaster of the Al Marooj Primary School. Her public endorsement of tribal reconciliation was viewed as a threat by Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
My equipment was clean and organized on a nearby table. Within an hour, I would find myself alone in the dark with the body of the Headmaster. She had been executed by masked AQI gunmen in front of her two young daughters during dinner. The Ventura County Reporter published a photograph of her blood stained hands in a cover feature titled ‘Five years and counting’.