I had gone and watched a movie with a buddy in Mansur one night, fall or early winter of 2004, and we wanted to go over the bridge. The bridge that you go over to go toward the airport, and there was an American vehicle checkpoint set up basically blocking the way you wanted to go on the bridge. It would have meant a twenty-minute detour for us. There were three or four cars that would pull up and they would turn around; it was late at night.
So we stopped and rolled down the window and a private walks over and I said, “I’m an American reporter, can you let me through, ’cause this is going to take another twenty minutes and it’s dark and a little dangerous and we’re just going over there.” The guy says, “Shut the fuck up.” I say, “Look man, I don’t want to make trouble for you,” and while I’m talking to him he’s got his flashlight and he’s moving it in frenetic circles over both of my eyes. I said, “Look, really man, I’m just trying to get home. Is there any way we can just get through?” And he says, “Now you’ve done it! I’m pulling you over and I’m making you wait here while we search your whole car.”
So we comply. We got out of the car, stand away from the car as we were told to, open the trunk, etcetera. And this is my friend’s driver, an Iraqi driver who I had just met that evening, so I felt pretty bad that I had gotten him into that situation. And the pimply private comes over and he says to me, “Yeah, how do you like that? You see what you get when you fuck with me?” Like two feet from my face. And not to my perfect credit, I basically called him a word that will famously get you thrown out of any baseball game that has ever been played. You can figure that out for yourself. Not a pleasant word. And that was it. He goes and talks to his commanding officer, who comes over and within two minutes has me zip-tied, handcuffed, roughly searched, and interrogated for fifteen minutes. We go through this and I’m calm, as I usually am, and eventually they’re like, I guess we can’t arrest an American for using language that we don’t like. They untie me, and we drove off and go home.
About a week later, we get an e-mail addressed to The Christian Science Monitor Baghdad bureau chief, and I was chief at the time, and it’s a letter written by the general in Baghdad at the time. The letter goes on to say we’ve had a lot of complaints about the conduct of our troops in the field and we try to hold ourselves to a high standard and correct problems when they are brought to our attention by the press, but we think you have to be equally responsible and aware of the terrible behavior of your people. For instance, this guy Dan Murphy was stopped and was politely asked to step out of his car and he refused and launched into a profanity-laced, anti-American tirade, and he was so agitated and physically wild that we had to restrain him for his safety and our own. And etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. That was completely fantasy. It was lies. And I have no doubt that the general who wrote this letter believed it; he had attached the incident report written by the soldiers who were involved in this little incident.