Sign The Guestbook
View The Guestbook
Archived Guestbook
Submit An Article
Staff List
Privacy Policy


Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is the President of Intermat, Inc., a consulting practice that specializes in the intersection of media, technology and marketing. For two years, he produced the Emmys on the Web and supervised web related activities for the Academy, including for the 50th Anniversary year of the Emmy Awards. In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie. Visit his web site at

A Report from the Front in Iraq

As many of you know I have been working with DCTV, Jon Alpert, Brent
and Craig Renaud on a ten hour series, following the Arkansas National
Guard from the time of their call up through their return from Iraq.
On Election Day, both Brent and Craig were with troops at Polling
Stations in Iraq. During those times, we were communicating by e-mail
when it was possible. After it was over, Brent sent me the following
account of his Election Day Experiences. I would like to share them
with you. This is longer than my normal column. It is the only first
hand account I’ve had of Election Day in Iraq and, with Brent’s
permission, I am sharing it with you.

Regardless of your attitude to the situation in Iraq, it is an amazing

>From Bent Renaud, Producer, OFF TO WAR

On Election Day we went to a town called Rashdya. It’s a town of about
6k people where we have been in ambushes before. I was with E Troop of
the Arkansas National Guard and because the troops were supposed to
stay away from the polling stations and only intervene in an emergency,
we camped out in the Iraqi Police Station next door. Iraqi police
stations are also targets of extremists so that was another reason to
be there. We arrived late afternoon on election eve. It was very cold
and we slept that night in Humvees outside in the police compound.

I was bitten by a spider that night while I was sleeping and the next
day my finger swelled up the size of a ping pong ball.

Specialist Fulbright, the E Troop medic, had to slice it open and drain
it because the pain from the pressure was immense.

About 4 a.m. we are awakened by 50 caliber machine gun fire.

When you are close to a 50 cal and it goes off, the sound is deafening.
By now I am fairly familiar with that sound so I knew it was coming
from the Americans and that it was not incoming. So I felt comfortable
enough to get out of the car and run to the roof of the compound to
find out what was happening.

Sgt. Curtis Rohrscheib was standing guard on the roof, and told me he
had heard a launch in the distance of a mortar. The guys had fired
into the palm groves in the direction of the fire. About that time a
huge explosion occurred near the school where the election officials
were preparing for the next day’s voting.

The explosions just kept coming. One after another the rockets and
mortars came in. As the explosions got closer and closer. Sergeant
Rohrscheib said that the insurgents had locked on to us; now all they
had to do was keep feeding the mortars in the tube. One after another
they came in -- about 30 explosions, some within 100 feet of where we
were hunkered down on the roof.

The Lieutenant called for air support but none came. The sergeant said
if someone doesn’t get out there and scare these guys they won’t stop
until they kill us all. One of the platoons hurried to their Humvees
and headed out into the palm groves to search for the insurgents. By
the time the helicopters finally arrived and the explosions lulled for
awhile, the palm grove around us was on fire and the polling station
was damaged.

Sergeant Rohrscheib said the insurgents’ goal was to scare the people
of this town from coming out to vote in a few hours. I cannot imagine
how terrified people in their homes must have been. Imagine the street
where you live, and maybe one block north and south of you being hit
with huge explosions all night long.

That’s what it was like. And yet when the polls opened, slowly at
first, people began to come out to stand in line to vote. The soldiers
stood on the street and watched them in awe. I went into the polling
station and the people said they were not scared, that they refused to
be scared. One old woman who could not read and was having her son read
to her the ballot which contained at least 30 options, said this was
the first time she had ever voted, and the happiest day of her life. I
met one man, a candidate for office, who was being followed around by
local press as he placed his vote; I asked him if he was afraid, as
people in public office and running for office are often the target of
violence. Through a translator he politely said that he was offended by
the notion. "It is the insurgents who are afraid, they are afraid of a
prosperous Iraq, they are afraid of democracy, this is why I must run.”

I went to vote with the translator who travels with the soldiers in E
Troop. He calls himself Angelo and wears a mask so that people cannot
recognize him working with the Americans. Many friends of his who are
translators have been killed; some of them have also had their family
killed. His best friend recently was recognized by insurgents as
working with the Americans; they cut off the translator’s head and
video taped themselves playing soccer with it.

I was anxious to get out of the polling station. I knew this place
would be a target of a suicide bomb or a mortar, but Angelo was anxious
to vote. He checked his AK47 at the door and went in and carefully
looked at the ballet, filled it out and as he put it in the box he
said, “This will be my head.”

As we were leaving he picked up his gun, and looked at me and said: We
have freedom, but I still have my gun. I still have my bullet proof
vest; I still will have to wear my mask. Just as we turned into the
police compound, the mortars began to fall again. One hit inside the
polling station near where Angelo had just voted.

Specialist Fulbright, the medic who worked on my finger, prepared for
the casualties who would shortly arrive. Like the night before
explosion after explosion came down around us. People were running as
fast as they could, carrying children, men holding on to elderly

Sergeant Rohrscheib pointed out, astonished, that they were running
toward the polling station.

More people than were out even before the bombing started back up. A
stream of people was rushing towards the polling station which was
under attack so that they could vote. It was an incredible act of
defiance; it was as if they were literally fighting back. The bombs
brought them out of their homes to face the enemy.

Even as the injured began to rush into the police station, people ran
by them to the polls. One man arrived with a finger blown off by
shrapnel; another had a two inch hole in his stomach and at three inch
piece of shrapnel visible in his arm. Fortunately there were no
fatalities. Specialist Fulbright bandaged them up as diligently and as
quickly as he would an American soldier and the Iraqi police rushed
them to the hospital.

By the end of the day Sergeant Rohrscheib estimated that we had been
hit with up to 40 mortars and rockets. A few lay dangerously unexploded
in the polling station front yard. People stepped over and ignored them
until the Americans finally came and removed them. This was one of the
most heavily hit polling stations in the entire country on election
day, and yet more than half of the people in the town risked their
lives to come out and vote.

Sergeant Rohrscheib, as we prepared to pack up and head back to Camp
Cooke where we live, said, "There haven’t been a lot of positive things
happen since we have been here, and I haven’t thought we have
accomplished much at all over here besides losing some good friends,
but today was something. It was something.”