"How much did they pay you?" they shouted, throwing bricks.
Which points out to me the most important obstacle to peace and unity in this poor place -- a lack of decent jobs. When a young jobless man -- and the unemployment rates for that demographic starts at 50 percent and goes up -- is willing to decimate his fellow citizens for a few hundred dollars, it doesn't bode well for a stable society.
Ever since I watched economic development turn South Korea from a Third World military autocracy, when I first went there in 1976, to my last visit in 2007, when it had become the most wired nation on earth, the 12th-largest trading nation and a pluralistic democracy, I've believed that if you provide work for your people -- honest labor for living wages -- they don't have the time or inclination to practice mischief.
See street gangs, Merced and elsewhere.
The U.S. military and private security contractors are worried about a new weapon literally in the hands of Iraqi insurgents.
Actually, it looks like an old, old weapon -- the "potato masher" hand grenade used by the Germans in World War II, with a handle for throwing and a tin can-shaped explosive at the business end.
One brand is called the RKG-3 and delivers a shaped charge when thrown, making its impact even more forceful because the blast is concentrated in a line.
Some of the hand grenades, which can pierce armor if shaped, are believed to be imported, but some are homemade.
Don't watch much television over here (nor do I back home, except for sports, news and the History Channel), but it's hard not to when Laith and our drivers tune into the soccer matches.
Laith, a former goalie who once walked to the sacred shrine at Karbala from Baghdad, 16 hours or so, knows the game like the instep of his foot.
He calls out a play just before it happens in the game. Still, when I get back, I'll stick to college football and college basketball. Jack Dolan, the Miami Herald reporter who preceded me in this rotation, calls hockey, his favorite sport, "soccer for men."
For a story on how more Iraqi women are buying and using exercise equipment in their homes, our reporter Jenan drove me in her car to meet her friend Khalida, who uses a treadmill. Jenan drives a Camry, and I don't see how Wahab, one of our drivers, was able to keep up with her in his chase car. (We always travel in pairs.) We got there and back just fine, and the blend of Arabic and Spanish music Jenan played on her CD, was meant to be soothing. I kept looking for the brake on the floor in front of the passenger seat.
All the bureau folks here miss Corinne Reilly, the Sun-Star county reporter, who's now done two sterling Baghdad tours. As any of you know who've dealt with her, she looks like the bank teller she once was -- and is afraid of nothing or nobody. The staff here picked up on that and saw the steel behind the black horn-rimmed glasses. We're lucky to have her at the Sun-Star -- though some of the subjects of her stories would say otherwise.
Got to go pack for the embed. Traveling light, since I'll be with an infantry unit, the fabled Big Red One, and they are fast-movers. Hope to learn how morale is holding up among our soldiers, now that they're withdrawing from major cities to bases in the desert -- and Afghanistan is the war of the hour.
Depending on the commo available in the field, I'll file from there when we're on the move. Otherwise, look for more next week. Inshallah.