“How do you feel about the U.S. bombing this mosque?” I said [to the caretaker].
“I don’t know,” he said, as if he had never even pondered the question. “It’s okay, I suppose. I am grateful. If they had not done it this place would still be a toilet.”
Who am I to dispute such a statement?
Mr. Totten was also abashed that the PUK's Interior Minister sent twenty armed men to escort him to this area:
My Peshmerga weren’t really necessary. I told my translator Alan that I was embarrassed so many military resources were being spent on my account. I probably didn’t need any.
“It’s too much,” Alan said and laughed. He, too, was clearly embarrassed. “It’s too much. The minister is doing this to be nice. He wants you to know that he cares about you.”
I explained in the comments:
I admit I'm spending a fair amount of time chuckling.
You appear to have reported accurately, but I'm not sure you understood the import of what was happening! It's the common failing of writers that they think other people think they are important enough to be the center of the universe!
Of course sending twenty men to "guard" you wasn't justified - everybody agreed on that. I doubt they ever pondered the question of you being a "wimp" or not. Try this on for size: you weren't using the PUK. They were using you.
You see, "guarding" you provided an excuse for the PUK to assert its authority. This was a show of force: the PUK demonstrating that it, not Ansar-Al-Islam, was in control of the territory. According to you, people still say they are afraid of Ansar-al-Islam. What better way to allay their fears and assert the PUK's dominance than by escorting one of Zarqawi's "enemy infidels" through the area and making sure that this "target" departs unharmed?
In the future, don't be worried if the Interior Minister sends twenty men to "protect" you. Worry if he only sends five. Chances are he'll be trying to deploy you as a temptation to flush the enemy out into the open.
Michael Totten's reporting is supported in part by readers of his blog. Hit that tip jar, people!