Most of the marines there that day, including me, were still left in the dark as to why they had suddenly turned on us.
I shifted my attention away from the crowd for a moment to investigate a plume of smoke coming from in front of the building. Peaking further over the wall, I saw the speaker’s car turned upside down and bursting with flames. I cannot recall ever seeing a cloud of smoke so dark before; then again, I cannot recall ever seeing a car on fire before. The crowd opened up around the car giving the flames more room to breath. I began to search the crowd for the primary instigators of violence but there were so many it was difficult to focus on just one. None of them were idle.
One man finally captured my attention, but he stood apart from those who were perpetrating the violence. Hopping on his one leg and carrying
a colorful piece of cloth he moved out into the middle of the street where some space had opened up and two other men helped lower him to the ground where he took a seat on the pavement. The man unfolded the cloth, and stretched his arms far and wide displaying
an Iraqi flag. Calmly sitting there he showed us what we could not remove from them. His composure was strong, but his message meant little to me at the time because I still had no idea that we had removed their flag. Sitting there with his flag unfurled he stared at us. Nobody touched the man or ran in front of him; the area directly around him was void of the others.
Outside of the vacuum around this man there were young men and even young boys hurling rocks towards our building. They were hoping to strike the marines on the ground level of the building and those few who stood outside with a few of the vehicles we had brought with us. Another man in a tattered and grayish robe expressed his frustrations differently. He screamed as he ran at the building, released the stone in his hand, and then retreated back in order to find another stone. I remember thinking that this man should know what happens when people with sticks and stones try to fight people with guns.