Caliphate Chapter 7: Mosul | New York Times Audio Series (Transcript)
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FS: From the New York Times and the team that brought you the Daily, this is Caliphate.
AM: Just test, one, too. Okay, that‚Äôs loud. Hak, you sing me something?
Haw: [singing] Careless whisper..
AM: What is it?
Haw: I forgot the words. It‚Äôs George Michael. I like him.
AM: I like George Michael. When in Iraq did you first hear George Michael?
Haw: It was in 1998, I believe. I was at home. There was this TV, local TV, there was some videos, like western songs.
AM: Like music videos?
Haw: Music videos. And there I have it. I was moved by the lyrics and how it was soft. It touched my heart, actually. Yeah, like, my love? Metallica.
AM: Well, then I guess a better question is how does somebody growing up in Mosul fall in love with Metallica?
Haw: Yeah, friends of mine, they were senior in college. They were like, ‚ÄúThere are some guy, some dude, called Metallica. You should listen to him.‚Äù So I was like, ‚ÄúWhere to buy any of his records? There isn‚Äôt any here.‚Äù Mosul, it was in embargo if you remember at that time and everything foreign or English or American was something forbidden. They were like, ‚ÄúKeep it in the hush hush, but you guys go to that record shop.‚Äù
AM: It was like one record shop?
Haw: Yeah, the Dar Mosul, and we were so lucky to have him. That was like hanging in there and looking up to all kinds of pictures of western music and everything. And I was so new to this, so I told him, ‚ÄúExcuse me. Do you have Metallica?‚Äù He says, ‚ÄúYes, of course. Which year you want?‚Äù I was like, ‚ÄúOh, my god!‚Äù I didn‚Äôt know what to ask. I told him, ‚ÄúJust give me some of his best hits.‚Äù
Haw: For the first time I played the tape, I was like, ‚ÄúWhat the fuck is this?‚Äù Just all noise and chaos. I think he is crying and coughing. But after 2‚Äì3 times I listened to it‚Ää‚Äî‚Ääactually, most of his songs are really sincere. it‚Äôs about armies and wars and why are we dying in vain and everything. Since I was born, I‚Äôve seen nothing in this country but wars and more of wars and more of wars. It‚Äôs like I made some kind of connection that stood deep with me. And from that minute on, I was like, that‚Äôs what I‚Äôm looking for.
FR: The battle has begun to recapture Mosul. This has been an occupation essentially by ISIS for more than two years.
FR: It was the largest city in Iraq captured by ISIS fighters. Now, it‚Äôs the only one they have left.
FR: This is the beginning of what could be a long battle.
FR: Nearly nine months of grueling urban warfare has left Mosul in ruins.
MR: ISIS‚Äôs hold on the city is down to less than half a square mile.
MR: And so now, it‚Äôs heavy, urban guerrilla warfare.
FR: A few thousand ISIS fighters pitted against tens of thousands of Iraqi troops under full force of the US coalition.
AM: Chapter 7: Mosul.
RC: [Door knocks] Hey, Come on in.
AM: Good morning.
RC: Good morning.
AM: So? Is it even worth asking how you slept?
RC: Oh God, this is where we get to see each other‚Äôs pjs.
AM: Yeah, those are my pjs.
RC: This is mine.
AM: Pretty basic questions this morning. Actually, can you just start off by telling us what day is it?
RC: It‚Äôs Saturday, July 8th.
AM: And where are we?
RC: We‚Äôre in Iraq finally. And basically, Iraqi forces are poised to take back Mosul. We‚Äôre hearing that they‚Äôre going to take back the city in 24 to 78 hours. That timeline seems to be somewhat stretchy, it keeps on changing. But no matter what I think it‚Äôs somewhat imminent. And after three years of ISIS holding the second largest city in all of Iraq, Iraqi forces with coalition backing are poised to take it back.
RC: Oh, God. Here we go. RC just came off of the phone with ABM and we‚Äôre going to aim to leave around 11:00 am, so aim to be ready, you and Andy, for 11 am.
AM: That means we need to be suited up and our bags packed for for an overnight just in case?
RC: Yeah, just in case.
AM: And you want me to meet you down the lobby?
AM: All right. If anything changes, just give me a call in my room.
AM: Let‚Äôs start with the drive.
RC: Yeah. So, we hop in the car. We‚Äôre in northern Iraq in the safe zone where we‚Äôre staying in a hotel.
AM: How long is our drive?
Haw: Two hours.
RC: And we are trying to get to Western Mosul to basically the last holdout that ISIS had. I had a tip about a building that was in that area that I knew had been the headquarters of the Hisbah under ISIS. And I just knew that if we could get there, I mean I thought that if we could get there right when it was liberated we would find the mother lode of documents.