Caliphate Chapter 8: The Briefcase | New York Times Audio Series (Transcript)
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MS: From the New York Times and the team that brought you the Daily, this is Caliphate.
AM: Can I get you to tell us what day it is and what we‚Äôre up to?
RC: It‚Äôs Sunday, July 9th. We slept in what appears to be an abandoned villa here on the outskirts of western Mosul as we wait for our embed with the counter terrorism division of the Iraqi security force. And we were supposed to take off at 8:00. We‚Äôre now sitting in the armored car that they provided for us. The armored car is not turning on, so we have a gaggle of men that are pouring over the hood trying to figure out how to get this car started.
AM: There‚Äôs a rumor that it may just be out of gas.
RC: [Laughs] There‚Äôs a rumor it‚Äôs out of gas, great, great.
RC: Hawk, is it just out of diesel?
AM: Chapter 8. The briefcase.
AM: Eventually, after several hours, we get a working car.
RC: Yeah. So we suit up. We put on our flak jackets, we put on our helmets, I‚Äôve got several trash bags, we‚Äôre with the elite counter terrorism force of the Iraqi army, we have their permission to go and collect documents.
AM: What‚Äôs the plan?
Haw: This is very dangerous.
RC: And we‚Äôve told them that we‚Äôre specifically trying to get to one building. But it‚Äôs unclear if it‚Äôs going to be safe enough to go there.
AM: So there‚Äôs a sniper risk and they‚Äôre planning an airstrike?
RC: In fact, they‚Äôve warned us that we‚Äôre driving into an active war zone.
AM: So we‚Äôre now inside Mosul?
Haw: Yeah, this is the Mosul. This is western Mosul, this is the main road leading from Mosul to Baghdad.
AM: There‚Äôs huge chunks missing on the road. Are those airstrikes?
Haw: Yeah, they‚Äôre all airstrikes [inaudible].
AM: Hawk, could you describe what you see? You‚Äôre shaking your head, what do you mean?
Haw: Yeah, I mean‚Ää‚Äî‚Ääyeah. I‚Äôm speechless. As you can see, it‚Äôs like, just cars, what‚Äôs left of to be known as cars and debris and rubble everywhere. I can‚Äôt tell where am I now. This is my city; I don‚Äôt know where am I.
AM: You don‚Äôt even recognize it?
Haw: It‚Äôs not recognizable.
AM: We got into the city. We got out of the car.
AM: What do you see?
RC: So we‚Äôre parked on a narrow street in western Mosul. The houses all around us have been destroyed. The windows have and blasted out. Coils of rebar, the gates and windows of the shops are warped from whatever blast they experienced. We just opened the doors of the car and immediately you could smell the stench of dead bodies. We can‚Äôt see them but you can smell them.
AM: So next, we went to‚Ää‚Äî‚ÄäI don‚Äôt even know how to describe it‚Ää‚Äî‚Ääit‚Äôs kind of like a makeshift base?
RC: Basically, the closest military position to where we were trying to go.
AM: And inside there were all of these young military men.
RC: They were actually all from the CTS, the counter-terrorism service. And they‚Äôre the people that we‚Äôre embedded with so they invited us in.
AM: And you started talking with some of them.
RC: Yeah. The commanders all have the same sort of phone and sort of iPad that has a map.
RC: Where is ISIS?
MS: That‚Äôs ISIS.
RC: That shows in great detail where the friendly forces are and where ISIS is.
Haw: So this is where we are.
RC: So the building we are aiming for was actually a church. This is the place that I knew had been the headquarters of the Hisbah, that the religious police, the same unit that Huseifa used to be a member of, and it‚Äôs at that point that Hawk recognized the scenery and he went, ‚ÄúOh my God. We‚Äôre actually here.‚Äù