Bullets All Round

On The Ground With Charlie Company:

June 1, 2006


FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Sometimes the background
buzz of Fallujah - its traffic and generators and
voices - is shattered for a few moments by an
explosion of gunfire. A dozen automatic rifles
chatter at once, filling a section of the city with

It's not the Marines, nor the insurgents. It's the
Iraqi Army or police, performing their notorious
trick yet again.

The Marines here call it the "death blossom."

When Iraqi forces are fired on or feel in danger,
sometimes they will get in a circle and fire wildly in
all directions, at no specific targets. It's 360 degrees
of AK-47 fire, and God help whoever can't get
down fast enough.

The term originated in a sci-fi movie released long
before many of these Marines were old enough to
watch movies. In 1984's "The Last Starfighter," the
main character pilots a spaceship equipped with a
special doomsday weapon. The Death Blossom
can shoot in every direction at once, and at the
movie's climax it saves the galaxy.

The Marines would prefer the Iraqis not use this
special attack, which they've found themselves
uncomfortably close to more than once. But it's so
common that when Marines were patrolling with
Iraqi soldiers one day and were fired on, and the
soldiers didn't respond wildly, the Marines were
happily surprised, even proud.

One Marine said that if their Iraqi Army
counterparts could stop the death blossom for
good, there might be hope for them to become
professional soldiers.