Editor's note: CNN Correspondent Tom Foreman uncovers the "The Lion in the Village" tonight on "Anderson Cooper 360," 11 p.m. ET.
A wounded soldier is carried from the mess hall in Mosul, Iraq, after the December, 2004, attack that killed 22.
Suicide bombings, once virtually unknown in Afghanistan, are happening with increasing frequency. In Iraq, the supply of men willing to blow themselves up to hurt the Coalition troops seems almost endless.
And now, I am convinced, one terrible event may have been a critical catalyst for all the suicide bombings that have followed.
For the past couple of months, producer Amanda Townsend and I have been investigating the suicide bombing that rocked a military mess hall tent in Mosul, Iraq, just over two years ago. That blast killed 22 people and injured 69 people, among them soldiers and civilians, Americans and Iraqis. But just as important, it may have shown the insurgents just how hard they could hit the Americans if they were cunning and patient enough.
Our investigation unearthed parts of the still secret military investigation, and among the findings:
- Military Intelligence had discovered not one single clue before the bombing to suggest an attack was in the works, even though the insurgent group behind it, Ansar Al-Sunna, was well-known, and extremely active in the area.
- More than two years after the blast, investigators say they still don't know for sure who the bomber was, or how he got through guards at the base gate, past hundreds of soldiers on the base, and into the heart of mess tent undetected.
My desk and shelves and the floor of my office here a few blocks from the Capitol are covered with the record of this bombing. Endless, shifting piles of interviews, soldiers' notes, letters, diary entries, photos, satellite images and official reports. And for weeks I have gone through them over and over again, often until four or five in the morning.
It is not just a matter of looking for facts. It is a matter of looking for the complete story of a terrible day. In the process, we have uncovered never before seen video and accounts of courage that show American soldiers doing their best while faced with the worst. We are calling our story, "The Lion in the Village." (Watch soldiers describe what happened that day
With the help of TAPS
, a wonderful and compassionate organization for military families who have suffered a fatality, I have been visiting with the families of one particular group hit very hard in the blast: The Strykers from Ft. Lewis, Washington.
They were, and are, one of the great success stories of the war. The Strykers, who use a new state of the art vehicle made for urban combat, have proven remarkably skilled at pursuing and punishing the insurgents. And six of them were lost in that one terrible moment: William Jacobsen, Julian Melo, Jonathan Castro, Lionel Ayro, Robert Johnson, and Darren VanKomen.
And I hope, through all the sad, late nights; the tearful talks with their loved ones; and the somber visits to their graves, we have found a sense of who they were, why they served, and how they came to die.
As I noted
in our previous special, "Ambush at the River of Secrets," perhaps one day we will really know all the goods and bads, the rights and wrongs of this war. What I know right now is this: courageous Americans are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan every day, every moment, doing what asked of them. It would be unforgiveable to forget these brave souls. I wish we could tell all their stories.
For now, however, I hope you'll join me for an hour to remember and honor at least a few.