DAMASCUS, SYRIA – The government of Syria will be hosting the world's first official Iraq War reenactment, an international event drawing in thousands of participants in time for the Iraq War's ten-year anniversary in 2013.
"You might say the interest never really went away," said Abu Du'a, the leader of Al Nusra Front, the world's leading Al Qaeda in Iraq reenactment group. Dua appeared in a period costume of a track suit with an AK-47, with the black flag of Al Qaeda in Iraq behind him.
"A lot of our children are too young to remember battles like Nasiriyah or Fallujah, but hopefully we can give them the closest thing possible."
According to Abu Du'a, the kids even get to take part in the reenactments, monitoring suspected informants and emplacing IEDs along the main roads.
"During the Iraq War a lot of kids served as valuable interpreters, scouts, even front line fighters, and we've had parents and kids ask to bring back that experience."
Al Nusra Front contains a number of actual former Al Qaeda in Iraq members, many of whom described the reenactments as both educational and helping them cope with lingering post traumatic stress.
"God, we all look so young and skinny," said member Abdullah, watching an old video of them beheading an Iraqi policeman in 2005. "It looks like I'm the only thing that's blown up since then," he joked.
While the war only ended one year ago today, reenactments had begun even before Victory in Iraq Day, or V-I Day as it's popularly known in the U.S. While a number of groups in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Yemen have been carrying out unofficial Iraq War reenactments since early 2011, the upcoming Syria one will be the closest and most realistic of all.
Due to geographical convenience, the event will also be bringing in reenactors from all over the Arab world and possibly some western countries.
"We were actually the first group to carry out an Iraq War reenactment," said Lt. Abdul Razaq Tlass, commander of the Homs-based Farouq Brigade that has been carrying out reenactments since early 2012.
"We were talking with several Iraq War veterans who remarked that [Homs] is very similar to Fallujah, so we reenacted the First and Second Battles last spring. It was totally cool. The Syrian Army even sent a few brigades to pretend to be the Americans."
According to Syrian Army commander General Maher "Mad Dog" al-Assad, playing the Americans was a natural role for many Syrian soldiers.
"We initially had a lot of trouble translating the American documents into Arabic, but we finally got a break with one that said to be polite, professional, and to kill everybody we meet, as well as to always bring artillery and 'fucking kill them all.'"
Al-Assad said that the biggest problems in doing American military reenactments were financial.
"We spent a lot of money on gear that we never actually used because we were told it was authentic, and additionally had to bus in hundreds more reenactors to sit around our base called 'Camp Cupcake.' They don't actually take part in the reenacting: they just sit around drinking coffee, taking pictures of themselves, and telling everyone else how hard reenactments are."
Tlass said that while the first reenactments were a positive sign, much work remained to be done.
"What is with all these YouTube videos?" he complained, watching several members of his group upload a video of an attack on an army checkpoint. "YouTube wasn't even around when the Americans invaded. You had to film your attacks, then have several couriers deliver the tape or DVD to a member of Al Jazeera. What a bunch of Farbs!"
Officials have confirmed that reenactments will be occurring all over Syria throughout 2013. Last week the Syrian Army even reenacted parts of the Gulf War, shooting SCUD missiles just north of the city of Aleppo.
Other reenactments will include the massive sectarian butchery in Baghdad, scheduled to occur in Damascus within a few months.