BAGHDAD, Iraq – Shortly after sunrise on Easter Sunday, a mortar shell or rocket crashed into Paul Converse’s trailer inside the Green Zone, the rigorously defended seat of U.S. power in Iraq. Converse, who once told his brother he felt more safe in Iraq than on American freeways, died the next day.
Converse’s death underscored the vulnerability of housing facilities in the Green Zone to artillery and missile attack, spreading fear among thousands of security contractors, interpreters, American soldiers and embassy personnel.
A 56-year-old government auditor, Converse was the first of four Americans to die in Green Zone shelling in the past two weeks. Four days after Converse’s death, Mazin Zwayne, a 62-year-old American civilian working for the Defense Department, was killed in a shelling attack. On Monday, shells killed two American soldiers and wounded 17 others. It is so far unclear whether the others were also killed in trailers.
The U.S. embassy, in a memo obtained by the Post on Monday, has forbidden employees from sleeping in trailers or from spending long periods of time in them Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday, the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose followers are blamed for Green Zone attacks, has planned a million-strong march in Baghdad to protest the U.S. presence in Iraq.
The Green Zone was once considered an American oasis – a protected bubble of comfort food, large American-made sport-utility vehicles and enforced speed limits. But intensified shelling has contributed to a growing sense of insecurity on the eve of testimony before Congress by the two highest-ranking U.S. officials in Iraq: Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker.