Saturday, June 05, 2004

Was Salam Pax Born in the Back Seat of a Baghdad Taxi?

The following entry was lifted from Salam Pax's blog. I have used this entry along with a piece called "Ariyah" by Jason van Steenwyk in my ESL classroom for comparison and contrast compositions. My students come from all around the world and their responses have always been interesting.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Scary war story #2

I was trying to get a taxi at 10:30pm last night (which is a stupid and dumb thing to do in the first place – curfew is still at 11:00pm) so this car stops and we agree on a 2000 dinar fare. The moment I sit in the car he starts cursing and swearing at “them”.

Suddenly he stops in mid sentence turns to me and asks angrily, "Are you a Muslim?" He has a muslim looking beard, is angry and I definitely don’t want to start a theological discussion with him.

"Yes, alhamdulillah, I am a Muslim."

"Are you working with “them”?"

Oh dear this is not going anywhere good. "No! of course not. Why should I?"


"So do you think if I hide a hand grenade under the dash board they would be able to find it?

Shitshitshit. "Listen I really think you should be careful they have equipment which is able to detect these things, you really shouldn’t carry a hand grnade around."

"Aha! So you know what equipment they use!"

Fuck. "No,no, I said they might have this sort of equipment."

Just then we pass a US patrol; one humvee and a couple of soldiers on foot. He slows down and looks intensely at them. They are on my side and he leans on me to look out of the window. This is the point when I start wondering whether I will die from the explosion after the this crazyfuck throws the grenade or from the retaliation fire.

He decides to shout stuff and whizzes off.

I think I was in a car with a loony-suicide-fucker last night. I wanted to ask why he wanted to hide a hand grenade in his car but I was really really scared. He just might decide to stick the hand grenade down my throat, because it is Halal to kill those who are agents of the infidel occupier.

What do you do when you are in a car with someone who asks you about the best place to hide a hand grenade?

Now you might say that he is part of that movement which calls itself al-Auda [the return] and is planning attacks here and there (I wish people would stop calling them sporadic but I will get to that in a moment). What makes this guy even more dangerous is that he is not part of the Ba’athi underground plot to re-emerge. He is one of the loonies who have taken the call to Jihad issued by the Imam of the abu-Hanifa mosque seriously. And these people just play so easily into the hands of the Auda. Anyway this auda rumor needs some serious confirmation because I havn’t seen anything, banner or graffiti, that actually names them.

And now here's a paragraph from Jason van Steenwyk's Ariyah.

When he came into the room, the Army linguist attached to the intelligence unit there told him there was no evidence against him, we didn’t believe he was a threat, and he was going to be released—he was going home. The man broke down sobbing, and fell into the linguist’s arms and embraced him. He embraced everyone in the room, laughing and sobbing at the same time.

If you have time, read both. They're short and worth reading.

UPDATE: Khalid Jarrar sneaks a break from cramming for the upcoming mortar attacks by the Commando-Professors at his Uni and reflects on the becoming-more-distant past:

well, basically all the Iraqi media, TV, radio channels and newspapers, were all devoted to one purpose, describing how great "Mr. Leader president Saddam Hussein may God protect him and save him" is, that long line was Saddam's name, if you typed Saddam Hussein only in a newspaper, maybe you would have been killed for it, who knows.

WARNING TO ALL IRAQI BLOGGERS: Even mired in the middle of memorizing hydrology formulas, Khalid continues to work the rapier with real talent.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Iraqi Bloggers Central was very pleased to get an email from Jason van Steenwyk this afternoon.

Interesting. Thanks for linking to me. Sheesh, now I'm tempted to go back and rewrite it!

Jason, the story is fine. My students really enjoyed how well you captured the whole scene, making it both vivid and moving.

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