Friday, July 23, 2004

Amrikan in Iraq

J over at Iraq Calling reports from work detail. (Nice photo too).

While our sergeant was having lunch I watched the crew. Most of them come from the village just off base, many of them were in the military in Saddam's time. I had a great time chatting with them. Some of them could speak a little english and I exhausted my full arabic vocabulary. Several guys asked me if it was possible for me to get them a permanent job on post instead of doing it day by day. I said I couldn't. Then I was offered a large selection of fake rolex watches to buy. I declined. Then I was asked if I would sell them my crappy Timex watch. From what I've been offered before I think I would get $3.00. One guy wanted me to give him some boots to replace his worn out plastic shoes, then 5 of them wanted footwear. I had none to give.

Some of the guys had distinctly different opinions from some of the other Iraqis I talked to. One guy said that Saddam, Bush, Alawi and every other leader was bad. He said that he thought his life would be better by now. Another guy told me he was not a Muslim, nor a Christian and it was just between him and God. He upset the muslims when he said "Mohammed no good". One of them told me not to listen to the old man because he is crazy from the sun.


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Eric at Dagger JAG has moved on to another village.

Ash Sharqat is a very rural town. Mainly farmers and shepherds. Like so many other towns the people were left to fend for themselves under the former regime and the infrastructure really shows it. It is isolated from the other larger cities surrounding it; there are no phone lines running outside of the city.

While it is small and isolated it is also very, very historic. Just outside of present day Ash Sharqat are the 3500 year old ruins of Ashur, the ancient capital of Assyria. Apparently it's isolation saved it from much of the destruction that damaged other, more accessible, ruins. We drove by the ruins and it was truly amazing to see the three arches of the main gate still standing. In my five and a half months here I have often wondered how human civilization could have flourished in such a desolate and harsh environment. In many respects it seems like not a whole lot has changed for a large part of the Iraqi population. The farmers still cluster around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and use ancient irrigation techniques, supplemented with water pumps, to grow their crops. The shepherds still herd their flocks on the barren ground searching for vegetation. They all live in mudbrick houses, albeit most of them have satellite dishes somehow attached to the thatch roofs. It seems to me that the fall of the former regime made very little difference to their lives. They were probably the least affected by the terrors under Saddam and life hasn't gotten much easier for them in the last year.


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Regular commenter Whisper offers us the basic picture on the ground in Iraq (and he's in the Tikrit area).

Don't have much time to give it a full response, but the short answer is, it really varies...

However, the majority of the ones I run into out there are VERY happy that we got rid of Saddam for them... the majority apparently don't want us to occupy Iraq over the longterm, but I run into more people who think we ought to be here and stick around a while longer, until security is firmly established under an Iraqi force, than people who just want us to leave now.

Quite a few of the Iraqis appreciate us, though plenty of them are a little worried about being around us if any shooting starts-- we've actually got more firepower than most insurgents and are better at applying it, but they have the legitimate fear that it's not so easy for us to always tell who the bad guys are and who the innocents are-- they ALL look like Arabs to us (it's true of dealing with a lot of different cultures-- they can tell the difference between a Kuwaiti, an Iraqi, a Saudi, on sight-- for us Westerners whose only experience in the Middle East is this war and possibly the last one, it ain't that easy, especially if an explosive device has just gone off or someone took a few shots at us). We're easily distinguishable from other Westerners to them only because of our uniforms (individuals I've talked to have reinforced that impression by what they've said).

The vast majority of Iraqis, both the ones who think we should stick around a while longer, AND the ones who think we should leave sooner are thoroughly disgusted by the insurgents and their activities, and want ALL the violence to stop. They're also finally getting it through their heads that the insurgents are the ones starting most of it, so we're getting a lot more information from the locals to help us get the insurgents.

That's the basic picture. BTW-- I'm operating in the vicinity of Tikrit most of the time. They still feel this way even in Saddam's hometown. So, Janice and other folks' continued whining that we should leave *right now* is not backed up by the folks around here... we get more complaints that we should speed up the rebuilding process and suggestions on what projects we should undertake next, and advice on how to do it, than 'yankee go home' comments.


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CBFTW, another Amrikan in Iraq, just posted and of course I'm going to paste him up here.

We spent a month in Sammara and shortly after that we arrived in Mosul, we all got hit center mass with a PT test. That was a pathetic sight. We were all way out of shape from being out in the field, chowin on way too many MRE's and for those of us that smoke, our lungs were all charred black from non stop chain smoking of Iraqi cigarettes. Iraqi cigarettes are like smoking cardboard. Harsh.
Today we drove out to the range to fire our weapons, practice, and blow shit up with some explosives. Once we got to the range, which was way, the fuck in the middle of nowhere, we had our PLT SGT teach us a class on explosives. Like almost every guy I've ever met in the Army who's demo qualified, my Plt Sgt loves to blow shit up. He taught us all a class on C4 explosives, breaching, and how to blow up a bridge and/or house with some det chord and some C4. It was a cool class. Timothy Mcveigh would have liked it. I even got to play around with some explosives today. I got several sticks of C4, cut them into smaller squares, got some det chord, and made some charges. Felt kinda like arts and crafts class.


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WE INTERRUPT YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAM FOR A VERY SERIOUS LETTER FROM SOMEONE WHO NEEDS YOUR HELP:

Dear Sir:
I am a senior citizen. During the Clinton Administration I had an extremely good and well paying job.

I took numerous vacations and had several vacation homes.

Since President Bush took office, I have watched my entire life change for the worse.


Read the whole letter over at Sam's Hammorabi and click on "Sincerely" to learn the identity of the one in need.



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