Enough with the stupid rockets already...
Howdy cowboys and cowgirls!
It’s been 4 weeks since last you heard from this old cowpoke, and what a 4 weeks! There is nothing like several hundred rounds of high explosive mortars and rockets falling from the sky to create a little excitement. The barrages started early on Easter morning. We figured it was just a little ill tempered ‘our god is better than your god’ smiting and smoting, and that it would only last for a day, but it just kept coming. By the end of the week, we had lost a couple of Americans and Iraqis, a handful of others were seriously injured and people were sleeping in their offices. I found my time under my desk made me harken back to the days of childhood when I used to build a fort in the rec room to sleep in, so I was right at home. We actually work in a separate mini-palace, so it had a cozy feel, and we got to know the folks from Agriculture and Commerce that much better.
I’ve noticed that there are different levels of duck and cover. There is the apathetic duck and cover, which occurs when you are in your bunker-ized office and you leisurely lock your computer, grab your beverage, and saunter into the hallway to chat with your colleagues. Then there is what I affectionately call the fuck and cover, which is when you are caught out in the open and the CRAM goes off. This means the indirect fire is coming down right on top of you. You quickly mutter a profanity of choice (oh fuck being the most useful and descriptive) while scanning the environment for the big yellow concrete bunkers. Then you run like OJ in the airport (or away from the Goldman house,) and try to scramble inside before you hear booming things.
There is one kind of indirect fire that I’ve become all too familiar with in the last two weeks, and I call it the uncoming. This is when you have incoming and you are naked in the shower. Undressed+incoming=uncoming. And uncoming sucks. First you have to hit the deck, then scramble like a wet, naked baby (crawling is hard when you're 35) into your room where you put on your body armor and helmet and hide under your bed. One day I accidentally left the door to my hooch open a crack, so my place was full of dust and mosquitoes. So there I was, under my bed, naked except for PPE, shampoo in my hair (under my helmet,) muddy from the dusty floor and water, trying to swat the mosquitoes that were biting my legs. And this happened twice in a week. Ah, the glamorous life of the international diplomat!
One thing that troubled me a bit was the AP reporting on two of the Americans who died here. The reporters interviewed the families of the deceased, and they noted that both men had reassured their families that they were safe. Well, in case anyone is surprised, we’re not safe here. It’s a war zone and people are shooting at us. But the rest of the world isn’t safe either. Elsewhere, people are getting in car accidents, being mugged and shot, are the victims of murder and all sorts of violent crime. We don’t have that kind of danger here in the IZ, and we actually are less accident prone as a population, even with the shelling. But it still is not safe.
Onto a lighter note, I met with a group of Iraqi University students the other day. The first thing one of them said to me was ‘you Americans have a lot of friends here. But we must be quiet friends.’ That sentiment warmed my heart at first, for it echoed what I had heard from others. I had a long separate conversation with a middle-aged Iraqi woman who echoed the same thoughts. But it also troubled me that they are silent. Silent friends are nice, but what Iraq needs are people who are willing to stand up to the thugs and goons who want to manipulate and terrorize them for money and power. Silent people are not free, they are muzzled.
But we’re all keeping in good spirits here and I’ve actually slept in my trailer for the last week or so because we've had less IDF. I'm doing great, even if the job is less than scintillating. Actually, my job for the most part is bureaucratic and boring. I have stamps...for stamping paper...the weapon of every true bureaucrat. Aside from where I'm working, it's probably the least responsibility I've had in a job in, well, ever. Sometimes I feel like I'm wasting time. But then I remind myself that I'm here to serve, and I do help hundreds of AmCits with their documentation, so my efforts and love percolate out all over Iraq.
Ma Salamma,
Saturday, April 19, 2008