Today, November 23, 2008, I finally stepped on Iraqi soil. The joke for the last few weeks has been that, although we have been here for a month, every time we have left the base I have been in the vehicle (either in the turret or in the right front seat) and have not placed my feet down outside the base. Well today that was fixed. I went on a patrol with one of the platoons (or “squadrons,” or whatever… I can’t keep this Cavalry thing straight) to talk to a few key leaders in the area and get an idea of what is happening.
And now that I have done so, I am confident that I am fully educated on the subject of Iraq, how things are going, what to do next, and also how much more valid my opinion is than anyone else. No, really. I think I could be President of the United States now. I mean, I think I have more experience than the new guy, anyway. So, why not? To be honest though, if you are looking for some amazing insight on the subject, it ain’t here. And by “here” I don’t just mean this blog; I’m talking about walking around this country. I’m here to tell you, there isn’t much going on here that one cannot figure out by doing a very small amount of reading on the subject. No, there is no substitute for being here, but I think that people expect this to be some crazy, exotic place with people completely different from themselves when in reality, it isn’t. In fact, what stands out to me the most here is that the differences are not what most American citizens would imagine, but neither are the similarities.
An example: when asked what they are concerned with, most Iraqi citizens will answer with “security” or “our children’s schools” or even “the condition of our roads.” Boy, that doesn’t sound at all like someone on Colfax Avenue in Denver, Colorado. The sad part is, even if you gave all of it to them, it wouldn’t be enough and they would want more. Just like home.
The flip-side is, the differences aren’t quite what the average American citizen would expect. For instance, did you know that people here will actually go out and plant a bomb in the road to kill policemen, rather than just shooting at them like in the ghettos of New York or L.A.? I had no idea, and quite frankly I find it appalling. I mean, what do they think this is, a war zone? The nerve… Seriously though, the things people hear about like Sunni/Shia conflicts are vastly overplayed in the media. I would bet that the violence between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland is more based on religious differences than the crap going on here. The vast majority of contention here would be more closely compared to inner-city gang violence than historically-based religious conflict. It’s more along the lines of “there was a guy in the next village who killed a guy in our village, so we hate them.” “Oh really? When was that?” “About ten years ago.” So…we have kind of a Hatfields and McCoys thing going here… Honestly, how do you deal with that? It’s the equivalent of someone from San Francisco offing someone from Texas and the entire state of Texas then holding a grudge against everyone in the state of California. Which, now that I think about it, they probably do. Damn queers! Wait, what was I saying? Oh yeah, Iraq is a weird place, man. I mean, I was talking to this Sheik named “Case” and a bunch of guys brought out some chai tea for us. Ok, first of all, guys? Dude, you know that’s, like, a woman’s job, and stuff, right? Second, this chai stuff is pretty effing good. What did you put in it, cocaine? Seriously, this beats the crap out of anything at Starbucks. You should maybe sell this stuff internationally. I will run your marketing campaign.I think I had a point somewhere in there, but it probably got lost in the back of my brain after inhaling this chocolate bar. We are pretty starved of stimulation, so that may have put me over the edge and everything after this point could get really weird. Tune in next time when I talk about how bad guys are caught using our super-secret detective skills. “Do you know who did it?” “No. Well…maybe. It’s my brother.” Until then…