Saturday, June 14, 2003

Gunshots Ring Out as Sergeant Major Shoots a Dog Unanounced

14 June, 2003

It is another hot night. No wild dogs barking though. Last night was cooler, only because of the sandstorm that blew through quite forcefully, blanketing Foley and I’s affectionately dubbed “condo” with dust for three hours. The strong winds felt great on my sweaty skin, but I couldn’t open my dust covered eyes to find my sweat towel. We didn’t sleep until 3 or 4 o’clock. Let me just say that I am, as is my new custom, listening to the BBC world service. Tonight I was laying on my back listening to the reports about the fifth night of pro-democracy demonstrations in Tehran, Iran. I looked up and smiled, feeling somewhat justified in my belief that true change ultimately comes with the will of the people. I am following this closely, with enthusiasm. No war, no brutal killings, simply civil disobedience – something others have dismissed as ineffective in some political discussions I’ve had with some officers recently. As recently, my hopes are coming true in Tehran. This is amid the news of chaos in Liberia, Sri Lanka, and Israel.
Last night was an interesting night, in that the base stupidity and child-like behavior of Sergeant Major Sanders was on stage for all the world to see, whereas earlier he was able to escape scrutiny based on his rank and the general assumption by all that such a position of authority could never be attained by an idiot. Well, this is the Army. He (during the middle of the raid) got on the battalion net to ask the colonel where the keys to his motorcycle were. We have collected a number of confiscated motorbikes. The officer on shift told him that he could not have a bike, at which Sanders became agitated and subsequently called the colonel. It was so childish – and I could not believe I was handing Sanders a microphone during a raid to ask about a motorcycle. The expressions on everyone’s faces betrayed disbelief. Well, he and the “boy prince” Prince (who he personally and unfoundedly elevated to the rank of sergeant) were outside being pushed along on their bikes by exhausted and panting mid-level NCOs. This was in a vein attempt to push start the bikes. I stood there with Major Day, our battalion XO. I think everyone who witnessed this carnival was shaking their heads. Yes, it was Pappy And these Sundance Kid. The same two who hit Iraqi cars with their Hummer and then brag about it, the same two who confiscated an AK-47 from an Iraqi policeman who pleaded in utter confusion for his weapon. Well, I got the call from division saying there was an angry policeman demanding his rifle back. I could only offer my apologies in my mind. Yesterday I had a long conversation with an Iraqi college student who was the delivering an Iraqi army uniform to Sanders “Pappy” that his father had custom made. He ended up waiting two hours, one of which I spent with him talking across the razor wire that separated us. I talked to him partly out of curiosity, and partly to distract him from the fact that Pappy was grossly negligent on keeping his appointment. In the course of the hour, an old lady came to tell me her son was very sick with vomiting and diarrhea. I too had been suffering the same affliction quite fully only a few days ago. I gave her the medication I was given by the Army, mere (but effective) antacid pills. I told her to give her son half a pill and to give him small sips of water often, instead of large amounts all at once. I knew this from a remedy I invented having been sick a few times already and dehydrating. She then asked, “Pepsi?” The student translated: “Can her son drink Pepsi? Is that OK?” I said yes. She was very grateful, and went off to help her son. The student and I then talked about the great need for basic medical services in Baghdad. He told me about his university of 150 rooms, of which five are now usable. He continues to study nonetheless, with exams been this week. He also digs ditches for the Americans for $2.00 a day. I reassured him the Americans would rebuild schools, hospitals, and police stations – but not even I was sure when or if that would happen. He asked about America, but I told him I love Europe – and that I am going to stay in Germany. I asked him if he is happy Saddam is gone. He said he would just be happy to have a new government and safety.
Then Pappy showed up and started treating the student coldly, speaking at him with an unintelligible southern accent. This student passed the uniform through the fence to Pappy, and the student expected to collect his $25 fee. Pappy muttered something about coming back the next day at 1800. He walked off. The student looked confused, and I was confused as well. Pappy just walked off without paying! I felt ashamed, I looked at the student, and we both understood what happened. He then looked at me as if to say, “Why did he do that?” I tried to form an expression to communicate “I’m sorry.” I felt like I was standing on the wrong side of the fence. He walked away, his dignity a bit hurt. Some kids ran up – two boys talking to me in Arabic with their hands out through the razor wire. I put a quarter in the one boy’s hand, and he immediately shouted and demanded, “DOLLAR! DOLLAR!” I didn’t have that. So I turned and walked away from them, with “Mista! Mista!” echoing behind me.

“Check it out! I got me a new huntin’ suit!”
– Pappy in the HQs building when I came back in.

We’ve found a name for what a lot of soldiers play here: cowboys and ragheads. It is so true. Well, today, not much happened, but did find a quote I scribbled directly from the mouth of SGT I forget his name. Here it is: “The first guy who pissed in my truck did it after he (pointing to SGT Grey) beat the shit out of him and pointed a pistol in his face,” said the scout, talking about a prisoner they captured.
Well, the first case that I was briefed on this morning was a dead body that was eaten by dogs during the night. The man had been shot twice in the back and once in the mouth. Just another day in Baghdad. Dead bodies are a normal thing now. Many people just dump bodies because the hospital charges a fee, and no one has money to waste on burying somebody when they need food first and foremost.
Tonight, as large building near us went ablaze, my first impulse was to call the fire department because of the families living there, BUT I then realized there is no fire department. Then I went out front, and found three soldiers with two boxes full of new grenades. They were found on the side of the road. We put them away, keeping in mind the incident in Kuwait during the war when an American soldier blew up his own HQs. Well, sometimes you fear the good guys more than the bad.
In less than 10 hours, Scorpions Strike will take place, and we will crack down on Baghdad’s weapons black market. It will be dangerous, but hopefully all go well.
On to matters of normalcy, of love. I am increasing my German studies in earnest, in between radio transmissions at my desk. I’m making time for German and English reading, so my day is getting better. I can also write you a poem, finally. I have finished Machiavelli’s The Prince (more on that later). I made a new friend today in Sir Thomas Moore. I was so delighted and encouraged to read his words in the new book by reading Utopia. More on that later as well.
Spatzibobbes, this is the part (it’s 0215 on 15 June now) I’ve been wanting to go to! The phone is not working again, and I’ve been so needing to hear your voice. I miss you so dearly, and I know you miss me the same way too. I brush my teeth tonight too, just for you! I almost forgot! I love you Nora, My mind is so focused on you, despite all that is going on here. I was walking today, and this came to me:

I have seen a desert rose
Some thing so beautiful I could never be
Along this path I’ve chosen
This desert rose speaks to me

This rose I see not in the sand
She grows on the sea inside of me
She stretches out her caring hand
Reaching down from where stars be

This desert rose I see always
Close my eyes and she is there
And when I am alone, there she stays
Running her fingers through my hair

This desert rose be not red
She’s golden eyes, she’s light brown hair
She skin so soft beside me in bed
She’s all I live for in this desert bare

You are my desert rose
You are my dream come true
And wherever I go, Nora
Your love touches me and sees me through

I long for you Nora, so dearly. Know this, know that I thirst for you as no man could know – for it is so full of longing and desire just to be beside you. I will be in time. I love you so dearly!


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