Saturday, October 11, 2003

One of the First Sadr City Incidents, Stress Explosion, A Discussion About Morals and Islam

11 OCT 03

I woke this morning, along with everyone else in the room, at about 0530. As every person got up and wiped their eyes and muttered either “Goddamnit” or “FUCK!” I looked out the window.
‘Wow. Everyone is miserable – completely miserable,’ I thought. It was amazing that such words of discontent were muttered genuinely – and the first words to come out of everyone’s mouths. The first. I thought, ‘God, I am miserable, absolutely miserable.’ It is true though. Everyone else is miserable too. It seems our leaders (mostly NCOs) are getting more and more absurd. Sometimes you think, and you feel the misery, like molten lead going through your veins and stirring inside. Pure stress. It’ll be so amazing to be home. You’re just miserable here. You don’t have family or real friends – it’s not just me – but everyone. After the first 4 months you grow tired of those around you and long for the things that you love – because the persons you had a high tolerance for begin to run out of novelty or personality. Also, everyone is getting tired-looking and simply exhausted. It’s all about who you work for – and the people we work for are so abstract in their thinking and impulsive that it drives you insane. Now that we have SGM Walker, everyone is scared. Scared to appear weak, or to appear to be uninformed. It’s a real fear. So the NCOs are scared for their careers, and seem to believe that pushing us around will compensate for all the face they’ve lost. SGM Walker is good in a way though, because he chews everyone’s ass – NCO or otherwise. So there’s no favoritism. He is difficult though too because NCOs are so frightened. It’s stupid.
Anyways, I was up tonight talking to Tariq and a Kurd at the internet room next to my office. We were sitting around relaxed and eating dried pumpkin seeds (you crack them in between your two front teeth and bottom two front teeth) and all of a sudden some LTs and platoon sergeants ran in excitedly and told some of their soldiers to get ready to move out. The time was about 2100 or so.
1LT Kenny ran in, “Hey! Get your shit on and let’s go! He was getting his crew off the internet computers with only mild success. “I SAID NOW!” In response to his sternness and sense of urgency, his soldiers got up slowly. “He’ll pay you later!” he said to the Kurd who was working as cashier that night.
“What’s going on?” Tariq asked.
‘I don’t know. They looked excited though.’
“Maybe something is wrong?” he asked.
I went over to the command center – and sure enough, we were on high alert, also called THREATCON Delta. Our regiment was under attack in Sadr City – formerly Saddam City. It was a heavy attack. I walked over to Nixon and looked at our log. The command center was bustling and I saw some of our key leaders in the room, so I knew something was going on.
‘What happened?’ I asked.
“A patrol was in Sadr City and there were reports of road blocks being set up by the people, some armed,” Nixon said. He continued, “THEN, some Hummers got ambushed with IEDs, RPGs and small arms (AK-47).” Then he said something chilling, something I hoped would never happen. “There are 300 reported armed people and the mosques are telling people to arm themselves and protect themselves from American aggression.”
I couldn’t believe it, especially in Sadr City – because we “freed” these Shiite people. They used to be oppressed by Saddam, now they are attacking us? I remember in Germany, pondering this, a power grab by the majority Shia – who also happen to be very religious and perhaps ignorant. It seems a lot of what I thought would happen is slowly coming true. Sadr City going bad is a horrible thing, because they are our friends.
“Several wounded, two confirmed dead,” was the count given to the BBC the next morning. No news people even reported the ambush that night , even though it was a major event for us. Our soldiers were attacked and killed – duped. In an area “liberated” by Americans. Freedom has enabled them to preach lies and (the clerics) use religion as a tool to collect political power. A stab in the back. This all started when a mullah or cleric’s guard was arrested outside of his mosque for wielding an AK-47 (which is illegal without a permit). They went on to promote violence against Americans. He was arrested, and now things are becoming aggravated between us and them. The Sadr City attack is dangerous though, it offers a glimpse into what could happen across this country if cards are not played wisely. But should they be allowed to preach anti-U.S. messages? What is the solution? Of course, if we were doing so well here, it would be difficult to demonize us.
I came back to Tariq and the Kurd and gave them a de-classified version of what happened. Tariq said,
“Saddam, Osama Bin Laden, King Hussein,” he said as the Kurd looked on with great interest, “are all no good.” We talked about Arafat too. They don’t like Arafat either, it seems. But they don’t like the Israelis either.
‘Yeah, Osama is crazy,’ I said.
BUT, they said: “Not crazy, they think they work for God. There is a real reason – not just crazy.” I thought that was interesting.
We talked about Islam, because the Kurd asked, “What religion are you?”
“Catholic,” Tariq answered for me. The Kurd looked surprised and said,
“You want to be a Muslim?”
‘No,’ I responded carefully, but honestly, ‘I don’t.’
“If you are Muslim, you can take 4 wives, Allah says you can have 4, it’s good,” said the Kurd (an Iraqi version of Noel Gallagher of Oasis). He laughed. Tariq rolled his eyes in an amused way, propping his lanky frame against the wall.
“You have a wife?” the Kurd asked.
‘No, but soon. My girlfriend and I are together for 3 years,’ I said.
“You have more girlfriends?” he asked.
‘One, only one girlfriend,’ I responded seriously.
“You have only one? You don’t want more?” he said with a grin.
‘No, no. One is all I’ve had and all I want. She’s my best friend. I don’t care about having women. I have her, my one love.’
He looked a bit surprised and gave a huff as if to say, “OK, no exciting controversy here!” Tariq is the same way though as me.
‘How can you love more than one woman?’ I asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t agree with it, it’s stupid,” Tariq said. I still can’t believe this about the Middle East. They were saying some men have over 30 kids. And I see all these little kids running around dirty and hungry.
‘How do they provide for their kids?’ I asked.
“Allah!” the Kurd said laughing. Then getting a bit more serious, as if he understood how that could be confusing. He got a look that said, “No, I’m serious, it’s crazy, but true!” Allah takes care of everything. I believe that to an extent, but I also believe it takes some initiative too though. No wonder Shia are the majority.
The night was so eerie outside of all this conversation. Both Tariq and the Kurd seemed very moderate for Arabs. Perhaps most Iraqis are like this. You get the feeling they are more mainstream than even Kuwaitis in their outlook on life. You get the feeling this is because the religious folks have been kept at bay.
As for Islam, I can’t accept a religion that offers sexual rewards for belief in God. God is something more to me than a man patting me on the back for being good and saying, “Here’s four women you can have with a clear conscience!” Sounds like a man wrote that one. What about the woman, can she take 4 men? Man as animal, or man as human being? Hmmm. More on this later.
Nora, I love you so dearly! I talk about you all the time with my Iraqi friends. Tariq is Muslim, but he and I share more in common than most of the people I work with. We share a lot of values. Nora, I miss you so much. I LOVE YOU!!! Your love is everything good in my life. I’m serious. I would die without you, I really think that. It’s going to be so good to get home to you and start our life the way we want it. We’ll do great! I LOVE YOU in the deepest part of my heart.


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