Friday, February 27, 2004

On the Lookout for IEDs, Discovering the Operation Iraqi Freedom Media Stage, Uncomfortable Encounter with Some Friendly Arab Girls

See original video never seen before or learn more about the book at

27 February, 2004 2200

I love you Nora. MUAH! You know sometimes life seems mundane, but all I have to do is think about our love and all that led to our love, and life is really something so sweet. Foley and I just finished watching the movie Love Actually. I really enjoyed it! It made me miss you so dearly, but also reminded me of how special our love is. I thought about our holiday in England in 2002, and the train ride from London to Wakefield. So awesome. I love you Spatzi! I can’t wait to get home to you. I love you.
Today I was at the airport with SGM Walker to pick up our new Command Sergeant Major, CSM Brown, a tall, skinny, focused-looking black man. I say “black” only to describe his appearance, the color being otherwise unimportant. He was in Afghanistan last year for two months or so. There were also two other sergeants. One, a big black guy – again, color unimportant – seemed a bit nervous. We’re so used to the ‘Rack that we forget new people are sometimes terrified to come here. As he sat behind me in the left passenger seat, I gave him some advice. ‘Master Sergeant,’ I said to get his attention.
“Y, Yes,” he replied nervously.
‘We like to know who’s around us at all times, that’s the most important thing,’ I explained. He looked at me and nodded with a sweaty forehead with an expression that said, “Shit.” I went on to make matters worse, ‘Know who’s coming up along side our truck, and make eye contact. Eye contact is very important.’
As we rolled down the highway, I would look back and see the master sergeant with a lost look in his eye looking straight ahead. My eyes are always all over the place as we drive, scrutinizing every tin can or tire scrap for wires or fuses. I actually drive sideways, sitting, that is. That’s better for seeing the median, side mirrors, and to catch shrapnel to my front. There is no protection on the sides of our vests, so metal shards can enter under the arms. You sit sideways at 45˚ to increase your survival chances. I also have a piece of scrap Kevlar armor I put along the inside of my door for protection. The threat is real.
At one point coming back today, I saw a van parked under the highway overpass on the opposite side of the highway. Two men were sitting in it watching our trucks pass – but I saw an antenna, like a remote control between them. ‘Slow down,’ I said on the radio to our escort.
“What’s wrong?” SGM Walker asked.
‘Possible observation, saw an antenna and two males in parked van, just a precaution.’
“Roger,” he said. We went along paying extra attention to the road. We made it safely to our camp.

Now to continue from where I left off on the 26th of February. When the SUV convoy arrived in the inner compound, Nixon and I noticed body guards, of a type we were familiar to seeing in Baghdad. A short man stepped out of the middle SUV in a grey PT jacket. That’s the new fashion trend amongst visiting dignitaries – the U.S. Army physical training jacket, a grey, ugly, and confused rag. Bush sports it, Rumsfeld sports it, Cheney sports it. I liked the ol’ leather jacket thing myself. We never figured out who it was, but it was late, about 0100, so he must have just arrived. A few days later, when we left Doha, Nixon and I noticed a 737 with the Air Force 1 paint job on the flight line. I wonder who it was I saw. Qatar was a well kept secret though, and would make a nice little pit-stop for a government official.
I walked into one of the many huge storage warehouses to call you. Inside each warehouse were office rooms built into the buildings. While walking behind one large storage area, in a large open part of the warehouse, I noticed wooden closets with German TV stickers on them, like ZDF or Das Erste and so on. Then I noticed where I was. This was the stage the world turned its eyes to during the war last year. That smart sounding general, I forget his name, from Central Command presenting the clean war to the world. All of that drama unfolded in the now boring warehouse I was now in. The stage was dusty, the million dollars spent to construct it leaving only wood and curtains and a fancy sign saying, “Camp Al-Salmonella” or something like that. I remember seeing that sign on CNN during the conferences, I remember watching the general speak and contemplating the loss of life, the terror, and the destruction going on not too far away. Almost exactly a year later, I was in that same press room. Sure, it was just a stage – but to me it was the setting to a tragic drama of real life.
I called you, and the connection was great. I was a bit more relaxed, so I could be more like myself, and we laughed so much. I missed you so much, even more in Qatar, because I felt even farther from you. I went to my bunk that night and slept in.
The next day I was supposed to go fishing in the Persian Gulf, but not enough people showed up to go. Almost everyone had a hangover. I was up and ready to go, even excited. I ran around trying to get last minute travelers added to the list, but everyone was drunk. I was disappointed, but accepted my fate, a fate attached to the whims of my fellow soldiers. It would be OK though. I could go back to the mall at 1200 on a tour bus with the other soldiers. So, Nixon and I did just that.
The mall was the same as before, only emptier. We went to the fast food area and got some Hardee’s to eat. I looked around and was amused to see Arab women, children, and sometimes men eating Mc Donald’s. I had to chuckle to myself. What really made me smile was a huge “ninja woman,” faceless, of course, with a westernized-looking child in tow, carrying a Dunkin Doughnuts bag. Now that is freedom! Oh yes, there is hope for the Middle East! All we have to do is make them just like us! That’s the key!
Nixon and I walked around aimlessly in the mall. We went to Carrefour “Hypermarket,” I guess that means super, super market. It was like K-Mart or Wal-Mart. I was amazed at how normal, even American it seemed. Nixon and I were looking at some date cookies when two girls about our age walked by. They didn’t have their faces completely covered. “Hello!” they said very friendly like.
I froze up! Don’t make eye contact! Don’t speak back to them! We were told, and have always been told not to talk to them or look them in the eyes. I didn’t have to be told, as I knew this was their culture from reading I had done, so I respected their culture. It was no big deal. BUT, Muslim girls are not supposed to talk to us, especially in Qatar. So I was astonished to hear them say anything to us. ‘Look straight ahead, do not speak, it is not allowed,’ I thought in a near panic.
“Hello,” they said again.
‘Again?! Don’t be rude, say hello back and be a good citizen of the world. I shouldn’t be so unfriendly,’ I thought to myself. ‘Hello,’ I said back in a nervous, uneven voice. It was more like a ‘Hello, now go away.’ They smiled seemingly delighted and amused, and walked away as quick as they came. I guess in their world, Nixon and I were cool because we were from the West or foreigners, or they wanted to use some English (although saying hello twice isn’t exactly college level English) they learned in school, or maybe they were being good, hospitable Qatar folk. I felt dumb for being so nervous about the encounter afterwards. I am supposed to be the one open to the world and new people, and two little Arab girls have me worried for a few seconds that I may start an international crisis. I think it’s funny now. Well, I’m going to bed now. I’ll continue tomorrow. I love you Nora, I belong to you.

See original video never seen before or learn more about the book at


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