Thursday, November 08, 2007

This Damn Illegal War

As many of you know, I now live in a military town—home of the largest military base in the world! Many of my students have some sort of association with the military—as children, spouses, retired, even active duty. And I have learned so much from them and how they truly feel about the “war” and this administration. I want to let you all know a bit about some alternative perspectives from the military family’s perspective.

So, in my delirious state the other night (I was pretty sick), I was scanning MySpace and Flickr for any news from Iraq. I like hearing the “war stories” from the soldiers in the front-lines—I feel like I get a better story from them about what is really going on than from the media. I came across this one blog note, and thought I would pass it on to a larger audience. I’m withholding the solider’s name to protect his privacy.

what have i been doing for the last 2 months?

Well, Since I have returned from my little stint in Ad Diwaniya I suppose I can talk about it now. For about a month and half my job was to travel up and down the highway from "somewhere south of bagdad" to "somewhere south of Bagdad". (yeah sorry cant be too specific. if you were a soldier I would use phrases like Tampa, Scania and 9B. but that wouldn't mean much to you so I wont even say that.)

Our whole purpose on this strech of road was to patrol at about 8 miles per hour looking for IED's or EFP's. AKA "IED Hunting". one of the disadvantages of Hunting for IED's and EFP's is that if you dont see it before it sees you. you are made painfully aware of the fact [if only for a brief second] by a very loud BOOOOM!. Now before everyone gets all worried there is more to it. Ya see, for the most part the only soldiers that get targeted for ieds and efp's are the ones that have a callous disregard for the iraqi citizens and treat them all like homeless crack heads from detroit.

Everyday we had to drive through Ad Diwaniya. Admittedly a strong hold of people that tend not to be friendly to American troops. When we first got into their rather large city of sunbaked mudbricks straddeling a polluted river we were treated with suspicion. As we drove over the canal where the lil arab boys were jumping off the railing of the rather normal style car bridge into the river where the cattle herd was kept all day and drinking water was drawn in the evening, and after the stench of the Cattle Coral made up of parted out truck frames stacked end on end or side on side leading up the bank of the canal and covering about 2 acres of offal the next thing one noticed was the animosity. It charged the air like a living thing. It was palpable, you could taste it (yes, even over the cattle shit).

Driving 8 mph and scanning the sides of the paved 3 lane road one could not help but notice the homes that were caved in, the mudbrick hovels that were still standing with gaping holes testifying to the power of RPG's,and the half naked children who looked to be adutioning for a Sally Struther "feed the poor ethopians" comerical. One gaped in disbelief to see 5 year old boys riding a donkey cart to one of the vairous watering spots to load up their rubber basins with water for home. The peculiar way in which the women covered from head to toe in black outfits would turn around as you, their "liberator", approached and would not continue on about their business until you were passed left one wondering.. "hmm ya think she was hot?" As you were taking all this in you realized that maybe 4 in ten people had some type of foot wear. and it suddenly dawns on you. its a 140 degrees out and that 3 year old girl is walking on the highway with her father and brother and none of them have anything on their feet.

They make bricks out of mud that they mix right on the spot. there has been lots of "new construction" going on and in the time we were there many homes were built from scratch and many more were repaired or added on to. On the cornor of one traffic circle is a watermelon stand. *Word to the wise, if your going to shop know the local language*. depending on which soldier was getting out to purchase watermellon the prices were anywere from 3 for 10$ USD to 20$ USD for one watermelon about the shape of a soccer ball. There is a lesson in that alone that America could well learn from. The respone you get from the iraqi's is directly related to how you treat them. DUH.

Anyways, seeing as we Americans are the avatars of light and all that is good (insert sound clip from TEAM AMERICA here) some of us decided that we should give care packages (from soldiers angels and other likeminded groups) and additonal goodies to some of the families that lived along the route that we maintained. Since I was the patrol leader it was easy to convince myself of the gloriousness of our plan. We always gave our own icecold water to either the Iraqi Army (IA's) or Iraqi Police (IP's) that were manning check points we traveled through. When little kids would come out we would toss out bits of candy like we were at home on a memorial day parade. or throw water at the feet of travelers who were braving the mid afternoon sun on 150 degree days in search of work or food and there was this one family we used to stop at as it was near our turnaround point and we would give them more things and take pictures of us giving them things (kinda like in a zoo when you get pictures of yourself throwing steaks to the lions.. or is it peanuts to monkeys? anyways..) we did wonderous things to let the "indigioneos peoples" understand that we cared about them. In short we prosecuted a lil war to win the locals 'hearts and minds.'

It worked. We won. Its crazy how being polite and treating people like people tends to ease tensions.

So.. unfortuantely (thats the soldier in me) the whole time we were there not a single IED or EFP was found or detonated on American convoys traveling through the area.

I give it two weeks before it heats up..and i wont shed a tear. some people never learn. no i wont say anything bad about the active duty that were sent up to replace us. ... just this.. if i have to be called a sympathizer or tree hugger because i used a tactic that brought my soldiers home in one piece and still performed my job well, well,.... "sticks and stones....." heh or better yet. IEDs and EFPs will break my bones but names will never hurt my men. *cavet* it could get your teeth knocked out if we were in the states though...



Gibson78 said...

the Dutch run their patrols of Afghanistan in just the fashion this soldier describes. they make friends with locals, and if they are attacked, they retreat rather than counter attack. the lack of civilian death gives them the trust they need with the villagers to get authentic information about warlord maneuvering. Violence is a last option. makes a lot of sense. which this "war" doesn't. I can't imagine being there, or facing the incredibly monumental task that soldiers like this have- the task to put a good effort and face onto a mission that no country in all of history has ever "accomplished" - subduing the cradle of civilization and forming them in your image. such a bad, bad scene.

Banzai Bill said...

Incredible, isn't it. What a bit of honey will do in the "war" against terror. And, as you so accurately observe, no country in all of history has ever accomplished social transformation in the face of an extended conflict and occupation. No Country Ever....