Email from Iraqi from a friend of a friend of....


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mormonsniper
November 7, 2003, 11:24 AM
Greetings,

It is kind of funny. When I first got here I was very attentive to all the people hanging out at the palace. I noticed then, that there was a very odd selection that made up this very diverse group; from Soldiers of Fortune, to young Politicos, to old Politicos, to idealistic peaceniks, to soldiers, to pessimists. Including myself, many, no, All of the people fit more than one category. Since then, I've decided that there really isn't an odd selection of a very diverse group, instead there is the same diversity as anywhere else, but for those who come here voluntarily, Baghdad in the wartime is attractive to the fringe elements of each of these groups.

I am not going to spend an email criticizing or ridiculing people for being who they are, but I do want to investigate why this suddenly strikes me as fascinating.

The day our hotel got blown up was not a big day to me. OK, the hotel didn't get blown-up, only about 8 rooms of the hotel were blown up. However, in this event two of my MOH team members were hurt, one man was killed, and four of the rooms that were destroyed were occupied by our people. We were lucky. The outcome could have been far more severe. So this event should have been traumatic to me, in fact, in the past, it would have been a traumatic event. But, it wasn't traumatic because I wasn't hurt and those I know survived and escaped without permanent debilitating injuries. That day was so interesting to me though, because of the effect it had on the people outside of MOH. With the exception of our only medically evacuated team member, who is now at Walter Reed, we all were back at the Ministry of Health the next morning, not deviating our schedule as much as a minute.

However, many people did not take the event in stride. It is clear to me now that for many people it was a traumatic event. There is no doubt that these rockets were a major inconvenience; it made me spend about 10 hours that Sunday moving or helping people move into "temporary" quarters, it made us move from a nice hotel room into barracks, but most importantly to me, it took away my means of exercise and mental release by closing the hotel swimming pool. But, that was all no big deal. In fact, we are now closer to work, so our lodging is even more convenient, I still have a toilet down the hall that I rarely have to wait in line to use, the hot water in the shower is actually more plentiful and reliable than in the hotel and there is another pool I could swim in, but for a few reasons, I haven't. All is OK.

But wow. When we were moving out of the Al Rasheed, the USAID people were getting on other buses and going somewhere else. Many of the non Military people were talking about leaving Baghdad. In fact another migration out of Iraq has subsequently taken place. Listening to and watching some of these people made me think of those TV shows that I never watch, Fear Factor, Survivor, etc. I always thought those shows were a reflection of Young America looking for a substitute for lacking a real meaningful "right of Passage." Growing up with Franklin D. Roosevelt's silver spoon, as opposed to Andy Warhol's silver spoon, has denied some the experiences of suffering, hardship and pain that people need to feel whole. But some of these people apparently mistook a Baghdad experience for the studio-controlled environment of make believe danger and sound-byte sacrifice. I believe that many of the non Military people here came to Baghdad to be able to look like they have experienced a hardship, but without having to pay the price or having to endure the risk. After all, bombs, snipers, mortars and rockets are on TV and they are here. By association in their own minds, they could look like they've endured a hardship. The worst thing I heard was an Air Force Colonel who gave us a ride to the palace that morning tell us that "just when you thought you were safe and all was well, something like this happens." That blew me away. Felt safe? What in Baghdad would make anyone feel safe? Then I realized that this guy was never off the Green Zone. 80% of the CPA never leaves the green zone.

OK, so I am a super stud and go to the Ministry everyday. Woo Hoo. That is not what this is about. I am no hero. I freely acknowledge that I make these observations, be they accurate or not, because some of these thoughts are not foreign to my own mind. After the rocket attack some must have quickly realized that their safety is not assured. Others probably realized that they now have a story to tell as they sit with a beer, stare into the distance and give that all knowing stare of having seen the elephant.

I recognize that I too have written about the unusual and the potentially dangerous moments of my experiences here. But that is not my main point. What really offended me is that as we were moving out of the hotel I heard some of these people immediately began blaming someone else's incompetence for their predicament. They were cackling like hens in small groups, intentionally loud enough to be overheard hoping that someone would mistake them for something they are not. I believe that a number of them are here in the first place for no more noble a reason than to intentionally create and project a false image about themselves. I have noticed a subculture here of people who have behaved as though this is all a big party. I won't disguise this, this disgusts me. I don't like it when people spend much of their time and effort trying to position themselves to disguise their true motives as altruism. My dissatisfaction is made worse when they are willing to sacrifice others and the mission for a false image about themselves. Especially here, because here what they do may result in sacrificing lives, other people's lives, to achieve their make-believe vision, their fantasies or their personal ambitions.

It is time for some balance. I also know some of the greatest people in the world are here. Some of them are the folks who come here and drive all over Baghdad representing an NGO or USAID or another like agency. I've met some fantastic people who do this to make a positive impact on the world. I've also met some of these people who are here for some other reason. Many of them are soldiers. This morning I was at the bank again, and I spoke with a PFC from NYC with the 1st Armor Division. Barely 20 years old, making nary more than $1,000 a month, exposing himself daily and nightly to the worst that this freedom-starved society has to offer, and he keeps a great attitude. I know a nurse at the 28th CSH who would do anything for anyone. Although she works in the ICU, she spends her precious time- off helping to organize events for the 28th's soldiers and helping Iraqi vendors get an opportunity to sell their wares and improve their lives. One of our guys, a Marine who endured Khe Sahn in Viet Nam, had the presence of mind or the lack of a presence of mind, to take pictures of the car speeding away from the rocket launcher. The room next to his was destroyed. And there are those like Ross. Always friendly, a great example of USA at its finest, always putting the mission first. Dave is establishing himself in the same light.

This is a weird email. I just reread it. I suppose the email itself sends a very clear indicator that things here are confusing. We are no longer in the emergency phase where any action is good. We are in the transition to a more planned and sustainable existence. All parties, Iraqis, Coalition, and bad guys are sensitive, frustrated and unsure of the future. This email accurately reflects that within my own mind, we are looking within and seeing the truth of human nature and recognizing how that truth will always hinder us from our personal visions of a utopian world.

I have heard it said that a hospital would be a great place to work if it were not for the patients being sick or wounded.

I have heard that the library would be tidier if all of the books were always on the shelf.

I suppose that maintaining a peaceful society would be easy if it weren't for the people.

Cheers,

Mike

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