News from Iraq, actually from Iraq

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Backtothemac, Jul 10, 2004.

  1. Backtothemac macrumors 601


    Jan 3, 2002
    San Destin Florida
    Ok everyone, I have a very very dear friend of mine who is now in his second tour over in Iraq. He is sending all of his friends and family updates of things that you don't see in the news, both good and bad. I am going to post the updates here.

    This is not meant to be a thread to trash him, or the war, etc. If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say it. I do this as a way for us to learn more about what is going on over there without a bias from the media. Below is his first email.

    There are many individual stories of the recovery in Iraq that are not making the news. One is contained in the picture below. This statue currently stands outside an Iraqi palace now home to the 4th Infantry division. It will eventually be shipped home and put in the memorial museum in Fort Hood, Texas.

    The statue was created by an Iraqi artist named Kalat, who for years was forced by Saddam Hussein to make the many hundreds of bronze busts of Saddam that dotted Baghdad.

    To show gratitude for the liberation of his country, Kalat melted 3 of the former Saddam busts and made the statue as a memorial to fallen American soldiers. Kalat worked on this memorial night and day for several months since the fall of Baghdad. To the left of the kneeling soldier is a small Iraqi girl giving the soldier comfort as he mourns the loss of his comrade in arms.

    On a more personal note, the team I work with here employs an Iraqi translator. She was born during the Iran-Iraq war, which lasted long enough for her to have memories of it. Her whole life has been under Saddam’s shadow and affected by the three wars he provoked in the time she has been alive. Like many Iraqis, she prays for the success of the transition (literally – she and her family are Christians), but like so many who want to help, she does not tell her friends and neighbors she works with the US Embassy staff. Three of her friends have been killed since the end of the war for working with coalition forces – she does not want to be next. One of her friends died in a car bomb at the entrance to our compound…every day she comes to work she is reminded of what is at stake. She works odd days and hours so no once can discern a pattern that she frequently goes to the Embassy. But even by doing that, she is putting her life on the line. Unlike those of us who live as well as work in the fortress known as the Green Zone, she returns every day to the “other Baghdad,” where a small group of mainly foreign troublemakers continue to try to terrorize Iraqis so they won’t embrace democracy. There are thousands like her around the country. A group of district judges was recently sworn in. When it was noted that taking the job made them prime targets, one of them responded that creating democracy always requires victims…and that he was willing, if necessary, to be a victim for Iraqi democracy. These people are courageous patriots in our own finest traditions. (“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of tyrants and patriots,” said one of our own Founding Fathers)

    And they are making a difference! Our translator left today for a trip to another Middle Eastern country to visit family she has not seen in over a decade (they fled Saddam’s regime). This is her first trip out of the country, as her family was always denied visas. I’m glad to have met her my first week here. Seeing the excitement on her face yesterday, and the way she said goodbye to my predecessors from the last three months, made me realize we what we’re accomplishing here. And once again, I’m reminded of the many things we take for granted in America that are truly revolutionary elsewhere in the world: peace, stability, freedom and security. I tend to be one of those who think the US gets involved in too many overseas disputes, but there’s no doubt we removed a true evil here. I pray along with my new Iraqi friend that good will take root here in its place.

    The first few days have already flown by!

    Ma’a issalehma (goodbye),

    Don -------, Major, USAF

    Attached Files:

  2. zimv20 macrumors 601


    Jul 18, 2002
  3. Backtothemac thread starter macrumors 601


    Jan 3, 2002
    San Destin Florida

    Thank you Zim.

    Pray for him. He is a hell of a guy with 3 kids, and a wife back here. Honest, dependable. I have known him for over 20 years. And is one of my best friends.
  4. LethalWolfe macrumors G3


    Jan 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Thanks BTTM.

    I wish the best for your friend, and your friend's freinds.

  5. blackfox macrumors 65816


    Feb 18, 2003
    BTTM, nice post...

    I hope that you reailize that any criticisms levied at this War and it's execution are aimed squarely at the administration and the other centers of power, and not at individual soldiers nor the battalions they comprise.

    They have the unfortunate duty to work in a dangerous, uncertain environment guided by the abstract principles of policy. I respect this.

    I thinks that many of us, both here in this forum, those in the government, and even many Iraqis, tend to deal in such abstract ideological terms, that we forget that this all effects good and innocent people, of ours and of theirs...

    ...Nice to hear something of this flavor...hope is in small supply these days...
  6. themadchemist macrumors 68030


    Jan 31, 2003
    Chi Town
    Thank you for sharing BTTM. And thanks to your friend for his insightful tidings from Iraq. I wish him only the best. Hopefully, he will soon be able to reunite with his family back home. And the same goes for the entire 4th Infantry.

    edit: And guys, I just want to reiterate what BTTM requested. We'll go for each other's throats in many other threads, like one of my favorites, "Republicans hate science," but not here, folks. I'd say let's listen and reflect with a little bit of restraint, if for nothing else than respect for BTTM and his willingness to post these very personal messages.
  7. Thanatoast macrumors 6502a


    Dec 3, 2002
    I don't want to go out of bounds, but I have a question.

    With stories like this one - honest, positive, uplifting (truly, this is the best "pro-occupation" story I have heard) - how is it that the administration has made me feel dishonered to be an American?

    (If this is in fact out of bounds, feel free to delete it)
  8. acdninjapan macrumors newbie


    Jul 6, 2004
    The Beaches Tokyo Japan
    I would like to hear more. These stories are truly few and far between. The journalists who cover war are hardened veterans who too often miss these stories. I think we need to be reminded that the Iraqis are human, having hopes, dreams and aspirations and all too often making the mistakes people make.
  9. Backtothemac thread starter macrumors 601


    Jan 3, 2002
    San Destin Florida
    Toast, you ass, I said, Na, just kidding man, great post. I agree with you, and that is why I posted it. We need this type of info coming to us, and it just isn't getting here.

    Got ya though didn't I ;)
  10. Chip NoVaMac macrumors G3

    Chip NoVaMac

    Dec 25, 2003
    Northern Virginia
    Nice to hear some good things out of Iraq.

    I would just nice to know better which tip of the iceberg is true. Stories like this, or the loathing of our occupation and hand over to select members of the Iraq nation.

    I have always said that the truth is somewhere in between.
  11. Backtothemac thread starter macrumors 601


    Jan 3, 2002
    San Destin Florida
    Life in the GreenZone

    Here is Don's second email. He also attacked a picture of himself. He is on the left in the picture. Everyone, please pray for his, and everyone there, for their safe return.

    The article below is a pretty good summary of life here. As they mention, the dining hall food is good but can get monotonous. I’ve only tried the restaurant at the Al Rasheed hotel, which has pretty good local cuisine. It has its own unique ambience, too – the hotel is on the edge of the Zone, and has long been an attractive target, so all the upper floors are heavily damaged (the restaurant is on the ground floor). This place is an interesting mix of destruction and rebirth!

    Like a coworker said, we may be living in a war zone, but it’s not every day you work in a palace and eat in a (shell pocked) 4-star hotel! J Nor do you often go into restaurants where there’s signs posted saying “No squad automatic weapons, rifles or submachines guns allowed. Pistols may be worn if unloaded and cleared.” Every street vendor sells leather shoulder holsters by the cartload and there’s more fancy blades and gun accessories for sale than at an NRA convention. I’m waiting for someone to open the “Mos Eisley cantina,” to serve this “wretched hive of scum and villany,” as Obi Wan might call it. Giddyup.

    It’s strange working for the Embassy and wearing civies every day. Had an AF Lt. Col. walk up to me today and compliment my straw hat, saying “you civilians have all the good headgear.” Best part was, he asked me if I was part of one of the PSDs (Personal Security Detachments). Guess all that working out has paid off but frankly, since I’m still required to shave, I don’t think I’m scruffy enough to pass for one of those guys. When I told him I was AF and instructed to wear civies to blend in with the State guys, he laughed and said I had a future in undercover work. Life is so much simpler in DCUs….

    The attached picture is of me and a coworker at the memorial referenced in the story below. We were out there just in time to hear a lot of automatic weapons open up just on the other side of the wall. Funny how the emerging Iraq sounds a lot like south central LA after dark… Then again, the article failed to mention the Green Zone is across the Tigris River from one of the worst neighborhoods in town, so I guess the analogy is appropriate. J

    Things are improving, however, so don’t let my gratuitous sarcasm give you the wrong idea. This country has come a long way in a year. When people say we’ve been here too long, remind them we occupied Japan and Germany for several years to help turn them into what they are today…and Germany at least had previous democratic experiences to build on. This isn’t done overnight.

    Thanks for the prayers and well wishes.


    Chicago Tribune July 12, 2004 – Front Page


    Baghdad's Green Zone left in gray

    Fate uncertain for touch of West
    By Evan Osnos
    Tribune foreign correspondent
    Published July 12, 2004

    BAGHDAD -- The beer flows freely on this sweltering night at the Green Zone Restaurant and Coffee Shop.

    The gas-station-turned-diner is loud and full: brawny security consultants with sidearms, Special Forces pedigrees and no last names; freshly arrived U.S. Embassy staffers, pinked by the sun, squawking into balky cell phones; and a jumble of others who round out life in the Green Zone, the singular slice of America that thrives in the heart of officially sovereign Iraq.

    But 14 months after the U.S.-led coalition walled off more than 3 square miles of the Iraqi capital and began creating an oasis that has come to be known as the Emerald City--complete with jogging routes, English pubs and a Hee Haw Country and Western Night every week--the transfer of authority to an interim Iraqi government last month has left the Green Zone's future in limbo.

    The zone of U.S. and allied territory, which is centered on one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces, is trapped between the political need to hand prized land back to Iraqis and the practical demand for a secure refuge in a still-violent capital.

    Rockets and mortars still strike the area several times a week, often around breakfast time. At bus stops, checkpoints and anywhere else residents tend to linger, concrete shelters are nearby to provide refuge during a barrage. Shrinking the target for those attacks is one benefit military commanders cite in reducing the size of coalition-held territory.

    Though no date has been set, the U.S. military is considering a plan that would hand up to 60 percent of the Green Zone to Iraqi control. That leaves many of those who work or live inside the blast walls and concertina wire wondering how much of its U.S. and European flavor will--or should--survive.

    "We are very keen to do whatever we can to send the message that things are changing for real," said a Western diplomat who asked not to be identified.

    The details of the zone today or in the future are sensitive to Iraqi and foreign officials--the U.S. Embassy declined a request for an escorted tour--who are intent on emphasizing that the political occupation is over, even as thousands of U.S. and allied staffers support the fledgling Iraqi government.

    The Green Zone is a world unto itself. To the men and women who live inside, it is both fortress and prison--shielding them from a nation painfully unlike what war planners envisioned, yet distancing them from the very population they came to help.

    The broad swath of real estate slices downtown Baghdad and stretches west across the city from the marshy banks of the Tigris River, encompassing residential neighborhoods, government buildings and the series of monuments that comprise the Iraqi equivalent of the National Mall.

    At its peak, the Green Zone held about 3,000 civilian staff and untold numbers of soldiers. There are 12,000 to 20,000 Iraqis who also live within the boundaries.

    Razor wire walls

    The zone is surrounded by 14-foot concrete slabs and coils of razor wire. U.S. and Iraqi troops run six checkpoints around the edges, searching cars for bombs, checking IDs and questioning pedestrians.

    During much of the past year, the U.S.-led occupation controlled Iraq from the blue-domed expanse of Hussein's former Republican Palace, a symbol of unrivaled dominance that was not lost on Iraqis or the Americans. But on June 28, that occupation system officially expired and the nations that once made up the Coalition Provisional Authority have splintered--on paper, at least-- into individual embassies.

    But finding the physical space to hold major new embassies is not as simple as the pen stroke that created them. Britain has taken pains to emphasize the end of its role in the defunct Coalition Provisional Authority by accelerating the effort to move the 100-member British staff into a new embassy even before renovations on that building are complete. Heralded by bagpipes, new British Ambassador Edward Chaplin raised the Union Jack last week on the site of an old school once run by Hussein's Baath Party, selected after six months of searches and construction.

    U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte has raised the flag on a temporary site within the zone to serve as the first U.S. Embassy here in 13 years. As in so much of Iraq these days, security is paramount. Francis Ricciardone, the U.S. diplomat who is overseeing the transition to the new embassy, estimates that it will cost $1 billion to run the U.S. mission in the coming fiscal year, with the largest share going to logistics and security.

    The new embassy has 51 armored cars and 90 on order, he told the House Armed Services Committee last month. For now, the temporary embassy will hold 40 or 50 top staff members while about 1,700 other members of the embassy operation will remain in Hussein's Republican Palace, despite Iraqi requests to return the palace.

    Heavily guarded checkpoint

    For now, life in the Green Zone continues in the tense balance between security and a seemingly imposed sense of normalcy. The busiest route into the Green Zone is a gate beside the Baghdad Convention Center, where Iraqis go to apply for jobs or seek information on detainees in U.S. custody. The entrance is a series of checkpoints, linked by a snaking path of concrete slabs, snipers' towers and heavy canvas bomb barriers filled with dirt.

    When the zone cafeterias run by U.S. military contractors get monotonous, diners seek a range of rough-and-ready restaurants, such as the Pizza Inn, the Alone Star Cafe or one of two neighboring eateries known as Chinese Restaurant in Front and Chinese Restaurant in Back.

    Air-conditioned shuttle buses run by contractor KBR cruise the streets. British-trained Nepalese Ghurkas, wearing khaki safari gear, stand at the door of many buildings, checking IDs yet again.

    Most foreign residents of the Green Zone live in sprawling parks of simple white trailers. Bechtel, KBR and other U.S. corporations involved in reconstruction have their own enclosed compounds within the zone, adding a thin but cherished measure of exclusivity.

    Few people can confidently say how the future of the Green Zone will look, and who will fall inside and outside its lines. The uncertainty carries the greatest stakes, perhaps, for people such as Isaac Ho, manager of the Chinese Restaurant in Front, who emigrated from China's Guangdong province to build the simple eatery on a former trash lot.

    Attached Files:

  12. Backtothemac thread starter macrumors 601


    Jan 3, 2002
    San Destin Florida
    Restaurant owner's dream

    "Everything is changing so fast, nobody has told us what will happen," Ho said. "We have spent $600,000 already. . . . If they let us stay, then we will make the most modern and state-of-the-art Chinese restaurant."

    Whether Ho's plot ends up in U.S. or Iraqi hands hinges on where a crucial line is drawn.

    According to a military plan that has been approved by several top commanders, the U.S. and its allies would draw a new barricaded line within the Green Zone and transfer control of its outer area to Iraqi forces. Iraqi leaders can then decide what to do about the zone's walls, said Army Col. Mike Murray, architect of the plan and commander of the 1st Cavalry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, which controls the zone.

    The plan would give Iraqis responsibility over symbolic sites such as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Crossed Sabers monument, a pair of towering archways built in the shape of Hussein's forearms clutching angled swords.

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