Thursday, August 14, 2003

Hello All:
It's been, like..forever since I posted last. Summer has been pretty busy. I won't get into the whole, "What I did on my Summer Vacation" thing quiet yet, but what follows is something (IMHO) even more important.
A writing aquaintence of mine is evidently in Baghdad. I'm not sure if he's there as a member of the military, or as a member of the press, I don't even know his real name. He needs to preserve his privacy. What I do know that his accounts of events are true. SO here is a little something from 'the front'.

Further thoughts from Baghdad.

The Rest of the Story

Everything you have heard about this situation is probably true. However, that doesn't mean you have the whole story.

It is true that there are soldiers that want to go home. I think I mentioned that earlier. Actually, that is an understatement. I can say, without reservation, that there is no one I have spoken to so far that has said they would like to stay here.

"What kind of a stupid question is that?" one says when I bring up the topic. "Why would you even ask that?"
"There is no way in Hell I would stay here myself, much less bring my family," says another. "Even if I had my own oil well, I wouldn't stay here."

"I would."

Everyone looks at the one dissenting voice like he just implied that the Pope was a cross-dresser.
"If I had my own oil well? Sure I'd stay here! For about a week out of every year, just to check on my oil well."

Officer, enlisted, civilian, regardless of background or nationality or mission, everyone wants to go back to where they belong. It hums in the background like a generator. It sticks in the back of your thoughts like some kind of radio jingle. It's the 500-pound gorilla. It's DeBergerac's nose. Some people can't help but dwell on it, others avoid the topic, but everyone is aware of it. It is the common thread of life here. And when someone finds out when they are leaving, everyone is glad for them.

Yes, it's true that they are ready to go home.

But there are other things that are true, also. There are people here that turn down the chance to get away for a few days because their team is short handed. There are people that delay their return in order to accomplish the current project.

Everyone has their own ways of making the situation easier. It's not always something heroic. Sometimes there is a box from home, and everyone has good coffee or Grandmother's cookies. DVD's make the rounds to anyone that has a laptop. People share what they can, keep each other informed of what's going on back home, and try to understand when a buddy gets Tent Fever.

Sometimes the measures are a little more extreme. The Army band tours this country, giving concerts to whomever they can gather. Sometimes they ride in the back of a cargo truck, and the opportunistic naps get interrupted by the holes in the roads. Sometimes they ride in a helicopter, and the naps are interrupted by a door gunner occasionally firing at things they can't see in the night. They play fun music, and try to lighten the load of a few, but even the lighter moments have their edge. It's one thing to hear Darryl Worley sing "Have You Forgotten" over the radio, and another thing entirely to sing it along with these troops after reading a list of this week's killed and wounded.

So there is truth in what you hear, but you don't have the whole story. No one does. The whole story is written on the hearts and minds of the ones who are here, both native and visitor.

It's true that there are soldiers dying here. Every day, we here the news of some attack. Someone threw a rock. Someone threw a grenade. Someone fired a shot. Someone fired a rocket. We got one of them. They got one of us.

There is violence in just about every major district of this country. Sometimes it's against the Americans. Sometimes it's against the British. Sometimes it's against the locals. The reasons are numerous. They want the electricity on. They want the water to work. They want the Americans to go away. They want the things that are in that store over there. They want to take that fuel and sell it across the border. They want you to shut up.
There are a wide variety of reasons to kill people. Not a lot of good reasons, though. And every day, the gains and losses in the battle to restore some semblance of order move across the television screens of the world, and the people in front of the televisions of the world decide that it is unfortunate.

Yes, it's true that people are being killed here.

But there are other things that are true, also. Progress is being made. It isn't as fast as anyone would like, but progress, always either a tortoise or a hare, never gets made at a comfortable speed. Water starts flowing in one area, but not in another until later, but it is beginning to flow. Lights are available in some, but not all, areas of a city, but the darkness is being pushed back. Hospitals are opening up again, after replacing the supplies that were looted and the windows that were broken. Stores are opening. Police are starting to stop criminals. And here, in Baghdad, there are people who will sit in front of their televisions tonight and hear about someone shooting or robbing someone in YOUR city, and they will decide that it is unfortunate.

More to follow