Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Latest and Greatest
Well, I’ve been away now for 30 days and in country for 27. Still not sure if time is flying by or simply dragging along, but it’s nice to see the days ticking away. I know lots of bad things have been going on around the region, but I was truly inspired by Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi’s comments the other day. He said that no matter what happens between now and January, this country will have its elections and democracy will rule. ‘This will be the ultimate blow to what the terrorists are trying to accomplish.' If his words inspired me, I hope the rest of the people around Iraq were just as inspired. Yes, bad things are happening around here, but there is so much hope for the future, you just can’t stop people once they have a taste of freedom. Our forefathers who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution knew that freedom was not something handed out by man. It was a gift handed down by the creator of all mankind and instilled in everyone's heart, and we all have a God given right to it.
I’m currently reading a history of the Soviet Union, and I find it amazing how the hundreds of millions of people who lived for generations behind the Iron Curtain had all succumbed to communism and socialist rule, but their yearning for freedom never truly faded away. That is why, as time went on, so many of those people gained enough strength and demanded democracy and freedom, resulting in the velvet revolution... the revolution that conquered the Soviet Union without a shot fired. I only hope the Iraqis are the same way. If freedom is ingrained in all of us, then give these good people a few years and they will be well on their way. In the mean time, we’ll keep helping them kick terrorist ass.
We’ve had the occasional random attacks, but nothing significant. I’ve still got all my bells and whistles intact. It’s cooling down, so the average day is about 105F. Just perfect for us out here. Oh, and yes, I did the deed. I shaved my head with a razor on Sunday. I could never do this permanently, but it is kind of cool. It makes life so much easier out here with the 3 minute showers and wearing the helmet every day. It just better grow back before I get home. I look like Mr. Clean.
Since I was one of the first to arrive for this rotation, I’ll be one of the first to leave this winter. The sad part is that I’ve made some great friends over the last few weeks who have now all gone home. I’m happy for them, but I have to admit the folks on their rotation were much better than the ones on mine. There were some great Captains and Senior NCOs that would always gather up on the rooftop, smoke a good cigar, and just chat. Now I’m surrounded by junior Airmen and Lieutenants. My God, I can’t believe I survived being a Lieutenant. These guys are knuckleheads! One has only been in a year, and he’s a Zoomie, so there is no hope. (A Zoomie is an Air Force Academy Graduate) The other is from Hanscom AFB, Mass. He’s got to be the most arrogant guy alive. He knows his job, don’t get me wrong, but he had the misfortune of disagreeing with me about our office. We tore apart my office, repainted it, and then moved 1 more person in it. Now there are three of us sharing a space about the size of my old dorm room in college. Since I’m the Group Exec I am in charge of these two knuckleheads, so I placed the desks accordingly. When the Lt saw where I was putting the desks he succumbed to his inner 3 year old and started throwing a temper tantrum. He would not shut up, and he would not stop telling me that I was wrong, that he wouldn’t sit there, and that I didn’t know what I was doing. I politely straightened him out and told him that the decision was final. He left, but the next day when I arrived he moved his desk back, so I pulled him out of the office and as far away from the others as I could. I then politely told him that I didn’t care what his reason was for not listening to me, he’d better move his stuff back. Next thing I hear is him whining and yelling at me. To make a long story short, everyone in the building could hear my response, and he has yet to raise his voice at me again. Yes, I’m always a nice guy and I usually let people sit where they want to, but had I given in, this guy would have been walking all over me for 4 months. I at least have half a brain, so I know never to yell or scream at someone who outranks me, no matter how right or wrong they are. So yes, I’ve wielded my power, cleaned house, and as Mel Brooks once said, “It’s good to be the King.” Now all I need are some cigars. I ran out.
Hey, my mouse count is up to 8. I’ve caught 8 of the suckers in our building. I have these sticky traps all around, and they just keep coming. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like once the rains come. The only thing that sucks about the sticky traps is if you step on them, it’s impossible to get them off your boots. Trust me, I know from experience.
Not sure if I mentioned this, but I’m in charge of this renovation project here on base. There is an ancient Muslim Shrine and cemetery here on base, and a lot of the folks around the area pray to it every day. They can see it from miles away. We found out that renovating the place will pay huge dividends in improving the relations with the locals since Saddam kept so many away from the place and refused to help in its upkeep. Anyways, the Army is getting 100K to fix it up and I’ll be the Project Manager on it. It means I’ll be working with local clerics, which will be very interesting. Hopefully we can get it rolling soon. I’ll keep you updated as it progresses.
Someone pointed out a building that is fenced off in a corner of the base. I guess Saddam had killed a group of Kurdish leaders and dumped their remains inside the building. Since Islam dictates that bodies should be buried by nightfall of the day someone dies, Saddam dumped them there to give the locals the proverbial middle finger. Nobody goes near the place for obvious reasons. I’m sure the locals will want to collect their kin some day in the near future. You’d be amazed to hear the stories told about Saddam around here. The bombed out soccer stadium behind our base was a Bath Party hangout, and during soccer games they would bring out people who had done something wrong and execute them in front of the crowds. At another stadium they interrupted a soccer game by bringing out a large number of people, killing them in front of the crowd, digging a trench in the middle of the field with a backhoe, dumped them in the trench, quickly filling it, and then continued the game.
Sorry to talk about stuff like this, but you just never hear about how bad it was before we came along. Yes, there is bad stuff going on and it’ll get worse before it gets better, but most of the folks here in Iraq are happy we’re here because of what they endured for decades under Saddam. We already cut and run back in 1991 after telling these people we’d support any uprising against Saddam. Not only did we leave them hanging... we allowed Saddam to fly his gunships in and mow'em down under the guise of flying humanitarian missions. Not one of our proudest moments. Yes they never forgot that, but they have forgiven us because we’re here now and we’re helping them become a democracy. Now if the nimrods back home would just shut up about cutting and running again because we've shed blood here. Don't they remember when Thomas Jefferson wrote, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
Okay, I’ll get off my soap box. Like I said before, I can’t wait to see these people years from now and how much better off they will be because of what we’re doing here today.
Thanks for all the funny emails. Tam, the joke about the Redneck wrestling the alligator was a big hit around here. Bev, thanks for the letter! Michelle, thank you for the e-cards. Shane, thank you for the pictures of the kids at the apple orchard. I can’t believe they’ve changed so much since July.
Keep in touch, and keep counting down the days. I’m almost there!
posted by El Capitan at 6:52 AM