Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Suicide.

Today I was shocked when 2 large explosions occurred near my building.

It turns out 1 was a car bomb and the second was an IBIED and both explosions rocked my trailer. I have been within 15 feet of an exploding rocket and I can tell you that this explosion was louder. The one that landed 15 feet from me caused my teeth and hair to hurt and I don’t think I saw in color for about 15 minutes. This one was louder.

And they are an almost daily event. The daily life of the average Iraqi can put them into contact with all sorts of perils including the increasing number of kidnappings. My great friend Arkhan is a Sunni and lives in a predominantly Sunni area of Baghdad. Today he called me and asked for help. Last night, someone threw a rock thru his window. The rock contained a note and written on that note in blood was a warning to him to get his family out of Iraq in 7 days. Currently I cannot get them to Dubai or Jordan but I may be able to get them to Syria or Egypt. If any of you have relatives in either Syria or Egypt please help me find this man a job. He is an electrical engineer and he speaks pretty good English. His brother was an Iraqi Army General. The reason I bring up Arkhan is because he is a typical Iraqi. He is not rich. He does not own a home. Houses sell for about 1M USD in Baghdad. He is a rational person and could care less if someone else is Shia or Christian or Buddhist. Most Iraqis are very similar to him.

My good friend Hidar went through the extremely difficult process of entering the Green Zone today to visit me for a meeting. We are working a few deals to try to provide bridges to southern Iraq and in Kurdistan. He was very anxious when he entered my office and was sweating profusely. It was about 2 PM here. It turns out that the reason he was late for our meeting was because of a street closure. Those explosions I mentioned earlier happened less than 50 meters from where he was standing, waiting to get in to see me. He was not harmed.

Both of these men are good men. I know many others that are equally respectable most notably my brother Ali who has been transferred to the US for his protection. I would trust all 3 of these guys with my life and on 2 occasions have done so.

And I have learned from them. I have asked them questions and they give me honest answers. And what they tell me is that Baghdad is not safe. In some areas a man will be cut with a knife for wearing shorts or for sporting a goatee. But, they all tell me they think they are better off than when Saddam was in power.

I do not know what the future of Iraq will be. BBob mentioned on Drudge that there is a fundamental difference between us and them. And there is. But there are also fundamental similarities. They want to lead a free and prosperous life as much as we do. I am not going to get on here and lie about my feelings. When I arrived in Iraq in February 2004 I really thought I was making a difference and that is why I volunteered to come. I saw it as my duty to support my country the same as when I enlisted on January 16 1991. Which coincidentally was my 18th birthday.

What makes me emotional is the fact that had I been allowed, I would have been sent to Iraq to fight in the first Gulf War. My dear friend Hidar, who was nearly killed by the bombings today, was an Army Captain during the war and actually fought against US troops. I told him I was extremely glad that he wasn’t killed by MY Army.

There is no animosity. Soldiers fight. Just like boxers. You don’t hate your opponent. I don’t hate Iraqis, I never have. I feel sorry for them. I am sorry that they live under conditions that most of us would die in. Some of them live in such squalor that they would beg to be a Katrina refugee. But you know what? They still maintain. As bad as it is, they still smile and laugh and do business.

I know people with stories so painful that if I told them some of you would actually cry. But the guy telling me those stories still maintained. The Iraqis will defeat this insurgency. Every Iraqi I have met, every last one of them, wants peace and wants a stable government. They think the government doesn’t do anything to help them and in some regards, they are correct. But, they all want peace.

Peace will not be achieved however, unless they decide the killings must end. It is up to each individual Iraqi to NOT let the insurgents fire mortars from their roofs. Some Iraqis have decided to guard their own streets which the US military decries. I think it is a fabulous idea. They have to make a stand. When they are all saying “not on my street” they will have a chance and will succeed.

Anyway, just my thoughts, take em or leave em.

Here is a picture from Prague. Man that owl had stinky breath.

Cheers,
Walt

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