THE IRAQI DREAM |
March 16, 2009
We’re still in a combat zone, up against an enemy that uses deception and stealth (because they can’t face us in a stand up fight), so access to our base by local nationals is strictly controlled. Most of the folks here haven’t met an Iraqi, and certainly haven’t had the chance to sit down and talk with one.
I was fortunate. One of the vehicle maintenance operations aboard base is managed by an Iraqi, an Iraqi who speaks outstanding English, and who has worked with Americans since the start of the war. While I was getting one of our vehicles serviced I had the chance to talk with him, and actually get into some deeper subjects, like how the Iraqis feel things are going.
“Haseem” is a slim man in his mid thirties. His English is laced with properly used expletives when he speaks of foreign nationals coming to his backyard to kill Americans, and there is anger in his eyes. He has served as an interpreter with the Coalition Forces, and carries the scars of five gunshot wounds, earned while leading American patrols through dangerous areas. “If the Americans were willing to hunt down and kill the bad guys,” he said, making his point with the stab of a cigarette, “the least I could do was go into the house first.”
He is frustrated at the procedures he has to go through to get aboard base. “We come in late, and leave early. By the time I get here, I’ve got five trucks waiting.” Typical concerns of a business manager.
I point out that it won’t be too long before the Americans are out of here, and I mention that I see good signs for the Iraqis; they are actively pursuing the bad guys, kicking them out of their communities. “It’s not the Iraqis I worry about," I tell him, "it’s the Syrians, the Saudis, and all the guys who come here to take a shot at the Americans.”
“Yes! Yes!” he says, nodding emphatically. "And our own religious leaders," he spits, “who are filling our young people's minds with garbage! Al-Sadr, he is a thug! He is known for his father. His father was a good man, well educated, but the son, he is not. He is an ignorant savage riding the fame of his father. He is no good! Al-Sistani, he is a man of peace. He understands.”
I listen with rapt amazement. Haseem is a patriot. A patriot for Iraq.
The Iraqi people are a good, proud people, and to have us here is certainly a frustration for them, but they are well on their way towards breaking out of the mindset forced upon them by Saddam Hussein, and they are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I will be glad when this place can be turned over to them with the knowledge that they are firmly in control. There are many here like Haseem, who want their country back, and work with the Coalition to make it happen. They understand that there is much to be done, and they are doing it, with their minds and their talents.
Someday, when this is over, I would like to visit here, to get to know this place in the light of peace. To sit with a group of men my own age, drink chai, and swap stories. I am proud to be here supporting that goal.
I also had the chance to meet another local, “Achmed”, 22 years old, a newlywed of three months. We talked about his home in the neighboring village, and how he and his wife want babies. (I told him to keep practicing and it would happen, and he gave me a sly, sidelong look, and then laughed.) We spoke of children, as a father and a prospective father, and not once did we speak of war, or strife, or the troubles of the government, or anything other than what two men might speak of about their families and their homes.
I told him about my three boys and my daughter, and he wanted to know a little bit about them. I told him how proud I am of my children. I told him their names, and want they are like, and my fatherly concerns about them. When I spoke of Katie Kat, he was interested in how Americans regard their daughters, and he was impressed that I thought Katie Kat would go to college, and become a strong young woman. (Very significant.)
I enjoyed our conversation, and bid him farewell at the end of the day.
I wish both Haseem and Achmed prosperity and success, and I feel confident that men like these will take charge of this country and do well by it.