Sunday, January 23, 2005

 

Arrival in Iraq

I am safely arrived in Iraq through circuitous paths which I shouldn't discuss, but suffice it to say that though eventful, stressful, and tiring, the trip was nevertheless absent any harm, injury, damage or other fearful circumstances for any of our soldiers. We did see some other units that had trouble, and have already experienced our first mortar attacks here on base, but they are laughably ineffective, and we are at a location considered the safest in all of Iraq, and have NO contact with the local population, none of whom are allowed on post for any reason at all. There are a few Iraqi Army soldiers we've seen lately in the mess hall (where they are not supposed to be I think), but for Iraqi's own protection (we're in Saddam Sunni country), they are excluded from the base.

We had tailors, hairdressers, bazarre vendors, etc., but they were getting a lot of threats and several were killed, so no more of that until sometime after the Iraqi election. The only real impact to us is we can't contract with local suppliers for stuff, because the threat to them is too high, so we can't get major appliances or computer/printer/electronic type support locally, and what was purchased in the past was often defective or damaged (really poor quality), and now service guys can't get in or aren't around anymore.

It is almost exactly like Russia or the old Soviet Union with the shoddy and inferior construction, workmanship, light manufacturing, etc etc etc, and I have to recall that Saddam ran a Stalinist dictatorship, where subservience was valued over quality and the best and the brightest were killed or chased off. (No architects, designers, planners, etc.) They can't build anything to spec or the specs are crazy -- drainage pipes for toilets that are too small to allow paper and waste to pass, thus we have bathrooms but only for #1, #2 is a portajohn outside. Just built buildings start falling apart immediately, stalls on toilet areas accommodate up to 5' 6", if you are taller than that, you need to leave the door open.

Masonry, tile work, carpentry, it is all the same and reminds me exactly of Soviet Union circa 1976, no sense of quality, standard, or even common sense. (Go figure, those crazy state run economies.)

If you haven't read it yet, get Natan Sharanski's The Case for Democracy. He has an excellent thesis that presages (I believe inspired) Bush's bold vision for an alignment of our ideals and national interests, that we must insist on the spread of democracy as our only hope of defeating the threats of the fear Societies that are the true source of Islamo-Fascism and other terrorist or quasi-State sponsored threats.

Anyway, I started reading it on our flights over the Kuwait, and heard it echo strongly what the President has been saying about the War on Terror, and very clearly reflected in the President's Inauguration. (Read that too if you didn't hear it.)

I have a crud in my lungs that came from lack of sleep, a cold, and breathing in some really foul air (pollution, garbage burning, oil fields, and Lord knows what else) in Kuwait and on the way into Iraq. Otherwise, I am fine and I really like our buildings and the base. It's very odd, many odd juxtposed elements, outward splendor of "Palaces," but inside some eastern european slum feel. Plenty okay with soldiers that lived in tents with no hot water in Kuwait for 2-3 weeks, and even better in some ways than the run down stuff in the U.S. Easy access to very cheap phones (4-5 cents a minute) and free internet with little wait and often no time limits. Meals are exceptional, laundry is free, we're in good spirits, and I KNOW this was a blessing to be sent here.

The unit we are replacing has had no injuries from any combat situations, only a couple of close Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and a damaged door to a vehicle, but praise God the mortars only once tore up some equipment and usually land in this resort-like lake that some of our buildings overlook. We do need to "go outside the wire" on convoys regularly, but the most frequent ones are pretty incident free, the dangerous ones are infrequent, and the processes used to setup, arm, train and prepare the convoys means that anyone fool enough to try anything gets blown up pretty readily. At this rate, these guys have to run out of people, money and materiel -- provided our other governmental arms are cutting off the money/arms/fighter flow from Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc.

This year will go quick for us, I have to decide whether to spend my time writing, taking a Masters, teaching Project Management (or something else), publishing my blog, or whatever else comes to mind. I should have an easy year once we get into the routine and take transfer from the other unit.

Thanks again for the prayer and support. My love to all my friends back home!




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