Medicine Soldier

A View from Iraq


What's in the News

I think one of the reasons I have been depressed lately is because of the news in the Chow Hall. I think it ruined my appetite to hear about Terri Schiavo every time I went to eat. Some kind of Pavlov's dog response. After that two week ordeal, we began hearing about the Pope and speculated about the chances of leaving him on a feeding tube. We did hear at length about the Pope's illness and the process for electing a new Pope, and have been watching people stand in line to view his body. (Speaking of the Vatican, I'd like to throw in a plug for the book Angels & Demons by Dan Brown.) The death of the Pope has spawned much discussion this week about many topics. One discussion was about the difference between Catholic theology versus Catholic tradition. It is interesting how Christianity has spread through interpretation over the years. In this diversity we had Catholics arguing with Catholics arguing with Mormons and Protestants about different church views. After all our discussions we put our differences aside and went out to play nice with the Muslims since we are not allowed to proselytize. Many Muslims did however offer condolences to us for the loss of the pope.

There is another major pilgrimage this week in Iraq. The last two, one on my birthday and one on Easter, were from Najaf to Kabala. This one is from Kabala to Najaf. It is the third time in the three months we have been here that millions of Muslims will be walking through our area. This always seems to bring mixed messages. There are usually threats against us, and we take measures to protect ourselves while allowing the Muslims to observe their rites of passage. Unfortunately, the people walking the streets are no different from the college parties or post-sporting event celebrations outside Fenway. It is not the locals we are worried about; it is the out-of-towners. I have spoken with my local friends who work at our camp, and they insist their lives have improved tremendously since the coalition forces have been here. Through broken English, one man and I both had the common understanding that Iraq is much like France, Korea, Germany, and Japan. Although the American Army has destroyed many things for some political or tactical reason, we have liberated, rebuilt, and supported these countries afterward. The Iraqis I have spoken with also understand we are people as well as soldiers. They understand the sacrifice we are making to be away from our families for a long time so that the Iraqi children can grow up free, educated, and have a better quality of life.

In another conversation, an Iraqi was talking about the political game they play. There are corrupt leaders who are just like teenagers. The game is to intentionally do something wrong until you get caught and say, OK you caught me, now I will try some other way. I think the implication was that local governments or even Saddam was playing games to try to beat the system. Even the insurgents are playing the game. They keep using the same technique of bombs and suicide bombs until we catch on to it and adapt, and then they come up with something else.

We are supposed to be fighting the war on terrorism. I can not say that Saddam posed a direct threat against the U.S.; maybe that was part of the game. However, I see that Iraq is a better place and is becoming an even better place.

The area we are in is relatively quiet. Aside from some threats during the pilgrimage, we have been helping to support the transitional government any way we can. Sometimes it means staying out of the middle of their disputes so we do not appear to take sides. Other times we are on stand-by to break up a protest or assist in a transfer of authority from one party to the next. When we are not doing these special missions, patrolling, or running convoy security, we have been playing softball at our newly commissioned softball field. We also have a few volleyball nets and I have been trying to learn how to Salsa dance. Unfortunately, something always happens on Salsa night. Either we are on a mission or chasing helicopters. There are also no dance partners in my "group."

It has also been a rough week. I have been fighting through a sinus infection and was ordered to stay in bed for two days, but I could not. We had some guests from one of our Vermont units that is stationed in Kuwait, and we had a few big missions.

Three months in Iraq and the days are starting to drag. The internet has been very slow and I have not had the opportunity to check the last few weeks. The quiet part of my day has been between 8 and 10 in the morning. I have learned to get some little things done. As the day progresses the momentum picks up and before I know it, it is midnight and I have to get some sleep. The news has reported my unit being in the middle of an offensive campaign, which was not true so a response was sent in to the local papers telling a more accurate story. We are not aggressively fighting down here right now, but there has been the feeling that the other shoe will drop at some point. Hopefully things will go well for us. However, now that the Pope's funeral and Charles' wedding are old news, the war is becoming popular again.

posted by Scott | 14:45 Baghdad time | © 4.12.2005
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Feedback from readers: 1

Grass dancer, eh? Hmmm. I'm Wyandotte, Kickpoo, and Seminole, but some how ended up being a straight dancer, probably because I grew up on the border of the Osage Rez in Oklahoma.

Ate lunch at the Red Cross HQ cafeteria in D.C.last Wednesday. It's just across the park from my office. I'm a lawyer/administrator for the BIA.

Enjoyed reading your blog. I'll check in again to see how things are going in Mesopotamia. My blog is at

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous | 17/4/05 16:46  

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