Thursday, January 10, 2008

Iraqi Army Day

Iraqi Army Day has come and gone. The only press I saw on TV was Saddam’s empty parade grounds (the giant crossed swords) and the suicide bomber who killed 11 people in Baghdad. There’s more to Iraqi Army Day, at least from my experience.

When I first heard about Iraqi Army day, I was a bit worried. Ever see a clown car unload a bunch of painted weirdo’s at the circus? That’s the closest thing I can think of to describe Iraqis doing anything organized.

So we (I’m in an entourage) head to the Iraqi Army compound and there is a line of Iraqi vehicles, captured weapons and jundi standing at attention all over the place. Inside the spacious conference room are nearly a hundred sheiks, political and economic leaders from all over the Qada (a county or state is the closest American equivalent). My boss broke off to the Big Boy Couch and I sat in the back of the conference room with my trusty translator ‘Fatima.’
The official program began, with speeches from Iraqi generals, the mayor and my boss (he didn’t know he was speaking, but gave a great speech, Rakkasan!). The Iraqi speakers went on at length on what a special day this was for the Iraqi Army, and how great things are in the Qada thanks to the IA’s efforts. The Iraqi general for the Qada spoke against sectarianism and promised to ‘kill anyone who doesn’t follow the rules.’ Yes. Really.

Odd bit, none of the Iraqis mentioned Coalition Forces, even though we were there. And we’ve bent over backwards to train these bunch of cavemen into a decent army, and we’re spending 10 billion a month on this war, and the day before an IA soldier up in Mosul murdered two Soldiers. Perhaps they’re a bit bitter about having their collective clocks’ cleaned…twice. Assholes.

Then there was the poem. Yes a poem by an IA soldier. Fatima’s English needs a bit more work, and she couldn’t translate the high faluten Arabic into high faluten English. But I’m sure the poem was lovely.

Here’s what throws me, the IA Division commander then passed out gifts to the best IA soldiers and officers in the IA Brigade. Presents? There’s a cultural nuance that’ll never make its way into the American Army. Congress would spend 3 years and 37 million dollars on studies to determine the price range and economic impact of official gift giving.

The indoor portion ended with cake. I didn’t get a piece, I think the cake had goat filling. You never know with Iraqis.

Next we had a demonstration of Iraqi soldiers assaulting a bunker, complete with smoke grenades and blanks. Nobody said anything about the IA using blanks during IA day. Imagine my surprise when IA soldiers notorious for negligent discharges fired blanks in my direction. I moved.

There was media everywhere for IA Day. This smoking hot reporter from the London Times (nice teeth!) snuggled up next to me during the speeches so she could listen to Fatima translate. OK, she sat two feet from me, but she was leaning over to listen! Iraq is a sexually frustrating environment; I’ll take what I can get. Moving on. Media just everywhere, but CNN and FOX run the suicide bomber and an empty parade field. I guess those major news networks couldn’t send a reporter outside the Green Zone but some waifish Brit with huge blue eyes can!
The Iraqis will never be a Western military, but at least they’re progressing to the point where they can beat lightly armed sub-human thugs.

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