Friday, February 8, 2008

Moments of Zen

Iraq is a different culture. I live in work in the cradle of government, learning and agriculture, surrounded by the sum total of nearly 6000 years of collective knowledge. That being the case, I can’t explain what happened to Iraq. It seems that each day I have this…”Wha-wha-what?!” moment.

Case in point: I Entouraged! out to a meeting with a pair of very senior Iraqi judges, a Ministry of Justice representative and Sheiks from my area. Let me explain “Sheiks,” because when I first got to Iraq in 2003 the only Sheik I knew of was the Iron Sheik of WWF fame. Sheiks are like Mafia godfathers. Everything you’ve seen on the Sopranos or Pesci movies is just like an Iraqi Sheik, minus the fugedabouti.

So, the judges spoke to the Sheiks about expanding the courts in their areas, and the practice of “fasil” came up. If an Iraqi kills someone from another tribe, the Sheiks from the affected tribes will get together and work out monetary compensation for the murdered family, and that will settle the matter. Maybe the offender has to die in the bargain, or is banished from the area. But, money can cure all ills. That is “fasil.” The judges were just fine with he Sheiks continuing to resolve murders in this manner, the courts will handle divorces and property cases.

Let’s go back to that. Representatives from the Iraqi government, heirs of Sargon the Great, Babylonian rulers, Alexander the Great, Mishaq the Eh, He’s OK and the Ottoman Empire abdicated murder trials to local Godfathers. Yes. Really.

Then there’s this Iraqi soldier. A ‘jundi,’ in the local parlance.

We met him on guard at a defunct water treatment facility. Sleep safely, Iraqi children. This man stands rough and ready to do violence on your behalf.

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