I had dinner last night with my new Old Friend Mr Brown. We met him during a previous adventure. He is quick with a smile and brilliant with languages. He joined us at dinner last night. Lawrence and I sat down with a young man who didn’t greet us at first. In time, after Mr Brown sat down, there were glad greeting and introductions all around.
Mr Jones offers his hand to me and says “My name is Jones” then quickly leans in for the whisper — ‘but you know I really am not, right.’
“Of course, of course Mr Jones.” How do you answer that question.
“Brown and I went to school together. He is an old friend.” I then ask, “Are you from the same country as Mr Brown?”
“No, no, I am from another country. From the middle east.” Well didn’t I just pick up the hint that there is a line between North Africa and the Middle East. I am not too sure I know where it is or if I could trip on it. Mr Jones wants to lean in to tell me where he is from but I wave my hand. You can’t keep secrets if you keep telling them, that’s just not the way it is done. We talk languages. We talk Koran. And Lawrence, the sleeping dog with respect to religion spends an hour on the comparison between the Koran and the Old Testament. He knew Genesis better than anyone I have ever heard. He had the bit about the begatting and the begatted down. He knew that lineage of Moses. He went name for name with Mr Brown. In an hour, they taught me more than I learned in a 200 page book on comparative religion from school: Ibrahim, Isreal, Lott, and on.
I had the opportunity to ask Mr Jones — who admitted to knowing Baghdad very well — what he thought of our efforts here in this particular war. There was a story about a large construction company, now gone. There were stories of imprisonment and such. Given that Lawrence and I get rather irreverent towards some of our efforts, it was good to hear a perspective that is not US, that is not Christian and that is not seen on CNN. There was deep and genuine appreciation. He reviewed the numbers with us: 15% of the nation is sunni and less than 5% of that group actually in opposition. I asked him: “How will it end?”
His answer: “It will take time but they will give up when the economy turns around and they are killing peoples profit and opportunities”. I think Ben Franklin said All wars are about profit. When we compared Iraq to Vietnam, the conversation focused on the strength of current economy in Vietnam. There was no discussion of the quagmire that the war became in the 1960s and early 1970. It was a discussion of the economic opportunities that will define this city and this country. I can see it too. It can be beautiful. There is water here. We can’t dig a hole without getting damp soil. I am amazed that our number two problem when installing fiber optic cables is the water table. (the number one problem is horrible documentation)
Truth nor not, I’d rather hear an opinion from Mr Jones. Cannot really get closer to the source.
Before parting, they tuned my pronunciation of the traditional parting. I learned it from a Christian/Catholic Iraqi woman who was raised in Baghdad. Mr Brown and Mr Jones gave more the local dialect to the phrase.
On another note, my division had their first casualties this last week. You would see this in the newspaper now. Two helicopters hit each other. One landed safely, the other did not. Within the day, we had orders to get formal communications technology out to the helipad to support air operations. They want to build a bit of a control tower to help folks not bump into each other. With the fiber optic and network, we’d provide they will have phones and computer systems and access to radio networks.
When I wonder what I am doing here, I remember the soldier in the dark flying a helicopter with no lights. I remember the soldier in the hummvee who needs to call in for help, support or medevac.
I look forward to another 2hr meal with Mr Jones. He is very soft spoken and a bit unsure of his English. I just appreciate the time…
dated: 29DEC2005 Iraq