Over the last few days I have had the opportunity to watch the Ashura holiday. For those of you who don’t know what it is, it is the Shia holy day, where they celebrate(?) the death of the martyr Hussein in the 7th Century. I think most people, especially Americans, only know the holiday by the pictures and stories of the people beating themselves and bleeding all over their faces. I would agree that it seems a bit much to honor somebody by bleeding all over, but then, I never said I understood these people in the first place.
Needless to say, I had some interesting thoughts about it, while I was surrounded by thousands of people heading to Karbala for the ceremonies. A majority of these people that did not live in the city, walked to get there. I think some people walked 60 miles or more. That is some serious dedication, and it made me think about just how faithful I was. I mean, I like to think of myself as a good person and all, but would I, could I, walk 60 miles to celebrate the death of somebody by beating myself? Not only that, but I don’t think I know anybody who would do that. Yet, here, so far away from the “civilized” world, people think nothing of it. I am sure the government frowns on the practice, and I understand that a number of Arab governments don’t allow it. In Kuwait, they encourage the donation of blood instead of the self-flagellation. If the people here can get so frenzied about something, how can we even think to enforce controls on them?
As we moved up and down the roads, I was shocked at the number of people who were actually glad to see us. Our presence had to be a little comforting, as Iraqi Police, Army, and the coalition guys went about there business, mindful of the occasion but dedicated to the task at hand. I would like to think that the air was one of friendliness and cooperation; however, I know that isn’t entirely possible. I am sure that there were a number of people who were there to do harm, and create chaos, but I believe that our efforts made it impossible to do. Still, I was impressed that we got waves from all kinds of men, women, and children. Lots of smiles, lots of support. It really felt good to sit back and watch as the whole thing unfolded in from of me.
All things come to an end however, and I must say that the mission was successful. As of yet, no bombs went off, no one got killed. If this is progress, it’s a step in the right direction.
I am not impressed with some of my Army colleagues, and watching the whole operation take place makes me wonder how the Army gets things done. I can’t even begin count the number of suggestions, recommendations, and points I brought up to try to get things done the way that I think they should be done, but I am convinced that the Army isn’t really in this to get the job done. I am confused as to why the Army seems to want to play mentor to the Iraqi’s when we should be setting the tone and pace. Lead from the front is what I have always been told, but it appears that the Army has chosen a “Guide from the Rear” approach. Easier to recommend the proper solution and watch the Iraqi’s go the other way, then to take them by the hand and drag them to the right thing. Somebody told me that working with the Marines is great, but they are always so Gung Ho and Push Forward, that sometimes they rush in to things. That is nothing but wrong, especially in this business. If we don’t take the Iraqi’s in the direction we want them to go, they are going to go in the direction they are most familiar with, and that direction leads right back to where they were before. That is not what we want, and its not what we need for them, so the best way, I think, is to show them how to do it the right way, and let them move forward from that. Instead of asking them if they will do it our way, you must tell them. They are like children, and will only learn right from wrong if they are shown the difference.
I am not saying that we create an Iraqi Army, Police, or anything that is a mirror image of the US. I am saying that there is a right way to do things that work across the board, because it is simple, its effective, and it works. We know what that path is, but the Army command here seems very hesitant to cross it. It’s a shame, because there is so much progress that can be made, if people were only willing to put their skills to work.
OK, no more flowery prose. These Army guys are freaking morons. They don’t want to listen, they don’t want to get involved, they just want to collect their fucking Awards and NCO-ERs and go back to their regular jobs. I wish them well, because the sooner they leave, the better off we (I) am going to be. Good thing I have free medical, because these clowns are driving me to the loony bin.