Sunday, June 08, 2003
I can't believe that it has been a whole week since I have written in my journal. This week was one of the fastest weeks here in the desert; I hardly knew what day it was at any given time. Boy, how time flies when your playing in the sand, you know working on my golf game, focusing on my sand wedge shots and just building sand castles. It is hard to believe that even though the war is over we are still very busy trying to find the truth of what has been going on in this country for the last 30 plus years. The days have been long and tiring, sending me each and every day to bed totally exhausted, with hardly the strength to climb up the ladder to my perch on the roof.
I have a small mattress that resembles a baby crib mattress only a little longer. I keep it on the roof with the ripped side up, held in place against any windstorms that might come up by the weight of a large sand bag. I keep the ripped side up so that I can remember which side was exposed to the blown sand all day, reminding me to flip it over at night before I lay down to sleep. At least I try to keep one side away from the constant layering of sand that occurs throughout the day. It is amazing the amount of sand that can accumulate within a 24-hour period; I can only imagine how much sand I have breathed in over the last 4 months. I am surprised that I don't like cough up mud balls from the inner depths of my lungs.
A few times my mattress has taken flight off its launching pad, forcing me to launch a recovery mission in the darkness of night, even after all the special care taken to insure its safety. Each night I climb the ladder, pillow and poncho in hand, to reach my resting spot. Some nights I take my boom box on the roof, so that all of us up there can enjoy a few bedtime tunes. I usually take a bottle of water up there to quench the dehydration process that occurs each night.
Up on the roof, what an appropriate James Taylor song that would be. All of our nights are spent up on the roof, to escape the oven like rooms that have been heating up all day. We will haul our chairs up there to watch a DVD on someone's computer, escaping the harsh realities of the real life down below. We can see the bright lights of the POW camp in the distance and if the wind blows just right we can even smell the open outhouses they use.
The MP's (military police) took over one of our buildings, displacing some of our soldiers back over to the living area where most of the tents are. They had a few mentally disturbed prisoners who need to be placed in a hard facility, where they cannot commit bodily harm. So they built up some cells in the open area of this building, put some barbed wire around it all and called it Iraqatraz. The bad part is that their bright lights have now lit up the whole area, including the roof of my building, making it somewhat difficult to sleep at night.
The prisoners have been really worried lately about the increase of scorpions and snakes infiltrating their area. Every time we go out there they let us know how many of each they have seen or killed, in an effort to alarm us to the point of giving them cots to sleep on, thus getting them up off the ground. You would think creatures from all directions were invading them. We did empathize with them and yes we did get them some cots to sleep on. It was nice seeing their faces when the cots arrived, you would of thought it was Christmas.
Last Sunday was probably the happiest day since I have been here. It was definitely a journal entry worthy day, with one great big surprise. I was working in the office writing up some reports as I do much of the time, which is my job, since I am the final report editor before they get sent out to higher headquarters. My room and roof bunk buddy came running in, beckoning me to follow him quickly over to the building next door where the MP's have their HQ. I jumped up quickly, stopping everything I was doing, fast stepping it next door, per his instructions. I entered the briefing room to see one the Iraqi top ranking officers sitting in the room with a woman and a young man, whom I immediately knew were his wife and son. I was over taken by the joy and happiness of the moment and almost started bawling. I was so filled with joy for him, knowing how much that must mean for him to finally have been reunited with his family. There had been no contact with them; they just showed up at the front gate, thinking that perhaps their father and husband might be held captive in side this POW camp. He had really been down lately, not knowing what might have happened to them. But, now everything changed, even though he was not going to be able to leave, at least he knew that everything was ok. He has been a new man from that moment on, with the twinkle back in his eye and a sincere smile, which he had lost earlier.
I had the opportunity to speak about my experience in church later that same day, in our fast and testimony meeting in the afternoon. I think I really learned at that moment what kind of joy the savior was talking about when he said, ?Man is that he might have joy?. It is really hard to put words to that kind of happiness and unless you have experienced it you might not know what I am talking about. The joy that comes from totally unselfishly serving others and sharing in another person's true and honest happiness. As I thought back about the events of the day, I noticed that my reaction was so spontaneous and so natural, that I didn't even have to think about it. The minute I saw him with them, it hit be what was going on and at that instant I was totally filled with so much joy for him. I ran into the room throwing my arms around them, greeting his family with just the smile on my face. Him and I have been close for some time, so I was glad that he wanted to share that moment with me.
Not all the prisoners.
A group of about half of our team here left last Sunday for other missions in other parts of the country. Things have been winding down here for the past month, with fewer and fewer prisoners, with the numbers of prisoners now being around 500. It was sad to see them leave, but I knew we would probably be following behind them real soon. This camp is changing over to a camp for criminals instead of military POW's. Our numbers are down to around 22 men here to conduct the Military Intelligence mission, working with the prisoners to extract information.
Aside from my job as the OCE (operation control element) over the screening and interrogation teams, I now have a small team of interrogators that I take out to the cages with me each day to work with the 40 plus high ranking Iraqi officers we are holding. I have a great team, with three interrogators including myself (one of which speaks Arabic) and two other interpreters. It is our goal to get as close to these men as possible, by just spending a lot of time out there building trust and confidence. We work right in the fenced area where they are held, right in their tents, sitting on the floor right there with them, upfront and personal. We know most of them by name and each time when I come out I make the rounds, making sure that I greet each one with a big smile, looking straight into their eyes, saying a few Arabic words of greeting. I ask them how they are doing and one by one, shaking their hand, I put my hand on my heart as they do like wise, inferring that we are brothers and that we understand each other heart.
In that we have been getting ice lately, I make sure that we have an extra bag to take out to the prisoners, so they can at least enjoy a cold drink once in a while. I am working with an MP Major who seems to be on the same wave length as us, our small group that are really concerned about doing the right thing by these men. Several times we have met out there at the same time with ice bag in hand, making an effort to ease the pain on these good men.
I have even written a letter to president Bush to see if we couldn't be the catalyst to get this ball rolling, meaning pushing the officers out of here that are more valuable to us released. Here is a copy of the letter that I sent out, not sure if the president has read it yet.
Sunday, June 01, 2003
Dear President George W. Bush:
This is Chief Wiggles, a proud citizen soldier here in Camp XXXX near XXXX, Iraq. I have been in country for several months now, as part of a force that was mobilized for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Sir, I have a matter of grave importance that I would like to bring to your attention. I do so at this time only as a last resort, after everything else has failed to produce any type of a result. I trust you will take the time needed to consider the facts that I present to you, in order for you to make the right decision.
Here in Camp XXXX, we have a group of 14 Iraqi High ranking officers, who have been here from the very first days of the war, now over 70 days. They all have very similar circumstances. They all saw the leaflets we produced asking them to lay down their arms and surrender, promising we would take care of them. They did as we asked, surrendering on the first day of the war. But, what we have done with them since is a travesty. We immediately took threw them into the prisoner of war camp, at camp Bucca. Now that alone is not the tragedy, due to the fact that it was important to see if they had anything of intelligence value. But now we have exhausted them of any intelligence, we continue to hold them for no apparent reason.
Several of our intelligence agencies and organizations have worked with the men to extract anything of importance. All of the men have been more than cooperative in providing us with information that has been of great value and has actually saved lives in many situations.
Each of them is very concerned about the status of their families, having had no contact with them since the day they surrendered. They fear that Saddam, with the time and the information, has had their families killed. They have written several Red Cross letters but to no avail.
I have personally found these men to be some of the most honorable men I have met, in many situations putting their own lives in danger before their men's. They are men of integrity, perhaps even future leaders of this country. These are the type of men that we need helping us to run this country, during this rebuilding phase. These are the men who are willing to go out to help us find the bad guys that are still hanging around looking for opportunities to fill the void created after Saddam's departure.
We are missing a great opportunity to use these willing men to help rebuild this country, to assist us in taking this country into a new era. These men would and could provide us so much more assistance if they were allowed to return to their respective homes and work with us in their own backyards.
The real bad guys are still out there. They are the ones who fought against us from the beginning, then running to their homes like scared cats, to hide until they felt it was safe to come out, then acting like lost puppies. These are the men that will lead us down the wrong path for these people. They will be the ones smiling pretending to be our allies, while behind our backs they will be resuming the control and raping of their own people.
The are good men. And the longer this goes on the worse these men feel about us. We are not going to be successful in winning the hearts and minds of the people if this is how we are going to deal with them. We need to let these men go, go with them if needs be, to work with them in promoting the goodness of our cause. They want to work with us, they want us to stay and make sure that this country gets off on the right foot. These men need to be released and sent home to their families. We need to be making friends not enemies of them.
We really need your help in this matter. I know you are a just man. I have complete faith in you as our President, our Commander and Chief and as the leader of the free world. I know you will do the right and just thing. We have exhausted all avenues through our chain of command without any results up to this point. I want to be able to give these men some hope that things are going to work out. They all ask about you and hope you will visit them if you have a chance to come over here. We would very much appreciate your visit to our small facility, if your schedule would permit.
Each of these men have their own unique situation, regarding their family members, some with sick children, some with sick or dying parents, some with others that are terminally ill, or some with others that are paralyzed with no means to provide for themselves. All of these men are concerned about how they will make a living to provide for their families, now that the army has been disbanded.
Sir, you are the only one that can perhaps make a positive difference in the lives of these men. Please I would greatly appreciate your consideration regarding this matter.
Ok so there you have it, my letter to the president.
As good Samaritans and feeling like good luck fairies, I took out another member of my team, loaded with a shovel and some Styrofoam, we proceeded to build a homemade cooler for the officers, so their ice won't melt the minute we drop it off. We loaded it up with some ice, placed some water jugs in it, put the lid on, covered it with a tarp and told them to enjoy. I also dropped off some potatoes and onions for them to cook and add to their daily dose of boring food, that fails to change.
In talking to some of these men, I have come to understand what it took to be successful in a Saddam type army. One of the officers put it quite succinctly, as he relayed to me a common phrase, which is "If you want to be successful in the army you need to be a donkey", in other words be as dumb as a donkey, one that sees nothing, knows nothing, hears nothing and asks nothing. Some of the officers, not all of course, no matter how high their rank is, are just as dumb as a bucket of nails, from an information standpoint. I might as well be talking to a farmer or a fisherman, or just any old man off the street, for they might know more than some of these guys. Even those educated, English speaking leaders in this group, comment on how in the heck did some of these guys get to their level of rank.
One of the officers, whom I have grown quite close to, who is an infantry commander, told me through his friend that he had a gift for me. Of course I told him that I didn't need a gift of any sort, just the news that they would be leaving would be enough of a gift. But of course they were determined to present me with his gift. He gave me his prayer beads, 103 prayer beads, which really took me by surprise, since I know how much those mean to him. The prayer beads are like a part of them, as a baby would hold on to a pacifier, they are forever counting and rubbing their beads. I was so touched by his gesture of kindness that I was almost brought to tears. It was a special moment.
Aside from just feeling good about helping these men, they are providing us with lots of valuable intel. They even coax each other to provide us with more and more answers to what we are in need of. We have had some great discussions lasting several hours, way into the night at times.
Not all the prisoners are in good standing with us. We have a few guys whom we treat in a very different manner. We have one really bad high-ranking officer that I am working. We are running a few other kind of approaches with them to see how they will react. I can't say much more than that right now, but lets just say that he needs some special care. He is mine, all mine, and I will find a way to make him talk, no joking. Actually it is not that easy and I am constantly praying during the interrogation that I will be inspired to know what might work next. I am humbled by the responsibility, knowing that I am going to need some special help to get some of these nuts to crack.
Once in a while we travel down to the port to check in on the Brits, so we can eat some of their food. We also check in with the Spanish troops to see if we can't buy some steaks and chicken off of them. The Spanish troops have a large boat in the port, with several hundred troops. We are hoping to have a party this Friday, kind of a birthday party for me, which is on June 9th, and a Friday the 13th party, and a party for some new arrivals we had today. We don't need much of a reason to have a party, it is just we don't have many fixins for anything, but we make do. We have established some supply lines and gotten close to the right people, as you know it is all about whom you know.
It was good luck fairy time again, so I went out to the guards at the cages and bought them drinks and chips. They really deserved it, after all they put up with out there, the smell, the prisoners, the heat, etc.
We had a bunch of prisoners come in one night this week, around 36, which took my team until about 1:30 in the morning to completely screen. We have really been putting in some hours, doing our thing and writing up all of our reports, don't forget about that, nothing happens until a report is written and sent off. So today, being Sunday, I gave my team a day off, to just do what ever they wanted. We were all at our burn out point, if we didn't take some time to regroup.
Well tomorrow is another big day, with lots of fun and games planned for all, so I can hardly wait. I have the opportunity to work with the one high-ranking bad dude that has committed so many crimes against these people. I really hope that I can break him down to the point where we can start getting him to divulge some real hard facts, but I believe it is going to take some time.
I feel I am on a journey to rediscover my self. It appears that it is all about finding your way in life, your path. The process alone seems to be of value and worth it, full of surprises and exciting opportunities. I have been looking for my path for some time now, not sure exactly where I needed to go and what I needed to do, but one thing is for sure, my services, skills and talents are needed here. That doesn't mean I don't want to go home, for I do, but I have a purpose for being here, not totally understood but one that continues to unfold as I pass from day to day. I am still looking for my path, the way to happiness and satisfaction, where I can fulfill the measure of my creation. I have time here to contemplate the process and explore the journey. The answers are not all here, but I do believe I will find the answers to my quest, partially by being here. I am forever rediscovering myself through constant analysis of the nature of my being, with all of its complexities. It is the evolution of the self, through deliberate actions and abundant service. It is actually the loss of one's self that brings about the largest steps forward in this evolution process. I feel at times that I am Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, constantly following a path leading towards the Emerald City of Oz, in hopes that I will discover the Wizard, which might just be the evolution of myself, after shedding off of a few layers of the undesirable self, in hope that through this refinement a better person exists underneath. The questions then are, is it the process to get to the path or the path itself that is of greater value? Where does most of the refinement happen? When do you know that you are on your path, anyway?
If I am going too deep, pull back and go up for air. I hope that makes some sense to someone. I am just trying to put my thoughts and feelings into words.
Today I was totally surprised by the two packages that arrived, totally unexpected, from the same person, whom I hardly know. But I have to say it was such a treat, one I will never forget. My deepest thanks go out to XXXX XXXXX with FedEx in Michigan. That was way too kind, how can I ever repay you.? God Bless you.
posted by Chief Wiggles 9:28 PM
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