Wednesday, June 25, 2003
Wednesday, June 25, 2003
It is 10 pm, I am sitting in my black fold out beach chair, outside of my bombed out home, formally known as the radio station. The only thing about this place that resembles a radio station is the radio antenna that extends straight up into the dark black sky, lit only by the bright lights of the not too distant POW camp. I cannot see the top of the antenna, its pointed tip cutting into the darkness of the night; the stars are always visible in the clear cloudless sky. There is an eerie calmness covering the camp tonight, brought on by the strange haze that has crept into the area. There are no people walking about tonight, no late night joggers, or occasional late night strollers. Once in a while a Hummer will roll by covered by a cloud of its own dust. The calmness to be broken by the occasional howling of the crazy prisoners who have been housed next door.
The desert is finally cooling down and actually a slight breeze has picked up, bringing a false sense of coolness as it blows over the sweat beading up on my arms and back. I have been expelled from my brick oven of a building to find escape from the cinder blocks that have been heating up all day, making the inner walls hot to the touch.
As with most things, our bodies have actually started to adapt to this desert environment, with its unimaginable heat waves, sure death to any cloud in the area. We have come to believe that as long as it is not over 130 degrees it is really not so bad. It is amazing what your body can tolerate; even sweating has become the norm.
I had a very long day today, fairly usual for this week. I have failed to be able to type in my journal for almost a week. I have been so totally exhausted each night that I have just crashed on to my fold out cot. I gave up trying to sleep on my mattress after it took its last flight off of the roof, to land in a pile of finely sifted dust. At least the cot seems to stay on the roof during the fierce dust storms, if a brick or stone is used to secure it. The mattress, even with a heavy sand bag on it, seems to have a mind of its own or a stronger inner desire to attempt to fly.
I have just returned from my nightly visit with the prisoners. This evening I felt inclined to make my rounds to as many of them as I could. Even though we are not able to communicate in a common tongue, they seem to gain a certain degree of hope from my visits. I have noticed a big difference in their attitudes on the nights after I haven’t gone out for a few days. There overall state of mind is affected by an apparent lack of attention if they are not visited on a regular basis.
Tonight’s decision to have a short talk with each of them in their small groups turned out to be the right thing to do. Some of them really had some things they wanted to get off their chest. As I approached the major generals group, one of the group leaders, who speaks English, warned me that the general has been quite depressed. But, I am there to serve in any way possible. I am their voice or their sounding board. I am their connection to the outside, with an ear to listen to their complaints, their whining, their medical problems, and what ever else it might be. The major general filled my ear with so many words over the next 30 minutes, but I was glad to be there for him.
These are the men of Hoover 7, the 45 or so higher-ranking Iraqi officers, whom I am responsible for. They are my boys. I am there to give them hope in an almost hopeless situation. I am their advocate and their voice connecting them to the upper echelons of our command, which holds the keys to their release. I am also the one who makes a daily effort to extract every bit of valuable information out of them. I do have a mission that straddles both sides of the fence. I have a military obligation on the one hand and a humanitarian mission on the other.
As I enter the compound the MP’s at the front gate usually greet me by name, or at least by saying ‘Hey Chief”, due to my daily visits I have become a regular fixture out there. As I proceed further into the compound, I stop at the first gate on my left, Hoover 7. There is a small tent of MP’s in front of Hoover 7, supposedly positioned there to watch the high valued but pacified prisoners, who have no intention of trying to escape. There are no locks, so I help myself by moving back the hand made wooden barbed wire gate. Not closing it behind me, I walk towards a small group of tents removed from the gate by about 100 yards. There is a small group of about 6 men sitting on their full line of tent peg and tent pole furniture. Seeing me, all the men rise in unison raising their arms into the air to wave as if to announce my arrival. As I proceed closer they walk towards me, extending their hands to submit a very firm and long handshake. One by one, they offer up their rehearsed welcome by saying, Hi Chief how are you? "I am fine", some one has obviously been working with them on their English skills. I likewise offer up the few words that I have learned in their language. One by one I make my way round the circle of men to individually shake their hands and look into their eyes, as if to say, I know your pain and your suffering. By this time others have started to form around the original group of six, fast becoming a group of twenty or thirty.
The group of six represents the Hoover 7 leadership, the mayor of this village and his group council. Although there were no elections, there seems to be some Iraqi hierarchy that determines who is in charge, who gets more respect, who gets to sit with me and who stands, who walks back with me to the front gate when I leave and so on. They seem to be following some natural protocol even though most of them are the same rank.
It is late, my eyes are burning from continual use during this long day, and I think my brain has hit the wall. Until later. Chief Wiggles signing off.
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As I've stated before, The Marmot's Hole is a must. Today he has shared with us an editorial that everyone, including ever Anti-American / Pro-North Korea demonstrator should read and take to heart.
Part of it follows:
How bad are things for the North Koreans? It's hard to be certain. We do know that at least 100,000 of them prefer living like hunted animals in China to life at home. Satellite photographs support estimates that 200,000 of them live in North Korea¡'s horrific concentration camp systems. Up to 2 million of them are estimated to have starved to death since a famine, selectively focused on the least "politically reliable," began in 1994. No government has been so oppressive of its own people since the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. No government has ever let its people suffer such a fate while spending so lavishly on the opulent lifestyles of its leaders, and on a bloated war machine that it holds against the throats of its neighbors.
Given that the greatest mass slaughter of Koreans in history is taking place 30 miles north of Seoul -- at this very hour and minute -- one would expect strong reactions in South Korea. One would expect to see mass candlelight vigils for the millions of North Koreans selectively culled for starvation since 1994. One would expect Koreans to rain their nationalist fury at China for propping up Kim Jong Il's failed state in order to keep Korea divided. There should be battalions of riot police protecting the Chinese Embassy from angry students each time China hunts down more North Korean refugees and pitches whole families of them back into Kim Jong Il¡¯s furnace. There should be outcries that Korea's government tolerates this without a peep of protest. Politicians should face eternal demands not to kowtow to the leaders of China, and to demand apologies from them for the next century. One would not expect South Koreans to help perpetuate the oppression of their brothers by buying North Korean products or booking overpriced Mount Kumgang tour packages. One would expect them to be passionately interested in the courageous work of the brave souls who risk confinement in Chinese prisons to save the lives of North Korean refugees.
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