FOR G.I.'S AND IRAQIS, WAR IS 'GOOD V. EVIL'
by First Lieut. Gabe Scheinbaum, U.S.A
American Reporter Special Correspondent
Anbar Province, Iraq
ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq -- On this eerily quiet day, one search netted me a sort of time-delayed smile. I chuckled when I recalled that some bold Arabic graffiti all over the wall of a ruined building translates roughly to "Sadi loves Debeeza." More about unrequited love later. Today's work is a bit more complicated than longing for puppy love.
Imagine if you will, looking in one direction and seeing the sunrise, hotter than ever, from the East. And turning around and seeing in the western sky a fully lit moon.
"Bob," as we call him (for Big Orange Ball), climbs the sky, parting the clouds and the horizon and insists on a sunny day. The moon, still trying to rule the sky, defiant on bedding down for the day. The epitome of good, the bright sun, and the proverbial mark of darkest evil, night, which the moon represents, are on a collision course here.
It's not a loving tug on the sheets or a snooze alarm, but this figurative tug of good and evil: that is the way many days start for me. So, I often wonder, Who will win today? Good or evil?
A lot is lost on the American media and the American public about this war because they still think in terms of one thing: Weapons of Mass Destruction. What people don't understand is that we still try to find those weapons daily, and they exist in the form of IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) that can kill hundreds of people in an instant. But our mission now also begs us to train the Iraqi Army to be the standard-bearer of peace and rule as police in a war-torn country when we leave. But we can't leave until they are trained well enough to combat all the things terrorists will throw at them. And so, this morning I found myself heading out the gate into Rawah, Iraq to link up with a company of Iraqi soldiers, or "Jundies" as they are called.
Having worked alongside the Iraqi Army, the "IA," for six months now, I have gotten a crash course in both international relations and Arabic language studies. They aren't the "towel headed" buffoons that adorn the stereotypical cartoons of the mass American mind. They don't ride camels (but they sure smoke Camels), and they don't "all look alike." I have seen blond-haired, blue-eyed Iraqis. I have seen both young and old, who have volunteered to defend their country from both tyranny and terrorism. And their resolve is fortified daily, not lessened, by the loss of an Iraqi civilian to a terrorist act. They want to be here doing what they are doing, and they want a safe, unified Iraq. Good versus evil is their way of life.
Today's mission: zone reconnaissance. A typical Army chore becomes atypical when we involve the IA because everything slows a little due to communication problems. Today I don't have my interpreter so I am reduced to comical charade antics, waving my hands, speaking slowly and loud, acting out exactly what I want.
But they seem to understand. I see a suspicious item in the road that could be a bomb. Crap! How do I say "bomb" in Arabic? I stomp my feet, make blasting noises coupled with hand gestures that suggest a big boom. "Aaaaah, bomb. Big boooooom!," one soldier says. We have figured our problem out well enough to keep his comrades away and for me to check it out. We are in luck: just rocks in a can. And the saga continues.
One of the amazing things for me is the experience that Iraq has been. The people I have encountered, the scale of the military's might and dollar, and the terrain, oh the terrain. I have never seen anything like the earth of Iraq. Head east, sand. West, the same. South, palm trees, a Biblical river called the Euphrates, its fertility yielding corn, and onions. But you might go a hundred miles and see two plants. Or you can travel for a day without having to clean sand out of your shoes. The terrain is as varied as the dangers, and you never know what you may encounter.
Today I get flat plains, made miserably cold by a cutting wind on a 45 degree day, undulating hills that Julie Andrews would never sing about, and caverns that would make Batman and Robin jealous. The River (my imaginative nickname for the Euphrates) is my constant companion. And, finally, fields of a crop I can't spell or pronounce arrive at my day's end.
I see men farming, fishing, hunting even, and they look like sustenance folk, living off the land.
Sadi loves Debeeza? Sadi loves Debeeza! Yup, that's pretty funny, when you expect to see anti-this or pro-that slogans.
I may have never met Sadi or Debeeza, but I was Sadi in my youth, scribbling and carving my love for Nicole Gregalot (the local dentist's daughter) all over anything I could find back in suburban Lake Worth, Florida. A love unwanted, unrequited, and un-remembered until today. Go figure.
But I don't see anyone emplacing IEDs or shooting mortars. And I am lucky enough to question almost 60 men without incident while none of my soldiers gets hurt. The essential bonus is that we covered nearly 45 kilometers, on the ground and by vehicle, and we did it with the help of the Iraqi Army. The downside is tomorrow the moon gets another chance. But today the Sun reigns supreme and "Good" is king.
First Lieut. Gabe Scheinbaum, U.S.A, is an AR Correspondent on duty in Iraq.