8.15.2003

we were seriously talking about swiss bank accounts...i mean come on...swiss bank accounts...
it all seems to have started by a simple mistake...a mistake that probably cost some poor teenager their job at a currency exchange inside an airport...

a friend of ours recently went home...he flew in to the states...and out of curiosity he stopped in to see what all of his iraqi dinars were worth...we've always assumed they were worth next to jack and squat...but i had actually never looked it up...i'm sure the helpful teenager behind the desk had absolutely no clue what iraqi dinars were worth as well so he or she went to the fountain of information...the pinnacle of mans inhabitance upon this planet...the connection binding everyone to the mainstream super highway of everything...the internet...and it seems really simple...you type in an address like www.exchangerate.com...and you click on a few more buttons...pulling up USD and IQD...then you might hit that magical button that says 'convert'...and holy crap...if you are not shocked and appalled by what you see...this web site boasts the iraqi dinar rate of almost 3 to one against the u.s. dollar...let me make that a little bit more clear...3 U.S. DOLLARS for every one iraqi dinar...what the hell..."that can't be right"...so then you might scan the internet a little more...and you might find the other websites like www.oanda.com...and then you will repeat the process...and low and behold you will come up with the same results...now you should be staring blankly at your screen...the infinite of possibilities running rampant and unchecked through your hot tired head..."but iraqi money is worthless...i've got close to 5,000 dinars of it in my cargo pocket right now...how much is that worth"...."that would be about........about $15,000 bucks"..."WHA!!!!"...

now the poor teenager or who ever he was...in an attempt to do the right thing...sees this amazing exchange rate...and he or she probably said something like "WOW"...then my buddy forks over his measly 500 dinars...and the clerk behind that desk forks over close to $1600 bucks...now my friend is amazed and most assuredly kicking himself in his jet lagged ass for not having more of this iraqi gold rush tucked away within his luggage...but he does make amends to not let the same mistake happen to his buddies back in the "rack"...he makes a very important phone call...

and before you know it...there are secrets and whispers..."now if i tell you this you have to promise not to tell anyone else because i promised not to pass it on"...

and then there are soldiers...writing checks at the p.x. for 20 bucks cash...and these soldiers are flagging down iraqi workers...and the bartering game has begun...exchanges of their own are made...with each party thinking..."holy crap...this guy is giving me a fortune for this little bit of paper"...the soldiers are excited...they are stuffing envelopes...they are wondering..."why doesn't anyone else know about this"...i mean come again...these iraqis are walking around with small fortunes in their pockets and they're collecting $40 a week from the u.s....this doesn't make sense..."i feel like i'm the smartest man alive"..."they write books and make movies about this kind of stuff"..."is this even legal...how much money can i take back to the states...how much can i mail"..."holy crap...this is unbelievable"...

then the soldiers are calling their loved ones...the ones they really trust...and then the plans are made...they are set...and the daydreaming and sleepless nights have begun...there is an unending supply of this stuff floating around...and the iraqis will literally give it to you if you ask...i think i bought about 2000 dinars off of one happy guy for about 3 dollars...and i had to force him to take that much...so how could i feel bad...he wouldn't even take any more...crazy...he actually thanked me for crying out loud...

and so i collected...with my 20 dollars in various denominations...i hunted them down and we bartered...and i'm thinking the entire time..."there is no such thing as easy money...this can't be true...but what if it is"...so i'm out twenty bucks if i'm wrong...

there is more talking to the girlfriend...and serious plans are being made...how to exchange it...how to collect...what to do with it...the tens of thousands of dollars that are now on their way to home via snail mail...which could never move quick enough now...and this is were the swiss bank account comes in...and reality is beginning to set back in as well...this is just to easy...

my buddy and i are actually talking seriously about what to do in case of an audit...and what the treasury department thinks about this stuff...and i get nervous...because i don't want to get in trouble...but how could this be against the law...

so i go back to the wonderful world of the internet...and i start researching again...i check the old currency exchange sites..."yep it's all the same"...and then i go to google and i type in 'iraqi dinar'...and crash bang boom...reality finally whacks my gullible ass upside the head...the iraqi dinar...the staple of my now defunct retirement fund...the unabridged bank notes of happiness...are in fact worthless...just like i always thought...because...come on...i never really believed...i never really stayed up all night tossing and turning with dollars signs wrapped around my eyeballs...i never really dreamt of wrapping my girlfriend in gold plated bullion and driving pimped out trucks with adjustable suspensions...i'm to wise and grown up for that...you of all people should know that by now...


8.14.2003

i read salam's post about G.'s arrest and beat down...it was so disheartening...i am in a strange place where i can see all sides of a thing...but that does not make it right...i'm sure G. was just doing his thing peacefully...trying to get the story and the pictures...he might of got to close...or he just may have been in the wrong place at the right time...

the soldiers are over worked and underpaid...they are frustrated and angry with their situation...they were not right to kick any one when they are down...but they might feel as though they are receiving a little of the same from people standing over the top of them...

when you are faced with a job that is daunting...and immense...and never ending...and horrible...some would not try their hardest to do the job right...because doing the job right is just another hassle in an already mounting life of turmoil...it is harder to do the right thing...

G. did not deserve what he was given...but the soldiers have to look at everyone as a potential threat...you have to do that...this is a war zone...even i do...while i'm guarding plumbers and electricians...because the minute you let your guard down to drink a cold soda...someone might shoot you in the back of the head...the stress level is horrendous...and when people are put under gargantuan amounts of it they start to freak out a little...it happens...

there is a racism with in the army...with in the nations...that happens too...the military works to avoid it...we have classes and E.O. representatives who we can go to...it is fought tooth and nail...but it still exists...just as it does every where...even here...with my own soldiers...today my youngest troop...the heat baby...came to me and told me about some racist comments that were directed towards him while he played football on the battalion team..."i hate f*ckin' white people"...no one needs to put up with this...especially my soldiers...he is a good hearted...well natured man...he means well...i'm glad i wasn't there...i would of lit that soldier up...he would of been on the wrong side of big time flexin'..."I HOPE YOU DIDN'T HAVE ANYTHING PLANNED FOR THE REST OF YOUR DAY SHIT BRICK!!"...i'm not much for racists...

many soldiers...i am sure do not look at the iraqis as equals...many soldiers...i am sure blame the iraqis for the misfortune of this war and the squashing of their personal lives...many soldiers take out their anger on those who can't fight back...many soldiers have watched friends die...many soldiers do not know when they will return home to their loved ones...many soldiers will kick a man while he lies face down with a bag over his head...many soldiers don't care...

it is sad...but it is inevitable...rest assured...for every scared soldier that would kick...and punch...and humiliate a man lying face down in the mud...there are 10 others who would help him up...and brush him off...and apologize...

but the damage may have already been done...

8.13.2003

after i finished up with my daily shower cleaning...some iraqi local nationals showed up with their armed g.i. escort...they were there to fix the broken shower...they needed me to hang around so that i could open up the locked water heater rooms...

the iraqis are good workers...they don't waste any time...they get right to it...plumbers digging up pipes...pulling up muddy pumps...there is an interpreter/foreman and also an electrician...

while these guys are working i start talking to the g.i. escort...it turns out he's from germany...and i used to be stationed in germany...so that opens up a whole new world of conversation which he promptly directs towards his family...and i'm happy to listen...he told me about how he was living in san francisco before he joined up...he was actually going to college at the time...while he was living in his car...he didn't join up because of any type of political belief either...he told me about his family waiting for him back in germany...his wife and their autistic child who was born with 6 fingers on each hand...he said his kid is pretty normal but he doesn't learn to well...they got him a personal tutor and the child promptly told the tutor "shut up asshole your fired"...not bad for a six year old...

the iraqis...or hajis...as the american military has so stereotypically dubbed any one of arab decent...or even of a brownish skin tone...be them afghanis...or kuwaites...or saudis...or even bangladeshis...you don't have escort detail...you have 'haji patrol'...any way...the iraqis tell the interpreter that they need to replace the pump...the escort g.i. asks me if i wouldn't mind sticking around while he goes with them...he says they won't be long..."sure i don't mind"...but now i'm thinking...man i don't have my weapon...and i really don't want to make a point of going to get it...i don't want to be insulting...the electrician and the foreman stay behind and they both can speak english..."i'll be alright"...

the three of us then start to track down the shower power line which disappears off into the field behind us...it ends up at a fuse box off by some tents...the electrician...starts going crazy on it...and now i'm kind of worried some one might come out of their tent and freak out on us...between the two of them the can form pretty good sentences and we can communicate...although we do have to repeat what we have said a few times...he finds what he is looking for...he points to a cable and says "earth"..."earth?"..."yes yes earth"..."do you mean ground"..."yes yes earth"...gotcha...he rewires...and then asks me for a pen so that he can mark the circuit...i'm in my p.t.'s..."sorry no pen"...but he makes a point of asking for a pen...he really wants to mark this circuit breaker...i take his screw driver and scratch the word 'show' into the grey metal of the box...he laughs..."yes yes"...

the electrician is wearing a dirty 'wife beater' (white tank top undershirt)...and a bright yellow hat...he's wearing sandals and his feet look as though they haven't seen the inside of shoes in a few years...i don't blame him...it's damn near to hot for clothes...the foreman is dressed a bit nicer...a button down shirt and even a belt...his english is actually quite good...much better then my arabic...

back at the shower the electrician starts working like a crazy man again...i stand over in the shade...the foreman pulls up a chair...after about a half hour the electrician sees me standing and yells at the foreman to give up his chair..."no man i'm fine thank you though"...this guy is really worried about my comfort...he strolls off...i wait a minute and just about when i'm going to round the corner to go put an eye on him...he comes back around with a bench for me..."thank you very much man"...he smiles real big with his yellow hat crooked and wrenches hanging out of his purple shorts pockets..."yes yes in the shade"...he offers me a cigerette..."no thank you"...we've been warned about poison cigerettes from the iraqis...

while i sit there next to the foreman...i tell him how the weather in arizona is about the same as here right now...that peaks his interest and he turns closer to me..."arizona?"..."yeah it's by california"..."california!?"...i can tell he's heard of cali...every one seems to have heard of that state...hollywood and baywatch...the land of the beautiful people...i tell him how even though it is really hot here it is nothing compared to afghanistan...he's really into what i'm saying now...he has many questions about afghanistan...i tell him that the weather was very extreme there and the people were very very poor...i ask him about what he thinks of all that is going on..."do you think america did the right thing"...he thinks for a few seconds..."yes and no"...he tells me that the old regime was very bad...and just about anything is better...but he is a little unpleased that we are going to be here for so long...but he understands why...he says a lot of the iraqi people are acting very crazy...stealing and killing...raping and littering..."they think freedom is doing absolutely anything that you want...they don't understand what freedom is...they are creating an anarchy not freedom"...he tells me about the gangs...they steal anything and everything..."they are cutting the copper electrical lines and pulling them up...they drive them to jordan and sell them on the black market...they will steal your car at gunpoint and sell it across the border"..."yeah we have gangs like that too in america"..."really"...he is very surprised to hear this...they must not see much american gang activity on the television pictures of california..."yeah it's called car jacking in the states"...he looks at me and cranes his neck trying to understand what i just said..."car vacking"...yeah something like that...

i tell him that i think we have created a pretty big problem over here...and he nods hard...he says there are a lot of 'old regimers' who are cutting the power...i ask him if he thinks they do it to make iragis mad at america and it's promises...he says yes..."they are delusional"...he tells me that they only have power for about 2 or 3 days out of the week..."the heat is very bad"...

"do you think that iraq will ever have a democracy"..."i don't know...there are to many different tribes and groups that don't agree"..."yeah that's what i think too"...the g.i. escort shows back up with the plumbers...i stand and extend my hand...and he takes it quickly..."my name is sean...it was very nice to meet you"..."yes yes my name is Nasam"...

8.12.2003

the troop said he had his weapon when he left the last check point...but when the arrived at the one closest to our compound...it was gone...he lost his weapon...there is no bigger screw up in the military...especially when you lose it in baghdad...it's gone...out there on the town...i hope it's having a good time...checkin' out the clubs...seeing the sights...meetin' the ladies..."hey honies...i'm an M-16"...

they were convoying back from another site...dropping off mail to a fellow team chief...checking on his welfare...the poor troop who lost his weapon got volunteered to go...some how he left it outside the truck when they drove away from the check point...i'm sure some body drove by it and picked it up...there is still a chance that some one military found it...and it could make it's way back to our unit...but it's not bloody likely...some iraqi just rolled across the ultimate war trophy...i hope he doesn't put it to good use...he should turn it into a flower pot...or maybe a toaster...mmmmm...toast...

i'm so exhausted right now...from the cleaning...my body is quite used to doing nothing all day...so when i do get tasked with a detail i try not to complain to much...i don't do squat...except for the internet...and i do fill a generator before i get off shift...occasionally i have to do some paper work...or track down a part...but nothing real difficult...

but these showers...holy crap...i'm on my hands and knees scrubbing...my girl friend tells me that she is turned on by watching me clean...i don't see the fascination with it...if she saw the amount of cleaning i was doing today she would probably explode in an uncontrolled fit of convulsing horniness...KABLUY!!!

one of the showers already broke...so we closed it down...i'm not complaining...it made my life easier...but now we have twice the traffic through the other one...twice the dirt...and twice the 'freedom pubes'...i end up soaking wet in my own sweat...and one of the soldiers that is attached to my very important detail just kind of wanders a little bit...he rubs stuff with a rag...and analyzes...then he walks to the other end of the shower...and looks around...he might move the broom at this point...but then he will put it back...and the entire time i'm on my freaking hands and knees..."specialist...what the hell are you doing"..."i'm cleaning sergeant"...sure he is..."re-he-healy...go get the mop...and try that kind of cleaning...because i have no idea what kind of cleaning your doing right now"...some people have to be 'point and clicked'...

my first sergeant checks in on us...and he assures me that i'm doing an excellent job...and that we should all keep up the "high level of excellence that we are putting forth"...then he orders us to shovel rocks from the pile that is about 50 feet away and place them "neatly" in front of the doors...i'm sure he will come back later and check up on my "excellent" rock placing craftsmanship...it's very easy to give crazy orders and then walk away...

i just got off the phone with my woman...we are having very long conversations lately...we're both getting so excited...it's making it very difficult to concentrate on the important stuff...like shower point rock placement...
we talk about my friends...and her friends...we talk about the vacation to hawaii that we are planning...we talk about our little apartment...and what she will do today...we talk about the heat...and we talk about the new speakers i just bought for my truck...she makes the little girlfriend unhappy noise...when i tell her how much they cost..."eww"...but she is a good woman...and she has been taking care of all of my bills since i left 6 months ago...so she is very into my money and where it is going...and where it should be going...like towards my credit card...which coincidently is down to a cool $1500 bucks...i feel like break dancing...boom boom...tap...ba boom boom...tap...(what you can't see is that i just did the robot for about 10 seconds)...

i don't know what i would of done if she was not there to take care of my bills...there were long periods where i didn't have any internet access...she has saved me so much grief and hassle...i love her for it...and she has my complete trust...because ladies and gentlemen...i hit the girlfriend jack pot...sorry guys...the game is over...and i did win...but that's something to save for another time...a more personal time...where i may...perhaps...be naked...

peace in the sand box 2003...

8.11.2003

i woke up on the floor...well i didn't actually wake up down there...but that's where i fading back into reality...that's where i found myself asking "why am i on the floor"...then it all made sense...the explosions...they just happened...and i dove to the floor...in my sleep...they were that close...they were that loud...

i'm breathing hard...and i crawl towards the door to the tent...looking out side...i don't see anything...i can hear people...both inside and out...and i'm on the freaking ground...my god if somebody sees me laying here...in the dirt...i'll never live it down...but i'm not yet sure enough of the situation to stand up...and it starts to dawn on me that i'm in the prone because of mortars...the flippin' iraqis are firing mortars at us...holy shit...

i'm still amazed with myself for diving to the floor...because i can't even recollect how loud the mortars were...i was that far gone into sleep...they were obviously loud enough to scare the shit of me while i was in dream land...explosions were my alarm clock...i wonder how this is going to affect me in the future...am i going to dive to floor of my apartment if someones car back fires???

the look on everyone’s face outside is surreal...wide eyed and sleepy...walking aimlessly around towards the port'a'johns...wary and scanning the area...its 6 a.m...

well i'm up now...and i know i'm not going back to sleep any time soon...there was a slight adrenaline rush...however microscopic...but it is enough to prevent me any kind of rest...

so i get up...and i walk across the street to the big white shower trailers that they finally hooked up yesterday...they've got little custom sinks made of wood...and a bench for parking dirty asses...there is actually a mirror that has lighting around it...i look close...and i can see my pores..."hey guys...haven't seen you for about 6 months"...i squash the black heads that have inevitably formed due to the sand storms and sweat...there is an a/c that dims the lights every time the thermostat kicks on...and the guy at the sink warns me..."man be careful...the water is crazy hot"...i tell him that i know...

i step into the shower...a nice little white stall...with a shallow shower floor...and a little drain that i can tell will be hopelessly clogged with in a week...when i turn on the water i instantly have to jump out of the way of the stream...because i thought i could handle it...the guy at the sink laughs at my expletives...

the water sits in huge black water pods outside the showers...they bake in the sun all day...it hit 130 this afternoon...i have to scrub and move out of the way...scrub...move out of the way...rinse...move out of the way...luckily i don't have any hair...due to my 'do it yourself military haircut'...so i don't have to wash it...

i dry off in the humid shower...and then i get out...i put on my shorts and underwear...the humidity is so high that the bum that i just dried is already soaking my drawers...

there's nobody in the shower trailer now...so i take this prime opportunity to flex a little for the satisfaction of the mirror and my narcissistic self...

i think it's great that we've got new showers...but of course you would know that i would get put in charge of the detail that has to clean it...the mud is so thick on the floor...and the mirrors are coated in zit juice...and all the drains are plugged with soap and pubes...and the best news of the day is that i have to clean the showers twice daily...my unit has taken charge of these showers...because it likes to volunteer for stuff...what ever...it's only for a week...and that's one week closer to home...

8.10.2003

i think it's hilarious when people bash on the french because they didn't support this war...the whole 'you're either for us or against us' spiel is so old...i'm here in freaking baghdad and i don't even know if i'm for us or against us...changing the name of french fries to freedom fries...and french toast to freedom toast...so petty...i guess we are pretty quick to forget which country helped make our country...and even when america gained it's independence with the help of france...i'm sure they didn't do it out of the goodness of their hearts...they hated england...and they had an agenda...i guess all those france haters think we should pack up the statue of liberty and send it back to the land of the eiffel tower...they did give it to us you know...

no political leadership does what is right simply because what is right is the right thing to do...that reason simply is not entirely worth it to the powers that be...people get real caught up in thinking that there are actually rules in the world scheme...i don't think that's the case...it's all about who comes out on top...at any cost...it pays to be the top dog...because you can make and break the rules...do i think that this is right??? hell no...it's so screwed up that i want to start screaming...

but instead of going off like a crazy man...i'll take the easy way out...and stuff my face with some chow hall ice cream...finally...we've got ice cream...it's actually more like fluffed vanilla milk...but it is frozen...the little arab guys serving it up have to do it quick because it starts to liquefy immediately upon leaving the freezer...i've watched them throw away half full containers of the stuff because they couldn't serve it all up in time...it's alright though...the army's got a lot of money...about 4 billion a month if i'm not mistakin'...but man is it cold...my mouth isn't even used to it any more...it feels foreign going down my throat...

and they closed down the pool...i knew that was only a matter of time...i figured it would get shut down when somebody cracked their head open jumping off the pole or the diving board...but i guess that wasn't the case...the medics had reported that the pool was unsanitary...to many people were coming down with ear infections...even though the water was really chlorinated...but if you hang out all day everyday in the pool your bound to pick up something...the urine level of that water was probably quite staggering...it's really a shame that we have such an amazing amount of soldiers over here who can hang out at the pool all day everyday...you would think that if they had so much down time they should be allowed to go home...because they must not be very mission essential...but that's not the case...they keep telling us how each and every soldier is a quintessential element to the war effort...although i really don't see it...there are a lot of troops doing nothing...but you can't send home half a unit because you have to have orders to get the hell up out of here...and the soldiers are really going to be needed once we start to pack up...everything has to be cleaned and it has to pass a customs inspection...those guys are crazy...last year i spent an entire day cleaning one hmmv...and it still failed...the customs guy got underneath the truck and reached up...and in...and around...and pulled out some dirt that i'm sure was from my fort in the states...he showed it to me and kept right on cleaning for another 4 hours in the 140 degree heat...laying on the ground under the truck spraying it with a pressure washer...i hope i miss that this year...it was the worst part of the deployment last war...

there are guys using their order writing power very carefully...you don't want to send a unit home to early...because what if there is another uprising...or heaven forbid...a war...some soldiers are here for 'just in case'...imagine doing that for 9 months of your life...