(Once again Jeri Reed has forwarded me an important article, like the one she wrote here a few months ago. Once again she has pulled my coattail to something by Casey J. Porter, the Iraq Veteran Against the War member who has been vlogging from outside of Baghdad. This time it’s just words, but what powerful words!)
By Casey J. Porter
I feel pretty lousy as a human being today. I had to turn away this Iraqi man at our gate here at the outpost. At some point the army took over this factory in the industrial part of Baghdad and we’ve been here ever since. He was an older man, diabetic, with multiple folders of paper work to show. He didn’t speak any English and wished to talk to an interpreter. I was guarding the gate and was the one to call it in. So they send out the “Terp” as we call them. This older man was not looking for a handout. He was the former owner of a paint shop that is built right up the building we now occupy. He was asking for compensation for his workers because they are no longer able to work now that we are here.
Why can’t they work? Because they are terrified of us. Also, when we get rocket or mortar attacks, they don’t always land where the insurgents want them to. Sometimes they fall short or overshoot their target. So when we set up shop, the people that can afford to leave, do.
He wasn’t like the younger Iraqi Police Force guys. They get so much free stuff from you, the taxpayer, that it’s insane. Then they always ask us to give them stuff. They are like children with AK-47s. This man was not like that. He was looking out for his workers. The translator was telling me what he was saying when things got confusing. The Iraqi man was saying: “You are the United States, human rights for all, etc., etc.”
I’m not sure what else he said after that since it was clear that the Terp changed gears right after that. But that older gentleman wasn’t being hostile about what he was saying, and I was all ears. Within his paper work he had forms and documents that proved he was the owner and operator, among other aspects of his business I’m sure. With the exception of the language, it looked a lot like the paperwork my father had for his business.
I called it up to the commander and the reply was to tell him to fuck off. He couldn’t hear any of this because we keep the radio in the truck. I wasn’t going to do that to this man. We screwed him over, and he was just looking out for his people. I told the Terp to translate the following:
“I can not authorize any money to be given to you. I also can not promise that anyone will see you. All I can tell you is to keep coming back until someone takes care of your needs.”
He finally said that he would come back in about a week or so. Before he left I had the Terp translate one more thing before he left.
“I’m sorry for what we’ve done to your country.”
The man said “Thank You” in English to me. I hope that even though we had to talk through an interpreter that he understood that I felt for him, and was not blowing him off.
Either way I felt, and still feel, pretty rotten about the whole thing. I’m not supposed to be the bad guy.
Crossposted from Fire on the Mountain.