Dispatch From Downrange
Dispatch From Downrange –IRAQ
Hello from Amman Jordon,
As I continue my adventures working here in the Middle East, I get the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. One thing that is true the world over, they want to have their opinions heard. As an American, I am way out of my element here and am very careful not to espouse my political or religious beliefs. You never know who is listening or exactly whom you are talking to. Unlike our country where a political difference is simply that, here it could be the last conflict you are involved in. The old saying, “loose lips sink ships” should probably be "talk unskilled will get you killed.” I’m very careful as not only am I a long way from home, but at least for the last week I’ve been alone waiting to move to the next site and onto the next assignment. Here in the hotel there is little to do while you wait. I am taking care of a dozen dogs that are also waiting to go into a new site in Iraq in addition to my partner, Mad.
To kill a little time I visited the local in-house sports bar. Well I should say soccer bar as that is the sport of choice here. Being the only American in the place, I was soon asked what I thought about the current situation in Syria. I was careful to say I had been away and really did not know exactly all that was going on other than what was on the TV. The man sitting next to me, a Jordanian, was quick to say how he hoped the US would “expletive up” Syria. He was also pretty open about his feelings about the Iraqis and the Afghans. He was not fond of either. Jordon shares a border with Syria and is where the largest refugee camp in the world is right now so the Jordanians are exposed to the Syrians daily and this conflict certainly affects them directly.
Something else I learned is the vast difference in the people and cultures in this part of the world. Their cultures and opinions are as varied and can be as different from each other as night and day and they don’t seem to like each other very much. Jordan is a very open and congenial culture. They are friendly and accommodating. The Afghans, from what I was told and have seen, are very repressed, not tolerant of other opinions or cultures and can be fanatical. The folks here simply said the Iraqis were, well, Iraqis. People here do not seem to be racial in the normal understanding but are clearly very nationalistic. There is much pride in their countries, even when there is not a lot to be proud of. The classes are also clearly divided between the haves and have nots. Jordan—have, United Arab Emirates (UAE) —have, Syria--used to have, Iraq –lost what they had and Afghanistan clearly in the have not column. Education falls along the same lines and with education comes understanding and openness of the culture. Lack of education results in exactly the opposite.
As this is an international hotel, many many nationalities come through here. This morning I saw a large group of Chinese as well as a group from Ghana, not to mention Syrians, Israelis and others. The bar was full of people from all over. The languages being spoken droned into an unintelligible noise until English was directed in my direction. Again this was another Jordanian saying that the US should have already taken action and he is waiting for the day. The general tone of the evening was simply that. The opinion, without exception, at least what I was exposed to, was the US must strike.
Personally, I think hearing this directly from the people that are going to be affected by anything we as a country do holds much more weight with me than some talking head on TV. There were no bleeding hearts here. There was no ambiguity, no indecision. The people I talked to were looking to the US to act in a way that only the US can. With the evening getting late I said my goodbyes and retired to my room, after checking on the dogs one more time for the night.
If and when the US takes action, I’ll let you know what I find out. I’ll also let you know if or how that action will affect me personally as I am in the middle of the region.
But until then, I’m Jon Harris in Jordan and
This is a Dispatch from Downrange