Sunday, April 6, 2008

Habib means Friend

I sat down last night with two Iraqi military men. Ali and Hassan. Ali, an officer, spoke broken English and had to translate for his "good soldier," as he called Hassan.

Ali has been supporting the U.S. ever since the ousting of Saddam. He has a wife and a child that he rarely sees. He does not live with them and has not in a few years. I told him that sometimes we complain because we have to leave our families and come over here, but pointed out that he hasn't been able to stop fighting since soon after the invasion. He said that at least he is able to visit occasionally and call them on his cell phone. For his personal safety and that of his family, I am deliberately leaving out a lot of details.

He told me about some of the American friends he had when he worked in Ramadi and Fallujah in 2005. I had some friends in that area then too, and since we had just moved from that area we had a lot to talk about.

He told us of how a soldier of his was shot in front of him while they were on a joint U.S. military patrol against the insurgents in Ramadi. He told of how afterwords the U.S. troops killed the insurgent who had killed his soldier.

I asked Hassan how old he was. He looked about 17, but he was slightly older. Since family (especially father's) are important in the Iraqi society, I asked Hassan (through Ali) what kind of work his dad did. "His dad is dead," Ali replied.

"Oh," I gulped. "I'm sorry," and I put my hand over my heart in sympathy. Then I did what many would be uncomfortable doing. I even felt a little uncomfortable asking, but I questioned, "How did he die?"

His father was in the Iraqi National Guard and was shot by a "terrorist", Ali translated, in Ramadi in "two-zero-zero-five" (2005). Hassan later joined the Iraqi Army. He has two small siblings and his mother is a widow.

I look forward to seeing my new friends again.

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