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Codetalkers: How to win friends & influence people in Iraq....

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I'm currently sitting in the hold of a C-130 troop transport plane, staring at the bottom of a combat boot belonging to the soldier across from me and suddenly I realize there's a word on his sole. "Converse".

"Why are you flying to Kuwait," I idly asked the soldier. "Going home on leave?"

"My mother died suddenly this morning." I felt so bad for him, I even vainly tried to struggle past all of my seatbelts and Kevlar and give him a hug. When my mother died suddenly several years ago and my neighbor gave me a hug, it had really helped. The soldier was pretty much devastated by his loss. I felt so bad.

And the soldier next to him was absent-mindedly pointing his M-16 at my knee-cap. "Would it be okay if you pointed it at my duffel bag instead?" He obliged.

Will we get to the airbase in Kuwait before the dining facility closes? It's gonna be a tight squeeze but I hope we make it. I haven't hardly eaten anything in two days, having been suffering from "The Halls of Montezumas' Revenge".

Anyway, I was day-dreaming about this and that during the flight when it suddenly hit me -- the military over here in Iraq is equipped with almost every single weapon imaginable; has spent almost a trillion dollars on all these freaking weapons that you see all over this country -- but has spent only piddling amounts on the one weapon that counts the most -- words.

Two nights ago I was happily sleeping away on my cot at Forward Operating Base Haditha when the peace was totally shattered by the Thunder-Clap from Hell! OMG! This is it! We're being invaded! I thought about crawling under my cot for protection but really -- have you SEEN my cot?

"What the freak is going on!" I screamed. "We're all gonna die!"
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"Jane, those are just outgoing illumination rounds," said our Captain. "If they had been incoming rounds, trust me, you would have known. The entire ground would have been shaking." Oh.

I'd gone up to Haditha to see the Marines' Lioness train program, wherein female Marines are taught how to interact with Iraqi women. The program has been a huge success. Iraqi women have really appreciated being able to deal with women like themselves. For instance, some of the Lionesses were asked to go provide moral support to a woman who had just been assaulted by an Iraqi man. And the Marines' female Iraqi interpreters are also important in helping make Iraqi women feel at ease.

Then we all trooped off to see a new medical clinic being build in joint collaboration with Iraqis, Marines and the US Army Corps of Engineers. Several Iraqi building inspectors were there. And yes when you build in Iraq, just like when you build in the States, you still need a permit. Which reminds me that when I get back home to Berkeley, I'm going to have to deal with getting a permit for my window because while I'm over here writing about Big Things, the Board of Directors at my housing project is busy tormenting me about Little Things. Punks.

Then we all got back in the Seven-Ton and convoyed over to the local hospital. It was only two blocks away. "We coulda walked here," I complained, "All this military stuff is making us look like we're the evil occupying force instead of just your friendly local neighborhood Marines trying to help the local police dudes keep the peace."

The Marine next to me laughed. "Jane, we usually just run foot patrols here in Haditha, sort of an informal neighborhood watch."
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"Then what is all this heavy-duty gonzo in-your-face military equipment about?" Those Seven-Tons are HUGE. And totally intimidating.

"We're using all this gear because of YOU, Jane." Really? "How would it look if a 65-year-old visiting grandmother passed out from heat-stroke or something on our watch?" Ha. I bet that wasn't it. I bet that my daughter Ashley phoned up the Marines and told them that she was all worried that I would get lost again and would they PLEASE keep me on a short leash. Humph.

At the hospital, we looked at the emergency room and thought about ER and Gray's Anatomy but there wasn't much action there. It was a pretty calm day. "And here's our oncology room, cardiac room, men's ward, women's ward and pediatric wing." They had 80 beds total but only about 15 of them were filled. I had wanted to go see their morgue but it became pretty obvious to me while doing rounds that this hospital's morgue was gonna be empty.

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Stillwater is a freelance writer who hates injustice and corruption in any form but especially injustice and corruption paid for by American taxpayers. She has recently published a book entitled, "Bring Your Own Flak Jacket: Helpful Tips For Touring (more...)
 

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