Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Open For Interpretation

The Christian Science Monitor has a fascinating article on the life on an Iraqi interpreter:

Like many of the hundreds of Iraqi interpreters serving the US military, Ahmed leads an anguished life. Hounded by taunts and the threat of death from fellow Iraqis, he is also troubled by the abuses and mistrust of some US soldiers. But his job is as crucial as it is wrenching, especially as US and Iraqi forces increasingly mount joint combat operations to shore up Iraq's new government.

"Sometimes, when I'm alone, I cry," says Ahmed, an English literature graduate of Mosul University. "It's so contradictory because I'm proud of what I'm doing, but I hide my face," he says, withholding his real name. Since he cast his lot with US forces in the first days of their occupation of Mosul in April 2003, Ahmed has faced the extremes of Iraqi popular attitudes toward the American military. Initial euphoria has given way to a grim daily effort to survive, he says.
. . . .
Working for the Marines and later the 101st Airborne Division and Stryker brigade, Ahmed was impressed by much of what he learned about American culture. In managing propane distribution, for example, he discovered US soldiers were highly egalitarian.

"Before the war, we had important people and not-important people. But the soldiers were fair to everyone," he says. "I learned a lot from those guys. I learned that you judge each individual by what he does" rather than by his family, tribe, or group, he says.

Still, he says the US occupation also brought chaos because Iraqis lack a sense of ownership for their country. "Saddam psychologically and physically damaged people's patriotic feeling for the country, to the point that it wasn't their country, it was Saddam's country and they lived in it," he says. Just as stuffing oneself after a Ramadan fast can cause a stomachache, he says, "you can't give us all that freedom at once or we will hurt ourselves and behave abnormally and randomly."
Yet another reminder of how uneducated the people who planned this war were of the mindset and culture of the people we were trying to "liberate".


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