The weird stuff in Iraq
Somebody asked me today: What’s the strangest thing you saw in Iraq? At first, I thought he meant gruesome as in body parts, but he meant just flat-out weird. As I pondered on the weird things I observed, I realized how things, acts or customs would never be accepted in the United States. I also thought I’d share them with you…
Chained to the ground. We were in Tal Afar, going through the city from house to house searching for weapons, bad guys and bombs. We came across this one house where a guy was actually chained and shackled to the ground. Kept like a dog, there was a bowl of water within his reach. We asked the family why the guy was chained up and they simply said the man was weird and they were afraid he would do something to the children. I didn’t take his picture; I was too shocked to do anything.
Dead terrorist with his butt showing. I certainly saw my share of dead people, but most were fully clothed. I’m not sure how this particular fellow died, but I know he and his cohorts attacked us from a nearby mosque. After the threat was eliminated, soldiers and Iraqi guardsmen secured the holy site. I later arrived to document the area, and there was this guy whose pants were at his knees. He laid flat on his stomach with his head turned sideways, and his hands were around his waist. It’s as if the insurgent pulled his pants down as he died to say “you can kiss my bloody ass.”
Kicking camel. There aren’t many camels in Mosul, so when we came across a few chained up we wanted pictures with them. After receiving permission from the owners, guys posed with the animals. The camels didn’t like my flash. After a few photos, one of the camels kicked me in the groin area. I’ve been kicked by horses hundreds of times, and I promise you that Equine don’t hold a candle to camels.
Celebratory gunfire. I had guard duty the night the Iraqi Olympic Soccer Team played Costa Rica for the right to advance into the quarter finals. Soccer in Iraq is absolutely huge. So big that when Iraq wins, everybody with a gun (which is everybody) is outside shooting up in the air. I don’t know why they can’t just drink a beer instead of firing a weapon, but it’s their custom to celebrate something by shooting into the clouds. I kid you not, after Iraq beat Costa Rica, people were firing from their homes for an hour non stop. Tracers were flying everywhere. It was like the 4th of July with bullets. An hour after all the firing stopped, a man wearing a robe walked onto his rooftop. He had a pistol in his hand and was about 100 meters from me. He raised his arm and fired a single shot, and then walked back inside. At that moment, I wondered why he didn’t celebrate with everybody else.
Donkey pulling a car. No matter where you are in Iraq, you can always count on three things: lots and lots of broken down cars and tons of trash and to see something weird. But in all my adventures, I can honestly say that I’ve never seen anything like this before…. a donkey pulling a broken-down car. I guess you could say this donkey was the king of donkeys. The car wasn’t large and the donkey didn’t look strong, but its owner sure looked mad. He was yelling at the donkey. If I could speak Arabic, I would have yelled… man, the donkey’s pulling your car. He’s pulling your car!
Everything else. To be honest, everything in Iraq seemed weird at first, but after awhile you got use to it. Other weird things worth noting…. Wires: there are wires everywhere. We’ve lost a few soldiers due to errant power lines. Man dresses: for some reason the enemy’s costume of choice are black man dresses (and they don’t wear underwear, so I’m told). Food: they pickle or fry everything and serve with flatbread, which at first tastes odd. But after awhile, it grows on you. (I’ve eaten a lot of pickles since I’ve been home.) Prayers: Muslims pray five times a day, and they listen to the loud speakers from their mosque. The music / prayer call reminded me of the movie Black Hawk Down. Car horns: I swear every Iraqi’s ambition was to have their favorite song programmed into their horn. Some honkers honked and you could hear the honk for five minutes. Obsession with Tina Turner: I saw more Tina Turner albums in Iraqi homes than I ever have in my life. And I have no idea why. It was just weird. I mean, who likes Tina Turner?