What type of cultural training are you given? What are you told about Iraqi culture? Where would you go if you needed a translator?
We were given very basic cultural training before my last deployment. This deployment I don’t remember any classes or anything being said much. I do remember that I was told at JRTC (month training exercise in Louisiana) that I should take it upon myself to learn some basic Arabic words. Arabic is a tough language. I’ve learned and forgotten many words and phrases. The truth is we don’t need to learn the language, we have an interpreter with us at all times outside the wire and we never use them anyhow. Anything a soldier learns about the culture here is on there own accord. I could go on for quite some time about the varying lifestyles of Iraqis from the illiterate rural farmers to the college educated inner city modern Iraqis. The people here in eastern Baghdad are mostly Shiite and … are strictly religious and are concerned mostly with the world as it applies to Shiites. The last big uproar these zealots had with the US was the fact that we weren’t doing enough to help there Shia bretheren in Bahrain. Anyhow most of what I learn about the Iraqis is through our Iraqi interpreters. They live with us on base and live the life of secret agents. They keep it a secret from even their families that they work with the US and have many times told me that they’d be dead if word got out. Our interpreters work with us for three years for their US citizenship. Our current two interpreters with our platoon have been on more route clearance missions than any American soldier that I know. Perhaps 4 to 5 hundred.
You are asked to go out and be friendly with the locals but then you are told not to. What is up with that? This is really interesting, why the mix messages?
The suggestions to mingle with the locals is coming from one echelon, while our missions are being commanded by another. The two echelons obviously have a different idea of how things should be done. I’m not sure what the right decision is. I know it’s a risk to walk around in the neighborhoods of eastern Baghdad, but it’s not like driving through them is any safer. I think if it were up to me we would stop at a different local market every time we went on mission and simply ask random Iraqis what were in for that day. I would as well stop and talk to the Sons of Iraq and ask them what is up. The SOI or Sons of Iraq are like volunteer police. They used to be paid by the government but now I believe they are free agents so to speak. Sometimes the locals pay them and sometimes they are burned alive by the local insurgents. They are the brave son of a bitches who stand on the streets with their AK 47’s everyday so they are in the know. Why we don’t interact with them more is beyond me. I think anyway you slice it we are in for a bad day, so my view is we should be doing as much as possible to figure out when and where it is coming from. If we get shot at or blown up while doing so, at least were dictating where and when.
What is the going consensus around the base regarding Bradley Manning? Are your fellow soldiers into discussing politics, watching news? What issues do you guys talk about alot? Are the majority of your soldier friend cynical or optimistic about what we are doing there?
The only military people optimistic about what we are doing are the ones who’s job it is to be optimistic. Every conversation about Iraq amongst soldiers is the same. We are wasting our lives in this shithole and I don’t care what any general on up has to say, we are accomplishing nothing. Of course you can’t say that at a soldiers memorial or funeral. But we all say the same thing. Its a fucking waste of time.
Bradley Manning is a traitor. He sold himself out to make a name for himself. Anyone in the military will tell you the same thing. No matter what the situation is, if you are in the military you take an oath and give up certain rights. It’s one of the few things soldiers can take pride in. Loyalty to your fellow man. You turn your back on your peers in the Army by leaking classified information, well good riddance and good luck. He won’t see the light of day for some time. The Universal Code of Military Justice is pretty black and white. You don’t play by the rules and you go away for a long time.
Most soldiers political conversations are very uneducated and uninteresting. Occasionally I’ll have a good argument with an officer or one of the few intelligent soldiers. You’ve gotta look hard but there are a few smart grunts out there. Perhaps you should have asked me this question before I’d spent 7 months in this shithole. Most of our conversations have been reduced to laughing at things that would make most people shutter. 8 or 9 nine months into a deployment is when the mind starts to turn to mush. Speaking for myself I don’t give a shit about much of anything other than going home. I don’t care people about dying that I don’t know and have never met. I don’t care about 80 civilians being killed by a car bomb at a funeral. I don’t care about Al Qaeda taking 30 government officials hostage and blowing themselves and their hostages up. Perhaps I should care but I think I’ve soaked up as much as I can take and really at some point you have to put up your defenses. All that matters to me is getting myself and my friends home alive. Everyone else is on there own. That is as much as I can do for myself or anyone else.