“From: Whitehead Col Michael
Sent: Sunday, May 18, 2003 6:12 PM
Subject: Magical Iraqi tour
I left Babylon for seven days and civilization arrived. Washing machines. And dryers. No more bucket brigade.
Ten of us left in three vehicles, me in command for a tour of the provincial capitals in our area. We went east from Hillah to Al Kut, on the banks of the Tigris River. We drove south from the banks of the Tigris to An Nasiriyah on the banks of the Euphrates. Then we went northwest to Ad Diwaniyah. NW again to An Najaf. Then north to Karbala. Finally SE today back to Hillah. Got a lot of pictures and a lifetime worth of experiences.
Stark memories of my trip:
Children, seeing us approach on the highway, streaming to the road to wave. This happened DOZENS of times.
A line of Iraqi women, covered from head to foot in black or colored dress, pots full of laundry balanced on their heads as they walk from the river.
A civil affairs soldier reported in a meeting, "We come out of a meeting tonight and some Iraqis approached us and said there were some teenagers nearby, drinking whiskey, and they had hand grenades. I sent the Marines over to deal with that." "Good idea," I told her.
A scene out of Lawrence of Arabia: sitting cross-legged on carpets in a large tent, filled with Muslim clerics, and eating lamb and rice and pita bread with our hands (right hand only!) from a large bowl.
Listening to a city council meeting in Karbala while a crowd of protestors chanted outside.
Seeing every military or civilian vehicle on the side of the road picked CLEAN down to the chassis. Once I saw a group of children trying to pry something off the top of a bus.
Sleeping on a cot on the hood of my vehicle. With a mosquito net.
Taking a bath with Baby Wipes.
Riding in a Hummer in full battle gear in 109-degree heat.
Three men walking abreast in the right lane of a street in An Nasiriyah. They were blocking the lane. Directly behind each man was a woman clothed head to foot completely in black. We drove around them.
Seeing men throwing wheat up in the air with a pitchfork, separating the wheat from the chaff as they have done here for thousands of years.
Drinking water that is so hot it tastes like the water from the hot water faucet. And then drinking some more because you are so hot and thirsty you have no choice.
Hearing a Marine Battalion Commander describe how his troops captured the University of Baghdad.
Vendors outside the barbed wire of every Marine compound selling Iraqi Army bayonets, medals, ice, sodas and coolers. We bought ice, coolers and sodas. And pita bread.
Messages from Babylon
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