Saturday, November 11, 2023

My Memory of the War in Iraq 20 years later: November 2023

From: Whitehead, Michael (USA)

Sent: Thursday, November 27, 2003 9:28 AM

Subject: The end of Ramadan and Thanksgiving.

    Ramadan ended Tuesday night according to one Najaf cleric and Monday night according to another. Evidently, Ramadan starts on the full moon and ends on the new moon. The leading cleric is supposed to make this determination. Confusion reigns because they cannot decide which cleric is the lead.

November 2003, city of Ramadi, Anbar Province, Iraq.

    It has been overcast and rainy for two days. This has turned desert dust into desert mud. Since it seems like EVERY vehicle in Iraq either leaks or spews oil, the introduction of water on the roads has sent some of us spinning. One SUV slid into a ditch and we had to call a Humvee to winch it out.

    By order of the Combined & Joint Task Force today is Thanksgiving and everyone will be served turkey, even if they are a Pole, Brit or Ukrainian and didn't ask for it. Today we will have a Continental breakfast from 0630 to 0900 and then a Holiday meal from two to 6 in the afternoon. The Packers against the Lions on TV in the evening. The Pakistani cooks have been busy smoking the turkeys.

Group Captain Wilkinson, our resident Aussie Air Force rep, said at a meeting the other night, when told CPA would have reduced activities and a holiday turkey meal, said "Oh, so we're going to follow their quaint custom." There is a lot of friendly international needling. The Group Captain is suffering from the jibes of Col Strong, of Her Majesty's 1st Royal Tank Regiment, after the Aussies lost to the Brits in the Rugby World Cup final.

“There was tremendous interest in this game on this compound, and people who actually saw it on television. The Aussies and Brits look with amusement at our fanatical interest in football, and only ask that they not be required to sit and watch an entire game. They will watch for a few minutes, grow bored and move on. "Too much standing around," they will say.

Convoy briefing prior to departure from our compound in Al-Hillah, Iraq.

    The Iraqis have definitely not been standing around, but have been celebrating the end of a month of fasting. There are similarities and differences between how we Americans celebrate a holiday and how the Iraqis celebrate. From my observations of Hillah, Karbala and Al Kut the last few days, the Iraqis appear to have combined our Easter and July 4th. Like Easter, there are lots of families out in their best attire, little boys in suits and ties and little girls in adorable dresses and hats. While on the 4th we use firecrackers, bottle rockets and fireworks, the Iraqis use AK's, RPG's and hand grenades. I walked to breakfast to what sounded like a gun battle, but what I knew to be the famous or infamous Iraqi "celebratory" fire.

“Other Iraqis walked through the streets beating a large drum or playing a horn in a decidedly off tune non-medley rendition of something. Yet, as I stood on the roof of a building in our compound in Al Kut, inspecting the line of Texas barriers and barbed wire we had erected in the last two weeks, I could see Iraqi families promenading in the park, enjoying their holiday in peace and without fear. As we left the children ran up to us shouting, "Thank you" in English. I had never heard them say that before. We waved back.”

Excerpt From

Messages from Babylon

Michael Whitehead

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