Wednesday, October 04, 2023

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

From: Michael Whitehead  
Sent: Friday, October 3, 2003 4:40 AM 
Subject: Moving across the street 

We went to Baghdad yesterday (1 OCT) to discuss our mission with the Powers That Be and FINALLY got some resolution. We are moving to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) Regional Headquarters in Hillah, which is five minutes away from Camp Babylon. Our move is only five minutes away, but it will be a world of difference. 

Our new workplace, the Coalition Provisional Authority South Central Headquarters, a 5 minute drive from our former quarters at Camp.Babylon.

Our trip to Baghdad was interesting. I had not been there since July, and there had been a lot of changes. Most of the changes were security related: lots of new concrete barriers and streets closed. We had to take different routes to go where we were heading. There wasn’t as much of a military presence in the city as I had remembered. This was intentional on the military’s part. 

I had a near religious experience during my visit. I got to use a commode in a real bathroom for the first time in almost three months. This wasn’t any old bathroom – it was a Saddam palatial bathroom in one of the buildings in the main palace complex in Baghdad. There was a real commode (not some hole in the floor), with a real sink with running water, and a mirror and a towel rack. The floors were marble, with some special kind of rock trimming the sink, and a bidet next to the toilet. Lots of toilet paper. I mean fancy. I paused during this moment to savor the experience. I luxuriated, even I dare say reveled in this rare and unique moment. 

You may be laughing at me, but you have to look at the chain of events that brought me here. I went from an airman during the war giving me a shovel and pointing to a spot of desert near an airfield, to using a Seabee constructed wooden outhouse with a sawed off 55 gallon drum, to the ever fragrant and widely varied quality conditions of the INNUMERABLE portajohns that are scattered everywhere in Iraq, to the mountaintop of the Saddam palatial toilet. Wait a minute… I think I missed a category there, like a McDonald’s bathroom and then a Holiday Inn. Don’t have those here. I am really sick of portajohns. I am ready to trade the experience of them all for my newly renovated bathroom back home. 

We traveled to Baghdad with some Polish MP’s and some Filipino police as force protection. The Filipinos are dressed all in blue, with black helmets and a sign on their back that says “Philippines Police.” As we passed through a checkpoint, I saw a G.I point at one of the Filipinos and say, “Hey, who is that?” I was afraid he was going to stop and question us. 

 The interesting part, though, was on the highway back to Babylon, when two Apache helicopters took a VERY great interest in us as we rode down the highway. They moved very slowly down the median, only 100 foot above the ground. I immediately sat up in my seat because I thought they may be trying to warn us about something. One of them turned sideways and hovered as we approached. I have no idea what they were doing, but I think they were looking at our Filipino and Polish comrades, and trying figure out who they were. The Apache moved off as we got close, sending a backwash of wind rolling over us as we passed through. The Apaches are scary enough when you just look at them flying by – to have one LOOKING at us was disconcerting.”

 Excerpt From Messages from Babylon Michael Whitehead This material may be protected by copyright.