Pro Deo Et Patria- An Army Chaplain

I am a chaplain in the US Army, serving in Iraq. I'm keeping a blog to share my thoughts and experiences while deployed. They are my thoughts and they don't necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Army! :)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Surreal Life

That's the feeling I have- that some of this is surreal. Today I had lunch at Burger King- the sign on the building says "Burger King, Baghdad-Iraq." They sell small souvenirs- like a compass, watch, and a couple of other things, almost like a Hard Rock Cafe, which say "Burger King- Iraq." Those are combinations of words that my mind doesn't readily process. But here I am.

After running some errands in the morning, getting ready for my departure to the Forward Operating Base I will be serving at for a while, I went over to the PX complex. At the PX (Post Exchange- basically a big retail store) complex there is an Iraqi Bazaar. Inside the building are a number of Iraqi vendors selling everything from silver items from one of Saddam's palaces, to old Iraqi currency, to glass and crystal, to rugs, to TVs, cell phones, and so much else. I walked around there for a while, and picked up a couple cheap souvenirs for my boys. While doing so, I began to speak with one of the Iraqi vendors.

I had asked him if he was from Baghdad, making pleasant small talk. He told me he was, and I asked about his neighborhood; from what it sounds like, his neighborhood has a lot of retirees, and is relatively safer than other places. However, he began to talk a little more about his feelings about the Americans, and our role there. He proclaimed that Iraq needs the Americans right now, to help keep the peace. He explained that there had never been this kind of trouble between Shias and Sunnis in the past, but, according to him, it (the violence) was being stoked by outsides sources. According to him, the Syrians and Iranians didn't want to Iraq to be a strong, independent, free country. This makes sense, considering Syria is run by the Baath Party- Saddam's old party- and Iran is a Shia nation, like many of the Iraqis. A free, democratic Iraq would be a problem for both of them.

This man, like many Iraqis, is simply a human being caught in the middle; just trying to make a living and stay safe, he is caught in the transition between a brutal dicatorship, and a growing democracy whose very existence threatens the oppressive regimes of its neighbors. This doesn't make the American sacrifices in Iraq any less painful, but helps to remind us that we are doing this for a reason. There are real people involved, and a genuine struggle between the forces of peace and democracy, and the old ways of oppression and fear.

The US has not done this whole thing perfectly (no war has ever been perfect). Are there things that we would do differently if we started over? I would guess so, but that's for historians to debate. But the crucial thing is that we need to do it well now, not because of any past mistakes, but because the future of many people depends on it.


Anonymous Eric said...

It's great to read your blog and get your first impressions of Iraq. Your pictures of Camp Liberty bring back lots of memories (I sat in the throne but never got a picture). You're in my thoughts and prayers. Take care and stay safe, especially on the new FOB.

12:52 AM  
Anonymous Carl said...

Hi Chris,

Many thanks for the call! You are in our prayers as are your fellow soldiers. I spoke with Eric and expect that he'll be in touch with you shortly

God bless!

Uncle Carl

2:16 AM  

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