Unwelcome Americans Cross Iraqi Bridge First
Poo River Bridge was closed to keep the people in the neighborhoods on each side of this human waste canal from blowing each other up. The closing of the bridge took advantage of the inherent laziness of people by taking away convenient route to get to the other side of this great divide. The plan was successful. Five years later, this bridge re-opening ceremony was to embody a Sunni and Shia unity forming one Muslim Iraqi people, brothers in arms, to support a prosperous future of Iraq.
At first it made me feel good about what we have done in the country. This showed one more step toward a peaceful nation. Maybe, the 4000+ soldiers that gave their lives didn’t do so in vain. Maybe they brought peace and democracy to a nation; a nation that has the potential to reap the benefits of oil production and bring wealth and success to its people.
Today, thanks to the training and money provided by American Soldiers and taxpayers, the Iraqi Army has a grip on the security of the country. It’s loose, but it’s a grip nonetheless.
Iraqi soldiers surrounded the tent, filled the streets, rooftops and the bridge itself. The significance of the ceremony was important enough to lend itself to a very real potential; the enemy arriving with a vest filled with screws, nails, ball bearings and homemade explosives. A bomb going off here would kill many important people and would surely make international news. Fortunately, it didn’t happen.
We sat in the back of the tent, merely a shadow of the Iraqi general we were advising, watching as sheiks, other Iraqi generals and religious leaders arrive. There were lots of smiles, handshaking, and cheek kissing between leaders of both the Sunni and Shia neighborhoods and mulhallas (sub neighborhoods) in this community. A community once divided socially by religion and physically by an open, black water irrigation system.
In the 120 degree heat, we listened to readings from the Quoran, poetry from local civilians, and speeches from top generals. They talked about the great things the Iraqi Army has done and the secure future that is in store for the Iraqi people. Everyone felt good about themselves; you could feel it in the air.
As we stood to move to the ribbon cutting and bridge crossing there was an announcement. A couple of the religious leaders wanted to make statements. Everyone obliged and returned to their seats.
Sunni and Shia both stood and made the same claims. My translator began to speak, “A day of brotherhood, unity, and security. There was to be only one people; Iraqi Muslims. No more Sunni, no more Shia…..”
My translator stopped speaking.
“What are they saying?” I asked.
“You don’t want to know.”
“Okay, sir. Coalition Forces and Terrorists are no long welcome in this country.” my translator stated.
I sat there boiling. I understand they want their country back. I get it. Really, I do, and they can have it. It’s hot, dusty, stinky and corrupt. I miss my family, my house, my dogs, my car and the United States. It costs American taxpayers way too much financially for us to be in this money pit we call Iraq. But to say it that way? It was all I could do to keep from creating an international incident by telling this old fart to go pack sand.
How about this; we leave and take our money with us. The money that is supplying your military to keep you safe, the money that is helping build your infrastructure, and the money that is supplementing your country because you are too corrupt to get decent bids to produce the oil that will support your country; all of it stops today. I’ll gladly stop risking my life everyday and go home to my family and let you live in your hot, dry, almost third world country. No problem.
But instead, I remained professional, kept my mouth shut and plucked an eye booger out from behind my sunglasses with my middle finger.
Then, with the stench of watered down feces so thick you could taste it, the large crowd of 75 to 100 people, surrounded by dozens of cameras and reporters, slowly made their way across the bridge. With US Army security out in front, Americans placed the first steps across the bridge. It made me smile knowing, that with all their jaw-jacking about how we were not welcome, we still found ourselves out in front, taking photographs, pulling security and taking those very significant, very important, very first steps across the Poo River Bridge.
When it came time to leave, we rubbed it in just a little bit more by driving our good ole American Humvees across the bridge. First.