One Evening, While Inspecting Checkpoints…
For a city of 6,000,000 people (plus or minus a million depending on which Iraqi agency you ask), Baghdad is very quiet at midnight…but that’s a good thing. We traveled with our Iraqi counter-parts, intermingled in their convoy of Iron Camels, moving from checkpoint to checkpoint.
Imagine this: There you are, you’re an Iraqi Jundi (soldier), dozing away at your checkpoint, snuggled up to the air conditioning inside your vehicle, helmet and protective vest off, the mirror of your truck used as a coat rack, AK-47 machine gun leaning against the tire, well-disciplined and ready to fight.
When all of a sudden it happens: BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!
No silly, not a terrorist trying to assassinate you. A three star general is banging on the window of your truck. In speed reminiscent of Clark Kent changing into Superman, you’re up, in the proper uniform, standing at attention, holding a British style salute, getting your ass chewed.
I leaned over to my interpreter and asked, “What’s he saying?”
“Sir, he’s getting his ass chewed.”
“No shit. Well, I guess I don’t need to speak Arabic to know when someone is getting their ass chewed.” Classic!
It is likely, that at the end of his shift, he will spend a few days in jail. It’s just as likely that the Company Commander will also spend a day or two in jail. However, it’s a lesson not to be forgotten.
The Iraqi Army justice system isn’t quite as sophisticated as the US Military which has a big fat book called the Uniformed Code of Military Justice. There are really only a few options they have; Jail, Old-Style-Ass-Whoopin’ (which I am akin to), less pay, or a combination of all three. The US Military has two of the three (the Ass-Whoopin’ is illegal now), but it’s complicated by counseling statements, witness statements, hearings, legal advisors, whining, crying, begging for forgiveness, et cetera. I kind of admire how simple they keep things. Quick, fast, and only painful if you get the ass-whoppin’.
It doesn’t take long before the word gets out that the general is inspecting checkpoints. Nearly all the checkpoints after that have their soldiers standing out in front of their vehicles, saluting as we drive by, defending freedom and fighting terrorism one vehicle inspection at a time.
It’s 2:30 am and we roll back into our compound. Just another night in Baghdad.