Before now poetry has taken notice
Of wars, and what are wars but politics
Transformed from chronic to acute and bloody?
from "Build Soil"
Robert Frost

Monday, February 19, 2007

Faces in the Crowds

Every time I get into a conversation about Iraq with someone back home, they ask me what the kids are like, or what the people are like, or what the women do. Normally, the only time I see given to the Iraqi people in the news is for the numbers of the dead, and the rantings of radical Muslims. I can look around me as I go on patrol and see faces everywhere that belong to neither group.

There are the middle-aged men in black robes and red headdresses who glare at us as we pass. They squat in circles and whisper to each other, and strike their children when they wave and call to us. I rarely see women among them.

There was the young Iraqi girl in an orange headdress that blew a kiss at me as we passed her at a checkpoint. She got embarrassed and hid her face when I smiled back.

Once, as we returned to Ramadi from Falluja, I saw an Iraqi man driving his truck through the rain. There were four women in traditional garb in the back of the truck, huddled together for warmth. On the front seat next to the man was his dog.

In one small village near the canals in Falluja was one of the cutest kids I've ever seen. She was only four or five, and looked like my sister did at that age- curly dark hair around her round, dimpled face. She smiled big and waved, asking for candy- I spread my hands and told her I didn't have any. She covered her eyes and started pouting, and then turned again to smiles within seconds. As we drove out of sight I could see she was still waving.

There was the old man out working his field- I saw him leaning up against his shovel watching us leave underneath the setting sun. He was old enough to have known life before Saddam as well as after. I can't help but wonder what he thinks of us.

Everywhere, there are children. If the streets are free of children, we start to look for the imminent attack. They love to have their picture taken, and all of them know that American troops are endless wells of candy. These kids are the future of Iraq. If they grow up to hate, I have little hope that there will ever be peace on this place.


  1. I worked at Anaconda, Taji and TQ for 17 months for KBR driving. Before the trucks were up armored, we could roll the windows down and throw candy to kids etc.

    I had my special Iraqi kid who was about 10 and spoke English obviously learned from hanging around GI's.

    When we staged to reenter Anaconda he would spot me and run jump on the step of my Mercedes and greet me by saying "baby baby give me a dollar" and once he said "come on baby two women no shoes" and pointed at women working the fields behind him. He was hilarious, and of course I would pony up a couple bucks and soda etc whenever I saw him.

    The Iraqis working on the base we had assigned to the KBR camp were all good guys. Anything you wanted they would get to you cigarettes, dvds etc. AQ attacked the minibus they came to work in and killed 3 one day. I liked all those guys and still think about them.

    The best coffee I ever had was fixed by a Iraqi Turk on Diamondback in Mosul. The locals there kept the shops on base open, even after 6 were kidnapped and beheaded and left in the fields like slaughtered lambs.

    I kept running into a Jordanian truck driver at TQ and then Taji, BIAP etc. He was always waiting on escorts back to the Jordon border. But he kept good humor and always fixed great chai tea and insisted we have tea with him. He has a yellow 1970's Mercedes Truck that he polished like it was a brand new Peterbuilt with chrome.

    I knew some good GIs too. But they mostly kept to themselves. I remember the Army guy from the Anaconda finance office, who never left the wire, but cleaned the little memorial at the PX to GI's killed.

    The Marines, when on convoy with them always treated you like a brother. The Marines in the little FOBs in the desert, I always carried extra newspapers and soda in my truck for, and the guys on the dam too.

    The AF escorts had the best looking females and some really funny guys. AF 2632 out of Anaconda were great escorts in 2004/5.

    I think about all these folks every time I read about early withdrawals and leaving Iraq to the bastards of Al Qaeda. And I worry about them too. And I wonder if I could have helped more if I stayed on.

    These are my first comments on your blog. Just a word to say I really enjoying your writing and of course my best wishes for the safety of all you guys over there.

  2. Anonymous19/2/07 16:31


    I enjoy your blog more than any other. I appreciate your humanity in a war zone.


  3. Great stuff TD! Keep it coming.

  4. Way to go TD, I will do another Shout out about this post, you need more readers.

    Stay safe and keep writing.

  5. Teflon Don,
    You have such a kind heart... I hope those kids grow up with your wisdom and awareness - because then we WILL have peace in Iraq...

    I'm going to leave you on my 'Special Blessings' at the top of my blog page. Every day. Something just says that's the right thing to do...

    Be safe, TD. I visualize you coming home safe and sound, marrying a nice woman who adores you, and having a career you enjoy...

  6. "On the front seat next to the man was his dog."

    Clearly the man has his priorities.

  7. Thank you for sharing this. Agreeing with loving annie~you have a kind heart. The contact you have with these children may be one of the biggest influences to why they won't grow up to hate.

  8. Anonymous19/2/07 22:43

    I have some hope, TD. Regarding that Parisien meeting, many noted historians assert that President Wilson would have done much better than 3 of 14, had he but given Prime Minister George some of his Good & Plentys.

    Do not deny incrementalism. The vast majority of shifts - both the radical and subtle - are achieved only through the most minute of steps.

  9. I am so enjoying your real life stories. I love to read the way your write about what you see thru your eyes. thanks for protecting all of us. Your are so appreciated you have no idea.

  10. Anonymous20/2/07 02:09

    anything I could possibly say would seem so trivial in the face of your strength, your sensitivity, and your courage.

  11. Anonymous20/2/07 03:17

    Wonderful post, I really enjoy your writing

  12. Anonymous20/2/07 06:17

    TD, I was reading a blog by an Iraqi girl that loves country music and southern accents. She questioned one of the troops about southern terms, so if you're ever greeted with a loud YEEEEEEHA, and a Ya'll come back now, you'll know where it came from. These kids are a lot more 'eyes open' to the world, mainly because of the internet.

  13. Culture may differ, but children are children everywhere. Have you ever heard the old saying, "Squaws in the back." refering to making the women ride in the back of the truck? It takes time for change in culture.

    Stay safe.

  14. Great post TD. It really is pathetic that no media outlets really cover the average Iraqi citizen, and their points of view. I think it would give the American public a very different perspective of the war.

    Stay safe, and all of our thoughts and prayers are with you!

  15. td, will you post some pics of the people? we'd all love to see the real iraq from your eyes...

    thanks, be safe, bee

  16. you're a bad ass, man, thank you for sharing your thoughts on the people you have seen.

  17. Anonymous20/2/07 11:19

    Hi TD,

    You've answered the question I have most often - how do the locals react to you? I'm sure it differs greatly by area.

    For the middle aged fellows you referred to, is there anything you can do for them or say to them to lessen the distrust? It's always easier to hate/distrust a group vs. individuals. Is it possible/safe to engage them some how?

    Thanks for giving us your side of the story. I'm sorry for the loss of your comrades. I hope our country allows you honor them by finishing the task.

  18. I have to agree with Sara. Thanks for what you are doing. Thanks for what you are writing.

    I am blogrolling you.

    God Bless


  19. Anonymous20/2/07 12:02

    I'm enjoying reading your blog while I am at work. I hope you don't mind my reference to your blog in mine. Good stuff!

  20. Anonymous20/2/07 13:22

    I look forward to using this as my browsers' start page.

  21. Hi TD. I've been away and have just now caught up on your latest posts. I'm so sorry to read about the loss of your friends. Your poems were heart wrenching. Stay as safe as you can and keep up the good work. Thanks again for all you do.

  22. Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 02/20/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

  23. Anonymous21/2/07 00:32

    I like how you see people.

  24. Keep it up! I enjoy your blog.

  25. Great writing, thanks.

    I feel strongly we can create a free country here, and we're trying to get that point across to Congress. I can't stand the thought of all this being for nothing when it is so close to being everything for so many.

    If you can please sign the Appeal at

    LT Jason Nichols
    MNF-I, Baghdad

  26. Anonymous21/2/07 12:54

  27. Stop by my place and take a look at my post about milbloggie, you are involved.

  28. Anonymous26/2/07 07:23

    I am so glad my daughter gave me the link to your website. She is a WOW member and lives in San Deigo, you might know her.

    I have often thought the folks in Iraq that was going to have influence on the out come was the women. The mothers of the young children. Wanting them to grow up in som sort of what we think is normal lives. Not wanting them to hate or Kill. I hope at night the women are nagging on thier man to come home and do choirs etc. Ware the pants.

    Keep up the good work!
    Murf in Idaho

  29. God works in mysterious ways and you never know when you are planting a seed. Obviously, you are planting seeds in these young minds of the kindness of American GIs. Hopefully, other kind soldiers (and I mean that collectively among all the branches) will water those seeds with additional kindness. God is using you to try to reach these children.

    I will be praying for you and those you come in contact with, just as I pray for our troops every day. You are making a difference. Please don't let the media make you think otherwise. America loves and supports you, all of you!

    God Bless You!