Sunday, February 15, 2004

A trip to An Nasiriyah

Just a few details of my visit to Nasiriyah and Samawa over the last 2 days...Was headed out from Basra to Nasiriyah yesterday morning. If you recall, this was the town where POW Jessica Lynch was rescued by US Marines. Our route to Nasiriya was approximately 60 miles. We passed numerous convoys of military machinery, gasoline tankers and trailers containing pre-fab shelters (like construction trailers) to be used by occupying troops. The convoys included American, Dutch, Romanian and Japanese security forces. It's pretty amazing to see Japanese forces in action, as they have not deployed to another country since the end of WWII. We arrived at the CPA in Nasiriyah mid afternoon to discuss some information with the staff regarding a previous mortar attack against one of the CPA's. Following the meeting, we continued on to an area west of Nasiriyah where the Dutch have a contingent of Marines and some Dutch Army soldiers. We spent the night there in some of those comfortable pre-fab trailers, which seem to have replaced the standard GP tents I got used to in the Marine Corps. Ahh, progress! The Dutch served us a fine dinner by the best looking female solders I have ever laid eyes on. Of course, they are all 6 feet tall and blonde, and probably all named Inga or Helga or somthing like that! Sorry, I digress. After a healthy nap, we departed for Samawa to meet some other individuals at the CPA Samawa. FYI...Each major town in Iraq has a CPA (Coalition Provisional AUthority), which permits the Coalition to administer the law in the town until such time it can be taken over by the locals. However, only 6 towns have actual CPA Ambassadors or Administrators, such as the one I work for in Basrah. All of the others are primarily military HQ's for Coalition troops who administer the law in that particular area. Our visit to Samawa was highlighted with a windshield and walking tour of Samawa from a couple of Dutch Marines who work at the CPA. There were 8 of us, including the Dutch, and we were all very security conscious (and heavily armed, of course). It was very interesting to see a town which had not only suffered from heavy fighting between the US forces and the Sadaam Fedayeen, but also from equally horrible destruction caused by the troops of Sadaam Hussein himself after the Gulf war, in reprisal for the locals rising against him after the Gulf War loss. In the short time I have been here, I have seen more poverty and hopelessness than I cared to experience. Unfortunately, it will take an entirely new generation of Iraqi's before society here can truly exist under our interpretation of freedom. The current generation has suffered so much under Hussein's rule and lived under such constant threat of torture that they will never fully trust us or any other force that promises freedom and hope. I can only hope the children we see will grow up differently. Al of them greet us with smiles and "thumbs up", and all seem to desparately want to communicate with us using any broken english they can.Our trip home was long and uneventful. We just missed a visit by Prince Charles, who visited his troops at the CPA in Basra only hours before our arrival. Since our return, we have been hearing the constant popping of AK-47 rounds beyond the compound walls, which hopefully relate to the celebration of a wedding and not the threats of troublemakers.

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