Chapter 21: Oh Four Cubed

    Sunday, April 4, 2004

    From Amman, Jordan


    There's really nothing to this title other than the fact that, as I was beginning to type and needed to name the file (which file, because I am soooooooo creative, I always name: mullings (hyphen) and the date (in xx-xx-xx format).

    Today's date is April fourth, 2004 or 04-04-04.

    Dear Mr. Mullings:
    Do we have to go through this every single week?
    The Mullings Readers Who Really Only Look at the Pictures Anyway.

    As I write this on 04-04-04, I am sitting in the lobby of the Intercontinental Hotel in Amman, Jordan as opposed to my desk in the green zone.

    I am enroute to visit my very excellent friends Jim and Anita Oberwetter who happen to be in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It also happens that Jim is the United States Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and, as Riyadh is probably not on everyone's "must see" list, I thought that as long as I was only one C-130 and a commercial flight away, I should visit.

    I was, as I am writing this, supposed to already be there, but there is this Arab phrase, "Inshallah" or "God Willing."

    This is, actually, a pretty good idea. Anything which was supposed to happen and which didn't happen (like, say, Duke getting into the final of the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament) is because God didn't will it to be so.

    Try that out on your bookie. Let me know what he says.

    Anyway, I'm in Amman so the trip to Riyadh and onward will be in next week's Mullings.

    This is what I look like when I'm sitting in the lobby bar of a five star hotel. This is why they're so eager to have me back:

    Dear Mr. Mullings:
    WHOA! What's with the beer? I thought you hated beer?
    The Lad

    Well, that's an interesting story. As regular readers know, I spent seven-and-a-half years working on my undergraduate degree from Marietta College (Marietta, Ohio 45750).

    I wasn't there for the whole seven-point-five, of course. They threw me out for two of them, but I was actually on campus for five and a half years.

    Each and every day. Each and every day I tried to learn to like beer. I tried every kind of beer there was. I tried 3.2 beer (which was what you were permitted to drink, back in the day between the ages of 18 and 21 after which you were adjudged to be fully capable of driving an automobile down an unlighted two-lane southern Ohio road having consumed a half-dozen or so beers with full alcohol content), I tried beer in cans, in bottles (including quarts of Schlitz beer which, if they still manufacture, should be illegal in every country except Kuwait and Saudi Arabia where alcohol is banned completely), on tap, and whatever other version there is.

    I tried really, really hard to develop a taste. Often the results of the effort lasted well into Comparative Government which wasn't until two in the afternoon. The next afternoon.

    When I say I was "on campus" I mean I spent many a night actually ON CAMPUS (if-you-know-what-I-mean-and-I-think-you-do).

    Upon graduating at the age of about 40, I realized I hated beer and I had barely tasted a drop again until - Eye-rack.

    You know how when some women become pregnant they crave things which they had never craved before, the standard being pickles and ice cream? This is put down to hormones coming into play which, under other circumstances lie dormant.

    I suspect being in a war zone for the better part of six months gets the old hormones up and running as well. A couple of months ago we ran out of cheap wine and someone offered me a beer. I went through that whole, boring seven-and-a-half years riff and the offerer said, "Take the beer or don't take the beer. I don't really care." Actually, he didn't say "I don't really care." What he said had a more bodily function aspect to it but, as this is a family Travelogue, we'll let it go.

    I took it, sipped it, and, while I didn't think it was the best thing ever, I thought it tasted all right.

    So, I now have an occasional beer.

    This week I want to talk about other things.

    One of the things I want to talk about is the attacks on the US civilians and on US military on March 31.

    The attacks took the breath away from those of us who were safely tucked away in the Green Zone. Arab TV stations - Al Jazeerah and Al Arabia - carried the aftermath in all its numbing brutality. Western TV edited out the most grisly footage, but it has been reported fully enough to know what happened.

    After the incident an American newspaper reporter called and asked me whether the fact that neither Iraqi police nor US Marines were able to get to the site of the attack was evidence of a failure by the Coalition and Iraqi forces.

    I reminded this reporter of footage of a similar breakdown in civilization - Los Angeles during the Rodney King riots.

    Footage of a truck driver being dragged from the cab of his 18-wheeler and pummeled with a cinder block is still vivid in my (and this reporter's) mind.

    Los Angeles is the second-largest police force in the nation and was powerless to get into the middle of that riot.

    We don't set up our defenses against utterly evil people. Whether it's setting up a defense against people hijacking airliners and flying them into buildings, or setting up a rolling defense to protect a convoy against the kind of attack we saw in Fallujah you can't live every day defending against the worst possible thing that might conceivably happen.

    As you are reading this the US Marines might have already begun operations in Fallujah. I am not releasing any secrets - the wire services are reporting as I am typing this that the Marines are getting set. New York Newsday, drawing reported: "At the edge of this hostile city, units of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force set up checkpoints and camps this weekend in preparation for an eventual fight."

    The same day, actually earlier the same day, five US combat engineers were killed when their vehicle was blown up.

    For the rest of my life, when someone tells me what a horrible day they are having, or their company, or their campaign is having I suspect I will, without evening having to think about it, say, "Let me tell you about March 31."


    While the attacks and counter attacks are generating all the news another small, but significant step was taken this week. The first group of Iraqi women were put on a plane to Jordan for a two-month course after which they will be the first women officers in the new Iraqi Army.

    This project was the direct result of one woman's absolute inability to take "no" for an answer.

    The woman in question is Major Patricia Morris.

    Major Morris is a reservist. She has been on active duty in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and now Iraq for the better part of two years. She is an attorney out of Oklahoma. She is five-foot-nothin' and I have seen her make Marines a foot-and-a-half taller, tremble.

    Trish Morris got it into her head that if Iraqi women were going to truly be a part of the future of their country they should be given the opportunity to serve in its armed forces. There are women who are already in the border guard units.

    She set about to make this happen and yesterday, at about 0800 on Saturday morning, she and 11 of her charges met at the Al Rasheed Hotel and processed in to the new Iraqi Army.

    Here, Major Morris with Ramia Safaa - over whom Morris towers - who was serving as the Sergeant Major of this small, but significant operation.
    This was the on the bus having arrived at BIAP (Baghdad International Airport):

    They had been chanting, in Arabic, "The First and the Best!" which is the slogan they had chosen for themselves.

    They moved to the actual aircraft with the flight crew of the C-130. They are members of the 386th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron based in Kuwait, but they're reservists from Youngstown, Ohio.

    They knew what cargo they were carrying and were excited to be part of history being made; part of something positive on a week which didn't have much good news.

    They let the women - most of whom had never been on an airplane in their lives - come up to the cockpit and look out the front windshield:

    They were so giddy, they even let me ride in the cockpit:

    You see how much happier I am in first class? Even on the C-130 version.

    Trish Morris is typical of the hundreds and hundreds of civilians and military people I've run into over here. She is the embodiment of what could be the slogan of all those people: "When we saw something that needed to be done, we did it."

    I left them at the airport in Amman. They were headed off to their first night at their training base, still chanting, "The First and the Best!"



    A couple of closing items.

    The other day we were sitting around the office and we got into a discussion about El Cid the Spanish folk-hero. Don't ask me why. This is the kind of thing we do. Anyway someone in the office went to to look at the variety of books and movies which have been written about El Cid and we got pretty sidetracked by the notion of the "Golden Box" which appears in the upper right hand corner of the Amazon page when you log in.

    Everyone went to Amazon to see what their Golden Box contained. People had neat stuff: Garage door openers. Snow blowers. Anti-aircraft radar systems. You know what was in my Golden Box?

    A "Dream Dazzlers - Blue Fantasy Dress Up" by Toys 'R' Us.

    Not only that, but I was informed that other "customers who bought this item also bought:"
    Dream Dazzlers - Pink Fairy Fantasy Dress Up by Toys 'R' Us , and
    Dream Dazzlers - Purple Butterfly Fantasy Dress Up by Toys 'R' Us

    The question arose: Mr. Galen, just what have you been purchasing from Amazon dot com?

    Not that there's anything wrong with it, but I'm not that comfortable with having a "Pink Fairy" anything associated with me.

    Now, it happens this occurred on April first so it might have been an April Fool's joke on me by Another April Fool's joke was this:

    Want it delivered tomorrow, April 2? Order it in the next 60 minutes, and choose One-Day Shipping at checkout

    Dear Please have my Dream Dazzlers Blue Fantasy Dress Up delivered to me in care of:

    The Palace.
    The Green Zone.

    By tomorrow.



    Last thing.

    Remember a couple of weeks ago I was joking about the "Keep Off the Grass" signs because we are in a desert and there isn't much grass to stay offa, and there wasn't likely to be much grass in the near future?

    Yeah, well...

    In a hard, dry, inhospital environment these flowers are a metaphor for the 130,000 coalition military men and women, and the thousands of civilians who are here; and those 11 women whom Trish Morris led off to Jordon for officer candidate school:

    We will persevere.


    Be safe.

    -- END --

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