Sunday, July 24, 2005

Remembering


Once in a while the realities of past experiences are jolted to life by seeing graphic images of what we have survived. In a time of madness, I lived in Iraq for seven months. By choice, for reasons that were based on making a better living. All of the people I worked with in Iraq, including the local nationals where there for the money. We justified the conditions we lived under by the amount of money we were earning. Daily we went about our tasks and daily we ignored the clear and present danger of being bombed and shot at. In Baghdad, the Coalition supporting contractors that lived inside the "Greenzone" were to some extent at least, protected from close quarter and sniper gunfire. Despite the preventive security measures that were put in place by the US Department of defense, there was little that could protect against the daily mortar attacks and the occasional Improvised explosive devices that were detonated by insurgents who had access into the Greenzone. I was unlucky enough to be contracted to a company that did not provide housing in the Greenzone, and every morning and every evening, me and my staff would travel six kilometers from our base office in a residential part of Baghdad to the Greenzone office site and back. Every day for 3 months, a suicide run, without any military protection. Because of the "contractual obligations" involving details of employment, there was no clause that stipulated that our inline contractor had to provide protection for us. The company that I was contracted to simply would not spend the extra funds on providing us with adequate protection on that twice daily suicide run. In those three months my staff and I witnessed first hand the assassination of the Interim president of the Iraqi governing council by car bomb as he waited at the same military checkpoint that we used to enter the greenzone. I was shot at whilst attempting to receive a clearer signal for my Thuraya whilst standing on the roof of our company office/villa in the residential area we where living in. My Iraqi national country manager had to "form a coalition" with the Fedayeen because they knew there was a "westerner" living in the villa/residential area. They left us alone after that. But 3 colleagues of ours, living in a different villa, in the same residential area where kidnapped two months later, and beheaded. We knew the risks, we chose to ignore. The alternative? Get out of Baghdad, and earn less money.At the time it was just a case of making it through the day alive, pushing on and thank God you're still alive. Looking back, it was just plain stupidity. No amount of money is worth dying for.

I did eventually get out of Baghdad, and transferred to Basra. To a much safer location, at least in Basra we were only getting hit with mortars and rockets once or twice a week. Nothing compared to the daily dose of hell we were experiencing in Baghdad.

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