Saturday, July 30, 2005

Words

In the course of our day to day lives, we use them, take them for granted, abuse them, swallow them, love them, loathe them, take them or leave them.
Are they not the most wonderful and the most terrible things that we have at our disposal? Words. Words can start wars or end them. They can build or cause destruction. They can make someone's day, or ruin somebody's life. Words. Be careful how you use them. Once written or spoken, they can never be taken back, they will be used as reference and record to and for the the one that has used them, until the end of time.

Not for nothing has it been said that "The pen is mightier than the sword."

Words...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Jihad


In the wake of the the latest spate of suicide bombings in London, Egypt and Turkey, I sit here in the UAE and contemplate the reasoning and justification for these inhumane acts committed by fundamentalist groups. Fanatics who so eagerly claim responsibility for these atrocities. Last year whilst working in Iraq, the reasoning for suicide bombings seemed more clear, at least at the time. Rid the Nation of Iraq from the "invading Coalition forces" or infidels if you like. We may debate the precise meaning of the word infidel, but as far as the Websters dictionary is concerned the word infidel is defined as,"A person who does not acknowledge your God"

As any non Muslim is seen as an infidel, and the concept of "Jihad" literally interpreted means,"A holy war waged by Muslims against unbelievers or infidels"
some may consider the interpretation to mean a holy struggle or striving by a Muslim for a moral or spiritual or political goal. Well this concept is nothing new. Christians wage war for similar reasons. War is waged under the pretext of so many "righteous" reasons by so many different nations. And when war is waged, people die.
With this in mind, I consider the reality that I have not yet recently heard of any Christian or any other non-Muslim religious fanatic, strap explosives to to his or her body and walk into a crowded public place to detonate and violently end the lives of whoever may be in the immediate vicinity. Indiscriminately killing whoever may be unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
These Islamic fundamentalists, in my opinion, have no clue of the meaning of "Jihad." Why? Whether in Iraq, London, Egypt, Turkey or wherever they ply their heinous acts, they kill indiscriminately. They do not target the infidel, they do not target anyone, they just "push the button" and hope to kill as many as possible, even if it means killing their own. In Iraq Muslim fundamentalists kill Muslims, then attempt justification by killing a few "infidels" in the process. This is not the definition of "Jihad," or not at least what I understand it to be. In the London bombings earlier this month, "Jihad" can not be used as a reasoning either. The united Kingdom is a predominantly Christian Nation, yet it opens its borders to any Nationality of any religious persuasion based on the principle of tolerance. The same principle which allows these Islamic fundamentalists into the country in the first place.
Here in the UAE there has been no suicide bombings, yet. A friend sent me a link to a news item that came as a wake up call.Safe in the UAE?

There is no doubt in my mind that Islam is rising, but I shudder to think of the misinterpretations that are synonymous with this rise. As a non Muslim living in the UAE, I have learnt through experience to be frugal with my opinions regarding the Islamic faith. I have worked with Muslim people for almost two years and have the utmost respect and have gained mutual respect of all of the true Muslims I have worked with. I will however never respect or agree with any fundamentalist mentality, Muslim or non Muslim, which condones any form of indiscriminate murder. No matter what religion, ideology or principle may be used as justification. My religion teaches me that GOD not man or religion is Judge of all humanity. Only GOD.
What then of "Jihad?" Who decides by virtue of which GOD I serve and believe in, whether or not I have the right to live or die? Again I have the belief that only GOD carries that responsibility, and that no human on this planet has the right to be so arrogant as to be a self proclaimed Judge on whether or not I am permitted to live or die, based on which GOD I believe in. Jihad? Did the Christian powers not have the same philosophy in the 13th century? Remember the Crusades?

Jihad? Crusade? I don't like either philosophy, not when the "cause" seems to be pursued with so much synonymy to arrogance.

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.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Crossed swords, Saddam survives, so many did not...



It took 7 months of contracting in Iraq during 2004 to make me realize just how cheap life becomes when a dictator forces ideology onto the masses. Besides the hundreds of thousands Iraqi nationals that died at the hands of Saddam prior to the US invasion in 2003, between 22000 and 25000 Iraqi civilians and "non- Iraqi coalition supporting contractors" have died in Iraq since the US invasion. Iraq body count
Despite the "war" having been officially declared over, the death toll increases daily at an alarming rate. There are varied opinions as to the relevancy and justification of the foreign presence in Iraq and many believe that Iraq was better off before the Bush administration declared war and dropped its first Bombs. All I know is that between Saddam and George, there will be a lot of answering to do on the day of judgment.


I was privileged to work with some of the bravest and most genuine people during my contract in Baghdad and Basra. Iraqi, American, British, Canadian, Danish, South African, German, Irish, Scotts, French, Italian, Slovakian, Fidjian, Australian, Filipino, Russian, so many different nationalities brought to a place of extreme violence and danger. The majority of the people I worked with started off there contracts with the earnings as their goal, but after living under the daily threat of being bombed, mortared, shot or beheaded, material possessions take on a jaded value. We were there to earn money, no doubt about it, but we were there to make a contribution, to rebuild what the politicians had destroyed.

To celebrate his "victory" over Iran, Saddam decided to build a Triumphal Arch. The concept of a triumphal arch is a European import, without precedent in the Middle East since Roman times.
The colossal Hands of Victory monument has dominated Baghdad's skyline since the end of the Iran-Iraq war. Built in duplicate, it marks the entrances to a large new parade ground in central Baghdad, towering 140 feet above the highway. The triumphal arch is shaped as two pairs of crossed swords, made from the guns of dead Iraqi soldiers that were melted and recast as the 24-ton blades of the swords. Captured Iranian helmets are in a net held between the swords. And surrounding the base of the arms are another 5,000 Iranian helmets taken from the battle field. The fists that hold the swords aloft are replicas of Saddam Hussein's own hands. The German company that built the monument, H+H Metalform, said it was given a photograph of Saddam's own forearms to use as a model.
When Saddam inaugurated these triumphal arches, he rode under them on a white horse - an allusion to the steed of Hussein, the Shi'ite Muslim hero martyred at nearby Kerbala. The day before the first bombing run on Baghdad during the 1991 Gulf War, Iraqi TV showed a mass of Iraqi soldiers marching beneath the huge crossed swords of the Victory Arch, to the theme music from 'Star Wars'. In April 1998 Iraq's "volunteer army" paraded for six hours in Baghdad's "Grand Festivities Square," the large outdoor arena marked by the two sets of enormous crossed swords.


Victory Arch. I took this photo the day before exiting Baghdad after living in the "Red Zone" for 4 months. In that time I lost 2 friends and 3 fellow work college's (non-military) The families of those that died, would they recognize a monument to a man who has caused so many to lose their lives? Victory for whom?

Saddam survives... So many did not...

Sunday, July 03, 2005

If it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger...


In a world gone crazy, there are times when we seek refuge in what some might consider to be the insane. We seek confirmation. We seek truth. There are places we go to test our ability to survive. Situations we place ourselves in as an attempt to justify our existence, escapism, perhaps to give meaning to our mundane day to day lives. Some choose to ignore the physical dangers of those situations, pushing at the boundaries of physical and mental limits...To the extreme. Big Wave Mania
Those that live to tell the tale become stronger. Maybe if it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger...