Saturday, January 07, 2006

Happy Army Day!

Today (or what is now yesterday) is Army Day in Iraq. The holiday celebrates the creation of the Iraqi Army in 1921 and we have a two-day weekend to commemorate the occasion. I heard that there was a ceremony in the Green Zone, but in our compound everything was the same.

Most Iraqi guards now providing security for international organizations worked in Saddam's army. Many were fighting American troops before the government fell. Westerners working in security treat Iraqi guards with varying levels of trust, but there's never complete confidence. Iraqis are usually assigned to the less desirable posts such as guarding the perimeter of the compound. In some companies, when they're asked to go on a mission they will have to relinquish their cellphones to diminish the risk that they might disclose their whereabouts to the insurgents.

The number two on the security team for a project used to be a battalion commander in the Iraqi Army. He is a lankly fellow who wears aviator sunglasses and loves to tell dirty jokes. He fits the image of someone who says that tearing out fingernails is not truly painful torture. When he was fighting American troops in Anbar he knew his unit would lose. The unit disbanded and he ended up in Fallujah. Speaking mediocre English, he was hired as the security manager for a relief organization that had just started operations in the city. Now that ex-Baathists are being welcomed into the army, he's not going. There's no way the pay of the Iraqi Government will match his current salary.


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