Showing posts from 2006

Life Interrupted - Lebanese Refugees Flee Israel's Wrath

Since the eruption of fierce clashes between Israeli troops and Hezbollah fighters in July of 2006, missiles have rocked more than the concrete superstructures of Beirut and Haifa; thousands of innocent civilians caught in the crossfire have had their lives turned upside down and placed in a precarious holding pattern of uncertainty. In the weeks following the initial bombings by Israeli forces, a multitude of inhabitants were trapped for up to two weeks without food or running water. When the runways of Beirut’s international airport were targeted by Israeli air strikes, thousands of travelers desperate to leave the country as well as gain entrance to reunite with family members inside Lebanon, were stranded for days across the Middle East. Painful memories and recollections of Lebanon’s bloody civil war are resurfacing and once again demoralizing the spirit of the Lebanese people. The violent discord between Israeli troops and the guerilla warriors of Hezbollah (Party of God) is

Iraqi Immigrants in Jordan: Economic Benefit or Burden?

Following the outbreak of war in Iraq, the Jordanian economy slipped into an alarming yet brief recession as the steady export of goods into Iraq was impeded and the cheap flow of oil from Baghdad was cut off. Jordan managed to successfully maintain its stability with the virtually instant foreign aid it received from the United States as well as its Arab counterparts; but when a sizeable amount of Iraqi immigrants began flowing into Jordan to escape the turmoil of their country, some feared that the surplus of refugees and expatriates would place added stress on Jordan’s already fragile economy and essentially suffocate the country’s infrastructure. Predictions asserted that the excessive amount of Iraqis inundating Jordan’s capital Amman would flood the job market and consume millions of dollars worth of precious resources, specifically electricity and water, resulting in an eventual collapse of the economy. This is still a risk, but in the meantime, studies show that a variety of Jo

Anxious to Return Home

The Mansour Family; (L to R) Lena, Salwan and little Luna A significant portion of Iraq’s middle and upper class citizens are fleeing the turmoil and destruction of their home country to settle in neighboring Jordan; specifically its capital city of Amman. Jordan has been rather accepting of their new Iraqi residents and is one of the few countries allowing Iraqis to enter with minimal complications. However, only those Iraqi’s with substantial financial resources are able to make the move due to Amman’s pricey cost of living, which is comparable to that of California or the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area. The average monthly rent for a two bedroom apartment in Amman ranges from $1000 to $1500 U.S. dollars and everyday consumer products are similarly priced to those in the U.S. The extreme surge of wealthy Iraqis flooding into Amman has extensively boosted Jordan’s economy and reduced the unemployment rate by expanding the job market. Construction, real estate and both private

Cheating Death: Escaping the Grip of the Badr Forces Death Squad

Many Iraqis are complaining that their new government is no more democratic or less tyrannical than Saddam Hussein’s regime ever was and the only difference in Iraq today is that there is also an active insurgency to contend with as well. Numerous Shiites and Sunnis alike are scared to death to leave their homes or allow their children to play in the streets for fear of being caught in a cross fire between insurgents and U.S. forces or victimized by the secretarian strife that is spreading rampantly across the country. A force behind much of this fear is the infamous Badr Forces, also known as Badr Brigade, which is originally an Iranian militia composed of Shiite Muslims that has found support from the new Iraqi government. Until recently, U.S. forces turned a blind eye to the militia because they were helping to combat the insurgency and resistance fighters who are predominantly Sunni Muslims, but lately, Badr forces has grown out of control and become a murderous steam roller tar

Translating in Iraq: A Deadly Career Option for the Locals.

Following the U.S Forces’ initial invasion of Baghdad and the toppling of the Saddam regime in early May 2003, many Iraqis with English language training eagerly offered their services as translators and interpreters for American troops. Many were devoted patriots who supported the American cause 150% and wanted desperately to see their country succeed under a democratic government, others were primarily motivated by financial reasons and volunteered because the Americans were paying more than any Iraqi employer could offer them at the time; but all were ultimately working towards the same goal – a free and peaceful Iraq. While working with the military, translators perform various relatively safe tasks such as assisting in interrogations of detainees at fortified locations or translating documents and other sheltered desk jobs, but they also conduct raids and participate in tactical missions, right alongside Soldiers and Marines on a daily basis. While performing these duties they ar

Four Wives - Three Too Many for Most Muslim Men

The truth behind the Islamic marital custom that embraces multiple wives and has forever enamored men of the western world. An aspect of the Islamic culture that has captivated young American and European men throughout history is the legality and common practice of taking more than one wife. The thought of dealing with two or more wives frightens many men into uncontrollable convulsions, but for others, the concept enthralls and incites their wonder and amazement. Of course, the first question that seems to roll off the tongue of every inquisitively youthful Soldier or Marine stationed in the Middle East when openly conversing with a Muslim is, “So, do you get to sleep with all four of them at the SAME time?” Oh, how it pains me to watch their na├»ve little bubbles burst and ooze with shattered fantasies when they are presented with the realities of this Islamic institution. I was under the impression that the average Muslim man exercised his right to four wives, or at least a couple

A Christian Childhood in Iraq

A principle mission of mine while in the Middle East is to take an in depth look into the lives of the local people; one that doesn’t focus on car bombs, military raids or the numerous other violent episodes they have to endure on a daily basis. I want to find out what they are doing when they aren’t digging through the rubble of a charred vehicle’s undercarriage searching for the remains of their relatives or friends. Although it is often a daunting task, most Mid-Easterners are conducting their daily lives as routinely as possible and finding ways to cope with their challenging environment. Many continue to attend educational institutes, from elementary aged school children to college students; internet cafes and computer gaming shops are popular with the young adult crowd and a significant portion of Baghdad’s working middle-class rise every morning and head off to their respective places of employment. Each group makes their way through an obstacle course of car bombs, IEDs, suici


DISCLAIMER: The views expressed within this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy, position, opinions or ideals of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, U.S. Military or any of its affiliates. The author maintains legal rights to all posted articles and photos unless otherwise annotated by a sidenote giving proper credit to the source.

Uday Hussein's Swimming Pool

Swimming pool at Odai Hussein's former palace, Summer 2005 When American and Coalition forces plowed through Baghdad in early 2003, they left a significant path of destruction in their wake. The majority of the damage pinpointed military bases and bunkers, government buildings, and other points of tactical interest, as well as symbols of Ba’athist power and audacity such as ornate regime palaces and luxurious riverside mansions. A notable target of this architectural cleansing was Odai Hussein’s Baghdad palace where he harbored his pet lions. The lions were eventually transferred to the Baghdad Zoo and the palace, which was heavily damaged in the initial bombardment of Baghdad , was later leveled to the ground by a construction crew. Due to its close proximity to the U.S. Embassy (within walking distance) the palace grounds were transformed into a campground/living area for embassy employees and other U.S. civilian contractors operating in Baghdad . One feature of the

Iraqi Death Squad Hits Close to Home

Mandi Matti, 22, Western Iraq (Two Iraqi men's names withheld for security reasons.) The following article was written after returning from my first trip to Iraq in the summer of 2005. I spent four months in Baghdad and other towns within the infamous Sunni Triangle as an active duty military service member. I longed to write about my experiences while I was in country but chose against it as I witnessed firsthand and heard the reports of numerous military members being chastized and punished by their chain of commands for the content of their blogs. I have recently separated from the military and am returning to the Middle East as a civilian non-combatant, hopefully able to operate within the full realm of freedom of speech. I did, however, want to share this article from my previous journey..... While sitting here at my desk struggling to find the perfect attention grabbing line with which to open this article, I focus my gaze upon the small silver ring I have been wearing


I'd like to welcome everyone to my new Blog! I will be leaving for my second trip to the Middle East in less than two weeks and will be reporting from there on what I hope to be at least a weekly basis. I will be researching daily life of the average Mid-Easterner and hope to better aquaint the world with the experiences and lives of those not captured by the CNN cameras everyday. Having recently separated from the United States Navy, I am now free to document and write about issues, observations and opinions that I was previously restricted from publishing. I am clinging to this oppportunity with both hands and feet and taking advantage of my constitutional right to freedom of speech which I temporarily surrendered six years ago when I raised my right hand and vowed to defend such rights as an active duty military service member. I hope you enjoy my postings and experience at least a shard of amusement and diversion. I do not expect any of my articles to dramatically change your