Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to you!  I sincerely hope this next year turns out better than the last.  What a strange, tough year it's been.

During this past week, we've been sorta getting stuff done.  We gradually got settled into our new office spaces, getting our stuff out of boxes and squirreled away on our desks, getting our computers to work, trying to find out where all the offices for our key contacts are, that sort of thing.  I've still got some issues.  Every other day, for example, my computer loses all my old email files and I have to spend some time chasing them down.  They're supposed to be saved to the network, but my computer doesn't understand that.  A bit annoying.  Another thing: the Network Gods don't want me to change my computer's desktop image.  They want me to keep the really boring State Department logo.  I keep trying to change it over to pictures of my grandson, my wife, or my dogs - you know, things I care about - but NOOOoooooo ... I'll make the change, and then while I'm working away on something, all of a sudden my screen will flicker and that damn State Department logo is back.  Those damn IT wienies have caught me again.  Tomorrow I'm gonna try something underhanded: I'll give my own picture the same file name as the State Department logo, and see what happens.

I got a bit annoyed at upper management this past week.  Twice we had a shotgun tasking: two of us were separately tasked to do the same damn thing.  In both cases we found out about it and were able to combine our efforts, but it's irritating.  It also indicates a lack of trust, which I think is totally unfounded.  On the flip side, one of the taskers has proven to be interesting.  The more I dig, the more complicated it gets - and it's a regular Pandora's box already.  I think the boss thought that I could ask a few questions and whip up a memo in an afternoon.  It's gonna take a week just to talk to the right people and get enough of a background to figure out how to answer the boss's questions.  That, of course, is NOT what she wanted to hear.  So it boils down to: I can give you a good answer in a week, or I can give you crap now.  Your choice.

This past week, everybody finished up the move out of the old Palace.  All the offices were cleared out, stuff piled into dumpsters and hauled away, and equipment and furniture removed.  This turned into a big flailex (that's Navy speak, meaning a big flailing around by all concerned).  The plan, up until just a few days ago, was that the US would keep possession of the old Palace for another six months or so while refurbishing it to the condition it was in when we moved in.  But within the past four or five days, the Iraqis decided that they wanted it on January 1, regardless of the condition.  Well, not exactly "regardless": they want us to give them the funding to refurbish it.  I don't know if we're doing that - frankly, I hope we don't, since we need the money in the US.  But we did a crash effort in cleanup and this morning the Iraqis raised their flag over the old Palace for the first time since April, 2003.  A big milestone: the Palace is no longer ours.

Another milestone went into effect at midnight last night.  The Security Agreement (what the news media was calling the Status of Forces Agreement) became the law of the land.  That meant that the Iraqis are now in primary control of the entire country.  We still have our enclaves: the Embassy, various bases in the International Zone, Baghdad, and around the country.  But we don't control the IZ anymore, nor do we have the same level of immunity that we had.  While this is a necessary step in getting Iraq up and running as a functioning country, it's also a bit scary for those of us here.  We don't run the show anymore.

So far things haven't gone to hell in a handbasket.  That's encouraging.  A group of us went out around the IZ a bit today, visiting a few FOBs (Forward Operating Bases) and seeing what was going on.  We saw a lot of new checkpoints and a lot of Iraqi Army vehicles and soldiers.  And I saw a lot more US soldiers than I anticipated.  Seemed to me that the US soldiers were the ones doing the work while the Iraqis stood around and smoked ... kind of an odd way to "back up" the Iraqi forces, but hey, who am I to criticize?

Still, we're going to maintain a low profile for a while as this new way of doing business sorts itself out.  I'll stick to the compound and not go out the gate.  

But YOU DON'T HAVE TO, do you?  You can go out to the mall, to restaurants, to movies, or to another state entirely.  And Janis told me that she tanked up our Land Rover for $1.87 a gallon for premium, so gas is dirt cheap right now.  So you've got no excuse!  It's your American duty to get out and go somewhere.  And as you do, think of us here in Iraq, trapped on our compounds and FOBs and bases, with nothing to do but work.  And write in our blogs.

3 comments:

Shea said...

not that I was going to go anywhere since I live out in the stix , but all the normal celebrations in most places were cancelled due to lack of money, no fireworks and such, so I watched the times square ball drop on tv

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 01/02/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

OrionNav said...

Note: Now that sounds very familiar. Bureaucracy is the same no matter where you go.

I got a bit annoyed at upper management this past week. Twice we had a shotgun tasking: two of us were separately tasked to do the same damn thing. In both cases we found out about it and were able to combine our efforts, but it's irritating. It also indicates a lack of trust, which I think is totally unfounded. On the flip side, one of the taskers has proven to be interesting. The more I dig, the more complicated it gets - and it's a regular Pandora's box already. I think the boss thought that I could ask a few questions and whip up a memo in an afternoon. It's gonna take a week just to talk to the right people and get enough of a background to figure out how to answer the boss's questions. That, of course, is NOT what she wanted to hear. So it boils down to: I can give you a good answer in a week, or I can give you crap now. Your choice.