Monday, January 05, 2009

What day is it?

It's groundhog day here ... one day is pretty much like another.  Since we're using the Arabic work week (Sunday through Thursday, with Friday and Saturday "off"), I'm perpetually screwed up.  Yes, I know, most of you think I'm screwed up anyway, and you're right, but this is a particular screwup.  I can never figure out what day of the week it is.

Today was the dedication of the New Embassy Compound.  It was a certifiable Big Deal.  We had John Negroponte here (he's the #2 guy in the State Department), plus Vice President Jalal al-Talabani, plus several hundred other VIP's.  Quite a crowd, which made it virtually impossible to move today.  Fortunately, despite all the high-viz activity going on, no bad guys launched rockets at us.  It says a lot about the state of Iraq today when a whole lot of high mucky-mucks can gather on the American compound under a tent of all things and not have to worry about incoming fire.

The downside of having the dedication with all these bigwigs?  The DFAC was jammed for lunch.  All the high rollers were over with the Ambassador, wherever that was, so all their slaves stood in line with the rest of us Embassy peons in our dining facility.  Our group found a table right by the entrance, which meant that everybody in line got to check out our lunch first.  "Hey, is that chicken?  Any good?  What's that stuff?"

It's still pretty cold around here.  Around 35 in the mornings and 55 in the afternoons.  Cold enough that I'm actually using the treadmill rather than jogging around the compound.  I told you I was a wuss!  

A group from my office went out to Fallujah the other day to check on the sewage treatment plant that we've been building for too many years.  I didn't get to go on this trip, unfortunately.  Today, though, I was looking through the photos.  The pictures showed a plant that should've been finished at least two years ago under normal circumstances ... but normal circumstances don't include two massive battles and a long-running insurgency.  Which is pretty much gone now.  Fallujah and the surrounding region gave birth to the Awakening movement, which is the group of Sunni tribal leaders who finally got sick and tired of the Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) guys using their towns to fight the US.  So they banded together and started forcing them out.  This started before our surge did and the Awakening and surge worked together to essentially defeat AQI in the region.  AQI isn't totally gone, but they don't have much influence anymore, and the region is quiet enough now that the Marines are closing down their base and pulling out.  Iraqi security forces are taking over.  So the drawdown continues.

But my point in this wasn't a history lesson, it was the pictures.  Besides photos of the plant, they took a lot of photos of the town.  It was more interesting for me to see the Fallujah residents in their town than the sewage plant.  (Well, that's a no-brainer, isn't it?)  The kids, especially, were fun to study: curious, a bit wary, big smiles, mischievous ... in other words, kids.  Who aren't afraid to go out in their town any more.

You measure progress any way you can.  If not in an unfinished sewage treatment plant, then in the fact that the kids don't have to hide indoors anymore.


Shea said...

wow, that's cool, that you guys get a couple days off a week, awesome

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 01/06/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.