May 21, 2004

Things He Didn't Learn In College

DAVID ENDERS IS A 23-YEAR OLD American spending his time as a "freelance journalist" in Iraq. His Learning Lessons of War on the Streets of Baghdad includes an interesting list of things his university somehow failed to teach him:

How to clean and fire an assault rifle. My co-workers and I had one in the house for "protection," though I'm not particularly sure what I would have done had we been in trouble. I've been encouraged, by Iraqis and foreigners, to carry a pistol as well, but can't bring myself to do it. I was robbed by the police (three of them, one of me); the neighbors killed a pair of looters on our front lawn; looters threatened to kidnap me. That, and the fact that unknown assailants are shooting at reporters, all drive home the futility of owning an assault rifle and having no intention of using it.

Proper etiquette at checkpoints, American or otherwise. Even though I speak American English, I often thought the soldier was waving me through a checkpoint, when what he really meant was, "Stop or I'll put lots of holes in you and your car, [expletive expletive]!"

What to do when you're at a news conference and Donald Rumsfeld won't call on anyone but the pool reporters. It's frustrating, being the youngest person at a news conference. Rumsfeld seems to call only on the faces he recognizes, and I wasn't one of them. I considered throwing my shoe or trying my professor's tactic of simply interrupting, but I figured all the Special Forces guys in attendance would arrest me. So I never had the chance to ask the question I've been dying to know the answer to: "How can you say things are going well when people are shooting rockets at the airport before your plane lands ... sir?"

How to recognize and identify various unexploded bombs and munitions. For a short time, a land mine sat on the sidewalk outside our office, and we often saw other types of explosives lying about. And let's not forget the ones people keep planting in the roads and in front of buildings.

Making other people comfortable with my activities. "No, it's OK, Mom. That explosion wasn't anywhere near our house. No, everyone's fine. What am I eating? I'm eating Iraqi food, Mom. It's good. Lots of oil."

Determining who wants to kill me and who doesn't. "Where am I from? France. Good to meet you, too."

Posted by Vanderleun at May 21, 2004 1:16 PM | TrackBack
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