Thursday, August 2, 2007
I am jolted by the Soldier walking past me who snaps a salute and says “Good Morning Sir” I wonder what the hell is he doing? I have been in Iraq since May and we Marines do not salute in a combat zone. I am seconds away from asking him ‘Do you know where the hell we are” I salute him back and think where the hell am I? A salute out here is recognition of who the officers are, a great target for snipers or anyone else trying to find out who the leaders are... things are different here at Camp Liberty in Baghdad I learn.
I feel like I have stumbled back into civilization on this sprawling base full of Army, Navy, Air Force and yes a few Marines. There are also coalition forces from Poland, Australia, the UK, Korea just to name a few. There is fast food, a large stateside size exchange; I see lots of SUV’s and other cars and lots of civilian contractors. I begin to realize where I have been these past months and it starts to sink in.
I am in Baghdad to have a meeting with my boss, Col Michael Visconage about my time here in Iraq and to pass copies of my collection efforts with the Marines out in the Al Anbar province to him at the Joint Historical Office. I get the unique experience of seeing the higher headquarters of MNC-I the place where Gen Petraeus commands from, the Al Faw palace. The Al Faw palace of Saddam Hussein is now the command headquarters, the coalition has taken over this place and it is now the nerve center for conducting this war.
I have to take the obligatory tourist pictures of the palace, and I think how drastically different my life and experience has been out west with the Marines. I have a good day with the Colonel and he actually turns the tables on me and interviews me…. Strange being on the other side after so many months of being the one asking the questions.
I continue saluting all day and walk in a haze as I feel so out of place here. My boots are covered in the lunar dust that is all outside the wire, my uniform is a bit dirty and sweaty and lived in compared to the staff of the Al Faw, I feel relieved to be back in my flack jacket, helmet on and walking in the darkness that evening to the Marine CH-46 that will take me back to Fallujah... Back where I belong.
Pics of the post, me sitting in Saddam’s former throne in the Al-Faw, a gift to him from Yassar Arafat formally of the PLO.
The other is of me outside the Palace to give you an idea how large it is.