This is a personal letter from a soldier whom I know secondhand in Iraq, talking about the current state of affairs there. I wonder how much of this gets covered in the mass media—somewhere between zero and “huh?” I suppose.
Taking a little time out from hectic last minute elections preparation to drop everyone a line about how elections preparations are going. Some things are as I predicted. The IECI, being a new organization, has forgotten about a few details that we are filling in. Like paying most of their workers. They seemed to think that day workers would find it acceptable to be sent a check three or four days after the election. The supposed checks were going to be sent through the non-existent Iraqi mail system or picked up by the workers on the 6th. Rather than not have polling station workers show up, the US military is transporting more than 12 million dollars between all eighteen provinces. And moving just under a thousand workers, from safe areas of the country (south and north) into the Sunni triangle so they can run polling centers. Oh, and feeding and housing them for a week and providing security for them. And filling in for missing electoral materials. Because of course the IECI plan would have been fine if everyone were perfect. But in the real world, someone forgot to send ballot box lids to two provinces, and various other sundry to other locations. So we are raiding the strategic reserves for missing materials that are then transported with military convoys (on civilian trucks), appearing in the middle of the night when there will not be many cameras, at the IECI warehouses that need them. We are all crossing our fingers that no additional materials are either destroyed or misrouted…
I also think the nicest part about the elections being done is that we can then ignore the UN guys again. What a bunch of pompous jerks. Their command says they cannot move except by military air. You would think then that they would be nice to the people involved and grateful that we are willing to transport their persons around the country. Instead they act like our aircrews are valets. They don’t like carrying their own bags. They want to re-schedule flights like we are a commercial carrier. Then they act all miffed because they get stranded when choppers are down for maintenance or weathered out. Yes, military choppers do get weathered out. As the Marines unfortunately proved two days ago, flying at 75 feet off the ground (to stay safe from SAMs), with visibility of less than a half mile, will occasionally have tragic consequences. So we don’t fly in that weather unless it is REALLY necessary. And flying UN dudes around does not qualify. Military chopper pilots are the best and will fly through hell if it means saving a life, but if it means flying in bad weather or waiting until the next day, bring a blanket.
And the convoy escort thing is getting old. The IECI hired security for the election material transport from the airheads to the warehouses and back. Unfortunately, the truckers are afraid to move unless they have military MPs as escorts. So we are stuck escorting most of the materials around the country in addition to the civilian security. I don’t blame anyone, they all have reasonable positions. I just feel bad for the MPs that are getting stretched thin. Once again, not a nationwide problem, just Baghdad and the Sunni Triangle. The other 80% of the country is percolating along quite nicely.
Tomorrow starts the media circus. The BBC already has four teams wandering Baghdad. Tomorrow they will bring Geraldo into the HQ. Joy. Don’t look for me, I will be the one typing away in the background while talking on two phones. The generals are all briefed, they will look good on camera. I just feel wierd because I am not actually doing anything, just passing the word from one group to another, trying to track in the middle. At least there are four of us here trying to divide and conquer.
At least Hajj went without a hitch. Only 700 people stuck at the border and Saudi let them in after one night in the cold. Most people have returned already, and the flow has already started to slow significantly.
As my boss says, “There will be terrible scenes on the TV tomorrow, that’s what the TV people get paid to find, but the election is going to go better than 90% of the elections around the world.” I believe him, he has done this before. I will try to write and let everyone know about the hilarious things that the TV does not cover early next week.
I’ve removed the writer’s name to protect him from any backlash, although I suppose if anything the military should be happy that word of their exceptional work is getting out one way or the other.