Sunday, August 08, 2004

Dancing in Kurdistan

Here's an update from my friend, who has been in Iraq with a firm doing contracting work. To understand this, you have to realize that she's a 5-foot-nothing tall Georgia girl, 98 pounds soaking wet, deaf-mute from birth, but she loves music and loves to dance. If she blasts it loud enough she can feel it, and to a certain extent hear it. And she's a priestess in an ancient, pre-Christian European system of devotion.

Last night I probably had the coolest night I've had in Iraq to date. Thanks to a care package sent from the States courtesy 'o James, I've got a Sony walkman, and several batteries, and a few CDs.

Anyone who's ever been around me with a walkman knows that whatever I'm listening to, everyone's hearing. In this case, it was about 9 pm my time, one brand new exceptionally kooky Iraqi guard, eight Kurdish playboys, two Kurdish chicklets, two low level Iraqi official managers, one Kurdish policeman, two Turkish contract leadmen, and several workers from the water plant.

This starts with simple dinners being shared in the same place and several conversations I don't have a prayer of following, plus the bright idea to make a little fire with some spare scrap that's been lying around here for a couple of days from a delivery of equipment. My security (the new Iraqi guy) is a trainee. I've learned since two days ago that my security is all trainee at this point. They have guns. They have uniforms. I could probably kick their asses myself. Security is a mutual thing.

Now think of me, kind of thinking that as long as I can't read on faces what's being said most of the time, and that it's a rather cool night, and that I have new tracks to try out, it's okay for me to do so. Next thing I'm doing my thing, volume where it should be, (or I guess should say, has to be) and the beat being what it is, I proceed to dance, kick off my sandals, and enjoy the grass and my sense of style and rhythm.

Give it one minute and two Kurdish girls are working with me. We're the entertainment for a song. Then another. Then in the next, and remember, this is just from the sound coming from my headphones, we get two, then five, then nine of the guys dancing. By the fifth song, everyone is dancing. Think bad line dancing plus guys who can't dance all following hippie chick. After that it breaks down, obviously, and I loan out my tunes to one of the other girls, and for the next two hours people take turns wearing my walkman and dancing in groups.

All a good time. The best I've had here yet. The song that got everyone dancing? P.O.D.'s "Rock The Party (Off the Hook)" Muslims are raising the roof and learning to head bang to "Payable On Death" (an Xtian Ja band). They danced right through "Set Your Eyes To Zion", without evening giving a care, just like I do.

Nobody tried to kill me. Nobody tried to blow anybody up. Nobody preached. Everybody just had a good time. I had my machine gun laying on the ground fifteen or so feet away the whole time. No big deal. So did my soldier. So did the cop.

I taught dance moves. I learned a couple. I traded hair advice. I got clothes advice. I had a good time.

To the South, Jeff was advised to move back from his jobsite outside of Najaf. Not by the Marines, but by Iraqi officials.

It's easy to say move. It's harder to do it. The security that has worked on several of those jobs in the areas is being utilized by the Iraqis to bolster their forces. They're not trained for it, but they're moving into weak zones to catch Sadr's militia where it passes back and forth through coalition lines in the area. It's a nasty concept.

It's nasty, because these men are serious about their jobs. So are Sadr's militia about theirs. The thing is, this Iraqi security is tied to the community and has been for months now. It's a major point of stability, and everyone knows it. Hurt them, and it runs right back through the community, just like Jeff wrote in his recommendations many months ago.

Iraqi resolve is getting serious. Perhaps fierce. I dunno yet. I'm waiting for a spare plane to take me out of here, Shadi is still doing negotiations, and Jeff is back in the middle of chit. News here is about Al-Jazeera. People saying its wrong but necessary. The US couldn't have done it, but the new government isn't going to keep playing, and the Iraqis I know understand. Faces are being given to the enemies of Iraq, and for a change, those faces aren't American. (Sorry AP, you can't stop this.)

But here, I danced to music I just barely hear part of, the people around me mostly didn't understand, played by a band with a religious message that none of us actually follow, and yet we all had fun. We all did. No problems.

We're watching these guys mature a day at a time, living in the wild wild west. Allah be praised, God be kind, and Brighid be patient.